Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,218 / Paul

Posted by mhl on January 13th, 2011


A very high quality and entertaining puzzle from Paul – I think this was a nice level of difficulty for a weekday puzzle, and the theme was quite accessible. Lots of good clues here, so I won’t pick out any in particular.

9. HAIRBALLS HAIR = “musical” + BALLS = “spirit”; Definition: “Masses brought up”
11. WACKO K = “King” in WACO = “Texas city”; Definition: “cuckoo”
12. QUEUE-JUMP QUEUE (sounds like Q) = “letter for audition” + JUMP = “start”; Definition “Push in”
13. FORTUNE FOR TUNE = “for song”; Definition “Chance”
14,26,10. ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE (FINE TO GO TO HEN)* + RAVE = “party”; Definition “SHOW”
17. LAPSE Sounds like “laps” = “drinks, say”; Definition “Error”
20. PISTE Hidden in “soaP IS Teeny”; Definition “it’s slippery”
21. HURRY UP HUR = “Ben” + [accelerato]R = “toe to accelerator” + YUP = “certainly” (in conversation); Definition: “increase speed”
22. RUN-OFFS NO in RUFFS = “trumps” (bridge terminology); Definition “these decide the outcome”
24. DRIBBLERS Cryptic definition
28. MOGUL Double definition: “Tycoon” and “on the [PISTE]?” – on an ideal piste, all the moguls should have been flattened out, but I guess that’s why there’s the question mark :)
29. CONFLUENT (UNCLE OF)* + NT = “books”; Definition: “going the same way”
2. MINCER C = “caught” in MINER = “digger”; Definition: “One’s product is ground” (e.g. ground beef)
3,7. ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS ABSOLUTELY = “Quite” + FABULOUS = “wonderful”; Definition: “SHOW” – this was the clue I got the theme from…
4. PLAQUE Double definition: “Memorial” + “film on canines, for example” – “canines” referring to teeth
5. ASTEROID AS = “While” + (EDITOR)*; Definition: “ET leaving space rocket?” – I’d get the definition if it were “ET leaving space?” meaning “E[xtra] T[errestrial] [object] leaving space?” – what am I missing? Gaufrid explains this below – if you remove ET from “space rocket” you get “space rock”. Personally, I think a construction like this in the definition part is unfair on the solver.
6. OGRE ERGO = “so” reversed; Definition: “Monster”
8,1. PEEP SHOW (HOPES)* in PEW = “seat”; Definition: “Tom’s entertainment?” – referring to a Peeping Tom. It could be part of the theme, as well, referring to the excellent and excruciating Channel 4 comedy “Peep Show”
13. FILTH FIFTH = “ordinal” with its “nucleus” changed; Definition: “obscenities?”
15. EXPANSIBLE (X PLEBEIANS)*; Definition: “able to grow”
16. TIERS TIGERS = “fierce animals” without G = “no good”; Definition: “Rows”
18. PORRIDGE Double definition if you consider the question mark to apply to breakfast, or a cryptic definition otherwise: “Breakfast [SHOW]?”
19. TUPPENCE TUP = “Sheep” + PEN = “enclosure” + C[olli]E = “collie emptied”; Definition: “a little bread”
22,24. RISING DAMP Double / cryptic definition: “[SHOW] that’s up the wall?”
23,19across. FATHER TED T = “time” + (THREE)* in FAD = “craze”; Definition: “[SHOW]”
25. BALI I = “single” + LAB = “party” all reversed; Definition: “Island”
27. EATS [h]EATS = “Makes ’ot”; Definition: “food” – EATS is sometimes used as a noun

33 Responses to “Guardian 25,218 / Paul”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks mhl.

    I never expected that we’d ever get a theme based on rubbishy tv shows.

    What next?

  2. Gaufrid says:

    Hi mhl
    You have a superfluous letter in your answer to 16dn.

    The definition in 5dn is ‘space rock’ (ET leaving space rocket).

  3. molonglo says:

    Thanks mhl. Happily did this without aids, despite never having heard of two of the shows, until the end with 4d and 12a – TEAS provided the Q, and that wrapped it up. Full marks to Paul for another beauty, with lots of good stuff including filth and hairballs.

  4. jim says:

    Thanks for very detailed blog mhl.
    I enjoyed this – as you say not too demanding for a weekday.
    I didn’t like 13A though. It seems weak to give part of the solution (ie FOR) in the clue.
    And 13D is a bit demanding, having to find an ordinal and then change its middle letter in an undefined way, even though the answer is fairly obvious.

  5. Eileen says:

    Great blog of a fun puzzle: many thanks, mhl and Paul – and Gaufrid, for unravelling the extra bit of wordplay, which had me foxed, too.

    I smiled at ‘masses brought up'; ‘film on canines'; ‘Tom’s entertainment’ and I liked the whimsical surface of 19dn.

    Quite gentle entertainment, really, for Paul, but very enjoyable.

  6. mhl says:

    Gaufrid: thanks, I’ve updated the post with both of those points. (Grumbling a little about “space rock[et]” :))

  7. blaise says:

    The connection between mogul (28a) and piste (20a) is that one definition of mogul is “a name applied to the best quality of playing cards” and a “piste” is not just a ski run but also the surface, usually green baize, that you play card (or dice) games on in France. Pretty obscure, but as I live there it compensated for the themed clues, two of which I’d never heard of. In fact, after getting 18d and 27d. I thought the theme might have something to do with cereals (geddit?).

  8. blaise says:

    Sorry, I should have said that the card connection is an alternative explanation — and the one that gave me the answer… (the more obviously relevant definition of mogul isn’t in my dictionary).

  9. Thomas99 says:

    A mogul is also a bump on a ski-run or piste. It’s not an obscure usage in that context.

  10. Thomas99 says:

    Ah. Cross-posting. Sorry I butted in.

  11. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl and Paul

    An excellent puzzle with many devious, but fair and amusing, clues.

    It took a few minutes to understand ‘asteroid’ but I personally liked it when I did.

    After getting ‘fortune’ I was then left with ‘f’ as the first letter for 13d. My first thoughts were what one might expect, especially after seeing ‘The King’s Speech’ yesterday with GR shouting lots of expletives in his attempt to overcome his stammer. But fortunately it also suggested ‘fifth’.

    Thanks for the explanation of ‘hurry up’. I saw the answer from the ‘h’ and the ‘up’ and then assumed that Ben was Hur and the ‘r’ and ‘y’ were ‘toes’ of ‘accelerator’ and ‘certainly’ plus ‘up’ as ‘increase’. Not good enough.

    ‘Hairballs’ clearly amused me less than some with memories of my former much loved old cat pathetically coughing and wheezing in the process. But it was very clever and I have no complaints about it and :) my eyes are dry.

  12. Monica M says:

    With Gaufrid’s indulgence and in response to William yesterday …

    Well I’m very lucky, I am high and dry and safe. But there are many people suffering greatly. The scale of these floods is epic, almost 3/4 of the state is affected.

    Brisbane was spared a record flood we were fortunate to have about 36 hours of fine weather. The main problem here is that the CBD is shut down. We have been told to return to work on Monday.

    The best way for those overseas to help is through the Premier’s flood relief appeal at

    Also, make contact with any friends you may have here, a quick email or text message can make the world of difference.

    Thank you for your kind support.

    I’ll be dusting off my steel caps and work duds, there is plenty to be done when the water subsides and we will all need to pitch in!!!

  13. Jack Aubrey says:

    That was fun. First run through, I thought I was stumped. Not much more than 20a coming to mind. (Getting time for the annual Alpine pilgrimage.) But then the penny (for the 8,1?) dropped and once I dragged my brain away from theatre land and into the corner of the living room, it all fell into place over the post-swim coffee.

    Many thanks to Mhl and Gaufrid for untangling some of the intricacies of the word play.

  14. Orlando says:

    Apologies if this is slightly off-topic, but I thought people would like to know.

    BBC Radio Scotland has a lifestyle/magazine programme called MacAulay & Co. Tomorrow morning it will include a feature providing tips and tricks for crossword novices and John Halpern (Paul) will be interviewed.

    The item is scheduled to be live for ten minutes at 10:35am, so tune in if you can.

    It’s on digital and online at

  15. Will Mc says:

    I filled in all the(not rubbish at all, Bryan comedies before I got the theme word at 1d. Thought show as a definition of them was a bit vague.

    On the topic of floods, it’s amazing how much coverage this has(n’t) got compared with the English-speaking white people’s plight.

  16. walruss says:

    This was all right but a bit throw-away I thought. Still good luck to the compiler on BBC Scotland!!

  17. Robi says:

    Thanks Paul and mhl. I found this quite tough, especially as I failed to get 1 until near the end, partly because I was looking at 1,8 as an expression, rather than 8,1 (lesson, read the clues properly!)

    The ‘letter for audition’ had me foxed – I thought it must be like Q for a bus etc. with some reference to audition (doh!)

    Thanks to you and Gaufrid for explaining 5. ‘Tier’ for row (16) seems to keep cropping up.

  18. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks mhl and Paul. Judging by the comments above, I must be feeling particularly thick today, because I found this hard to get into and, despite having heard of all the theme answers, took ages to get 8/1. In fact, the NW took me about half an hour, and a sneak look at the blog to see if it would open up a window – there I saw 9ac, which wasn’t what I was looking for but did get me started in that corner :(

  19. stiofain says:

    Another great Paul puzzle “rubbishy TV” Bryan?? All are award winning classics and would feature in any top ten no matter what method was used in compiling a list.
    I think it is worth mentioning that in Pauls recent outing the keyword for cross referenced clues was the last answer in the grid and this keyword bookends that nicely by being the first.

  20. rrc says:

    8d was my last answer in and its only reading the blog that i realise 8d is the first word. I actually enjoyed this based on “rubbishy TV shows”, but then again I might take issue with this discription of such shows

  21. John H says:

    Anyone who thinks the comedy programmes in the crossword are rubbish is either a remarkably sourfaced and miserable sod or has had a major sense of humour lobotomy.

  22. Tony S says:

    An entertaining puzzle. I spent far too long wanting “seat for Tom” in 8D,1D to be MAT (as in “the cat sat on the …”), and then thought PEW might be a reference to the old rhyme:

    There was a young curate of Kew
    Who kept a tom cat in a pew;
    He taught it to speak alphabetical Greek,
    But it never got further than µ.

  23. KeithBuch says:

    I enjoyed this and managed to finish a Paul crossword without any aids, which is unusual for me. I agree with John H , @21, is he really Paul ?

  24. Brian Harris says:

    Great stuff today. Loved it. Was puzzling for ages over the definition of 5dn, until the penny dropped. Unusual construction, but quite clever.

    A good list of some classic British sitcoms, not too obviously highlighted either.

  25. Daniel Miller says:

    Excellent – even if I was thinking Theatre productions until the excellent (series) Father Ted came along…

  26. Sylvia says:

    Loved it! Struggled for ages with hairballs then had a giggle. Last to go in were 8/1, sure they must include ‘warp’ till then!

  27. Martin H says:

    No problem with the definition in 5. If cryptic definitions are acceptable, then this device certainly is.

    I enjoyed some excellent clues here, even though the theme was off-putting.

  28. ray says:

    11a is more or less a homophone for another ‘rubbishy TV series’.

  29. Sil van den Hoek says:

    In the preamble mhl’s first words were “A very high quality and entertaining puzzle from Paul”. Indeed, it was quality clu(e)ing, but not as adventurous [read: high quality] as for example last Saturday’s Paul which teased our minds a bit more than today’s puzzle, despite one or two major quibbles.
    ‘Entertaining’ it certainly [yup …] was.

    But the theme was also the Achilles heel of the crossword.
    When you are familiar with all this Bryanesque rubbish (many thanks to the Other John H to put the rubbish in the bin!), many clues fell into place too quickly.

    RISING DAMP was our first, but I thought there would be a word for ‘wall’ in there that was rising, so a reversed reversal.
    My PinC remembered RISING DAMP, and mentioned a thing like ‘comic soap series’ [whatever that is], but as I saw F????? T?? in 23/19, I had to think of the inimitable FATHER TED rightaway. Fine, another clue solved, but that was my ‘problem’.
    For some reason I thought 1d had to be SHOW, and then the ball went rolling. PEEP SHOW was explained áfter writing in the answer [btw, today in the dead tree version].
    I got ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE for the enumeration.
    For me (more than for my PinC) this was the weak point of the crossword.

    I think ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS was clued in an unusually inferior way. It’s hardly cryptic, just like PORRIDGE [the clue would have worked well if Paul could have used the Breakfast Show (instead of Breakfast 1)]. The aforementioned RISING DAMP is also not great as the title probably refers to a similar thing.

    My PinC’s only quibble was 13ac (FORTUNE), which she didn’t like because of ‘for’ being in the clue ánd in the solution.

    Although one might have a different impression, I didn’t have that many complaints about the clu(e)ing as such, but the theme, although very entertaining, stood in the (read: my) way eventually.

    But, dear friends, there were certainly some splendid clues.
    1ac (HAIRBALLS) was great, as was the long one at 14,26,10 [although there’s something lurking in my mind that says: the surface could have been even better].

    Today’s Well Respected Man (mhl) wasn’t sure whether the definition of 5d (ASTEROID) was fair. I do understand that, but I think this is a great clue. At first we thought ET had to be removed from ‘editor’, giving us a word ending in ‘roid’, for example. But it was a lot less complicated than that. Once we found the solution, we had to think about the ET bit, but we liked it.
    Oh, and 27ac (EATS) is one of the best, too.
    Re DRIBBLERS (24ac), we saw this as a dd, rather than a cd.

    Yes, it was a good Paul, but perhaps the theme – once discovered – made the puzzle not challenging enough.
    Well, something like that.

  30. Carrots says:

    This is more like it: nearly every clue a stunner, with a couple of “easies” to get a start.

    Thank you Paul for so stylishly demonstrating your wicked wiliness. It is a delight to lock horns with you. mhl: thanks also: you must have got up in the middle of the night….or at least got some of whatever Rightback is on!

  31. hoffi says:

    Paul is definitely my favourite compiler these days. I love the way his puzzles seem inpenetrable at first only for the mist slowly to disappear. He does this to me regularly and long may he continue to do so.

  32. Paul B says:

    Those misty Paul puzzles, eh. In-penetrable, they are.

  33. RogerBear says:

    Having lived now in the US for 40 years, but not lost my taste for cryptic crosswords, I feel quite proud to have solved this without being familiar with a single one of the SHOWs!

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