Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize No 25268 by Pasquale

Posted by bridgesong on March 19th, 2011


Solving time: about two hours, but we were watching the United v Arsenal game at the time. I acknowledge the substantial contribution from my friend and neighbour Timon, but the blog (and any mistakes) are all my own. It’s not often that we see Pasquale given a prize crossword, and this puzzle was certainly hard enough, (particularly 26 across), although I do have one or two quibbles over some of the other clues. The theme of the puzzle was that all the across clues shared a common definition, which had to be deduced. It turned out that they were all birds.

7 RINGTAIL *TRAILING. The first clue we solved, but it could have been a wide variety of animals at that stage
9 TOMTIT T(ime), T in OMIT
11 SANDERLING SANDER, LING (a fish). I wasted a little time here looking for a bird starting IRON..
12,22 MISSEL THRUSH *SLITHERS in MUSH. An alternative spelling of mistle-thrush (see the link)
17 SEA MEW SEAM, EW (positions at the table in bridge are conventionally referred to by the points of the compass)
20 LAVEROCK LAVE, ROCK. It’s a Scots dialect word for a lark
22 See 12
24 FOWL F, OWL. A clever clue, which was one of the last across clues to go in
25 PIGEON PI, O in GEN. GEN and DOPE are both slang terms for information
26 STARLING This is the only clue where we couldn’t work out the wordplay. A brief affair could be a fling, but why remove the “f”? And of course a celebrity could be a star. No other word meaning a bird seems to fit (I don’t think SEAPLANE fits the bill) so suggestions are welcome.
1 HIROHITO RO in HI, HI , TO. OR stands for “other ranks”, and “revolutionary” in the clue presumably refers to the fact that it has been reversed
3 DAMSEL MS in LEAD (rev). Not entirely sure about this, as it’s stretching the definition of LEAD to derive “experience”, but I can’t see any alternatives
13 SWINE FEVER WINE in SF, EVER. SF is Sinn Fein
18 WEST WING W in WE STING, where smart = sting. A nice surface reading
19 SKATES KATE in SS. The normal plural of skate(meaning a fish) is skate, but I suppose a plural form with an s is possible
21 ADONIS ADO on SIN(rev). The Labour peer
24 FOLD Double definition


Hold mouse over clue number to see clue.

31 Responses to “Guardian Prize No 25268 by Pasquale”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Bridgesong.26. I think ‘brief love affair’ is indeed fling and the f = female makes way for “star’.

    I concentrated on the down clues at first thinking that when I had enough crossing letters the across theme might emerge. That didn’t get me very far but then the anagram at 7 unlocked the door and I finished up solving most of the down clues with crossing letters.

    I wasn’t sure about the plural of SKATE either ; the OED doesn’t help and in most fishy cases I can think of (cod, salmon, trout etc) the singular and plural are alike.

  2. Biggles A says:

    3. Does not ‘experience” = ‘deal’ and ‘upsetting’ and anagrind?

  3. Biggles A says:

    Sorry, the second ‘and’ should be ‘an’.

  4. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Bridgesong.

    This certainly was a toughie with several birds that were new to me although – as it has turned out – perfectly guessable.

    10a DOVE was my first solution which immediately suggested that the theme revolved around brand names of toilet soap. Or whatever.

    3d DAMSEL immediately brought to mind ‘Damsel in Distress’ – a well-known phrase and also the title of a movie:

    This was a Thirties movie where, unusually, Fred was not partnered by Ginger.

    Curiously enough, my last entry was 25a PIGEON which then seemed so obvious that I could have kicked myself.

    Very enjoyable. Many thanks Pasquale.

  5. stiofain says:

    I couldnt work out STARLING either.
    Pasquale is my favourite setter
    his personality seeps into his xwords
    a grumpy old pedant lol
    I liked the plural SKATES
    eg “what did you catch?” “a couple of skates” “great get out the asafoetida”
    swine fever and flu within a week
    I need a lie down

  6. Biggles A says:

    5. Why MILLSTREAM?

  7. molonglo says:

    Thanks bridgesong. Like you I got 1a and looked for a possibly animal theme: but FOWL followed fairly soon after (nice one) so it was birds. Struggled a bit on the esoteric ones like LAVEROCK and had to check my guesses. Also like you, I failed to find a lead/experience link in 3d, but the answer was obvious. Ditto 21d, although down under this Lord is unknown. About an hour.

  8. cjl says:

    26. Perhaps “making female celebrity” means “F(emale) becomes STAR”, so FLING becomes STARLING.

  9. bridgesong says:

    Why MILLSTREAM, Biggles A? Because the version of the clue that appeared in the printed version of the paper was:
    Maybe watch millstream swirling
    However, the version online (and the one shown if you hover the cursor over the clue number) is different. Clearly Pasquale changed his mind at a late stage. The annotated version online also explains that LEAD in 3 down means experience as in “lead life”.

  10. bridgesong says:

    cjl @ 8, you are undoubtedly correct. It’s so obvious when the penny finally drops; what a clever clue!

  11. Dad'sLad says:

    Thanks bridgesong.

    Took a while to get into this, but once I’d got the theme it went reasonably smoothly. Only explanation I could think of for ‘female celebrity’ was that Jodie Foster played Clarice Starling in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. But that is tenuous at best.

  12. malc95 says:

    20a Laverock –

    try Wiki-ing “Scots birds”. Very informative!

  13. tupu says:

    Thanks bridgesong and Pasquale

    I found this to be enjoyable and typically well-clued with a reasonable degree of difficulty but not over-taxing. Some unfamiliar answers needed checking but were clear enough from the wordplay.

    I puzzled over ‘starling’ but came to the same conclusion as cjl (and BigglesA @1?). A clever clue.

    I assumed the ‘experience’ was as in ‘lead a life’ but lead is generally more purposive than experience.

    Like bridgesong, I first thought of iron in 11a. and for no good reason I briefly wondered about Ty(ro)ne in 22d and gamecock in 20a. I also first wondered whether port = l(eft) in 15a.

    I liked the dd in 24 with refs to poker, business and church all in 4 letters.

    After missing out on ‘abreast’ yesterday, I have been relieved that all my answers and parsings here have been ‘ship-shape and Bristol fashion’

  14. Storyteller says:

    25ac. Why is ‘holy’ parsed as ‘PI’?

  15. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Bridgesong @9, I did wonder, and tupu @ 13, perhaps my explanation was too subtle.

  16. Davy says:

    Thanks bridgesong,

    Funny how people think in different ways but FOWL was my first to go in and it was one of your last. People are indeed strange. I enjoyed this puzzle very much and finally finished it on Monday. The construction of the clues was tiptop and always fair. I coundn’t understand STARLING but it’s so obvious when read correctly (thanks Biggles). Favourite clues were SEA MEW, PIGEON, ATTENDEE and SWINE FEVER. For me, clue of the puzzle was ATTENDEE which has a ring of truth about it. Mr Ed definitely needs to up his game.
    Thanks Pasquale.

  17. Wolfie says:

    Storyteller: ‘Pi’ is an abbreviation of ‘Pious’

  18. Carrots says:

    I really enjoyed this Pasquale and was astonished to find my three guesses (DAMSEL, ADONIS & STARLING) were correct.
    A few pretty tangental clues (I still don`t understand “lead” in the DAMSEL clue, or “female” in STARLING) which left me puzzled rather than edified.

    Ho! Ho! Ho! tupu…good one! Reminds of the time in the late sixties when my wife was acosted by a scruffy derelict who muttered “Fine pair of Bristols Luv” as he shambled past. When she got home, more quizzical than offended, she asked me what he meant!

    Thanks for the blog Bridgesong…looks like we both stumbled over the same couple of clues. Not to worry, the rest of the puzzle made up for it. Now the covert task of sneaking off with today`s Araucaria…neatly sidestepping assigned gardening…..

  19. tupu says:

    Hi Carrots

    :) I swear it wusn’t me Guv!

  20. Martin H says:

    Enjoyed this. First in was FOWL, followed by RINGTAIL, then PIGEON, and I thought there must be a DOVE somewhere, so that was easy enough; so it looked like it was a pigeon theme, which wasn’t promising, but then TOMTIT appeared, so that was ok too. ‘Deal’ doesn’t work for me, even with Pasquale’s explanation, but it was a fine puzzle.

  21. Robi says:

    Nice puzzle Pasquale, and thanks to bridgesong for the good blog.

    I thought this was relatively straightforward for a prize one, once the theme emerged. I got a bit stuck at the beginning by slapping ‘maiden’ in instead of DAMSEL, which left me with a solution for 11 of ‘dandelions’ which didn’t help my progress.

    Like Bryan @4, my last in was PIGEON, which was quite a neat clue. I liked the wordplay in ORIOLE. Took a while to realise that SF=Irish politician.

  22. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Because we started with some Down clues, we didn’t get the theme early on.
    Should have started with (the easy) 1ac, just like you bridgesong.

    At first we didn’t find solving very satisfying – of course due to not finding the theme, but also because we didn’t find the surfaces very inspiring.
    In 15ac we initially thought that ‘orrible place must be ‘ell – giving us the obscure Erioll. Could be a name of someone. For some reason we were almost certain that 23ac had to be a name too, and therefore we were afraid to get a theme of cricketers …. :)

    How things changed.
    After everything fell in place, we started to enjoy this crossword.
    As ever very well clued by Pasquale.
    Last one to go in PINNER (6d), as we didn’t know that place in Middlesex – the only word that had to be checked.

    Funny enough, we didn’t have any problem with STARLING.
    I saw the construction immediately, was even a bit surprised to see this device being used twice in the puzzle.
    In 4d (ATTENDEE) Pasquale did the same trick, replacing the L (the Left) in Attlee with END.
    [btw, bridgesong, not sure whether your excellent blog clarifies this]

    Martin H (@20), a few days ago (Brummie’s puzzle) you wrote: “This was a dud theme: it didn’t lead anywhere (…) there was no connection between the solutions other than that they were simply, as 26d bluntly put it, ‘film’, making an almost endless list of possible candidates”.
    I am a bit confused by your view on themes now.
    Aren’t these ‘birds’ not simply ‘birds’, with an endless list of candidates, too?
    Glad you liked it, though. :)

    Fine crossword, perfect for a Saturday.

  23. Tokyo Colin says:

    Thanks bridgesong and Pasquale. When I finally found time and peace of mind to attempt a crossword, this was the one and it provided the escape I needed.

    It took a little while to cotton on to the theme. I had Ringtail from the first clue but for someone who grew up in country Australia, that’s a possum. After that I found myself regularly postulating a potential word from the wordplay, Googling to see if it matched the definition and getting a hit in every case. Sanderling, Missel Thrush, Redstart, Laverock, Pinner, Lanark and Torbay were just sequences of letters until they appeared in Wikipedia next to a picture of a bird, etc. I suppose it is a tribute to the precision of the cluing that I didn’t have a single miss.
    Favourite clue – 5 dn. I am glad I did the online version.

    And if anyone is interested, life goes on in Tokyo. The nuclear radiation scare is a media event while the tsunami was a horrific tragedy – nature at its most destructive. We are shellshocked, but safe and sound.

  24. tupu says:

    Thanks Tokyo Colin

    I, and I am sure others, have been thinking of you.

  25. bridgesong says:

    Sil @22, you’re quite right, I have now amended the blog, but on reflection it was perhaps too cryptic. I also thought 15ac might involve ‘ell.
    Tupu @ 24 speaks for all of us, I’m sure.

  26. Pasquale says:

    Thanks for all the feedback. My original idea was this might have been published on the day of the RSPB Birdwatch!

  27. Robi says:

    Thanks, Pasquale; it’s always nice to get some comment from the setters – you have a fairly awesome task, the difficulty of which is sometimes not fully appreciated. Looks like this one is several weeks late!

  28. Geoff says:

    Thanks to bridgesong and Pasquale.

    I got the theme very quickly and found this puzzle uncharacteristically easy for one of the Don’s.

    Last in was STARLING – it had to be a bird, and this was the only one I could find that would fit, but it took me a long time to parse it to confirm that this was the correct answer. My conclusion was the same as cjl@8, but I would have preferred ‘having made’ to ‘making’ in the clue.

  29. Martin H says:

    Hi Sil, if you’re still there – I’ve been away all weekend so have just seen your comment. If you look at my reply to anax, it might make my view a bit clearer. The film theme lacked focus, partly because Brummie’s selection seemed pretty random, and there are thousands of possible candidates for inclusion (far more than there are bird names anyway), and also because films, as I said, don’t have names in the same way birds do. ‘Tomtit’ is a bird is a bird, ‘Babe’ is a film, but also a few other things too; the theme is just too flabby. Also Pasquale’s presentation was, in my view, preferable: we are told there are certain clues which share a common definition: the clue’s belonging to the theme is not reflected in the surface – we don’t have that repetitive ’26 down’ every time, which I find annoying, even cacophonous. Even better, I think, is when we are told simply that a certain number of clues have something in common, and it’s up to us to find them. Brendan’s mousetrap theme, of course, was something else entirely.

  30. Barry says:

    Who else spent time looking up different types of lemur after first getting ‘ringtail’? Surely we’re all of that age to remember Johnny Morris on Animal Magic?

  31. timon says:

    Thanks to bridgesong for the opportunity to contribute, albeit in a small way, and the gracious mention in the heading. I wonder if others sometimes solve together; I certainly find it adds to the enjoyment especially when the light suddenly dawns about a tough clue, rather in the same way as sharing a joke.
    p.s. Carrots@18 isn’t the only one to use it as an excuse to get out of digging the garden/allotment…

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