Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,225 – Chifonie

Posted by Andrew on January 21st, 2011


I filled in the bottom half of this very quickly, the NE corner slightly less so; the NW corner took me longest (apart from the very easy 1ac), though for no good reason that I can see looking back at it, apart from the obscure meaning at 3dn. A pleasant enough puzzle, but rather too many very obvious clues (1ac, 12ac, 21ac etc), and a couple of possibly dodgy abbreviations (14ac and 19dn).

1. ANTIWAR IT reversed in ANWAR. Very easy if you remember Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt who was assassinated in 1981. I would have thought this was more usually hyphenated as ANTI-WAR, but I don’t have a dictionary to hand.
5. PEGASUS SAGE in SUP, all reversed
9. ROBIN ROBIN[G]. I don’t remember seeing “winger” for bird before – another one from the flower=river stable.
10. BAREFACED REF ACE in BAD, with “patent” in its adjectival sense of “obvious”
11. FOR THE CHOP FORTH (away!) + ECHO (ring) + P[resident] – a nice charade
12. CAIN I in CAN – “murderer” is almost guaranteed to be CAIN in crosswordland, except when it’s “assassin”
14. STRANGENESS ANGE[R] + N in STRESS. N on its own for Navy seems a bit dubious.
21. CATO CAT (whip) + O
22. AMELIORATE AM (in the morning) + ELI (old priest) + ORATE ([to] lecture)
27. GENERIC GEN (information) + ERIC
28. OPENING Double definition
2. TABARD TA (thanks) + BARD
3. WINCHESTER CHEST (cases) in WINE + R. Winchester bottles, I learn, are used to store corrosive chemicals.
4. REBEC REBE[L] + C. The rebec is an old instrument, similar to a violin.
6. GAFF GAFFER (foreman) less ER (hesitation). The “landing gear” refers to a device used to “land” a fish. (Coincidentally, Gaff is also the pseudonym of an FT setter who appeared for the first time yesterday.)
8. SUDANESE DANES in SUE (petition)
13. BENT DOUBLE BENT (corrupt) + DOUBLE (impersonator)
16. STOCKING Double definition – stocking/carrying as in what shops do.
19. MALAWI A LAW in MI. Again I’m not sure about MI = spies without a number as in MI5 etc, and (one of my usual bugbears) I don’t like “in Africa” as a definition meaning “a country in Africa).
23. LARGO L + ARGO – the ship of Jason and the Argonauts. Largo means (literally) “broadly” or slowly in music.
24. LEAR L (=pound = sovereign) + EAR (appreciation). Of course LEAR is a sovereign as well as a humorist, but that’s just a red herring.

34 Responses to “Guardian 25,225 – Chifonie”

  1. Brian (with an eye) says:

    Didn’t feel right to me either, but Chambers explicitly gives ‘navy’ as a definition for ‘N’, and ‘military intelligence’ for ‘MI’. I’d never heard of Winchester bottles! Thanks for the blog.

  2. Eileen says:

    Nothing much to say, really, Andrew, except thanks for the blog!

    I found this quite a pleasant solve after yesterday, apart from having the same reservations as you about N = Navy.

    [The favourite [old] priest, too, as well as the ‘murderer! :-)]

  3. Martin H says:

    Agree with all your observations, and shared your doubts about N and MI, Andrew, but Brian’s dictionary seems to have put those two to rest. I fear you’re on a loser with ‘in Africa, Lincolnshire, Patagonia etc’. The formula is now just too well established. I hope ‘winger’ doesn’t make it though. We had a spate of ‘bankers’ for rivers not long ago, and that seems mercifully to have subsided.

  4. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you, Andrew. I found this to be a very pleasing puzzle. Certainly not too taxing, but with a good variety of pretty sound clues.

    I was entertained today by PEGASUS, OPENING and SUDANESE. I thought N for Navy was okay: if RN means Royal Navy why can’t N stand for Navy? I actually liked ‘winger’ for a bird (although I too am not a big fan of ‘banker’, either in the crossword or the real-world sense).

    And WINCHESTER was one of my first in: if you’ve studied Chemistry then it’s certainly not obscure. But as Eileen pointed out the other day, one person’s obscurity is another person’s thank you for all those crossing letters.

  5. michael says:

    Sorry to disagree :), but banker, swimmer, spinner etc. have been used for as long as I can remember, so no problem with winger
    Nor with MI=spies.
    Thanks for blog.

  6. pommers says:

    Thanks to Andrew for the blog and to Chifonie for a gentle end to the week. It made a change for a Friday!
    I’ve no problem with MI and N and I’m certain I’ve come across Winger more than once.
    An enjoyable solve!

  7. pommers says:

    My,minor, quibble with 19d isn’t the MI but to me a law is a rule (singular) and not a set of rules, that should be laws (plural).
    Perhaps it should have read . . .

    Numberless spies accept a rule in Africa (6)

    Then everyone would be happy!

  8. Eileen says:

    Hi pommers

    No problem at all with law = ‘set of rules’. Surely you would speak of English law, Scottish law, canon law, etc, etc? [And it’s in all of my dictionaries as one of the primary meanings.]

  9. pommers says:

    I stand corrected!

  10. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and Chifonie

    A fairly gentle piece after earlier toughies and yesterdays obscurities.

    I liked ‘winger’, and also ‘barefaced’ (esp the latent ‘patent’), ‘rebec’, and ‘bent double’.

    I’m bored with ‘eli’ and ‘cain’. I’m not a chemist but I feel I have seen ‘winchester’ lots of times in the past.

    Pommers – in addition (?) to Eileen’s point, one has to separate the ‘a’ from ‘law’. If it was simply ‘a law’ you would be right I think.

  11. Martin H says:

    Yes, I’ve seen ‘winger’ occasionally before. My intention was to contrast its occasional use with the now regular formula of ‘in… (continent, country etc)’. I simply hope that this particular bird remains a rare vagrant.

  12. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Andrew. I found this a delight, so no complaints from me.

    Well done Chifonie you helped to assuage the distress I suffered after England got another mauling from the Aussies.

    I wonder: will it be Shed’s turn to honour us with a super Prize Puzzle tomorrow – that is if The Grauniad is able to handle the processes correctly?

  13. pommers says:

    Tupu – yes, I see it now! a followed by ‘set of rules’ = law. Doh!
    It’s just that I spent a couple minutes trying to do something with MI and LAWS before the penny dropped. Must be getting soft in the head!

  14. Robi says:

    Thanks Chifonie and Andrew for an entertaining solve, although I missed ‘echo’ for ring – I thought that was ‘o’ leaving a difficult ECH to parse (doh!).

    Antiwar is in Chambers as one word. Winchester is in everyday parlance if you have ever worked in a laboratory. I thought MI was OK for spies as it is the abbreviation for military intelligence. For 21, cat could also be cat o as in cat o’ nine tails, although it doesn’t much change things. Of course, not related to the clue is the unforgettable Cato Fong in the Pink Panther series:

  15. Mark says:

    Hello folks

    I have a couple of doubts. Is A=Austria fine? And I also wondered if substituting ‘Sadat’ for ‘Anwar’ is alright. It looks fine the other way round, but.

  16. Andrew says:

    Mark, A and D and the International Vehicle Registration codes for Austria and Germany respectively.

  17. liz says:

    Thanks, Andrew. My experience of solving this was very similar to yours, with the NW corner taking the most time. I didn’t know (or possibly haven’t remembered) Winchester, but I did managed to dredge up Rebec from somewhere. Didn’t see the wordplay at 11ac.

    As for ‘winger’ — I’ve seen this quite a few times, I think, and it doesn’t particularly bother me.

    Enjoyable, overall. 13dn raised a smile!

  18. rrc says:

    enjoyed this which is unusual for this compiler

  19. Stella Heath says:

    I generally enjoy Chifonie, and this one was no exception. My solving process was also similar to yours Andrew, thanks for the blog – and for the definition of 3d, which I only knew as a rifle and a city.

    To tupu@10: ‘latent patent’, nice one 😆

  20. Martin H says:

    I’ve been thinking about the -er construction, and it does seem problematic in some cases. In everyday language it’s used to identify or classify an individual by a typical characteristic. If the characteristic is an action, there’s no problem (farmer, drinker etc) – a river flows, a spider spins, so the use in a clue becomes legitimate. Any criticism would have to be based on inappropriate or over-frequent use.
    If, however the characteristic is a feature, it’s different. The use then is to distinguish one individual from others of its type, and the feature is necessarily qualified in some way – so we get left-hander, three-wheeler, little-Englander etc; and to call a car a ‘wheeler’ is, is a sense, meaningless – the construction doesn’t do its particularising job. Thus ‘banker’ won’t do for river. ‘Steep-banker’ for a particular river might be valid, but not just ‘banker’ for any old river. Similarly ‘winger’ for a bird – if ‘wing’ is taken as a feature rather than an action. If we think of winging as an action, it should work: to wing can be to fly. But it only carries the non-general sense of speedy or soaring flight, and can’t be automatically substituted, so it is at best iffy.

    Sorry if you don’t like nit-pickers.

    I enjoyed the crossword overall.

  21. Andrew says:

    Thanks Martin, nice analysis. I vaguely remember that the old Games & Puzzles magazine (in the mid-70s probably) once had a competition to create a crossword using as many of these misleading -er words as possible; unfortunately I don’t remember seeing the result.

  22. Kate says:

    Aaarrgghhh! Even though I got 11a, I hadn’t succeeded in parsing it, only seeing the O as ring. Thanks heavens for this blog to explain the obvious to me.

  23. grandpuzzler says:

    Thanks Chifonie and Andrew. NW corner was last in for me also. Went to bed last night trying to think of Premiership Wingers ending in -IN. A fresh look this morning provided the correct solution. 11A was new to me.


  24. tupu says:

    Hi Martin H

    Interesting stuff!

    :) I had not thought of a ‘spider’ as a ‘spinster’ but you seem to be right.

    Some more ‘pickings’ for you or what someone once called ‘chips from a philologist’s workbench’.

    River is, at least on the surface, different from the action words. It seems to come from Latin ‘ripa’ (a bank or shore) and ‘riparia’ (‘of a bank’). So it is itself a ‘banker’!

    This suggests that there are may be other Latin -arius/aria root words that form in -er in English.

    And what of a ‘header’ in football? This is the product of ‘heading’ as well as it’s performer. Might one construct ‘banker’ on that basis?

    Re ‘wing’, we use the word ‘fly’ in a similar sense of ‘move at speed’ and I was watching a robin earlier today doing just that.

    Lastly, ‘winger’, again in football, can but need not be qualified as right or left. So not a bad model for ‘banker’ either.

    I’m not sure whether to admire or curse language for being so recalcitrant to discipline.

  25. Martin H says:

    Hi tupu – I’m not convinced that ‘of a bank’ translates comfortably into ‘banker’.

    Both ‘header’ and ‘winger’ are constructed from actions rather than attributes, directly in the former case and indirectly in the latter, via ‘play on the wing'; so not a model for ‘banker’, which might rather be analogous to calling a motorway a ‘verger’. The indirect formulation from an action could prove fruitful for setters though, perhaps enabling, for instance, Dracula to be called a ‘caper’.

  26. tupu says:

    Hi Martin

    But what about the fact that ‘river’ apparently = of a bank? There is no verb associated with it.

  27. Martin H says:

    Hi again tupu – there are all sorts of ways for words to pass from one language to another. Couldn’t the derivation be simply phonic – ripa/river? Even if a river is a river because it is something with a bank, I don’t think that legitimises sticking -er on bank to make ‘river’. It just might if ‘rive’ had come down as an alternative to ‘bank’, but it didn’t. But I’m not a philologist, and don’t want to get out of my depth.

  28. Jack Aubrey says:

    Managed to hold myself up unnecessarily by being convinced that “case” meant that 3 down must be “salmanazar” (12 bottle bottle). Just shows how my mind runs, I guess….. Now where did I leave the cork screw?

  29. tupu says:

    Hi Martin

    Me neither! :) I just liked the quotation!

    My comments are mainly based on OED and Chambers. As far as I can tell from them, river comes most directly from Anglo-Norman and the terms there derive from riparius/a and relate to riviere (fr) and riviera (It).

    I suspect we’ve exhausted this one and each other! Too many ‘nits’ for one day!

  30. Roger says:

    Thanks Andrew, an agreeable solve today I thought although wasn’t that keen on ‘weak’ = ‘bad’ (10a).
    How about Cleaner hides joint in rimless knickers for 5d ? (Involves a step too far maybe but would make me smile :) )
    Liked the juxtaposition of 12/11 and 16/1d among others.

  31. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Andrew

    Not too difficult a puzzle. Isn’t it amazing that over the last 55 or more years of doing crosswords, I never knew that a Winchester was a bottle.

    Got to learn something new every day!

  32. Sil van den Hoek says:

    A friendly crossword from Chifonie whose trademark is surely the efficient (and usually elegant) use of a limited number of cryptic devices.

    While my PinC and I were still talking about work, she ticked off 20d:
    “Dosage ordered for mariner (3,3)”.
    After I woke up, I said: “SAD EGO?” :)
    “No”. “What about SEA GOD?”. “No”. “Ah! SEA DOG”.

    The only clue we didn’t fully understand was 24d (LEAR).
    We were too much focused on Sovereign = King = Lear.
    But thanks, Andrew, for explaining.

    We enjoyed the crossword, even though it wasn’t too taxing.
    Just generally well written (as ever with this setter).
    The only thing I did not like was the use of “from”, even twice (in 3d and 5d).
    As one might know by now, I am very sensitive to linking words, especially when they’re not right (that is, IMHO).
    Look at 3d, and the clue tells us that “WINE+R around CHEST” is something that we get from “bottle”. I think from a construction POV it is the other way around. Similarly in 5d’s PURLOINER.
    But maybe it’s just nit-picking.

    As to “in Africa” for the definition of MALAWI, I can only say: Araucaria does it all the time.
    Oh, and I almost forgot: There’s “large” in the clue for LARGO (23d) – that’s not very good, is it?
    But you can’t have it all.

    On the other hand, the clue for the very (too?) easy SOCRATES (7d) is extremely neat.
    Nice crossword.

    Finally, if Gaufrid allows me to do that [but I think he will], I would like to take the opportunity to invite anyone who’s interested to have a go at my own little crossword. More details at General Discussion, post #14.

  33. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Post #15, that is.

  34. ernie says:

    Thank you Andrew and Chifonie. Nice to get one finished: doesn’t often happen. Agree with all the comments about possibly obscure abbreviations. As a chemist (not pharmacist), I have seen many Winchester bottles.

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