Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,233 / Rufus

Posted by duncanshiell on January 31st, 2011


This was a fairly standard puzzle from Rufus that will no doubt divide the solving community along the usual lines.

As ever, from Rufus, there were a number of clues based on cryptic definitions and double definitions.  

I got through three quarters of the puzzle fairly quickly, but slowed down in the SE corner where SIEGE, GYMNAST and SAMSON were the last to fall.

I note that Rufus tends towards definitions that sometimes reflect modern usage of the language rather than the strict dictionary definition.  English remains a rapidly evolving language and crosswords should reflect this.  For example THERAPY, DEMEANOUR, OVERCOME, PHENOMENON and EMACIATE seem to me to be defined slightly differently in a number of dictionaries, in some cases only very slightly differently, from their usage in the clues.

I suspect I will not be the only person who tried to make an anagram out of GLUE LID in 22 across.  I thought this clue had a good piece of misdirection in the use of the word ‘upset’.

Wordplay Entry
9 ADVENT (coming) + URE (reference River Ure, the major one in Britain being in North Yorkshire) ADVENTURE (risk)
10 NEATH (used by poets as a word meaning ‘beneath’ [in a type not worthy of the dignity of] ; poetically inferior) NEATH (a place in Wales)
11 LARCENY (the legal term in England and Wales for theft) LARCENY (an offence that involves ‘taking’ things) Cryptic definition
12 THEY (those people) containing (without [outwith]) RAP (a criminal charge) THERAPY (treatment, curative power; cure)
13 BLOOD (is in circulation round the body) BLOOD  (may be stored in a Blood Bank) Double definition
14 PAL (friend) + PIT (hollow) + ATE (scoffed) PALPITATE (beat rapidly)
16 EBENEZER SCROOGE (principal character in Charles Dicken’s novel ‘A Christmas Carol’) EBENEZER SCROOGE (in the novel, Scrooge is visited by three Ghosts; the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet To Come) Cryptic definition
19 Anagram of (unusually) ENAMOURED DEMEANOUR (behaviour, manner towards another; appearance)
21 SIEGE (if sieges end happily it will be as a result of the lifting or relief of the siege) SIEGE (one reference is the Relief of Mafeking in the Boer War.  I am sure you can all think of more) Cryptic definition
22 CAP (lid) + SIZE (a weak glue or gluey material used for stiffening paper or fabric) CAPSIZE (upset)
23 GYMNAST (successful gymnasts undergo substantial training to reach and stay at the their peak) GYMNAST (one of the apparatus used by gymnasts is the vaulting horse, hence gymnasts are ‘trained in horse jumping’)  Cryptic definition
24 WREST sounds like (say) REST (repose, a pause in speaking; peace) WREST (use force to turn, twist, extract or take away)
25 OFF COLOUR (if a footballer is shown a red card it means he/she is being sent off the field.  Red is therefore the ‘off colour’) OFF COLOUR (if you are not well [Well, no!] you are off colour) Double and Cryptic definition


Wordplay Entry
1 DAILY (cleaner) + BREAD (money) DAILY BREAD (livelihood.  I note from Chambers that BREAD on its own can also mean livelihood)
2 OVERCOME (get the better of, be victorius over; master) OVERCOME (overwhelm, [a person] possibly to the extent of rendering him or her speechless; lost for words)
3 IN + DEED (act) INDEED (in fact, in truth, in reality; certainly)
4 DUTY (tax on goods) DUTY (service) Double definition
5 FERTILISER (a product that improves germination of seeds) FERTILISER (a product applied to fields to improve growing; a ‘field dressing of growing importance’) Cryptic definition
6 RIO (reference Rio de Janeiro, port in Brazil) contained in [swallowed] INFER (imply) INFERIOR (of a lower standard)
7 PA and MA (parents) containing (separated by) AN PANAMA (reference Panama Canal which comprises a series of locks; an ascending waterway. It appears that the canal rises tthrough locks in each direction to a high point between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans)
8 A + HOY (a large one-decked boat) AHOY (a nautical term used to hail another boat)
14 Anagram of (exchange) MEN ON PHONE PHENOMENON (strictly, anything directly apprehended by the senses; often used more loosely in the sense of a remarkable person or thing; ‘will be a rarity’)
15 ELEMENTARY (the phrase ‘Elementary my dear Watson’ is attributed to Sherlock Holmes, but it is said not to appear in any of the books by Conan Doyle. Wikipedia states that the phrase first appears in films.  In the novels, Sherlock Holmes lives at 221b Baker Street) ELEMENTARY (simple; dealing with first principles; no problem) Cryptic definition
17 (I CAME) reversed (up) + an angram of (brew) TEA EMACIATE (to make extremely thin, to deprive of flesh, to waste away; dry up)
18 Anagram of (work) RATE POOR OPERATOR (machinist)
20 MOP (clean up) + PET (favourite) MOPPET (a term of endearment for a little girl or child; darling)
21 SAMSON (reference Samson, lover, sleeping partner of Delilah) SAMSON (Delilah arranged for her servants to cut Samson’s hair [rob him of his main or capital assets] when he was sleeping, thereby depriving Samson of his power)
22 CO (company; firm) + W (West; direction) + S (South; direction) COWS (cattle)
23 GIFT (thing given; present) GIFT (talent; capacity)

41 Responses to “Guardian 25,233 / Rufus”

  1. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Duncan, for another fine blog.

    As you say, the cryptic definitions will elicit the usual howls – but I liked BLOOD, OFF COLOUR and SAMSON particularly.

    You mention ‘definitions that sometimes reflect modern usage of the language rather than the strict dictionary definition.’ The one that leapt off the page at me was ‘infer’ for ‘imply’, as I spent years teaching the ‘difference’. To my amazement [horror!] I found that all my dictionaries gave it [as a subsidiary definition]. In fact, Chambers is quite magisterial: ‘to imply [often condemned as a misuse, but generally accepted for over four centuries]’.

    So, thoroughly chastened, I shall do my hundred lines and apologise to you, Rufus, for ever doubting you. [And it was lovely to meet you! :-) ]

  2. Dave Ellison says:

    9 howls from me, I think.

    22a I was trying to make an anagram of GLUE LID for a while, until the initital C of CAPRICE scuppered that.

  3. tupu says:

    Thanks Duncan aand Rufus

    Typical Rufus Monday fare made all the more enjoyable by meeting the master on Saturday.

    I think that for 2 down you should put overwhelmED as in ‘I am overcome’.

    Though (because?) the answers were clear, I missed the full parsing of 8d and 25 so thanks for that.

    22 as noted was very clever.

    I was almost about to accept ‘scene’ for 21a when (as Frank Muir once said about mending a puncture) the solution hit me in the eye.

  4. Brian (with an eye) says:

    Thanks for the blog. 7D is slightly simpler than your explanation I think. It’s AN that’s ascending, ie reversed, between PA and MA.

  5. Bracoman says:

    Many thanks for the clear blog. Lots of nice surfaces. Like Eileen, I have always been very particular about “infer” and “imply”. With Eileen’s discovery, I will now need to hold my tongue but will still inwardly shudder in spite of 400 years of usage.

  6. Rosmarinus says:

    re 2 where did CAPRICE from? An excellent blog today, thanks. A fairly straightforward Rufus but I did not have many real aha moments. 18d a good surface.

  7. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen and Bracoman

    Re infer/imply

    Take heart! All is not lost!

    Firstly, the very latest OED does not mention ‘infer’ at all when glossing ‘imply’.

    Second, under infer we are told there that its use for ‘imply’ while old, is mainly only of facts and statements rather than of persons. It was thinking that this might be the case that led me to look. There is only one quoted use of persons inferring/implying in this sense, and that is from Private Eye in 1970.

  8. tupu says:

    ps. I suppose that ‘infer’ literally has meant ‘bear or bring in’. So it is not illogical to think of a statement or fact, at least, bringing something else into consideration e.g in a statement like ‘That brings in/implies the further issue…’. Like Eileen and Bracoman, however, I prefer not to use ‘infer’ in that way.

  9. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the blog Duncan. I was another “GLUE LID”-er, and like tupu guessed SCENE for 21ac, thinking of “terrible scene” = argument.

    I wasn’t so keen on 1dn, because of the double use of BREAD.

    Fun fact of the day – the Panama Canal runs from NW to SE if you go from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

  10. tupu says:

    :) One nice OED entry reads!

    5. To carry to the grave, to bury (= Latin inferre). Obs. rare. (But perh. the word is interred.)a1575 N. Harpsfield Treat. Divorce Henry VIII (1878) 200 Her dead corpse was carried to Peterborough and there inferred.

  11. Robi says:

    Thanks Rufus and duncanshiell for a super blog.

    Like others I tried the glue/lid anagram first. Didn’t realise HOY was a boat until I checked.

    As to infer/imply, the Oxford Thesaurus agrees with Eileen @1 and others in having ‘easily confused words infer or imply.’ After explaining the differences, it says: ‘INFER and IMPLY can describe the same event of someone’s deducing an unspoken message from a statement, but INFER looks at it from the viewpoint of the person who does the interpreting, while IMPLY looks at it from the viewpoint of the one conveying the message.’ Phew!

    For those of you who do not usually bother to look at the Quiptic, I think today’s is marginally more difficult than the Cryptic – perhaps worth a look? :)

  12. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, duncanshiell. My favourite today was 25ac, which raised a smile. 21dn took me ages to see, almost as long as it took me to do the rest of the puzzle.

  13. William says:

    Thank you Duncan and Rufus. Smooth clueing as usual.

    I thought perhaps 7d PANAMA was simply an inverted AN sandwiched between PA + MA. Your explanation is certainly more elegant, however.

    Idiotically, I had GYMKANA instead of GYMNAST which mucked me up for ages.

    Nice to see the Christmas Present gag once again – must have been weeks since we’ve had it!

  14. Conrad Cork says:

    Re Eileen at #1. I continue to think we have lost something quite valuable with infer used as imply, but the usage is certainly venerable. I remember my form master in 1954 quoting Milton to me to prove me wrong! “Consider first, that great or bright infers not excellence”.

    Ho hum.

  15. Eileen says:

    Indeed, Conrad, quoted in my SOED!

    I do know that language has to develop but I agree with you that it often becomes impoverished in the process, when we lose these distinctions. [My other real bête noire is, not surprisingly, ‘disinterested’, but, again, Chambers gives ‘[revived from obsolescence] uninterested’ – so it seems people have been making these ‘mistakes’ for centuries!]

    However, I hope no one has inferred that I was implying that Rufus was at fault. As we all know, in Crosswordland, if it’s in Chambers / Collins … [But we don’t have to like it! :-)]

  16. Derek Lazenby says:

    Not in crossword mode at all today, too busy considering RSS readers and their foibles. But I did get enough to note that 11 is ambiguous until you get crossing letters. ROBBERY works just as well.

  17. yogdaws says:

    First of all a couple of acknowledgements. One, to the man behind this website. My girlfriend and I routinely do the Guardian cryptic together (indeed, it was The Times puzzle which brought us together) and this is our website of choice if ever we’re stuck. Thanks for all your efforts.

    Two, to PAUL to whom I owe my email identity YOGDAWS (3,5,2,10,4) and many happy hours of chucklesome solving.

    Finally, a bit of finicality in an environment in which this quality is appreciated…

    8 Down – AHOY. A – indefinite article plus HOY – A large one-decked boat, commonly rigged as a sloop [CHAMBERS]

    Wordy greetings to you all!

  18. sidey says:

    ambiguous until you get crossing letters

    Sort of the point of “crossword” puzzles…

  19. tupu says:

    I should have added that the OED notes re infer = imply that ‘This use is widely considered to be incorrect, esp. with a person as the subject’.

    But note too re my earlier point that the Milton quote involves an idea rather than a person inferring/implying. Also, although there is in fact another Milton quote from Comus about ‘Solomon saying…’, it does not seem clear whether he is inferring something in the ‘correct’ sense, or implying it.

    So, as I noted, the claim to venerability has to be qualified.

    Rufus’s own usage here can be defended as old, providing he is implying that ‘the statement or idea or fact that port swallowed etc.’ is doing the inferring, but not the person citing it. If we are worried about losing distinctions, this one seems worth remembering too!

  20. Aitch says:

    Hi, I turn to this site often to find out ‘why?’ for any blanks on my page. I could not resist contributing today to point out that 21 across is a better clue than it is given credit for – Chambers lists ‘siege’ as an obsolete term for a privy.

  21. Derek Lazenby says:

    Sort of the point of “crossword” puzzles

    Justify one, justify all, then you end up with many permutations of answers because the crossing clues are all ambiguous, which leads to mindless juggling involving no intellect, though some people seem to like such exercises. Which is why it is best not to justify even one instead of looking for cheap excuses for sarcasm.

  22. walruss says:

    Lovely blog as usual from the super Duncan, and a pretty boring puzzle in my view I’m afraid.

  23. Stella Heath says:

    Welcome Aitch and Yogdaws.

    I’ve nothing much to add, but I found the clues for the 21s – my last two in – ingeniously misleading, and Aitch’s comment adds an extra :)

    I gather the Saturday meet went well. I’m pleased for those of you who were able to go.

    Thanks Duncan and Rufus.

  24. Rufus says:

    Don’t recall duncanshiell reviewing one of my puzzles before – obviously drew the short straw. An excellent blog.
    I should have remembered my English teacher drumming the difference between infer and imply. I seem to recall my scribbles before typing the puzzle had “Conclude” to start with, but I changed it after a quick look at a thesaurus to “Imply” purely because it was shorter. So, really, Eileen, I’m on your side (lovely to meet you too on Saturday!). 5/10, must do better.

  25. yogdaws says:

    Apologies to Duncan from Yogdaws.

    In my eagerness to be a clever yogs I missed that you had already covered A-HOY under ‘wordplay’.

  26. chris weeks says:

    I began confidently with NARCISSUS for 19 and smiled at this typical Rufus clue ….

  27. tupu says:

    Many thanks Rufus for the explanatory confession.

    Duncan re Holmes. Thanks for that. I did not know the well-known phrase was a misquotation.
    I gather that Doyle/Holmes does, however, use ‘My dear Watson’ and ‘Elementary’ separately at least once in close proximity to each other.

  28. FranTom Menace says:

    We enjoyed this puzzle, and don’t want to get embroiled in the ‘imply’ ‘infer’ debate, only to say when we were in school we were both taught there’s a right way and a wrong way – see also ‘quote’, which now appears in the dictionary as a noun. My English teacher would be turning in his grave!

    We enjoyed 25a, but got confused after putting ‘prise’ for 24a (I thought it a good, if not better answer!), until 22d was obviously ‘cows’.

  29. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Back to Life, Back to Reality.

    Don’t know what it is – but again a Rufus that we couldn’t finish.
    Well, I dó know what it is: three cryptic definitions in a very small space in the SE (both 21s and 23ac) was really too much for us.
    At one point I thought, having ??E?E in 21ac, “QUEUE” would be nice one – quite a relief when a queue is coming to an end, surely making you happy …. :)

    A similar thing with 13ac, we initially thought of the obvious MONEY [which would have been too easy, I know].

    Nice misdirection in 18ac’s OPERATOR. For a long time we were focused on ‘poor’ as the anagrind for ‘work rate’. Not a good idea, although ‘poor’ is probably a better anagrind than ‘work’ (especially as it is placed before the fodder).

    We liked the simple but very effective clues of 9ac (nice use of ‘coming’) and 22d (those silly COWS).
    Best of all, though, OFF COLOUR (25ac).

    Thank you, Rufus, for this puzzle but also for the photos you added to jetdoc’s collection. I was hoping the one you took of me would turn up sooner or later.
    Now I can tell my grandchildren that in January 2011 …
    Oh no, I can’t – I just remembered I do not even have children! :)

  30. stiofain says:

    Are there pics of the Derby meet online somewhere? I thought a few too many CDs in this.

  31. tupu says:

    Hi FranTom Menace
    I’m afraid quote as a noun in the ordinary sense of quotation has been around for a good 130 years at least, and with connected meanings for over 400. T.S. Eliot used it in 1922.

  32. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Yes, stiofain @30.
    Just go to the most recent Sloggers & Betters post by jetdoc.
    There are two links in there that give you plenty of photos.

  33. Eileen says:

    Hi stiofain

    The pictures are on the ‘Sloggers and Betters in Derby’ thread:

  34. Eileen says:

    Sorry, Sil!

  35. Davy says:

    I quite often don’t finish Rufus despite the perception that he’s so very very very easy. I didn’t get ADVENTURE, DUTY (so so obvious when you see the answer), GYMNAST, AHOY, OVERCOME and SIEGE. I will take my hat off (I don’t wear a hat) to those who complete a Rufus in 30 seconds.

  36. Mr Beaver says:

    Pace Snidey, I’m with Derek on 11a – I was about to put LARCENY in when Mrs B pointed out it could equally be ROBBERY, so we left it until we got a crossing word – 3d – but Doh! it fits either! A good clue may take a while to get, but once you’ve got it, there should be no doubt about it.

    I feel better about not getting 23a, and both 21s, when Sil was in the same boat and they were Duncan’s last to go in! Though we kicked ourselves over SAMSON: we were trying to think of mythic characters who had had their head cut off whilst asleep (Holofernes?), we didn’t think of hair…

  37. Roger says:

    A lot of fun clues here (thanks Rufus, and DS of course) like ahoy, off colour and so on but am not entirely sure about 7d. Like others, I read this as (PA + NA (‘an ascending’) + MA) but does the resulting PANAMA on its own really fit the definition ‘waterway’ (ascending or otherwise) ? Odd to get the answer to 6d from the clue to 10a which crosses it !

  38. crosser says:

    I was also unhappy about infer/imply and was interested to see what everyone had to say, and relieved to read Robi’s explanation @11. Then to get the post from Rufus himself was an extra bonus – thank you!
    Forgive me if someone has already said this – I may have missed it – but surely, in 21d, the reeference to “capital” means not only Samson’s main assets (his strength) but also the assets on his head?

  39. crosser says:


  40. Val says:

    Thanks to Rufus for another excellent offering and Duncan for the wonderfully detailed blog.

    Though it’s perhaps too long after the fact to be of interest to anyone I would like to raise an objection to 16ac. Scrooge was in fact visited by four ghosts, Marley appeared first to warn him of the next three. Perhaps the intention was that our Christmas Present was one of three Christmas ghosts but I feel this is a bit of a long shot. Still got it though!

  41. tupu says:

    Hi Duncan

    I left a small amendment @3 to your excellent blog which seems to have gone past you.

    The two forms of overcome involved are different. In ‘master’ it is an activce form of the verb. In ‘lost for words’ it is a past participle passive of the verb and the equivalent of ‘overwhelmed’.

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