Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,212 / Bonxie

Posted by mhl on January 6th, 2011


A very impressive puzzle from Bonxie, where every down clue and three across clues begin with “Left”. I think there a couple of slightly problematic clues, which I’ve mentioned below, but it’s quite an achievement nonetheless.

7. NAVIGATOR (VIAGRA NOT)*; Definition: “pilot”
8. GAVEL L = “Left” with GAVE = “handed” first; Definition: “banger” (something that bangs)
9. SOCIALIST SO = “extremely” + C = “cold” + I = “one” + A-LIST = “top celebrities”; Definition “Left politician”
10. FILET (LEFT I)*; Definition: “lace”
12. GRATIS RAT = “animal” in GIs = “soldiers”; Definition: “Free”
13. OBLATION (TO BAN OIL)*; Definition: “Offering”
14. CLARIFY FIR = “tree” reversed in CLAY; Definition: “Illuminate”
17. LYDDITE (TIDDLEY)*; Definition: “explosive”. “Tiddley” is listed in Chambers as “(naval inf) adj smart and trim” and as an alternative spelling of “tiddly”. I thought there was double duty of “explosive” here, but I guess that it’s really an &lit and I just don’t know enough about LYDDITE to be able to tell the sense of “Tiddley” that’s intended :)
20. ORTHODOX (HOT ROD)* in OX = “farm animal”; Definition: “Established”
22. EXPATS “Left countrymen overseas” – is this just a (not very) cryptic definition, or have I missed something?
24. MOULT MO = “Second” + ULT = “last”; Definition: “Shed”. ULT is more commonly clued as “last month” (along with PROX and INST for “next month” and “this month”)
25. SIEGFRIED (RIGID FEES)*; Definition: “opera”
26. ARMED Hidden in regulAR MEDical; Definition: “Carrying” – you often hear “he’s carrying” in U.S. TV shows and films to mean “he’s armed”
27. DEPONENTS A new word for me – DEP (deputy) = “Vice” + ONE = “unit” + NoTeS = odd letters from “notes”; Definition: “witnesses”
1. LABOUR Double definition: “Left” and “holding baby after this”; I’m unconvinced about LABOUR = “Left”, though Update: Thomas99 suggests this might just be a cryptic definition, which it strikes me might be something of a double bluff among these clues
2. SINISTER SISTER = “nurse” around IN = “hip”; Definition: “Left”
3. DALLAS L = “Left” with SALAD = “Greens” reversed around the outside: Definition: “American city”
4. FORSOOK S = “small” + OO = “ducks” in FORK = “toaster” (as in a toasting fork); Definition: “Left”
5. LARIAT L = “Left” + ARIA = “air” + T = “time”; Definition: “picket line” – Chambers defines LARIAT as “a lasso or picketing rope”
6. TELEPORT PORT = “Left” after TELE = “TV”; Definition: “broadcast?” – the question mark is certainly required here :) To teleport something is to send it a long distance, but it doesn’t really have the sense of wide distribution that “broadcast” has, I think
11. PLAY PAY = “foot” (as in “to foot the bill”) around L = “Left”; Definition: “trifle” (as in “to trifle with someone”)
15. LARBOARD LAD = “boy” around R = “red” + BOAR = “pig”; Definition: “Left”. I haven’t seen R for “red” before – presumably that’s from its use in acronyms like RGB? (It’s not in Chambers.)
16. FADE EF = “lEFt centre” reversed around AD = “commercial”; Definition: “flag”
18. DEPARTED DEED = “dead in Glasgow” around PART = “neighbourhood”; Definition: “Left”. I’m not sure about PART = “neighbourhood” – my best guess is that that’s as in the expression “around these parts”, but I don’t remember having heard that in the singular. One of the senses of “part” in Chambers is “region”, though.
19. EXCITED EXITED = “Left” around C = “many”; Definition: “overwrought”
21. HILLED WILLED = “Left” (as in a will) with the first letter changed (“to change top”); Definition: “with some relief”
22. EGGNOG GONE = “Left” reversed around GG = “horse — say” (sounds like “gee gee”); Definition: “Winter Warmer”
23. TWENTY WENT = “Left” after T = “with time up front” + Y = “you’re first”; Definition: “score”

50 Responses to “Guardian 25,212 / Bonxie”

  1. Radchenko says:

    Hugely impressive achievement, both in construction and solution. Thanks for the blog, and for being early too…

    Because otherwise I would have been here all day and not got anywhere near completion. 6 clues in an hour of all out effort. Quite the most intractable and impenetrable puzzle in the Guardian for me, ever, and that includes the Geniuses.

  2. Swukker says:

    It is an achievement although when such a clue-based theme is set up it does lead to some convoluted reasoning to get at the answer sometimes. By far the toughest Guardian crossword I have done in a long time, it took me a much longer time than usual, with me nearly giving up on several occasions.

  3. jim says:

    Thanks for excellent blog.
    A tough puzzle, but good in parts!
    I think broadcast for teleport is iffy, and I don’t know what left is doing at all in 22A.

  4. Duncan Shiell says:

    I found that very challenging – probably the most difficult Guardian crossword I have done. At one point I was reduced to creating a list of words that meant ‘left’ and trying to see if they would fit into the wordplay of any clue.

    Inevitably there had to be one or two new words to discover as a result of Bonxie finding words to clue to fill the grid and fit the theme, but that, to me, is one of the attractions of crosswords. New words today for me were FILET, LYDDITE and DEPONENTS.

    I think ‘left’ in 22a simply refers to the fact that EXPATS have ‘left’ their home country to live somewhere else. Like mhl I think this is just a cryptic definition.

  5. Swukker says:

    I read 22A as two overlapping definitions but it seems slightly contrived to shoehorn another ‘left’ into the puzzle.

  6. Martin H says:

    Thanks for the thorough commentary mhl – I share your various reservations (6 and 22), but overall thought this was a very well-constructed – and difficult – puzzle. Like Duncan, I made my own thesaurus of ‘lefts’ and found it useful. It didn’t help in 21 though – there was very little to go on there.

    I’ve seen ‘deid’ as Scots for dead (18), but never ‘deed'; perhaps we should have had some indication of a homophone here.

    One or two definitions quite near the edge: ‘overwrought’ for excited; DEP = deputy = vice. Neither is really unfair though. Picket line for lariat is very ingenious.

    Lots of excellent clues – TWENTY and DALLAS among the best.

    Thanks Bonxie

  7. mhl says:

    Thanks for the comments –

    Just in case anyone’s in any doubt, I found this very difficult as well, and when it was apparent that it was going to make me late for work had to cheat quite a bit to get the post done in time…

  8. Steve&Claire says:

    Gosh – that was hard!
    Couldn’t quite finish it unaided and made a mistake in the sw corner which didn’t help. Enjoyed most of the clues, which had some lovely surfaces, but not keen on a few (6d. TELEPORT and 8a.GAVEL in particular seem to confuse tenses in clue and solution and 21d.HILLED too vague to be fair).
    Perhaps the brief, which was clever and entertaining, was just too constraining.

  9. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog mhl. Glad others found this hard! I thought it was one of the most difficult daily puzzles in quite a while. Needed the check button quite a few times and gave up on 24ac in the end, though it really wasn’t that much harder than some of the others.

    A very clever puzzle from Bonxie and a rigorous use of the theme. LYDDITE was new to me.

  10. rrc says:

    Completed about half than abandoned it -im afraid – not one of my favourite compilers

  11. NeilW says:

    Thanks mhl

    I’m glad you admitted to having to cheat a little to save time! I had to too, for the first time ever, and found that very frustrating. I wish such clever puzzles would be saved for the prize crosswords so that we could all have time to enjoy both solving and appreciating them! Having time to research now – it’s evening here – I think you’re right that explosive is doing double duty as there seems nothing “tiddley” about the explosive properties of picric acid!

  12. Eileen says:


    I totally agree with your first sentence!

    [Confidentially, this was down to be my blog, and I’m very glad that it was mhl himself and not I who requested the swap! I, too, had to resort to the ‘cheat’ facility and I think I would not have been able to produce such a timely blog.]

    In retrospect, it’s hard to see why this was quite so difficult as it seems to have been, especially as, initially, I feared the theme was going to be based on the various colloquial / dialect words for left-handed. Mercifully, we were spared that and Bonxie is to congratulated on the number of ingenious ways he exploited his theme.

    I share the reservations about TELEPORT but cannot see Steve&Claire’s objection to the tenses in the clue for GAVEL: ‘gave’ = ‘handed’, as in the blog.

    Bravo, mhl – and ‘for this relief, much thanks’! :-)

  13. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks (I think) mhl for about 20 explanations. I didn’t like this at all. These crosswords with repetitive words “left, left, left….” numb my brain, and I seem to dry up.

    It didn’t help carelessly putting LIBATION at 13a.

  14. Thomas99 says:

    Sorry if someone has already said this and I missed it, but I don’t think “left” is meant to be the definition of labour in 1d. It’s a CD – someone is left holding a baby after labour – isn’t it?

  15. Michod says:

    Very hard indeed, but generally satisfying. I resorted to solving aids (Bradfords/Chambers app with wild cards) for the last few, but gave up on 8 across. I think in this kind of grid with its high ratio of unchecked letters, _A_E_ should be either avoided or clued extremely kindly. The app told me there were 200+ words that would fit!

  16. Robi says:

    Thanks Bonxie and mhl for a splendid blog, especially explaining 27.

    Phew, I’m glad some more experienced folk found this difficult. The left part of my brain hurts!

    I had to use the check button quite a lot, but soldiered on, although delaying my lunch! For some reason I couldn’t get 8a until the last when the penny dropped about banger and I saw that gavel fitted in. I assumed 22a was just countrymen who had been left overseas.

    A very impressive puzzle, with sinister undertones.

  17. Will Mc says:

    I agree with Dave Ellis. After about 10 minutes I “left” this well alone, as it was like listening to a record when the needle gets stuck in a locked groove.

  18. Will Mc says:

    Dave Ellison, of course, apologies.

  19. Robi says:

    P.S. Re. 15, I got stuck for a while yesterday on TAROT by assuming ‘a red’ was ar. There are plenty of options for setters on the letter ‘R’ at: (don’t know whether this is allowed in cruciverbal land)

  20. walruss says:

    Yes bit boring really. Seemed a little up itself without being very interesting thematically, and, despite the obvious fact that the compiler had almost martyred himself in getting so many things in the grid to relate, I found a lot of the clueing loose.

  21. John Doe says:

    I’d like to hear why you’re not convinced that “Labour” is virtually synonymous with “Left” – an odd remark in an otherwise remarkable blog, thank you.

    BTW, I read 22a as “left country – men overseas” to make it a double definition

  22. mhl says:

    Robi: that’s a nice list :) There are some more conventional indicators for R here: In advanced cryptics I think the rule is normally that any abbreviation that’s in Chambers is allowed, but if Hugh Stephenson is consistent with his policy on normal words, he might allow anything that appears in Chambers, Collins or the Oxford Dictionary of English [sic]… Unfortunately, I don’t have copies of the latter two here, so I’m not sure if it appears in them. Personally, I wouldn’t use R = “red”, for whatever that’s worth :)

  23. walruss says:

    If you think that Labour is the party of the Left there is no hope for us John. But Labour, even in the old days, was not the ‘Left’ party, there were plenty that filled those shoes more securely, like The Socialist Party, or The Communist Party.

  24. William says:

    Fine blog, mhl, can’t imagine how you got there so quickly!

    I fired in all the ‘non left’ clues and then the more obvious ones in about an hour. I had to give up with about 20% left either unexplained or unfathomable.

    Shouldn’t 26a have some indicator that one is looking for a hidden word?

    Thanks again.

  25. mhl says:

    Thomas99: thanks for the suggestion – I’ve added that to the post.

    Eileen: no problem, thanks for swapping – I hope you have a fun puzzle to do tomorrow.

    John Doe: leaving aside the problem of left / right in politics seeming to have more than one dimension and where Labour might be placed on those, I just haven’t come up with an example where one could substitute “Left” for “Labour” in a sentence. However, as Thomas99 suggests, perhaps it’s just meant to be a cryptic definition anyway.

  26. mhl says:

    William: as unfortunately happens more often now that I’m no longer a student and have to finish the crossword + post before work, I had to use the cheat button. Also, I have a 1 hour time zone advantage when it comes to appearing prompt :) In 26a the hidden answer indicator is “supplies” – i.e. it’s “regulAR MEDical” “supplies” “carrying”, but read as “Carrying[, that] ‘regulAR MEDical’ supplies”.

  27. Robi says:

    Thanks mhl, can’t find r for red in Collins or Oxford D of E – it is in Merriam-Webster though.

    Of course, there is also ‘r for mo’ (or ‘r for Askey’ if you’re old enough to recognise him)

  28. Stella says:

    The indicator, William, is supplies, as I see now, this being one of the three in the SW corner I didn’t get.

    My excuse is tha I normally do the Guardian crossword when I’m nice and fresh, having just got up, whereas today being a feast day (the Epiphany), I didn’t get around to it till siesta time.

    Thanks for the blog, mhl, and congratulations on working out so many complicated parsings. If I’d been doing this on paper, I don’t think I’d have got very far :)

  29. William says:

    Thank you Stella @28 and mhl @26. Apologies – feeling a bit dim about this, now.

  30. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl and Bonxie

    I spent far too long on this on paper and failed on 21d, but got everything else. This was in fact a rather splendid clue. My self-doubt and annoyance at not finishing was assuaged by the discovery that everyone else found it pretty hard. What a relief!! Thanks all for that as well as for your other comments.

    Teleport is given as move by telekinesics in my Chambers, but I felt it must be right. I suppose there is the general idea of causation at a distance involved, and the ? helps a bit.

    I had to check lyddite, and – just to be sure filet and deponents – in Chambers as well as teleport.

    I enjoyed 8a, 14a, 20a when I finally saw it, 24a, 27a, 1d, 2d, and 4d. I would have loved to have got 21d.

    I started to think the puzzle might be a pangram as well, but J,Z,Q are missing

  31. John H says:

    Several people above have referred to “cheating”. Could I ask what you mean by cheating?

  32. frank king says:

    just have your recommended daily unitsand all becomes clear

  33. mhl says:

    John H: I think that in this context most are meaning clicking the “cheat” button on the Guardian’s online crossword site, which reveals the answer to a clue.

  34. mhl says:

    William: no need to apologise – that’s exactly the kind of question the comments are for. (I think it’s a tough clue because “Carrying” shouts “hidden answer”, but that turns out to be the definition :))

  35. Paul B says:

    ‘Carrying’ is an excellent definition for ARMED, and the post-positional ‘supplies’ seems fine to me. A very nicely-disguised clue methinks.

  36. mhl says:

    Paul B: absolutely – I wasn’t meaning to imply otherwise…

  37. molonglo says:

    Thanks mhl and Bonxie. This was torture, worked on while watching live on TV the death of our cricket. Many excellent clues, some got early (TWENTY) and some lateish (DALLAS). Failed on HILLED (what’s it mean?), and surrendered on the NE corner, despite TELEPORT. Great puzzle.

  38. Jim says:

    Found this incredibly difficult, particularly top half of puzzle.

  39. FranTom Menace says:

    We found this difficult but almost wholly solvable in time. One gripe though, I don’t recall ever seeing a clue where you’re left to guess a portion like in 21d. ‘To change top’ – into what exactly? That seemed pretty unfair in an otherwise fair crossword.

  40. Eileen says:

    Hi FranTom Menace

    ‘To change top’ – into what exactly?’

    Surely this clue works the same as any other?

    You change the top [W] of ‘willed’ [left] to H to get HILLED: ‘with some relief’, the definition given in the blog. I’d never seen it before but could accept Chambers’ definition: ‘hilled: having hills’.

  41. Tom Hutton says:

    I’m with Dave Ellison on this. Crosswords of this kind always seem to me to provide more fun for the setter than the solver. I ground my way through it except gavel, hilled and armed but I was very discouraged by the use of deed for Glaswegian deid because I thought if that was the standard of clue-ing what other liberties should we assume. That whole corner depressed me a bit and it made solving a chore not a pleasure.

  42. MikefromBath says:

    Very hard for me… but worth the chase.

    I wonder why there were four “Left” across clues.

    It sould seem neater to have none or all.

    I’m probably being close-minded, but I am curious as to the logic.

  43. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I think you can’t expect people to solve a crossword like this within a reasonable time without external resources, unless – of course – you’re a genius or a rightback or both. :)
    But it was, like mhl said, very impressive indeed.
    We spent about two hours on it in a Cambridge cafe.
    The result: 21.5 solutions correct, 6.5 solutions missing [more or less equally divided between the NE and the SW – btw 0.5, because we had ???ONENTS for 27ac].

    A very clever crossword and I wonder what has happened to Bonxie.
    His recent Saturday prize puzzle was also extremely challenging, while in the back of my mind something said: it wasn’t like that before.

    Did we like it? Not sure.
    We had a similar feeling as Dave Ellison (“… repetitive words “left, left, left….” numb my brain, and I seem to dry up”), and my PinC was slightly annoyed by the slow pace.
    But I have to say, it was all in all quite fair.
    Tom Hutton (#40)’s statement “Crosswords of this kind always seem to me to provide more fun for the setter than the solver” I do understand, but it wasn’t what I once called “a setter’s crossword”.

    Paul B (#35) talked about things ‘nicely-disguised’ in 26ac.
    And there were more.
    For example, normally “extremely cold” (9ac) would lead to “cd”, but not here.

    Personally, I still have some problems with ignoring punctuation.
    I know it is like that nowadays, but “left-handed first” doesn’t feel comfortable to me.
    The same applies to ARIA+T for “airtime”.
    Even though I suspected it to be like this, it’s just not my cup of tea.

    I am very sensitive to connecting words like “by” (24ac) and “to” (23d) of which I am not sure if they should be there or not.
    Many setters, including Araucaria, can’t be bothered though.

    As ever, my PinC was annoyed by a few capitalisations: Shed, Greens and Winter Warmer. She knows how things work, but in a way finds it impure.

    So, extremely hard.
    Like others said, probably the hardest Guardian puzzle in recent days.
    But looking back at it, I do understand Eileen in #12: “In retrospect, it’s hard to see why this was quite so difficult as it seems to have been”.

    Still, phew!

    Oh, and thanks Mark – done a great job today!!

  44. Carrots says:

    For the first time in many months I threw in the towel before the half-way stage. Even bringing the wretched thing home to squeeze a couple more (unfamiliar) answers in, via dictionaries and google, barely got me beyond this point. I absolutely refuse to use the cheat button, but, boy, did I get tempted!

    A seriously super puzzle from Bonxie, well-blogged by mhl. Our “local” had a quiz night tonight, into which I escaped and donated a few answers to the questions. I scrawled these on the back of today`s Bonxie print-out, almost obliterated by my blue ink. I wonder if the recipients, like me, will also lose the will to live?

  45. sidey says:

    If you use the online puzzle there is a cheat button that gives the answer. There are some who think using any reference work including dictionaries constitutes cheating too.

  46. tupu says:

    Hi Sil

    Thanks for an interesting set of comments on the clues in this one. Re Eileen’s point, it is almost a physical thing like long-distance running – one testing clue after another till one finally runs out of go (in my case on 21d). But enjoyable along the way all the same.

  47. Tony Davis says:

    I’m with Martin H and Tom Hutton on the use of “deed” rather than “deid” – it’s just plain wrong (or “wrang”!). We finally admitted defeat with 7 clues unsolved – we deduced LYDDITE in spite of never having heard of it, but, like Dave Ellison, shot ourselves in the foot by putting LIBATION instead of OBLATION, which was unforgivably careless.

  48. Wolfie says:

    Finally finished this offering from Bonxie 24 hours late. Regarding 17 across, I believe we are to read the meaning of ‘TIDDLEY’ as ‘drunk, intoxicated’. (I was familiar with this colloquial sense of the word and see that it is defined thus in Webster’s On-line dictionary.) Hence this must be a rare example of a word that is its own anagrind. If anyone else has drawn attention to this, apologies. (This is my first posting on fifteensquared and I fear that my late completion will mean that nobody else reads it!)

  49. Paul B says:

    ‘No promises’ is an anagram of SPOONERISM, if that helps.

    In Chambers I can’t work out whether they mean TIDDLEY with the E is the noun or adjective.

  50. Maxine says:

    In the Aussie version of this crossword 8a reads ‘provide tribute’ instead of ‘provide a banger’.

    Wasn’t the clue difficult enough as it was? I wonder why sometimes the clues are changed for our delicate down under sensibilities

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