Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize 25,238 / Brummie

Posted by Eileen on February 12th, 2011


I think I’ve said before that I’m always a little apprehensive when I see Brummie’s name on a puzzle that I’m about to solve, let alone blog. However, it fairly quickly all came together, although it wasn’t immediately obvious, from the first themed answer that I solved [CAGE] that this one was based on composers [my first thought was actors] – and I’m afraid that I wasn’t familiar with quite all of them, so had to resort to Google. About two thirds of the way through, I realised that all the themed words, as well as being the names of composers, were ‘normal’ words. This proved the puzzle to be a real tour de force, as it rang a bell, as I remembered a similar one, with actors’ names, so I did some research in the archive and found that not only was the one I was thinking of also by Brummie but that he had done at least a couple more: 24,821 [artists] and 25,011 [comedians]

For me, this is real class. Thank you, Brummie – another great puzzle.

There have been so many hi-tech blogs appearing lately that I had begun to think that I should retire gracefully – I never even mastered the template that delivers blogs in neat columns! – but I can, at least, supply the clues, which, I agree, after a week’s intervention, is a good idea. And, with patient guidance from Gaufrid and mhl, I think I can now supply direct links. My sincere thanks to both.


7 Northerner’s age — or diet — has no bounds (7)
GEORDIE: hidden in aGE OR DIEt: [just a week after Anax’s ‘Good English do ? makes reckless Tynesider’]

8 Say Evelyn said “Hank” (7)
WARLOCK: WAR [‘homophone’ of ‘Waugh’ – Evelyn, novelist] + LOCK [hank]. I think the first ‘say’ is ‘for example’ and ‘said’ indicates the homophone.
Peter Warlock was a pseudonym of Philip Arnold Heseltine ( 1894-1930), an Anglo-Welsh composer (mainly of songs) and music critic.

9,17 Having no master from the start, pro swallows back drink at far edge of green (8)
FREEBORN: REEB [reversal of BEER in FOR [pro] + [gree]N

10 Small sketch of Tom and Spike? (9)

13 Lean right and put out bust (8)
BANKRUPT: BANK [lean] + R[ight] + UPT [anagram of PUT]

15,12 Charlie, 1960s-style girl: underwear accepted (9)
BIRDBRAIN: BIRD [1960s style girl] + BRA [underwear] + IN [accepted]. [At first, I thought this might be a reference to Charlie “Bird” Parker.]

16 Miss going east of eastern tip of Shandong (5)
GLASS: LASS [miss] going after [east of] [shandon]G
Philip Glass (born 1937) is an American music composer, considered to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century.

18 Gave credit for publicity about writer (8)
ASCRIBED: AD [publicity] round SCRIBE [writer]

20 Familiar state, yet un­familiar (5)
MATEY: MA [Massachusetts state] + TEY [anagram of YET

21 Dog hides tail after phosphorous feed (9).
PROVENDER: P [phosphorous feed] + END [tail] in ROVER [dog] Edit: ‘feed’, of course, is the definition – thanks , tupu.

22 Say Bill is rejected (4)
CAGE: EG [say] + AC [bill] all reversed
John Milton Cage Jr. ( 1912-1992) was an American composer, philosopher, poet, music theorist, artist, printmaker and amateur mycologist and mushroom collector. Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde and is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4?33?, the three movements of which are performed without a single note being played.

24 Flanks of inferior antelope (7)
IRELAND: I[nferio]R + ELAND [antelope]: this creature is certainly no stranger to crosswords but I thought this was a very ingenious treatment.
John Nicholson Ireland ( 1879-1962) was an English composer.

25 Performing is welcomed by the Bee Gees, family-wise (7)
GIBBONS: ON [performing] inside [the] GIBBS, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, the Bee Gees
The Gibbons I’m more familiar with is Orlando – an English composer of the late Tudor and early Jacobean periods but, since he  is around three hundred years ‘older’ than any of the other composers, it’s probably more likely that Brummie was referring to Jack Gibbons (born 2 March 1962) an English classical pianist and composer.  [7.30a.m. I’ve just looked at the annotated solution and it gives Orlando only.]


1 Strange date ditched (4)
Hurrah – a woman! [Why are there so few?] Judith Weir CBE, (born 1954 in Cambridge, England of Scottish parents) is a British composer. She was Professor of Music at Cardiff University.

2 A friend he lost (I lost), executed naturally (8)
FREEHAND: anagram of A FRIEND HE, minus I

3 No time to drink up (6)
PISTON: reversal of NO T[ime] + SIP [drink]
Walter Piston (1894-1976)  was an American composer of classical music, music theorist and influential professor of music at Harvard University whose many students included Leroy Anderson, Leonard Bernstein, and Elliott Carter.

4 Doctor Richard Leakey’s fossil hunters famously did in 1984 (8)
SAWBONES: SAW BONES: a reference to the discovery of Turkana Boy, the nearly complete skeleton of a Homo ergaster (though some, including Leakey, call it erectus) who died 1.6 million years ago at about age 9-12. Richard Leakey is, of course, a doctor, but here ‘Doctor’ is the definition [and not, as often, an anagram indicator] – super clue!

5 Broadcast about sports body star (6)
ALTAIR: AIR [broadcast] around LTA [Lawn Tennis Association]

6 As carboxylic acid is lacy, top to bottom (4)
ACYL: LACY, with the first letter moved to the end. A  new word for me.

11 Out of bed, possibly dreadlocked, so dressed down (9)
UPBRAIDED: UP [out of bed] + BRAIDED [possibly dreadlocked]

12 Chablis ousts tea on Sunday! (5)
BLISS: Chablis minus CHA [tea] + S[unday]
Sir Arthur Edward Drummond Bliss, CH, KCVO ( 1891-1975) was a British composer who became Master of the Queen’s Music in 1953.

14 Catherine the Sixth (unknown) (5)
PARRY: PARR [Catherine, sixth wife of Henry VIII, who outlived him] + Y [unknown]
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry,  (1848 – 1918) was an English composer, teacher and historian of music, perhaps best known for ‘Jerusalem’ but this would be my music of the day.

16 “Side Wall” has old Hollywood heartthrob teamed with Close (5,3)
GABLE END: [Clark] GABLE + END [close]

17 But beach bum is a water softener (4,4)

19 Act like a pig, covering flipping lot with eggs (6)
ROOTLE: ROE [eggs] round anagram of LOT

20 Big fish — both sides consumed by chief (6)
MARLIN:RL [both sides] in MAIN [chief]

21 Gin tipped over? (4)
PART: reversal of TRAP [gin]
Arvo Pärt (born 1935] is an Estonian classical composer and one of the most prominent living composers of sacred music.

23 Kelly, one of many passed on?
GENE: double definition: Gene Kelly, of  Singin’ in the Rain’ fame:

49 Responses to “Guardian Prize 25,238 / Brummie”

  1. Coffee says:

    Wow, first to comment! Though it’s morning here…. well, gave up on this yesterday afternoon with 2 or 3 still to go and no theme spotted, way too obscure for us, though we enjoyed some of the non-themed clues. Kicking myself over WARLOCK – had a list of WAR-words that didn’t fit & that wasn’t there. Grrr… on to today’s, glad to see the Rev, though not so sure about some of the clues Down… hope the team’s awake… Thanks Eileen, and great to have the clues again.

  2. Martin H says:

    This was excellent – although I have to admit I didn’t cotton on to the double nature of the theme until after I’d finished it. Wordplay spot on, and some lovely economical surfaces: 8 and 20 in particular. One of the best puzzles I’ve seen for a long time.

    There’s currently a travelling exhibition of Cage’s prints.

  3. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Eileen. Like Martin H I had finished the grid still without the faintest idea of the theme. I had to write the undefined answers down and stare at them before recognising Bliss and Ireland as composers and Google did the rest. A very good and rewarding crossword.

  4. sidey says:

    Thank you for the non-hi-tech blog Eileen, perfectly clear without the gimmicks. A very enjoyable solve. Class indeed, I wonder how many more are up Brummie’s sleeve.

  5. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen for another top blog. A bunch of central clues jumped out at once led by THUMBNAIL which Paul had a week or so earlier. Being musically challenged I finished the puzzle without recognising half the composers, although that’s what the ten undefined clues clearly represented. An aha moment at the end with 25a: knew the Gibbs family but not the main man.

  6. Tokyo Colin says:

    Thanks Eileen, a great blog. I enjoy your comments.

    As you said, what made this one special was that all the themed answers were “normal” words. I made good progress early and when I had solved 4 or 5 of the clues with no definition I tried to determine the connection but nothing clicked. I even tried Googling “GIBBONS CAGE IRELAND PART” and sure enough there is an article somewhere in webland about zoo monkeys in a part of Ireland. Only when I had Glass did the penny drop.

    Very clever and enjoyable. Those two are often mutually exclusive.

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen for an excellent blog and Brummie too

    I am sorry to be less enthusiastic.

    I realised the musicians theme early on. I was surprised that the reference to 25 is Orlando Gibbons as almost all the others are relatively modern and, for many I imagine, obscure. So I chose a more recent one in my mind. In some cases there turn out to be more than one modern reference e.g. Weir. I had to check her/him and Glass but more or less knew the rest.

    It is interesting that all the examples are ordinary words as well, but it would have been more intersting to see advantage taken of this in the cluing. This was nonetheless generally good (I especially liked Ireland), for the theme words, but three other clues (15,12; 9,17; 4) seemed rather ‘clunky’ to me.

    Of course, as I see now, the ‘ordinary words’ constraint does go a long way towards answering the question – which had puzzled me -of why such a disparate set (in time and place) of composers was chosen.

    It is undoubtedly a clever puzzle. But it was sadly less satisfying for me than several other recent ‘harder’ ones. As I imply, even knowing the ‘ordinary word’ element is in itself no great help in solving, as compared with knowing the composers.

  8. tupu says:

    ps For what it’s worth I did enjoy ‘rootle’, Part and Cage as well as Ireland.

  9. Robi says:

    Thanks Brummie; slaved at this last Saturday night but got there in the end. I thought it was an enjoyable slog – I even got the theme, although at the beginning my first two answers were BLISS and GLASS, so I thought all the non-defined clues must end in ‘SS’ (doh!).

    Thanks, Eileen; as I said yesterday it is good to see the clues with the solutions. :)

    Thanks for explaining 22; you might be amused at my attempts to rationalise CAGY: Say = KG. Bill = Bill Gates; he who got an honorary knighthood but was rejected for a KG because he was a foreigner. Well, I got the right answer by my convoluted reasoning!

    I did like the clue (4) for SAWBONES. ACYL is an everyday word for me, but I took an embarrassingly long time to get this because ‘carboxylic acid’ means COOH, so I was looking at some wordplay around this.

    I was glad to see ‘Tom’ = THUMB, as last time I did this it was wrong! It took me a while to decided that ‘Charlie’ meant BIRDBRAIN; like you I thought of Charlie Parker, although there is also another Charlie Bird of broadcaster fame. (

    I also liked PROVENDER, although a new word for me.

    BTW, Gaufrid and mhl, can I put hyperlinks into this text? If so, how?

  10. Davy says:

    Thanks Eileen for a marvellous, clear blog (it’s nice to have the clues and the answers together) and to Brummie for a really enjoyable puzzle. I finally finshed this on Monday morning but it was worth the effort. I googled the theme quite early on but as tupu says, it didn’t really help in getting the missing answers. The last answer I got was FREEHAND which was a tricky little clue.

    Full marks to Brummie for this great crossword and for his very precise clues.

  11. g larsen says:

    Thanks Brummie and Eileen – both puzzle and analysis impeccable.

    I’m usually slow to spot themes, but years of immersion in Radio 3 made this one easy.

    The theme would have been even cleverer if Brummie had managed to find one more Anglo-Saxon composer instead of Arvo Part.

    Mention of John Cage reminds me of the performance of his 4’33” (of silence) at the Proms a year or two ago. Much hilarity after about a minute when the conductor mopped his brow and the musicians lowered their instruments to mark the end of the first movement. The audience played their part with the usual burst of coughing.

  12. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen

    Isn’t ‘feed’ the definition in 21a?

  13. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks for an excellent, clear and informative blog, Eileen.

    I only got the central clues and a few in the lower half last Saturday, with no idea of the theme – which isn’t surprising, as I’d never heard of any of them!

    When I eventually got into it this morning, though, I found it challenging and enjoyable. Thanks, Brummie.

    Great link to the music, too. It’s interesting to know that Jerusalem was built as a city of unity within itself!

  14. Gaufrid says:

    Robi @9
    I have updated the FAQ page to include an answer to your question regarding links in comments.

  15. liz says:

    Thanks for a great blog, Eileen. I really appreciated the new format today, as I have mislaid my copy of last week’s puzzle! CAGE was my way into the theme — but I had to check a number of other composers on Google, as I wasn’t familiar with all of them. Didn’t spot the secondary theme, either…

    Great puzzle, I thought, really enjoyable!

    re CAGE. There was a Facebook campaign last December to make 4’32” the Christmas number one and prevent the X-Factor winner from occupying the top slot. V funny, for lots of reasons, I thought!

  16. Robi says:

    Gaufrid @14. Thanks very much; it’s very useful and seems to work!

  17. beermagnet says:

    Liz, It’s 4’33”
    That extra second is very important.
    That makes it 273 seconds – a reference to a temperature of -273 degrees Celcius. Absolute zero.

  18. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu @12 [I’ve been out!]

    Of course it is. I don’t know what on earth I was thinking of, apart from being distracted by the [mis]spelling of ‘phosphorus’.

  19. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen
    Thanks – I must confess I didn’t notice the spelling! It may be deliberate since ‘phosphorous’ is an adjectival form acc. to OED going back to the 1700s. But whether it can then legitimately be expressed by P is unclear to me.

  20. Sil van den Hoek says:

    The Oxford Dictionary of English says this about ‘phosphorous':

    USAGE The correct spelling for the noun denoting the chemical element is phosphorus, while the correct spelling for the adjective meaning ‘relating to or containing phosphorus’ is phosphorous. A common mistake is to use the spelling phosphorous for the noun as well as the adjective. Approximately 6 per cent of citations for this word in the Oxford English Corpus use this incorrect spelling.

  21. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Sil – and tupu.

    I realised that ‘phosphorous’ was an adjective [that’s why I put ‘mis’ in brackets – it should really have been quotation marks, I suppose] and I think that’s why I inadvertently added ‘feed’ when later writing up the blog. i knew perfectly well how the clue worked when I solved the puzzle, honestly! :-)

  22. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen (and Sil)
    re “i knew perfectly well how the clue worked when I solved the puzzle, honestly!”

    I am not sure that I now understand how the clue works. Is it
    1. P for phosphorus misspelled? or
    2. P for phosphorous (adj)? This is not standard as far as I can see but perhaps it is allowable in crosswordland.

  23. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu

    You choose – I really don’t mind. I was prepared to give Brummie the benefit of any doubt. :-)

  24. Robi says:

    Hi tupu @22. Not sure what is the problem here. P is the chemical symbol for phorphorus and phosphorous is just an adjectival form referring to the element (Chambers says; phosphorous: ‘containing phosphorus in lower valency.’ Seems OK to me. :)

  25. Robi says:

    P.S. That nonsense I wrote @9 was because I thought the answer was CAGY! :( I now realise I not only got the reasoning wrong but the answer as well! 5/10; I’ll have to try harder.

  26. tupu says:

    Hi Robi
    I am not much worried either – just curious. I simply noted an accidental error re ‘feed’ and got drawn in to the discussion of ‘phosphorous’ having failed to think about the spelling when solving. This said, no dictionary I have consulted gives P as an abbreviation for phosphorous (adj)and I assume it is a loose (crosswordy) use at best. In any case, I have no basis on which to choose, as Eileen suggests I might.
    I also found the following part of a letter to Nature
    Nature 426, 119 (13 November 2003) | doi:10.1038/426119c

    Phosphorus: time for us to oust bad spelling
    Nelson Hairston, Jr

    Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Corson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-2701, USA

    “I have long suspected that “phosphorus” is the most frequently misspelt word in the environmental sciences, with “phosphorous” — the adjectival spelling — being the primary offender. Although phosphorous is a legitimate adjective meaning phosphorus-rich, this is rarely the meaning intended when this spelling is used in the literature”.

    However, I am clearly just being boring, and apologise for that.

  27. liz says:

    Hi beermagnet @17. Thanks for the correction, sloppy of me, since it is correct elsewhere in the blog (and the explanation, which I didn’t know.) Just don’t tell my husband, who is a huge Cage fan :-)

  28. Robi says:

    Hi tupu. It probably was just a spelling mistake, but if it was intended to make an adjectival form for ‘feed,’ then I guess it would have been correct. :)

  29. Jan says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen, and for the link – an uplifting favourite.

    I always enjoy Brummie’s puzzles and this was no exception. Like others, I had to Google a couple of the composers – a bit modern for me!

  30. sidey says:

    Best Cage related factoid

  31. Martin H says:

    Hi beermagnet and liz – the absolute zero connection with 4’33” is almost certainly coincidental. Cage wasn’t trying to make absolute silence; part of the point of the piece is that there is ‘no such thing as silence’ – which is also the title of a very good book about 4’33” by the American composer Kyle Gann. It’s interesting though how these ideas spread.

  32. Eileen says:

    {Hi Jan – and, belatedly, Stella

    Glad you liked the music: I hoped someone might – sheer self-indulgence on my part [blogger’s prerogative: Rightback always had Saturday ‘Music of the day!].

    I’ve sung that piece a number of times in different choirs and the opening of it send shivers down my spine whenever I hear it. I chose that particular link so that you could sing along, as I did!

    It was, of course, composed for the coronation of Edward VII and has been sung at every subsequent coronation and at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebration so,if you want to feast your eyes on the sumptuousness of St Paul’s [ignoring Prince Charles preparing himself for the cameras:

    All this is in brackets because I can’t pretend it’s on topic – but it’s late in the day and there have been other interesting digressions – thanks sidey and Martin H!]

  33. muck says:

    Thanks Eileen for your excellent, as usual, blog
    I got the theme early on from CAGE, IRELAND, BLISS but was never going to finish

  34. Carrots says:

    I left myself some notes to post about Brummie`s offering, but can`t now fully recollect or understand them:

    “Uneasy mix of clues / tricky (not clever) without definitions”. “BIRD-BRAIN v. un-PC for sixties girl” and “ROOTLE – unheard of”.

    I`m a bit amazed that the Grauniad`s Wimmin`s Brigade don`t appear to have massed in Trafalgar Square waving their sandals at the outrage of Brummie`s temerity re: 15/12. They were probably all at home studying “The Psychology of Housework”.

  35. Jan says:

    Another fine link, Eileen, ta. I did sing along – alto.

    Carrots, as a member of GWB, I naturally assume the birdbrained Charlie is Charles, not Charlotte. ;)

  36. sheffieldhatter says:

    Re 5d, was there not a Guardian crossword setter called Altair, back in the 1970s, as I recall? Not relevant to the clue, I know, but just thought I’d mention it as I can’t find a reference on, where all the other compilers are mentioned, so wondered if I had imagined him.

  37. Eileen says:

    Hi sheffieldhatter

    The only reference to Altair [who, I think, rings a faint bell with me, too] that I can find is on this site. The last entry under ‘Bloggers’ is for Tilsit, a former blogger, who says, ‘Cut teeth on Altair in the Guardian and went on to discover the joys of Araucaria and Bunthorne’.

    I can’t find him in the Guardian archive, nor in Jonathan Crowther’s ‘A-Z of crosswords’.

  38. Davy says:

    Reply to 36.

    Yes, Altair was definitely a crossword setter and his real name from memory was Fred Scanlan. I used to enjoy his puzzles but he died many years ago. It’s a shame but I can find little information about him on Google, not even his name. Perhaps one of our older brothers or sisters, could enlighten us.

  39. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen, Davy and sheffieldhatter

    There is apparently one puzzle by Altair(probably dated) in “A Clue to Our Lives: 80 Years of the Guardian Cryptic Crossword: 85 Years of the “Guardian” Cryptic Crossword” by Sandy Balfour. This is available from Amazon and the following link includes a long review by Peter Biddlecombe which list the setters and the number of their puzzles included.

  40. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu

    Very many thanks for that.

    I actually have that book [!] but hadn’t thought to look there.

    I have found the puzzle in question [supposedly No.13,657] and thought I had cracked it – but the Guardian archive says there is no puzzle with that serial number! :-(

    As you say, you can buy this book from Amazon – you could also try to win it as the Guardian Saturday prize! ;-)

  41. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen

    How strange. I thought it might be dated because there is a discussion of dated ‘Nimrod’ puzzles in the review. But in any case, why should that number not exist?! I imagine the archive simply does not go that far back.
    The garbled title above (btw) is due simply to copy and paste from Amazon’s garbled text.
    I had not noticed it was on offer as a prize. One of these days I may have a go.

  42. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu

    You’re quite right – I didn’t look carefully enough: the archive goes back only as far as 1999 and this puzzle was published on 29.9.73.

  43. sheffieldhatter says:

    Thanks all for your input and research. Glad he wasn’t a figment of my imagination!

  44. rrc says:

    On opening the paper I groaned as I looked asthe compiler. However I was pleasantly surprised that a number of answers gave themselves quickly I even had Piston, Bliss, and Parry but still didnot recognise the theme. However with a little internet help managed to complete.

  45. Carrots says:

    Hello Jan (@35) Charlie “Bird” Parker, (“Yardbird”) was no “Charles” or a “Charlotte” but one of the most influential heralds of The Beat Generation. You remember The Beat Generation…when gals didn`t burn their bras because they didn`t wear them? XX

  46. Paul (not Paul) says:

    Astonished, as ever, at the acclaim Brummie gets. Clever at the expense of being entertaining.

    And the “theme” of surnames of people that we’ve never heard of is no theme at all. What did we know as we worked our way through… they are surnames…they are also words…oh well that gives it away then! Rubbish! Absolute rubbish! The most boring prize crossword I can remember.

  47. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Paul (not Paul), surely you may think/say “the most boring prize crossword I can remember”, because that is how you feel.
    Qualifying this puzzle as “Rubbish! Absolute rubbish!” is however, I think, one step too far. Even though it probably reflects the way you feel.

    Themed crosswords are always a bit tricky.
    Either you like the theme or not.
    We, for instance, had no problem whatsoever to find the names of the composers – they were all familiar – , but I can imagine when that’s not the case the situation’s different.
    But then to bin this (IMO) very well written crossword, is not a very nice thing to do.
    “Clever at the expense of being entertaining”?
    Well, for you it wasn’t entertaining, but the clueing wasn’t thát clever [from a negative point of view].

    We all experience crosswords our own way, but being “astonished at the acclaim Bonxie gets” … well, I think, he deserves it.
    But, as I always say, we’re all different, aren’t we?
    Yet, I do not like a review being so dismissive.

  48. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Eileen for a super blog.Including the clues is very helpful,especially as for me a week old puzzle always seems to go missing.
    As usual,I am late catching up with the blog and am only adding my comment after reading the comment @46.
    I thought this was a great puzzle and would say that Paul(not Paul) should be more careful with his generalisations;HE may not have heard of the composers but a lot of other people have and also get a lot of pleasure out of their music.
    Paul(not Paul),I would recommend you listen to this beautiful piece by Arvo Part,you may find it helps with your stress levels –

  49. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Blo…. He…
    Did I say Bonxie in #47? Yes I did.
    Of course, I meant to say Brummie.

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