Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,245 / Brendan

Posted by Eileen on February 14th, 2011


A delightfully entertaining puzzle from Brendan, with an added diversion at the end, to find the thirteen themed answers referred to in 9ac. I thoroughly enjoyed both the solve, which was not too taxing for a Monday, and the search.


6 BULAWAYO: hidden in istanBUL A WAY Of

RAITA: homophone of ‘writer’, which sets out the theme:  ‘author announced’.

10 SCOT: initial letters of Small Computer On Trial – a great surface and first of the themed answers

Sir Walter Scott

11  TALKED INTO: anagram of LINK TO DATE

12  AUSTIN: T[exas] in anagram of  IN USA – a great &lit

Jane Austen

14 NUTHATCH: U[niversity] in N[ew] THATCH [kind of roof]

15  BERWICK: E[ast] and W[est] [bridge partners] in BRICK [part of house]

17  SYRINGA: NG [no good] in SYRIA

20  OBSCURER: OBS [old boy’s] + CURER [successful doctor]

22  BUNION: B[achelor] + UNION [marriage]

John Bunyan

23  PENICILLIN: anagram of  IN NICE PILL – nice surface, too
24  WOLF: reversal of FLOW

Virginia Woolf

25  CAROL: AR [a king] in COL [depression

Lewis Carroll
26  OVERLAND: ER [monarch] in anagram of OLD VAN


1   PUNCTURE: anagram of CUT PRUNE
HART: homophone of ‘heart’

Bret Harte

DAYTON: DAY [period of world revolution] + TON [not rising] – another lovely surface

Len Deighton

4   ROLLING: double definition [‘rolling in it’ = rich]

J.K. Rowling

5   PRIESTLY: PR [public relations – ‘interactions with people’] + I [one] + ESTLY [anagram of STYLE]


7   BALTIC: BALTI [style of Indian cooking] + C[onstant]
13  TOWN CRIERS: anagram of C[rosswords] + ON WRITERS
16  CARLISLE: CAR [vehicle + L[eft] + ISLE [Man, for example]

Thomas Carlyle

18  GROWLING: L[oud] in GROWING [increasing in volume]
19  TROLLOP: ROLL [spin] in TOP [spinner]

Anthony Trollope

21  BREACH: B[ritish] + REACH [achieve]
22  BENNET: BEN [reversal of NEB [Scottish and N. English dialect for bill, beak, nose] + NET [after deductions’] – lovely linking of the two halves of the simple charade: reference to Elizabeth Bennet in ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Arnold Bennett

24  WILD: WILL [determination] with the last letter changed from L [fifty] to D [five hundred] – great clue to end on!

Oscar Wilde

68 Responses to “Guardian 25,245 / Brendan”

  1. Dad'sLad says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    Great blog as ever. Saw 11 of the authors easily; Rowling and Deighton were delicious a-ha moments.

  2. Martin H says:

    Thanks Eileen – having read your commentary I see this was rather better than I thought. I was looking for towns (found plenty of them) but with an uneasy feeling they should have somehow been homophones (Town criers, 13), as indeed some of them were, it seems. Nice trap, or maybe just me being thick – especially so after enjoying negotiating similar territory in Brummie’s recent Prize.

    Some good clues (eg 2, 3, 26), but some iffy ones too – very obvious anagrams for ‘penicillin’ and ‘puncture'; and ‘brick’ for ‘part of house’, hmm, possibly, but ‘rolling’ as ‘term for rich’ without ‘in it’ doesn’t make it for me, and there’s a hanging ‘one’ in 24.

  3. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen. This was enjoyable, digging up these rhymed writers like some sort of treasure hunt. 24d was a joy, once it was worked out.

  4. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileeen for another excellent blog and thanks Brendan

    A much more enjoyable themed puzzle than 25238 in my view, with 13 well known but misspelled authors rather than composers (some quite obscure) whose names happened to be ordinary words as well.

    It took me till nearly the end to see the theme because ‘raita’ came late in the solution for me. At one stage I wondered, like MartinH, if the theme was cities. But getting the theme early could have helped with solving as it did for me with ‘priestly’ (unlike the earlier puzzle where the theme – even if noticed – was much too vague and disconnected to offer any help at all.

    Generally very well clued and with a nice light touch. I particularly liked nuthatch, Berwick, wolf, overland, Bulawayo, raita, priestly (last in after raita) and town criers.

  5. tupu says:

    ps Having seen the answer to 10 was clearly ‘Scot’, I very hastily misparsed it in my mind and moved on, so thanks for drawing the correct and obvious logic to my attention Eileen.

  6. rrc says:

    Thought the compiler was being rather kind telling us the theme in 9 across – perhaps our comments in the past about anonymous themes have been upheld. exhausted with about three to do

  7. Wanderer says:

    Thanks Eileen for a marvellous blog of an excellent crossword. And thank you for your explanation of NEB, a new word for me. Having understood the reference to Pride and Prejudice, and parsed NET correctly, I couldn’t figure out the rest, and got there in the end via Bill and Ben the Flowerpot men — wondering vaguely if Ben could be some kind of “supporter” of Bill, ie holding him up. Such are the idiocies I sometimes go through on the way to the answer! Very enjoyable.

  8. Eileen says:

    Hi Wanderer – you’re not alone!

    NEB was a new one on me, too – and my thoughts initially flew to Bill and Ben, which, of course, didn’t work, so I had to go digging. It looks like a handy word to file away.

  9. Robi says:

    Thanks Brendan for an enjoyable puzzle, which I thought was going to be a doddle at the start but proved to be more challenging later.

    As RAITA [didn’t know it, must get out more!) was one of the last in, I miserably failed to spot the theme. :( Many thanks Eileen for an illuminating blog. :) I thought the ’13’ in 9 was a reference to clue 13 and spent some time trying to put oyez into the answer!

    I thought 24 for WILD was a very clever clue, which took some timte to solve (without the benefit of the author homophone.) Last time we saw AUSTIN (Friday; 25,243,) it didn’t refer to the Texas capital, but this time it did.

  10. Robi says:

    For those of you wondering, ‘timte’ above did not refer to the place situated in Nkam, Littoral, Cameroon, but rather to a lack of time in proofreading :)

  11. tupu says:

    Hi Robi @10
    :) Thanks for the warning!

  12. Phil says:

    I fell into the same traps above like looking for cities. Raita had to wait for Priestly. At about this time I got the theme but from Priestly and co rather than raita. I always thought raita was pronounced ry-ita (like ryvita without the v) so I couldn’t see where Brendan was coming from here until checking what the excellent Eileen had to say after I finished. Thus had sprung another elephant trap into which I fell trying to think of Indian authors sounding like ry-ita.

    I got WILD(E)sometime before working out why – so I agree this was a rather devilish offering from Brendan. Still a wonderful start to the week – the best compiler and the best blogger both in great form.

    There are of course at least two more wolves – Tom and Tobias.

  13. Eileen says:

    Hi Phil

    I’ve always pronounced RAITA as you do but decided not to comment, because I found Chambers gives both pronunciations, albeit with ‘ours’ first. :-)

  14. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Eileen and Brendan, a great start to the week. I, too, went down the town road for a while (that was after thinking the theme was about Indian dishes), and then thought some of the authors were hidden, as I found one in 18d G ROWLING

  15. Tokyo Colin says:

    Well I feel pretty stupid now. I solved the puzzle without any real difficulty and some pleasure but now realise I missed the whole point of the exercise. I thought after 9a that I would be looking for 13 themed answers without knowing quite what they would be but none ever appeared and so I forgot about it.

    I must remember in future that Brendan always has a theme. In this case he even laid it out in plain view for all to see and I still missed it.

  16. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you, Eileen. Super blog – your techie skills are coming on leaps and bounds, I see!

    What a delight from Brendan. I always know to look out for a theme with him, but as it went in I couldn’t see anything, despite the broad hint at 9ac (I too pronounce it the ‘other way’). However, you didn’t need it to complete the puzzle, so it was good to have it explained afterwards on the blog, which added to the pleasure.

    OVERLAND, PRIESTLY and TROLLOP were brilliant, but the rest weren’t half bad either. Timely appearance for Joanne Rowling, as she was up at the BAFTAS last night with the rest of the Harry Potter team. And for those into trivia or quizzes, what does the ‘K’ stand for? Eileen’s link reveals all …

  17. Derek Lazenby says:

    Raced through and then got stuck on the last few! Dang!

    Eileen, re NEB, you really must stop going to the posher pubs, the word is all around you 😀

  18. malc95 says:

    Thanks Brendan for a great start to the week, and to Eileen for parsing 22d & 24d, which I just couldn’t see.

    Held up at first like some others, thinking the theme was towns & cities (including Nutbush, Tenn.), until I got 9a, which I’ve only ever seen spelt with an H before.

    25a Wasn’t there a King Carol of Rumania or Bulgaria?

  19. malc95 says:

    re . above comment – of course thought it was Nuthatch & not Nutbush – sorry Tina.

  20. Mr Beaver says:

    Having perversely started on Down clues, I confidently put in PUNCTURE, then DEAR for 2d (=”deer”), so was foxed briefly when attempting 8a and 10a – so it was fortunate 10a was fairly obvious!
    Failed to get 24a (no excuses!) and 24d (I don’t feel too bad about this, though) – in fact I tentatively had WILD for 24a :( – well, it does mean ‘fierce’…
    Apart from that, I agree it was a pleasant change for a Monday without being too hard.

  21. Eileen says:

    Hi Derek – not quite this far south! –

    and malc95

    Wikipedia tells me there was a King Carol of Romania [1930-40], which was during the Great Depression!

  22. Robi says:

    Not exactly a household name, but there is a Dennison Berwick writer as well.

  23. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Robi, but, since it’s spelt the same way as the answer to 15ac, it isn’t really relevant to the theme, is it?

    What worried me was that I found a Jill Duerr Berrick, which made it a bit of a toss-up between her and Harte, since I’m afraid I hadn’t heard of either. I’ve been nervously waiting for a challenge [but I’m going out for a while now!].

  24. Robi says:

    Eileen, touche. Try this one instead: James Breech . I’m going out now as well :)

  25. Jim says:

    There was no indication on my online printed version that there was a theme.

  26. liz says:

    Thanks for a great blog, Eileen. A very enjoyable puzzle from Brendan!

    For once I remembered to look for a theme, nudged by 9ac. I got RAITA very early on (I pronounce it the way the the homophone suggests). Like others, I then proceeded to look for Indian dishes, then towns and finally the penny dropped with BUNION. DAYTON for DEIGHTON was one of my favourites, theme-wise, and 12ac was a great clue. In the end, I managed to find all 13, guessing that 2dn would be one — the only author I hadn’t heard of.

    Didn’t see the wordplay at 24dn, or 22dn, so thanks for your explanations of those!

    Incidentally, The Guardian has published a letter today congratulating Araucaria on his 90th birthday. According to Wiki, Araucaria’s birthday is actually on Wednesday. I’m guessing Wiki must be right on this one, or someone here would have commented on it!
    Typical Grauniad…

  27. Eileen says:

    Hi Jim

    I did the puzzle in the paper but, in both the Print and PDF online versions, too, the clue for 9ac is: Indian dish author announced, as exemplified by 13 other answers (5)

  28. Chas says:

    22d: I cannot see what “so-called proud” is doing here. I have checked the blog (thanks Eileen) again and I am still in the dark.

  29. Eileen says:

    Hi Liz

    I was sorry to see that letter today, two days early, as I’m hoping for something special on Wednesday.

    I’m sure the birthday is Wednesday – and I’m expecting to see it in the Guardian’s Birthday list!

  30. PC says:

    Forgive me if I’m way off here but I’m new to this. 7d refers to Indian cooking but the actual answer is a style of Pakistani cooking. How misleading should I expect setters to be?

  31. Eileen says:

    Hi Chas

    I wondered at that, initially, because I was taught, when we read the ‘Pride and Prejudice’ at school, that the ‘Pride’ was Mr Darcy and Elizabeth was the ‘Prejudice’, but, in fact, they were each guilty of both! …

    …and PC: I’ve always understood ‘balti’ to be an Indian style of cookery. Chambers gives: ‘a kind of Indian cookery originating in Britain’ and Collins: ‘a spicy Indian dish, stewed until most of the liquid has evaporated, and served in a wok-like pot’.

  32. Eileen says:

    Sorry about the first ‘the’ above – I started off saying ‘the book’!

  33. Gaufrid says:

    There seems to be some confusion about the origins of ‘balti’. COED and Oxford On-line both have words to the effect “(in Pakistani cooking) a spicy dish cooked in a small two-handled pan known as a karahi”.

  34. Gaufrid says:

    Eileen @23
    There was/is no need to worry. If 9ac is included, the thematic entries are located symmetrically and the only entry in Websters under Harte is (Frances) Bret (though there are at least another seven authors with this surname according to a Google search).

  35. Eileen says:

    I’ve done a quick trawl of the websites of the Balti houses here in Leicester, most of which are listed [or describe themselves] as Indian restaurants.

    From one website:

    “Balti is an Indian version of an Iron wok…T&k Balti House introduced a different name and ingredients; “Balti” (Karahci) has similar meanings used in the different region of the Asian sub-continent. It is originally from Punjab using enriched spices and completely country style cooking as in Bangladeshi cuisine alike. ”

    Thanks for the reassurance and extra information @34, Gaufrid. [I’d seen all the Hartes!] Even when I think I’ve got the theme, I so often manage to miss something. I think that this symmetry makes the puzzle extra special. [But I think you mean ‘Francis’. :-) ]

  36. grandpuzzler says:

    Thanks Brendan for the puzzle and Eileen for the blog. Learned the correct pronunciation of JK’s last name; thought it rhymed with growling. Didn’t get the Indian dish RAITA. Must learn these dishes since I have an adopted granddaughter from an orphange in Chennai and another coming in two weeks from an orphange in Delhi.


  37. Brian Harris says:

    Loved this today. Fabulous theme,and very enjoyable.

  38. Robi says:

    Thanks Gaufrid @34 and Eileen @23; you have put me out of my misery, so I’ll stop searching for ever more obscure writers! :) Nice touch to put the writers in symmetrically; I hadn’t noticed that. This must be one of the best Monday puzzles we’ve had.

  39. StanXYZ says:

    Thanks both to Brendan and Eileen! Great Puzzle! Excellent review!

    Only managed to uncover 9 of the 13 Raitas!

  40. tupu says:

    Re Bret Harte. There can be no doubt that he is the intended entry.
    I happened to know of him partly because two of his satirical pieces are included in the Penguin Book of Comic and Curious Verse. He was extremely well known in America, one source describing him as “the most celebrated literary man in America in 1870″.
    The two poems in the book are witty commentaries on life in California of the day – one describing a disastrous card game with a Chinese card-sharp, and the other the break-up of a learned society over some contested fossil bones.

  41. yogdaws says:

    Thanks again Eileen

    Nice work Brendan. Slyly witty. Really liked the 9a RAITA tie in with overall theme. 24d WILD Latin maths ingenuity was inspired. More of the same please!

  42. Geoff says:

    Notwithstanding the alternative pronunciations of the diphthong in RAITA, this only works as a homophone of ‘writer’ for us non-rhotics. I’m surprised nobody has complained about this – it usually draws adverse comments.

    Great crossword, though, and amazingly straightforward for a Brendan – I completed it in less than a Rufus.

  43. Martin P says:

    Thanks to all, yes I too found this generally easier than a typical Rufus but did get stuck for “neb” on 22d…

  44. tupu says:

    re neb
    This and ‘nib’ are, it seems, closely related forms. ‘Nib’ can also mean ‘beak’ or ‘bill’ and the shape of a pen-nib provides a good mental image of the link.

  45. tupu says:

    Hi geoff
    :) Non-rhotics are those who do NOT pronounce ‘r’ in words like ‘far’ or ‘farm’.

  46. Eileen says:

    Hi Geoff @42

    Quite some time ago, I gave an undertaking not to comment on the kind of homophone you speak of [but I still occasionally refer to them as ‘homophones’.] I was sorely tempted this morning, though, to say how surprised I was that Brendan, with his rhotic accent, should have used such a clue. :-)

  47. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu

    Amazing that, after two hours [I’ve been out] we should both reply to Geoff at the same moment!

    I’m sure he can speak for himself but he may not still be around. He actually made the same point as you. :-)

  48. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Can we have a Brendan on a Saturday, please?

  49. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen
    You are quite right. Apologies Geoff! As a non-rhotic I didn’t even notice the problem at first!
    The OED oddly contains a reference to a recommendation that Indian speakers of English should use a rhotic accent for better intelligibility!

  50. RCWhiting says:

    I seem to be in a tiny minority here.
    This was very easy, like Rufus usually, but without the little amusing delights.
    After solving I had no knowledge of a theme which would have been of no help anyway, until I read Eileen. A theme must be integral and the puzzle should be unsolvable (or nearly so) without it.
    As for the RAITA=Writer, no. Three syllables = two syllables?

  51. Sil van den Hoek says:

    RCWhiting @50:

    “This was very easy, like Rufus usually, but without the little amusing delights”
    It was indeed rather easy, but one can’t compare Rufus and Brendan. Brendan’s crosswords are much more based on (clever) constructions whereas Rufus is more focused on idiom and imagery.
    How one experiences them is, I think, more a matter of taste.

    “A theme must be integral and the puzzle should be unsolvable (or nearly so) without it”
    I’m not sure about that. I think this statement is too strong.
    After we solved about three quarters of the puzzle, we didn’t see the theme (RAITA was actually our last one going in).
    It was very satisfying to discover all these homophones afterwards, it really raised a smile. That’s what a theme can do, too.

    “As for the RAITA=Writer, no. Three syllables = two syllables?”
    My version of WordWebPro includes the complete Chambers dictionary which gives me also pronunciations of words (UK and US). I can tell you, they let RAITA really sound like ‘writer’. But perhaps, they are wrong. I am happy with it, though.
    And let’s not talk about syllables. This week’s Birthday Child did some odd things with it last Saturday, but more about that later.

  52. tupu says:

    re raita

    The following link gives sound versions of the word for British and North American English.

    As far as I can tell, both are bisyllabic and quite reasonably homophonic with writer (non-rhotic).

  53. Carrots says:

    As usual, I tackled this at lunchtime and spent a delightful hour completing it. There didn`t seem to be a detectable theme (which is one of Brendan`s signature characteristics) so I was completely pole-axed by Auntie E`s blog. Fancy that: a crossword having a sort of second wind after completion!

    I agree entirely with Sil @ 48: Brendan should be given an outing in the “First Division”…and Auntie E should be treated to Chana Dahl at one of the excellent Gujarati establishments on The Belgrave Road: Raita is an essential component of the dish. Anyone else interested in coming?

  54. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    We crossed and our sources re raita seem to agree.
    I also agree with you about the theme, though that’s also why I was much happier with this puzzle than Brummie’s. Here the answers share the special (and to me interesting) quality of sounding like writers’ names, whereas the composers names have no extra link to each other beyond being ordinary words as well(as are thousands of other English surnames based on size, colour, occupation, animal names etc.) :) However, I am clearly in a tiny minority here.

  55. RCWhiting says:

    I did say a tiny minority.
    However, I don’t think Indian English would be such.

  56. RCWhiting says:

    Is Brendan American, I’m not?
    I am from the west country where that last R in writer gets its fully deserved attention.

  57. Eileen says:


    Brendan is from Northern Ireland and lives in America.

    Thanks, Carrots – any time!

  58. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks Eileen, that pretty much explains all. But is not very satisfactory.
    The USA dominates our culture, surely it can be kept away from our crosswords.

  59. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen et al
    Perhaps we are too caught up with the word ‘homophone’ which I have never seen a setter use. The expression ‘sounds (sufficently) like (to be recognisable)’ would probably be a less troublesome gloss on indicators like today’s ‘announced’. I imagine that no rhotic English speaker would have difficulty understanding non-rhotic ‘writer’ or vice versa.

    However, I must admit that in a language like Finnish where all ‘rs’ are and must be clearly pronounced, their absence can have serious implications. :)On one of my first visits, I tried to use the term for cranberry liqueur which involves the word ‘karpalo’ (cranberry). Unfortunately my pronunciation was more like ‘kapalo’ which means a ‘nappy’!

  60. stiofain says:

    Yes Tupu homophone is a strict definition but sounds like , aired, broadcast etc are more vague so I think acceptable and it is a valid point that no setter mentions homophone.
    But i cant pronounce rhotic so what do i know
    Great xword yes get Brendan on the prize roster Sil.

  61. Martin H says:

    RCWhiting @50

    ‘A theme must be integral and the puzzle should be unsolvable (or nearly so) without it.’ I think this is very well put, and marks the difference in quality between this puzzle and the recent Brummie with which it has been compared. Here the theme quite cleverly adds an ‘extra layer’ to the puzzle, but it’s merely cosmetic. The extra layer of double meaning in the Brummie came as part of the structure.

  62. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Martin H @61:

    I cannot see why we should compare this themed puzzle with Brummie’s.
    Moreover, I think there are themed crosswords and themed crosswords, if you know what I mean. In my opinion, there is no such thing as A Themed Crossword.

    The theme in Brummie’s puzzle I found rather ordinary.
    I knew all the composers, found PISTON and PARRY for example because of that, after having some crossing letters and nót through construction.
    For me, the so-called ‘extra thing’ that all the names were normal words too, did not have any influence while solving.
    On hindsight, I still don’t care much about it.
    I don’t think it made it easier to find them.
    Moreover, Brummie’s theme words lacked a definition.
    Completely different from here – so why compare?

    This Brendan is a themed crossword, the theme indeed being an extra layer – so, what’s the problem with that?
    Are we not allowed to call this a theme, because the puzzle is solvable without it? Nonsense, I think.
    A crossword like this is also much harder to compile than Brummie’s – well, that’s what I think.

    The phrase “A theme must be integral and the puzzle should be unsolvable (or nearly so) without it” is one I completely disagree with. In particular, I don’t like the words “must”, “should be” and “unsolvable”.

    Of course, one may disagree.
    But it’s probably clear that I/we liked this easy, but clever crossword very much.

  63. tupu says:

    Hi Martin H and RCWhiting

    I realise you have partially different viewpoints from each other

    ‘Part of the structure’. Yes, but the set is defined only by a very general and vague semantic principle, and at the same time the principle is also rendered inaccessible by the self-imposed structural absence of any definition for the ‘ordinary words’ involved.

    Re ‘integral to solving’. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. As far as I can remember the Brummie ‘theme’ was missed altogether by most commentators who solved it including myself. In the Brendan case, I suspect more people saw it. I saw it only at the end and it certainly helped me to see ‘priestly’.

    The difference is that the theme’s idea was clued with definitions in the Brendan puzzle, so once it is recognised it helps the solver and is not purely cosmetic. In the Brummie case, it was as good as cosmetic because it had very little to do with anything. It might as well have been one in which every word had at least two consonants, or had more labials than dentals, or was included in Dr Johnson’s dictionary. As I said earlier there are many thousands of surnames that are ordinary words.
    Nor do I remember there being any clues where a choice between an ordinary word and a non-ordinary word had to be made.

  64. Martin H says:

    Hi Sil and tupu

    The crosswords are comparable simply because in both certain solutions comprised a set of words which constituted the ‘theme’, and, unlike those of a ‘normal’ themed crossword, these solutions themselves fell into another set – a list which was indicated in one, and became (or didn’t become) apparent in the other.

    In Brendan’s this further set was comprised of homophones of already thoroughly clued solutions, and was thus, as I expressed it, ‘cosmetic'; I, and some others evidently, solved the puzzle without recognising the theme, indeed thinking there was probably a different theme. It may have been found helpful by some solvers, but it wasn’t at all necessary.

    On the other hand, it would have been difficult – I don’t say impossible, and RCWhiting’s assertion included the rider ‘or nearly so’ – to solve the Brummie without recognising that a number of solutions referred to composers: the theme was integral to the crossword, and was itself the common definition which you complain was missing, tupu. Thus the theme itself was not cosmetic, but structural. The further set gave a focus to the themed answers, and was able to do so because, although there may be ‘many thousands (?) of surnames that are ordinary words’, there are few enough such composers’ surnames to make them a recognisable set comparable say to ‘English composers’ or ’20th century composers’.

    If either of you wants to continue this conversation, please don’t think me uninterested or rude for not replying – I shall be out for the rest of the day, once I’ve had a quick look at Quantum.

  65. sheffieldhatter says:

    Some contributors here have previously complained that Brendan’s themes are not signalled. Indeed, there are frequently remarks like Tokyo Colin’s at #15: “I must remember in future that Brendan always has a theme.”

    As rrc points out at #6 “The compiler was being rather kind telling us the theme in 9 across – perhaps our comments in the past about anonymous themes have been upheld.” Brendan’s themes have frequently been unnecessary to the process of solving the crossword, but if you spot the theme it can help. Whereas the clearly indicated but partly unclued themes of Brummie and, quite frequently, Araucaria – which RCWhiting seems to prefer, can frequently have the (in my view) undesirable effect of making the crossword unsolvable or, nearly as bad, solvable merely by Googling the set of possible answers and mechanically fitting them in where they will go. Where’s the challenge or fun in that?

    I’m with Sil on this one. Brendan’s themes, being “an extra layer”, add to the enjoyment of the puzzle. This one, which he obligingly, and to some extent misleadingly, signalled in the clue to 9a, seems to have caused more kerfuffle than all his completely hidden themes. I hope he’s not been reading this blog, it might put him off altogether!

  66. tupu says:

    Hi Martin H
    Thanks. It is gracious of you to take the trouble to come back.

    Firstly I should clarify my point @63. When I say that I and others solved the Brummie puzzle without recognising the theme, I should have clarified that I did recognise the ‘composers’ element of this quite early on, and yes it was helpful as you say.

    The main point of my complaint is not this but the ‘ordinary words’ element of the clues. Like Sil, and unlike several others, I do not care much for this. I find it too inclusive to be interesting. Also the fact that they are ordinary words is simply to say that they each have a meaning. But they lack any semantic coherence as a ‘set’ and the meanings in question are deliberately avoided in the clues.

    I am not at all sure that we can progress much further. Perhaps it is simply a mater of taste in the end. I find the idea that the answers are a disparate lot of ordinary words, whose meaning is unclued, neither interesting nor helpful. You and several others get some sort of kick out of it.

    Re Brendan, it may be partly come down in the end to the old argument between those who find punning amusing and those who feel it is the ‘lowest form of wit’.

    To sum up: with Brummie we have composers (hidden but easily accessible major theme) whose names are ordinary words (hidden and inscrutable secondary theme).

    With Brendan we have writers (hidden but by no means inaccessible major theme) whose names sound like the answers (implicit but reasonably accessible (partly via raita) surface-level secondary theme).

    Beyond this one might add (at a personal level) that – to me at least, and I suspect many others – all the writers were well known, whereas a number of Brummie’s composers were inaccessible to me without Google. :)I must confess that, unlike Sil, I did not know Glass or Parry or Piston from the latter’s Russian dissident counterpart Pistoff – but there we are back to low wit!

  67. Martin H says:

    Hi tupu – just got in and read your last post. Thanks for that.

    It must come down, as you say, to taste, but I would quibble with the emphasis of your summing up of Brummie’s theme. The theme was: ‘composers – whose names are also ordinary words’ (whose meanings are irrelevant to their membership in the set); there was not a main theme and a secondary one. The ‘ordinary words’ component was integral to the theme. Even though the puzzle was solvable without the theme being fully understood, the ‘composers names’ component was indispensable and all the composers names were part of the same ‘also ordinary words’ set. Imagine that Brummie had chosen to define just the ordinary words, which would then have turned out also to be composers’ names to those solvers who recognised them. It would have been pointless.

    The question of obscurity is, I think, another matter.

    After all that, thanks for making me think more closely about what, when I’m solving, seem like instinctive convictions.

    In the end, I never got round to Quantum. I do enjoy these opportunities to think through what, while solving, come as almost instinctive convictions. Thanks.

  68. Huw Powell says:

    What a fun puzzle and amusing blog!

    I “got” the theme about halfway through (probably with AUSTIN, CARLISLE, and TROLLOP), and it really helped solidify a few later answers – forcing me to “get” the Latin math in WILD, for instance.

    I never got RAITA, and probably wouldn’t ever have without reading a dozen articles on Indian cuisine on line… forgot to google BALTI_… and, embarrassingly, never sussed HART. The latter which, of course, become a triple homophone!

    I’m just glad it wasn’t 13 Indian dishes.

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