Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,271 / Brendan

Posted by mhl on March 16th, 2011


I think Brendan’s puzzle are consistently elegant and very satisfying to solve, and this one was no exception.

9. COURGETTE URGE = “Strongly advise” in COT = “bed” followed by [plan]T [on]E; Definition: “vegetable”
10. AMUSE A = “one” + MUSE = “victim of [MOUSETRAP], nonetheless” – a MOUSETRAP without “none” (0) would be a MUSE TRAP Thanks to Roger for pointing out that this is much simpler than I made it – just MOUSE = “victim of [MOUSETRAP]” without O (nonetheless).; Definition: “Entertain”
11. ABETTER A BEER = “something to drink” around TT (teetotal) = “not drinking”; Definition: “Assistant”
12. PLAINLY IN = “Present” + L = “line” in PLAY = “[HAMLET], say”; Definition: “without elaboration”
13. PLAZA PLA[y] = “Drama, mostly” around AZ = “extreme characters” (of the alphabet); Definition: “open area of city”
14. PARKHURST [Emeline] PANKHURST = “Female protester” with R for N (“has changed character”); Definition: “this prison”
16. PRINCE OF DENMARK An excellent anagram: (KIND PERFORMANCE); Definition: “in [HAMLET]” or the whole clue, if you see this as an &lit
19. RECORDERS REORDERS = “Makes new arrangement” with C = “note” added; Definition: “these instruments”
21. HADES HAD = “Entertained” followed by E[veryone] S[itting]; Definition: “the pit”
22. EMERSON Hidden in “schEMERS, ONe”; Definition: “poet who extolled appeal of [A BETTER MOUSTRAP]?” – this refers to the quotation, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door”
23. REMATCH R = “Right” + E = “English” + MATCH = “striker”; Definition: “another game”
24. ASSAI ASSAI[l] = “limited attack”; Defintion: “Musician’s very” – in Italian musical terminology, “assai” means “very”
25. MOUSETRAP Double definition: “[MARATHON] [RUNNER]” (“The Mousetrap” had the longest initial run of any West End play) and “drama staged by [HAMLET]” (when asked by Claudius for the name of the play he’s putting on, Hamlet replies “The Mouse-trap”)
1. SCRAP PAPER SCRAPER = “Person economising” around PP = “a couple of pages”; Definition: “recyclable stuff”
2. GUJERATI JUG = “prison” reversed followed by (IRATE)*; Definition: “Indian”
3,17. AGATHA CHRISTIE (THEATRIC SAGA I)* around H = “ending of which”; Definition: the whole clue (or “I” in the context of the whole clue) – one of the works that Agatha Christie is most famous for is The Moustrap, which famously has a twist ending that (apparently) the audience is asked to keep secret. (No spoilers please!)
4. STAR STAR is exactly in the centre of “dramatiST ARranging”; Definition: “top actor”
5. HESPERIDES HE’S = “he is” + PER = “for each” + IDES = “day of each month”; Definition: “Female guardians”
6,7. MARATHON RUNNER (OR HURT AN)* in MANNER = “way”; Definition: “an athlete”
8. RELY ELY = “Location of cathedral” under R = “river”; Definition: “bank” (as in “to bank on”)
14. PROPER NAME (P AN EMPEROR)*; Definition: “eg Nero or Caligula”
15. TAKES SHAPE (SPEAKS HEAT)*; Definition: “Assumes a certain form”
18. AUDITORY TORY = “Politician” under AUDI = “German company”; Definition: “re hearing”
20. CHEESE Double definition: “[MOUSETRAP], perhaps” and “may be said to make one smile” (when taking photographs)
21. HAMLET HAM = “Person acting badly” + LET = “allowed”; Definition: “village”
22. EDAM Hidden in “giftED AMateur”; Definition: “that’s found in [MOUSETRAP], perhaps”
23. ROUT R = “King” + OUT = “exposed”; Definition: “disorderly flight”

47 Responses to “Guardian 25,271 / Brendan”

  1. Rishi says:


    In 12ac, you’ve put a question mark after IN = Present.

    I don’t know what you’ve in mind, but if a person is “present” at a meeting, he is “in”. Any problem there?

  2. Thomas99 says:

    Re 12a – Also cf. Lucy van Pelt’s sign “The doctor is IN”.

  3. mhl says:

    Rishi and Thomas99: fair enough – I’ve removed the question mark :)

  4. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Wow, this was clever.

    It took a bit of pencil-chewing, but I managed it in the end. When I first saw all the inter-related clues, I didn’t think I would; but I appreciated the fact that 21dn was straightforward and that the clues that Brendan set to give you the crossing letters for MOUSETRAP were also not too tricky.

    I finished the puzzle thinking there were two themes, but now mhl has explained the connection, it’s even more impressive. PRINCE OF DENMARK was outstanding, and I also liked PLAZA.

    One of the best Grauniad puzzles so far this year for me.

    Thank you for the blog, mhl.

  5. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl and Brendan

    Another fairly gentle but very entertaining puzzle from Brendan with a nice set of mixed thought associations focussing around Hamlet and including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Agatha Christie, Mousetrap.

    I enjoyed the surface and anagram in 16, and the surface in 23. Also 4d and 22d were nice albeit simple has.

    Parsing 3d caused some bother but it seems OK as an * and &lit.

    The nonetheless in 10a was very neat.

    I was amused by 11,25 but did not remember the (mis)quotation. He apparently said something rather less pithy.

  6. Roger says:

    … and Brendan makes 3. We are having a treat this week. Top today has to be amuse [‘a mouse’ (victim of a mousetrap) without ‘o’ (nonetheless) .. is that what you are saying, mhl ?] with cheese not far behind. Assai was new.

    Anyone else fall for chaperones at 5d ? …with PRS in place and chap…s (he is ?), it all seemed to be going well but ‘er one’ was a problem. Rescued by a Prince !

  7. Stella Heath says:

    I agree, a great puzzle, well constructed and intertwined, without being so complex as to be impossible, or giving the game away once the key answers are found.

    I don’t think I’ve heard of Gujerati, but the wordplay was clear, as it was for the four´letter words, which can so often be a bugbear.

    In 10ac, I took the parsing to be A+M(o)USE, being the victim of the trap.

    Great blog, mhl, and thanks for explaining the connection between 25 and 21d. I couldn’t remember the name of the play, and couldn’t be bothered to bring out my complete Shakepeare to look it up :)

  8. tupu says:

    Hi Stella
    I’m sure you are right about 10a.

  9. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, mhl, this was yet another delight.

    Brendan is one of the very best!

  10. Roger says:

    You’re right of course tupu @5, as shown here. (What amuses me is the aptness of the first Google Ad … no coincidence, surely !)

    Hi Stella … agree about 10a .. see my comment @6.

  11. Geoff says:

    Thanks mhl

    Another one of Brendan’s splendid multilayered thematics. It is often difficult to pin down a single keyword in these – for me it would be MOUSETRAP, which leads out to mice, cheese, Hamlet, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Agatha Christie!

    ‘Nonetheless’ is a marvellous trick, which raised a smile, as did 22dn – a sublimely misleading ‘hidden’ clue. ‘Kind performance’ = PRINCE OF DENMARK is splendid, although it did leap out instantly.

  12. chas says:

    Thanks for the blog mhl.

    I thought 14d had an excellent surface – suggesting Roman or similar.

    The only line from Hamlet that I think I remember is “To be or not to be…” so thanks again to mhl.

  13. Martin H says:

    I find Brendan rather an uneven setter, but this must be one of the best of his that I’ve seen. This sort of theme – one word as the nucleus of a varied set of otherwise unrelated ideas, some of them followed for a way, others used one-off; some as solutions, some as subsidiaries – can lead to a very creative puzzle. It’s hardly a theme really, certainly not in the sense of one of those tedious lists of footballers or song titles we’re sometimes asked to tick off.

    Thanks for the parsing of Hesperides, mhl. I dragged it out of some far-flung corner of memory once the crossing letters were in, but I couldn’t penetrate the nicely devious surface. Favourite – AMUSE, I think.

    Thank you Brendan.

  14. mhl says:

    Thanks to those who’ve corrected my (somewhat bizarre) interpretation of AMUSE, possibly inspired by an upsetting old Sandman comic.

    Stella: just to clarify, the play was really called “The Murder of Gonzago”, and (if I understand right) Hamlet’s just alluding to his intention to catch out Claudius by reenacting his father’s murder in the play.

  15. beermagnet says:

    I find Brendan a very consistent setter – consistently brilliant (also as Virgilius).
    I was most impressed that the clue to 3D AGATHA CHRISTIE didn’t actually make reference to 25 Mousetrap – a sign that there were already quite enough cross-references?

    Whodunit? Wasn’t it the Butler?

    The general favourite clue is AMUSE – nonetheless! – mine tooo.

  16. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, mhl. This was a great puzzle, lots of fun and very playful (forgive the pun!). I loved 16ac. ASSAI was a new one for me, but gettable from the wordplay.

    Fully agree with Martin H @13 about Brendan’s deft handling of this type of theme.

  17. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks for the clarification, mhl, I had a feeling it must be something like that.

    Hi Roger@10, I think our previous comments crossed.

  18. Robi says:

    A good puzzle, which I found quite hard. First pass through produced no results, although I should have at least seen RELY straight off.

    Thanks, mhl for an informative blog. I didn’t quite parse all the answers, so your help is much appreciated. Re. the Hamlet/Mousetrap, I found this, to which maybe you were referring: In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, “The Mousetrap” is Hamlet’s answer to Claudius’s inquiry about the name of the play whose prologue and first scene the court has just observed (III, ii). The play is actually The Murder of Gonzago, but Hamlet answers metaphorically, since “the play’s the thing” in which he intends to “catch the conscience of the king.”

  19. grandpuzzler says:

    Thanks Brendan and mhl. Courgette and Gujerati were new words for me but very gettable from the clues. Liked this puzzle very much and I not just saying that because Brendan hosted me for lunch yesterday – honest!


  20. norm says:


  21. Derek Lazenby says:

    Finished with difficulty. The difficulty being watching the Cheltenham Festival on the box. Not recommended for concentrating on crosswords!

  22. matt says:

    Very, very enjoyable.

  23. tupu says:

    Hi Roger @6 and @10
    Thanks. I’ve been out and only just seen mhl’s correction 10a. I’m sorry I missed your note @6 and wrote only in support of Stella. As I implied,it was my reading too. :)Perhaps, in this case, simpler minds think alike.

  24. muck says:

    Thanks Brendan & mhl. Erudite & entertaining, both.

  25. Eileen says:

    I’ve been out all day [did the puzzle before I went] and have nothing to add to the enthusiastic comments but just wanted to put in my twopennorth.

    This puzzle was right up my street and I loved it. Many thanks, Brendan.

  26. Eileen says:

    And thanks, mhl, as ever, for the blog. :-)

  27. Carrots says:

    Before Murdoch turned The Times into a doormat-sized wad of footballer photographs, I used to enjoy its puzzles and regarded them as the benchmark in the English language. Having a few more spare hours on my hands these days,
    I`ve bought the odd Times to renew acquaintanceship. Bad mistake. They are abtruse without wit, convoluted without intrigue, riddled with “liberty taking”, stretched definitions and padded or partial clues. No smiles, few “Ah!” moments, several groans and a general lack of cheer. At least the footballers usually have white shorts, so there are spaces to work out some of the Byzantine complexities…if you can be bothered after folding the toilet-paper-wide strip it occupies inside the rear page.

    Which is why I`m going to end it`s editor Brendan`s completed puzzle for today. This sir, is style.

  28. Carrots says:

    Sorry…I`m not going to “end” its editor, I`m going to “send” its editor!

  29. otter says:

    I’m glad to hear it, Carrots – I was just about to call out the murder squad.

    I really enjoyed this. Thankfully got 25 quite early on, which helped with a few clues. Tripped myself up on a few, eg 16a by miscounting the number of letters in ‘kind performance’, thereby convincing myself that it couldn’t be an anagram after all. Dur.

    Some lovely surfaces, and I was able to get words/phrases I wasn’t familiar with from the surfaces, so no complaints whatever from me.

    Enjoyed the use of the theme word, MOUSETRAP, in many different ways, too, and the use of ‘play’/’drama’ etc in clues as a side-theme.

  30. otter says:

    Oh, if I’m being really picky, there were perhaps a few too many run-ons (hidden answers) for my liking, but that really would be being picky.

  31. Eileen says:

    I meant to say that, if Claudius had been one of the ‘bad emperors’, he could have made an entrance in 14dn.

  32. Roger says:

    I see the link @10 has changed its Ads, dammit, but at the time of posting first up was for a firm of pest controllers …

  33. stiofain says:

    Great xword from Brendan.
    Otter @30 I actually like the “run-ons” as you call them, sometimes half the fun of a Brendan theme is discovering further connnections when finished.

  34. tupu says:

    I suggested @5 that the puzzle involved a set of thought associations focussed around Hamlet. Others have claimed the same for mousetrap as a focus. I think there is a case for giving joint central place to both of these. Numerically, there are 3 clues making direct reference to 21d ‘Hamlet’, and 4 referring directly to 25a ‘Mousetrap’, with one implicitly doing so (3, 17), However, 25a is defined jointly by reference to 3,17 and to 21d, while 21d itself is independently clued. A number of clues, e.g. 13a, 4d, refer to drama generally, while 23 is evocative of 21d.

    Whichever way round we argue it, the multitude of links adds to the pleasure of the puzzle which is what matters in the end.

  35. molonglo says:

    Thanks mhl for clarifying two mysteries inthe parsing: the “and” in 25a plus the “of which” in 3d – not clear, even though I saw the play aeons ago. Agree with others, this was good and entertaining.

  36. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Like everyone else we thought this was a Charmer of a Puzzle.
    Because we started off with the easy HAMLET (21d) and subsequently PRINCE OF DENMARK (16ac) – which for my PinC was the absolute Clue of the Day (for the use of the word ‘performance’) – we feared that it would be a Shakespearian theme today.

    Luckily (for me) the theme, if you can call it a theme, was broader: “Theatre”.
    Or was it more a network of cross-references (tautology?)?
    Anyway, a crossword of impeccable clu(e)ing.

    My Clue of the Day would be AMUSE (10ac), because of ‘nonetheless’ (haven’t seen thát in my crossword life so far).
    But I also liked RELY (8d), a word clued so many times before.
    This one was one of the very best, with its completely natural surface.

    Some might argue that three hidden answers in a crossword is a bit too much [surely Paul did, last November], but when one of them is such a gem like 4d (STAR) we don’t make a point of that anymore.
    BTW, I’ve noticed before that Brendan uses this device regularly [or should it be ‘frequently’, referring to a recent discussion] more than once.

    I liked the fact that the letter change in PA-R/N-KHURST (14ac) took place in a crossing word, even though it’s clear from ‘in this prison’ that the answer should be Parkhurst.

    Thank you, Brendan.
    Full marks.

  37. Brendan says:

    Thankyou, Sil, and everyone.

    Eileen, I wish I had thought of Claudius the Emperor.

    And thankyou, tupu, for pointing out the intended linkage to 23 down, which, though not clear in the text, is a fair description of what happens after Claudius notices he’s being got at (at least in the Olivier film version, if I remember aright).

  38. Brendan says:

    I meant to mention the recent suggestion that Hamlet was Irish:

    which would explain Frank Muir’s comment (for those old enough to remember him) the mysterious Irishman in the play to whom Hamlet says “Now I could do it, Pat”.

  39. Robi says:

    Thanks, Brendan for dropping by. It’s good when we get feedback from the setter also. Hopefully, in a few months I may be able to improve my solving times!

  40. Eileen says:

    Hi Brendan – and many thanks for dropping in

    I didn’t know that link – thanks for that – but I’m certainly old enough to remember the Frank Muir quotation – and loved it.

    [I did Hamlet for A level – just one reason I loved this puzzle – and reckon I know all the jokes current then [a long time ago!]

  41. Eileen says:

    Hi Sil @36

    ‘BTW, I’ve noticed before that Brendan uses this device regularly [or should it be ‘frequently’, referring to a recent discussion] more than once.’

    Thanks for mentioning this. T’was I who committed this solecism. I didn’t respond to it but it has rankled ever since. I meant it in the literal sense of ‘as a rule’, as I’m sure you did, too. :-)

  42. Eileen says:

    Hi again Brendan @37

    Re Claudius: I hope you know there was absolutely no criticism implied: it only occurred to me [much] later!

  43. Davy says:

    Thanks mhl,

    Thanks also to Brendan for this excellent and very inventive puzzle. I keep thinking of his reply when asked what makes a bad crossword and it was “one that you cannot finish” or similar wording. Thankfully, this was not the case today although initially I read through all the across clues without getting a single one. Then I stumbled on GUJERATI which I’ve often seen on forms as a choice of language. JUG has been used a few times recently to mean prison, so that was my entry into this puzzle. Superb clueing throughout with particular favourites being RECORDERS, REMATCH, EDAM and RELY.

  44. tupu says:

    Thanks Brendan.

    I have extremely fond memories of Frank Muir and Denis Norden from ‘Take it from Here’ days.
    I was saddened as a youngster by Tommy Handley’s death, and I recall being at a school friend’s house and hearing my first Take it from Here show. I then went back home and announced to my father that at last there was something good to take the place of Itma!

    I also used to like his ‘anecdotes’ and mentioned one a few weeks ago with a possible crossword flavour – he was pondering over a problem while mending a puncture when the solution suddenly hit him in the eye.

  45. Ian says:

    A good example of why some of the most satisfying crosswords aren’t necessarily the hardest to complete.

    Elegant throughout.

    Bravo Brendan and thanks for the excellent blog mhl..

  46. Daniel Miller says:

    It takes a certain amount of kill to complete The Guardian crossword.

  47. Huw Powell says:

    I may be remembering incorrectly, but I though only 8 or so months had an IDES? Oh well…

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