Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,224 by Rover

Posted by PeterO on January 20th, 2011


A very mixed bag. Lots of simple anagrams, with various anagrinds, some more satisfactory than others. Most of the rest are equally simple constructions, so that the puzzle starts to shape up as Quiptic level; but then there are a handful of clues that leave me quite baffled.


1 BURGESS Double definition: Guy Burgess, notorious double agent and Anthony Burgess, novelist perhaps best known for A Clockwork Orange.

5 ARMOURY Anagram (‘collapsed’) of  ‘our army’. A neat idea, but it is unfortunate that the anagram was so transparent.

10 ACRE Anagram (‘about’) of  ‘care’.

11 BLUEBOTTLE Charade of BLUE (‘down’) + BOTTLE (‘courage’).

12 SEANCE Anagram (‘made’) of  ‘a scene’. I would have guessed, on no great authority, that the plural of medium in the sense of Madame Arcati is more commonly mediums.

13 TAILORED Anagram (‘jockeys'; one of the better anagrinds) of  ‘ride a lot’.

14 ANCESTORS Anagram (‘provide’) of ‘stores can’. The definition references family trees.

16 CAUSE Homophone (‘noises’, serving double duty) of caws.

17 DAVID Charade of D (‘daughter’) + AVID (‘greedy’), for the biblical king.

19 FINISHING Lancing College hardly matches the usual meaning of a finishing school!

23 DRUBBING Envelope of BB (‘boys’) in an anagram (‘awful’) of ‘during’.

24 PRESTO Anagram (‘change’) of ‘poster’. The musical direction for very quick, from the Italian.

26 SCORECARDS I cannot track down any particular connection with the Telegraph.

27 GRAB Reversal (‘about’) of BRAG (‘boast’).

28 ETCHERS Anagram (‘from’) of ‘Chester’.

29 REVEALS Anagram (‘out’) of ‘leavers'; a reveal is the recess in which a doorframe sits. I do not think that ‘show’ works.


UNCLEAN ‘Uncle [D]an’ without D (‘daughter’, again).

3 GREEN Double definition.

4 SUBJECT Double definition.

6 RABBIT Charade of RABBI (‘teacher’) + T (‘little time’). Well-worn clue.

7 OSTEOPATH Cryptic definition; not the best even of its kind.

8 ROLLERS Double definition.

Lilac-breasted Roller

Lilac-breasted Roller

9 BUTTERFINGERS When solving this, I assumed that the reference was to some TV programme, but I cannot locate it.

15 EDINBURGH Another mystery: EDIN is an anagram (‘out’) of ‘dine’. Edinburgh is a city.

18 APRICOT Anagram (‘could be’) of  tropica[l] (‘almost tropical’)

20 IMPASSE Charade of IM (‘I’m”) + PASSE (‘finished’).

21 NATURAL Double definition.

22 MINCER Double definition, with ‘affected’ carried over from the previous clue.

25 EAGLE Double definition: the military standard, particularly the Roman Aquila

A modern reconstruction of an aquila on Roman vexilloid.

A modern reconstruction of an aquila on Roman vexilloid.


Eagle lectern

Eagle lectern

50 Responses to “Guardian 25,224 by Rover”

  1. TokyoColin says:

    Thanks PeterO. I am glad you got this up early because I finished the puzzle over lunch and was left, well puzzled.

    As you say, very easy for the most but a few that are beyond me. Thank you for 29ac.

    At 19ac, Lancing does “Finish in G”. But I cannot help with Scorecards, Fingers or Burgh.

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks PeterO. Rover’s clues have a carefree wandering about them: this knapsack had 19a, 26a, 15d, 21d etc which had me getting out my map and scratching my head, even after being sure I was on the right track. I googled ‘fingers safe-breaker’ after determining 9d and found F was a character in the TV program Alcock and Gander. Never heard of it. I did like 1a though.

  3. Bryan says:

    Many thanks PeterO this was as easy as they come even though I shared the same bewilderment on the clues you’ve listed.

    As we all know, Rover passed away last year so I wonder if this was his last offering?

  4. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the colourful blog, PeterO.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times that I, and others, have used the phrase ‘ a mixed bag’, when blogging one of Rover’s puzzles!

    Re 26ac: I was foxed by this one when I blogged Rover puzzle 24.896, a year ago, where the clue was, ‘It shows the score daily’.

    It caused a bit of discussion, because several people who do know about cricket had never heard of the Chambers definition of a ‘Telegraph board': ‘a scoreboard or information board that can be read at a distance, used at matches, athletic meetings, races, etc.’

    Coincidentally, in the same puzzle! – he used a similar clue to 19ac for ‘ending': ‘close finish’ – and I missed that, too!

    I can’t see ‘burgh’ either. I wondered whether it could possibly equate to ‘see’ [diocese] but I couldn’t really see how and couldn’t find it.

    8 of the 16 across clues are anagrams!

  5. rrc says:

    most enjoyable although I did not realise therenwere so many anagrams!

  6. Martin H says:

    Very odd.

    Thanks for the nicely illustrated commentary PeterO. You forgot to reverse BRAG, 27, by the way.

  7. BrigC says:

    I consider “fingers” to be the archetypal name for a safe-breaker from any number of hokey, not to say jokey, British T.V. and film classics of the fifties and sixties.

  8. tupu says:

    Thanks PeterO and rip Rover

    A very odd mixture as others say.

    15d Puzzling. I decided that city was playing a double role ie edin (*Dine) + burgh (city) at the end (at length = in conclusion). Iffy, if so, as was the double duty in 16a.

    I found the Chambers ref. for scorecards. A bit obscure!

    Lancing. I tried the school and decided this was ‘bring a matter to an end (at length) as in lancing a boil On the way I got misled into lancing as ‘finishing’ process in metalwork.

    I liked butterfingers but did not know the TV show. I also liked osteopath and bluebottle.

    8d. I did not like the ‘to’.

    12a. Like Peter, I was not convinced by media in 12d though it was amusing.

  9. tupu says:

    I also liked the surface in 4d.

  10. Trundle says:

    A telegraph is another word for a scoreboard in cricket. It’s becoming slightly archaic but you do still hear David Gower et al referring to it that way on occasion.

    Thanks PeterO for getting this blog up early as I didn’t want to waste too much of my day slogging my way through a puzzle ( a lot of which I couldn’t fathom) when I’ve got more important things to be getting on with! Through frustration I gave up rather early and shamelessly cheated.

  11. Ian W. says:

    Though I didn’t see it when solving, I am sure that Colin’s explanation @1 of 19a is correct. “Lancing” is a red herring — any number of other words that “finish in g” could have been substituted.

    I still await a convincing explanation of Edinburgh.

  12. TokyoColin says:

    I can help with part of 15dn. A BU is a Chinese unit of length, equivalent to 1 2/3 metres. I have actually heard this used (living in Hong Kong helped.) So I presume there is a See somewhere in the UK abbreviated as RGH. Anyone?

    And for Tupu@8, 19ac Lancing was explained at 1 above. The clue is “that’s what Lancing does!”, i.e. finish in G.

  13. tupu says:

    Hi Tokyo C
    Thanks. A better clue than I thought. I’m sure you are right and sorry I missed it. Well spotted!

  14. Brian (with an eye) says:

    I’ve got a suggestion for 15d! “Dine out” is Edin, of course, but if you treat Edin as an abbreviation, “at length” means you must expand the abbreviation, and see the city. Still not very good, though.

  15. tupu says:

    Hi Brian
    That makes better sense of the surface than anything so far.

  16. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks PeterO & everyone else.

    Finished this puzzle but thought that some of the clues were a bit iffy. The blogs help me understand 19a and 26a but I still have difficulty with 15d. Can’t get my head round the BURGH part even accepting BU as a Chinese unit of length. Chambers says that a BURGH is a Scottish cathedral city. Would this be the religious reference to SEE?

  17. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks for your efforts Peter et al., but I’m afraid I’m almost as mystified as when I started reading the blog. Fortunately, the large number of anagrams provided the necessary crossing letters to get the iffy clues.

    In 21d, why is ‘natural’ ‘a certain success’?

  18. Eileen says:

    Hi gm4hqf

    I’m notorious for missing things in Chambers which is very good at ‘burying’ meanings – my excuse! – but, try as I might, I can’t find the definition that you quote in my 11th Edition Chambers. I can see only ‘burgh, spelling of borough, used for Scottish burghs’.

    As I said in my comment 4, I did wonder about the ecclesiastical possibility but without conviction. According to all my sources, ‘burgh’ has a purely civil connotation. The fact that many Scottish burghs have cathedrals is surely coincidental.

    Hi Stella

    I pondered that, too. I think it’s in the sense that you might say, ‘He’s a natural’, of someone taking up, say, golf.

  19. tupu says:

    Hi gm4hqf

    Sorry, which Chambers? Mine makes no mention of ‘cathedral city’ and the online version doesn’t either. My searches of this word around the place suggest it is a secular rather than a religious concept. The word originally meant a fortress, I believe. Also where does ‘at length’ come in on that reading?
    Edin. does seem to be a recognised abbreviation (in OED list)as Brian suggests.

  20. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen

    :) The usual crossover! Sorry. Glad we are in agreement. I agree too (FWIW) re ‘natural’.

  21. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks tupu and Eileen. I thought along those lines, too, but wondered if I was missing something, as it seems very vague. On the other hand, so are some other definitions in this puzzle :)

  22. tupu says:

    ps. Notwithstanding 15d, I’m going to London to see the GLASGOW Boys this afternoon.

  23. Scarpia says:

    Thanks PeterO.
    Usual mix from Rover,some good,some O.k and some…strange.
    19 across needed a ‘for instance’ at the end of the clue.While searching google for help understanding FINGERS I came across this
    No idea re EDINBURGH.

  24. John Doe says:

    Safe cracker “Fingers” Maclaine was a character in the series Mr Terific, a US show from the late 60s – probabably on the far edge of obscurity for a British crossword.

    Also the reveal is not so much the opening in a wall, but the edge surface around the opening.

    And I do like Brian’s suggestion that ‘at length’ signals an antonym of abbreviation

  25. Robi says:

    Thanks PeterO. I found I was struggling on the interpretation of the same clues.

    I think @2 and @7 were right about ‘fingers.’ While researching the topic I found a usual non-PC phrase from ‘Life on Mars:’ Gene Hunt: “He’s got fingers in more pies than a leper on a cookery course.” Funny in a revolting way.

    It seems that 19 was a better clue than I first thought – thanks to TokyoColin @1 for the explanation. For 12, I assume the correct plural is ‘mediums’ but the surface reads much better with media.

  26. enitharmon says:

    Aprops Lancing: if you get run through with a lance you are probably finished. At least, that’s how I read it but perhaps I was trying too hard to find a sensible meaning.

    A rather unsatisfactory puzzle, I thought, especially coming after yesterday’s little treat.

  27. blaise says:

    For simple-minded little me, 15d parses as anagram(dine) + “burgh” = “city” and the whole answer is the city at length. Somewhat unsatisfactory, but therefore consistent…

  28. Swukker says:

    Afetr yesterday’s eminently enjoyable offering, what a let-down today. Possibly one of the worse Guardian crosswords I have ever had the opportunity to complete. Obscurity, incomprehension, gross simplicity, tired clues, what a mess.

  29. walruss says:

    This was a truly dreadful puzzle, in my view. Why? Because it should have been really easy all the way through, but some of the clues or ideas were so badly clued or presented that they were near to impossible to solve. Also, it makes me a bit dubious when, as Eileen says at 4, when clues used previously come up again. I don’t like that, I want to get my money’s worth of NEW clues!!

  30. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, PeterO. I’m afraid I’ve no idea how to parse 15dn either. My favourite clue of the bunch was 13ac for the surface, but otherwise a mixed bag, as others have said. Least favourite was 7dn.

  31. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I can’t disagree with the general tone here, although I will say I’ve seen worse puzzles from this setter. I quite liked CAUSE, DRUBBING and BURGESS.

    To cheer everyone up, with 12ac in mind, here’s the most rubbish joke you’ll ever have heard.

    There’s a seance going on, with everyone holding hands, when the medium suddenly bursts out laughing. One of the other participants punches her in the face.
    ‘Why did you do that?’ asks another participant.
    ‘I always like to strike a happy medium’, he replies.

    I did tell you it was rubbish.

  32. Kate says:

    I didn’t like this puzzle at all. Although I completed it, I found some of it baffling (as everyone else did), and none of it satisfying like yesterday’s offering. :(

  33. gm4hqf says:


    I was looking up the definition of CITY. Clutching at straws I suppose.

    I am still non the wiser

  34. Eileen says:

    Hi walruss @29

    To be fair, I didn’t say that Rover had used old clues; I gave the original clue in each case but not the answer [telegraph] for the first – apologies. I was only saying that I recognised the ‘controversial’ telegraph = scoreboard, because I’d met it before – when blogging, which is why I remembered it. In the second example, Rover had used the same device [not clue], which seemed to corroborate TokyoColin’s reading of FINISHING, which is why I mentioned it, together with the coincidence of them both being in the same puzzle.

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the lack of capital letter for ‘Guy’ in 1ac. I understood this was strictly ‘against
    the rules’.

  35. PeterO says:

    Thanks to Martin H @6 for pointing out the error. The reversal is now reversed. And to Eileen @4 for the Telegraph; now you mention it, I do have a vague memory of that discussion (and, with two editions of Chambers in front of me, I might have found the definition anyway). I was definitely napping over 19A; the choice of the word ‘Lancing’ in the clue (Ian W @11) would then be because it and ‘finishing’ are both associated with schools, if not the same one; Araucaria has been known to spring oblique references like this. Perhaps it is just the accumulation of imprecisions that leads one to leap on every deviation from the “rules” of crosswords. It must be said that, odd as a few of the clues were, the puzzle was solveable – at least by me, even if I needed the reassurance of the “check all” button at the end. If it shows Rover standing resolutely at a slight angle to the universe, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

  36. walruss says:

    The point is whether it’s fair or not! Araucarai might SEEM to be a bot off, but usually there is justification. E.g. what is the parsing for today’s EDINBURGH, please?

  37. PeterO says:

    … and a good point it is, Walrus. As I read the responses in this blog, it seems to me that the best we can do with 15D is to flounder at some justification for the clue. Having just put up a slightly qualified defence of Rover, I could now go to the other extreme by paraphrasing the clue as:

    Guess the name of a city which might start with an anagram of ‘dine’. Oh, and it has 9 letters. And should probably agree with crossing lights.

    A couple of points: I am sure that we have all solved clues on such a slender basis, though a more solid reading of the clue generally comes later; and, assuming that we are not all overlooking a better explanation, the presence of this inadequate clue does tend to the perception of inadequacies, real or imagined elsewhere. For example, in my first pass at this crossword, I was prepared to dismiss 29A as an anagram and a bunch of cotton wool. Then I found the alternative definition of ‘reveal’, and the clue made a bit more sense (if still not quite enough for my liking).

    All this refers back to number 36. It has taken me a time to compose this, and there might well be another half-dozen entries in between.

  38. John H says:

    I can quite often solve a clue without really understanding how the solution is derived. I am sure I share this with many of the contributors.

    FINGERS was relatively easy as old films/books etc always had a crook named something like Fingers Malone.
    I guess this relates to a safe breaker using his fingers to deal with a combination lock or just derives from something like “lightfingered”.

    However, EDINBURGH has driven me nuts all day (or at least the BURGH bit has).

    The only thing I could find was from Websters Dictionary of 1828 which has the following entry:

    “BURGH, n. burg. A different orthography of burg, borough, which see.” (

    That is all it says and does not really make much sense to me.

    So I am still stuffed.

    And even if poor old Rover was getting on a bit when he passed away an 1828 Dick&Harry does seem to be pushing it a bit.

  39. Martin P says:

    Like several I struggled with 26a. As a different take, I wondered about the early telegraph’s operation using an electromagnet pulling a pen, or needle onto a blackened paper to make scratches of the dots and dashes of Morse Code. I think this was used but couldn’t say if it was known as a scorecard. I did like 4 down and a few others though.

  40. Jim says:

    Failed to get Burgess & Eagle, but was got Scorecards and Edinburgh without too much difficulty.

    Also failed to solve the Times crossword. Not a good day!

  41. Jan says:

    I failed to get Burgess!!!

    Jan Burgess

  42. tupu says:

    I have returned from the Great Wen to find 15d still troubling my co-bloggers.

    As I and others noted earlier, I cannot see anything much wrong with Brian’s suggestion. Edin is both an anagram of dine (indicator ‘out’) and a standard abbreviation of Edinburgh a la OED list. Edin ‘at length’ is Edinburgh (the city). Not very pretty but logical enough surely.

  43. Carrots says:

    As usual, I`m far to late pitching in and have nothing much to add. I do think “guy” deserves a capital letter for the BURGESS clue to make sense and I thought SUBJECT deserves a better definition.

    I also thought DAVID was sloppy….and stretched the definition of “greed”.

    SCORECARDS went in, but I have no idea why.

    Tupu… you will sometimes bleed to justify a clearly flawed clue: and what the hell is the Great Wen when its at home? (You must remember that some of us did`t have a classical education and went to Art School instead). I sometimes think that this was both the making and breaking of me….but give me Art School any day!!

  44. tupu says:

    Hi Carrots
    I did not like the clue. The problem was to see any sense in it. All I was saying was that Brian did that when I and others had failed. (Continued in discussion)

  45. mark says:

    Agree with much that was said.

    One of those puzzles I kept by the bed thinking I was being stupid and tried again next day – what a waste of time!

    I didn’t know Rover was no more……I won’t say anything else.

  46. Maureen (Australia) says:

    Dickie Fingers is a safebreaker in an episode of the recent TV program “life on Mars”

  47. PeterO says:

    Carrots – on the offchance that you happen to pick this up: I agree about the lowercase guy. Thinking back, I wondered why, while preparing the blog, I had looked up reveal, but not Telegraph. Perhaps I was put off by the capital – and that is the more acceptable deviation from Truth in Capitalisation. Of course, one might argue that Mr. Burgess was a guy who happened to be named Guy. As for SUBJECT, the grammatical definition ‘the one who does’ may be a bit elliptical, but I think ‘French, say’ as a school subject is clear enough. I do not see your objection to AVID in 17A; Chambers gives greedy as the first definition.
    I agree with tupu that Brian’s explanation of 15D is the most likely.

  48. Sil van den Hoek says:

    PeterO, I admire your commitment regarding this puzzle.
    Rover’s puzzles have always been extremely controversial.
    Personally, I do think that every setter wants to entertain us, but I have to admit that Rover is not really My Cup Of Tea.
    Therefore I decided, nót to do his crosswords anymore.

    Does this crossword deserve an unbelievably high amount of posts (47 so far)?
    I don’t think so.

    The EDINBURGH clue, which nobody can explain, shouldn’t have gone past the editor, IMO. But it did.
    And , as Eileen says, ‘guy’ in lower case is not ‘according to the rules’.

    I have to be careful with what I say, but this was a poor puzzle.

  49. Gordon Roy says:

    I agree with the comments at 28, 29 and 48. I have been doing the Guardian puzzles for over 40 years. This was quite simply the worst puzzle I have had the misfortune to ever do. It was absolutely dreadful. I now do the puzzles infrequently as I just live in the USA and do those from the Guardian Weekly. Believe it or not this was the one they chose for this last week. I cannot imagine that there were not better examples from last weeks puzzles. What a disappointment.

  50. Gordon Roy says:

    I meant to add that what makes this more bizarre is that the puzzle was in the Guardian Weekly that I received on Wednesday 19th January. That means it was posted in the Guardian Weekly the day before it appeared in the Guardian in the UK. Very odd indeed. I wish I had had time to complete it then [I did not do this before the weekend]on 19th and post a warning to everyone to not bother with the crossword the next day! I would have appeared very prescient indeed.

    Best wishes

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