Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,275 / Rufus

Posted by mhl on March 21st, 2011


Some typical Monday fun from Rufus, with lovely surface readings throughout.

5. BAD EGG A nice double definition: “Scoundrel” and “best avoided by soldiers” (referring to the bits of toast that you dip in a boiled egg)
6. SALAAM MA = “Scholar” + ALAS = “regrettably” all reversed; Definition: “to make obeisance”
9. ALLEGE LEG = “some body” in ALE = “the beer”; Definition: “Maintain”
10. HEIRLOOM Cryptic defintion: a joke on the LOOM in HEIRLOOM, and a son perhaps being an HEIR
11. TOPI Cryptic definition: a TOPI is a hat typically worn in India and Nepal, where one might have a “baked bean” (“bean” meaning “head”) if not wearing a hat as protection
12. SCEPTICISM Cryptic definition: “to give credit” as in “to give credit to an idea”
13. UNSEAWORTHY (SOUTHERN WAY)*; Definition: “unfit for the voyage”
18. SHOESTRING Cryptic definition: if you’re on a shoesting, you’re on a strict budget, and a shoe string would be found “afoot”
21. NORM NO + RM (Royal Marine) = “jolly”; Definition: “Mean?”, as in “average”
22. OLIGARCH Cryptic definition: An OLIGARCH is one of an OLIGARCHY, or “A boss in a limited company”
23. ABSENT ABS = “sailors” (an AB is an Able Seaman) followed by (TEN)*; Definition: “Missing”
24. ENTRAP (TEN)* + RAP = “a quick blow”; Definition: “Catch”
25. DISUSE (ISSUES)*; Definition: “when there’s no employment”
1. ADHESION (HAD)* followed by NOISE = “rumour” reversed; Definition: “attachment”
2. AGREES AGES = “a long time” around RE = “again”; Definition: “Consents”
3. BANISTER IS with BANTER = “jesting” around the outside; Definition: “support in flight”
4. GARLIC IL = “the Italian” in CRAG = “rock”, all reversed; Definition: “Plant”
5. BELLOC BELL = “ring” (as in “to give someone a bell”) + CO = “firm” reversed; Definition: “Writer”
7. MAOIST (TAOISM)*; Definition: “Revolutionary”
8. WHEELWRIGHT A nice cryptic definition: a WHEELWRIGHT would work with spokes
14. EXTERNAL ETERNAL = “always” around X = “a wrong mark”; Definition: “One sort of examiner”
15. HANDS OUT Double definition: “Distributes” and “Hands out!” = “striking proclamation”, with “hands” meaning “workers”
16. SHELVE SHE = “girl” + LOVE = “affection” without O = “ring”; Definition: “Put off”
17. BRONZE Double definition: “an age” and “to get a suntan”
19. EIGHTS Double definition: “Numbers” and “set out in rows” – I’m not good with rowing terminology, but I guess the latter part refers to “an eight” being a crew of rowers (or their boat)
20. GRATIS RAT = “a deserter” in GIS = “soldiers”; Definition: “Free”

59 Responses to “Guardian 25,275 / Rufus”

  1. smutchin says:

    “lovely surface readings throughout” – agreed.

    6a was the only one to give me any trouble – not familiar with the definition of “salaam” (I thought it was just a greeting?)

  2. Eileen says:

    Thanks for a good blog, mhl.

    As you say, the usual lovely surface readings and some great clues. I liked 3 and 11ac and 8dn particularly.

    [I’m not very happy about EXTERNAL = always in 14dn.]

  3. Eileen says:

    I mean ETERNAL, of course – sorry!

  4. Eileen says:

    Hi smutchin

    Chambers gives SALAAM = obeisance.

  5. smutchin says:

    Hi Eileen, yes – I’m not questioning Rufus, more admitting a gap in my knowledge… obeisance makes me think of bowing or a military salute, things like that. I thought “Salaam” was just a greeting like “Good morning”.

  6. Dad'sLad says:

    Thanks mhl,

    I found this a bit trickier than usual, e.g. TOPI, SALAAM. Incidentally, you have missed a ‘Y’ in your answer to 13a.

  7. mhl says:

    smutchin: “salaam” apparently can also be used as a verb, meaning “to perform a salaam”. (I linked to Wiktionary, but various other online dictionaries (including the OED, for those with access) support that. I’m afraid I don’t have online access to Chambers or Collins because they’re apparently both too inept to provide a proper website.)

  8. mhl says:

    Dad’sLad: Thanks for spotting that – corrected now.

  9. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl and Rufus

    This was quite the trickiest Rufus for me that I remember, and I wondered once or twice if I would complete it. Some of the thought associations were quite devious, but perseverance was rewarded in the end. Good surfaces as others have said.

    I needed to be reminded of ‘jolly’ for Marine before seeing 21a. The question mark just about legitimises the answer.

    Favourite clues were 11a and 22a. 3d, 4d, and 14d also amused.

  10. Robi says:

    Good puzzle, Rufus; and thanks to mhl for the blog. As tupu said, a bit tricky in parts.

    I particularly liked BAD EGG, SALAAM, BANISTER and EIGHTS. I spent some time trying to work out the wordplay in OLIGARCH and came here to find the answer, but it turned out to be only a cd. Good that TOPI did not mean African antelope for once, although I didn’t realise bean=head – I thought it must have something to do with Mr. Bean’s hats.

  11. crypticsue says:

    A lovely puzzle – I did find one or two clues took me longer to get than they ought. I thought 5a was brilliant!

  12. Dave Ellison says:

    As you know, Rufus is not my favourite -six6 cryptic definitions of dubious entertainment value

  13. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, mhl.

    I struggled with this as well. I do generally like Rufus’ cds, but there were rather a lot today and I didn’t help myself by putting in GHOSTWRITER at 8dn once I had a couple of crossing letters. I suppose that’s why some folk don’t like cds: for me, GHOSTWRITER is a perfectly acceptable answer but you’ve no way of knowing if it’s definitely right until you find that the rest of the puzzle doesn’t work.

    But 16dn was a brilliant surface, which brought the smile back to my face.

  14. RCWhiting says:

    This was the hardest Rufus I can remember (30+ years).
    I failed to get 11ac.
    I liked 13a, 10a and 1d.

  15. RCWhiting says:

    Also 5a,an ‘egg’ is a name for a type of grenade,bomb etc.

  16. RCWhiting says:

    Sorry, back again. The anagram in 25 ac is (issued)* not (issues)*.

  17. Bryan says:

    Many thanks mhl.

    This was certainly the toughest Rufus EVER but very enjoyable, as always.

    Rufus – hiding under the alias of Dante – also appears as the setter of today’s FT Prize Puzzle. Rather cheekily, he actually mentions Guardian in one of his clues!

    Many thanks Rufus and Dante.

  18. Geoff says:

    I found this rather tricky, as a result of the large number of cd/dd clues – in several of the dd clues, one of the definitions was itself cryptic. With cds particularly, either you see them or you don’t; there is no other way to get a purchase on the clue. WHEELWRIGHT leapt out at me; OLIGARCH and SHOESTRING took longer (I considered DESTOCKING for 18ac) and TOPI was my last entry.

    Very typical of Rufus, of course; I am full of admiration for his cleverness in combining all these misleading allusions with beautiful surface readings (5ac made me smile), but puzzles like these do not entertain me in the same way as those with more variety in their clueing.

    Nevertheless, I did get there in the end, without recourse to any 14dn aid.

  19. Stella Heath says:

    I’m just glad I’m not the only one who found this more difficult than expected. Had to cheat on ‘topi’, and come here for an explanation.

    Enjoyable, none the less. Thanks mhl and Rufus.

  20. Stella Heath says:

    PS.: ‘baked beans’ indeed! It’s quite funny once explained šŸ˜€

  21. chas says:

    I missed the soldiers / boiled egg in 5a so I was left with “it ought to be bad egg but why?”.
    I failed totally with 11.

    Many thanks to mhl.

  22. otter says:

    mhl, if you want to use Chambers 21st Century Dictionary online, and you use Firefox as your browser, clicking on this link should add it to the list of search engines available to you in the search bar at the top right of your browser window. (There was a mention that it might work in Internet Explorer 8 as well, but I can’t confirm this.) From

    Alternatively you can do it via the Chambers search page:

    Neither give you access to the full dictionary, but in this case either give definitions for salaam. (I wouldn’t have thought of the word to mean obeisance either, but now am reminded that I have heard of ‘performing the salaam’, ie performing a bow with a hand to the forehead.)

  23. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog mhl. Like Stella @19, I’m glad it wasn’t just me, too! I found this very hard for Rufus and got badly stuck for a while, with the NE and SW corners looking pretty empty. Great surfaces as ever. I liked 16dn and 3dn. 6ac was my last.

    A bit of a shock to the system for a Monday!

  24. yogdaws says:

    Thank you mhl

    A great Rufus this one full of deft, witty cunning.

    18a gets my vote for favourite clue. Topical and funny.

    My demi-Egyptian, Arabic-speaking solving partner favoured 6a.

    All the best…

  25. Robi says:

    P.S. I think the Quiptic today is at least as difficult, if you can face another one!

  26. Eileen says:

    And, if you want more ‘Rufus’, there’s a Dante in the FT!

    I meant to say that I found this harder going than usual, too, having already said that about last week’s. I think Rufus is toughening up – in response to the ‘too easy’ gibes!

    Does no one else have thoughts about ETERNAL for ‘always’ in 14dn?

  27. Gary says:

    Unless you already know the word ‘topi’ there is literally no way of getting that clue, even if you realise baked bean means a hot head. (which is the worst sort of clue in my opinion) Other than that it was a good ‘un I thought

  28. RCWhiting says:

    Eileen, I hate to leave you bereft of eternal comments but what is your desire, dear lady.
    Are you doubting the equivalence of always and eternal. Think of love.

  29. Eileen says:

    Hi RCWhiting

    I know the ideas are equivalent but ‘always’ is an adverb and ‘eternal’ is an adjective.

    I can love always / eternally or enjoy an eternal love – but not an ‘always’ one! :-)

    I can’t think of any instance where the two words could be interchanged

  30. otter says:

    I found about half of this pretty hard too, but I am having a bad brain day today, so thought it might be just me.

    I’m not keen on always=eternal, for the reason Eileen gives, but there were several others I thought were a bit weak. Can’t remember what they were now, however.

  31. Martin H says:

    I’m with Dave @12. The odd cd is occasionally useful as seasoning, but Rufus has gone mad with the pepper pot again. “He only does it to annoy, because he knows it teases.” I wonder.

    In the light of 8d, can anyone tell me the difference between a cd and a simple pun?

    1 and 25 were good.

    Eileen, I agree with you about ‘eternal’. I’m also getting tired of the soldiers/boiled egg joke.

  32. Martin H says:

    On topic: MAOIST was feeble, EIGHTS incoherent.
    Off: Sil, if you pass this way today – I replied to your query on Saturday @29 in the Pasquale section.

  33. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen

    You are of course strictly ( :) in syntax as all other things) correct.

    I have checked OED and it does give a few old entries as a ‘Quasi-adverb’ but nothing at all contemporary.

    8. quasi-adv.

    1614 S. Rowlands Fooles Bolt 36 Such sable colours should be worne, for them that do eternall mourne.
    1616 Shakespeare Winter’s Tale (1623) i. ii. 66 We were?Two Lads, that thought there was no more behind, But?to be Boy eternall.
    1671 Milton Paradise Regain’d iv. 388 What Kingdom, Real or Allegoric I discern not, Nor when, eternal sure, as without end, Without beginning.

    I’m not wholly convinced by the Shakespeare, but the other two seem OK. I suppose a modern example might be ‘Love burns eternal’ but arguably it may strictly speaking still be adjectival there.

  34. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu

    Many thanks for all the research!

    Of course there’s Pope’s ‘Hope springs eternal’, too, but, as you say, it is strictly adjectival.

    I really liked this clue, apart from this quibble!

  35. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen
    So did I. I thought it was cleverly deceptive. Could it possibly be an anagram? Or is ‘a wrong mark’ an anagram of ‘a scar’ or of ‘a mark’ itself in ‘ever’ or ‘e’er’ etc. And it is not prima facie likely that the answer and definition both (accidentally) begin with ‘ex’.

  36. mike04 says:

    Hi Eileen, tupu and others

    How about Pope’s ‘Hope springs eternal in the human breast’?

    To me, the meaning is preserved if ‘always’ replaces ‘eternal’.
    The parts of speech may be different, but I wonder if this matters.
    If even one example of equivalence can be found, is this not sufficient for CROSSWORDLAND?

  37. mike04 says:

    Sorry to repeat Mr Pope: I’m a slow typist! mike04

  38. Derek Lazenby says:

    Yes, one of his harder ones! Got stuck on just one as I didn’t know RM=jolly. Jolly jack tar I know, but is that the same? I didn’t think it was.

    Umm DISUSE is not an anagram of ISSUES. D next to S on the keyboard methinks.

  39. Eileen says:

    Sorry, tupu, you’ve lost me completely now!

    I liked the surface so much that I’ll leave it there, I think.

    [Thanks, mike04]

  40. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen

    I was merely describing where my mind was led before I saw the answer!

  41. Geoff says:

    On the subject of 14dn, I am firmly with Eileen. ETERNAL is an adjective and ‘always’ is invariably an adverb. All of the quotations in which ETERNAL is purportedly used adverbially are better interpreted as predicative (rather than attributive) adjectival uses. Using the interchangeability of words in quotations, however famous, is stretching a point too far. Comparisons are odorous, as you might say.

  42. RCWhiting says:

    It didn’t bother me, seemed close enough to not be unfair on the solvers.
    Rufus must have thought the same since it would have been very easy to use “for always” which only slightly scratches the surface.

  43. tupu says:

    Hi geoff

    I find it hard to see how the Rowlands case can be seen as a ‘predicative adjective’. It seems to relate pretty clearly to the verb (mourn) rather than any noun, pronoun or noun phrase. The Pope case seems less certain. The fact that all the quotes are ‘ancient’ and poetic adds to the difficulty, of course.

  44. FumbleFingers says:

    Agree with Gary @27. Not being familiar with TOPI, I couldn’t possibly get 11a – even if I had equated “bean” with “head” in a flash of inspiration (unlikely, since I’ve rarely come across that usage in recent decades). I think I’d have been less disgruntled with that particular clue in a Saturday prize puzzle or a “Bank Holiday Special”.

    I generally expect Monday’s Rufus to be easier than average, but as others have indicated, several other clues here were also more tricky than his usual fare.

  45. Geoff says:

    Hi tupu

    Point taken re the Samuel Rowlands quote, but it’s a horrible piece of doggerel from an author who, according to Wikipedia, ‘seems to have had no contemporary literary reputation’ and doesn’t merit a single entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations! Well done for finding it though!

  46. Ian says:

    Without doubt the toughest Rufus I can remember.

    Some very difficult cryptic definitions that took consider a lot of thought to coax the solution.

    11 AC typical of the level of difficulty presented.

  47. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Just like many others, we cannot remember having spent so much time on a Rufus in recent times.
    In the end only TOPI (11ac) defeated us, one of 6 cd’s.
    I am not sure though that these cryptic and double definitions [really more than usual?] were the reason for this puzzle being relatively challenging.
    We thought there were more clues based on ‘construction’ today.
    Like 1d (ADHESION), 16d (SHELVE), 4d (GARLIC) and 14d (EXTERNAL).
    These clues have a kind of cleverness that one will not always expect in a Rufus crossword, let alone external … :)
    In addition to that, as you say, mhl, there were some lovely surfaces to admire.

    We surely liked it, but it was this fairly untypical Rufus-clueing that seemed to make it harder than usual. Just try today’s Dante and you will experience the difference.

    Martin H @32, I have read your reply at Pasquale’s blog and I do see/understand your point. When I’m not as tired as I am now, I might come back to it.

    Good start of another good Guardian week?

  48. tupu says:

    Thanks Geoff. :)I think we may have to agree to agree!

    Topi seems to have caused the most trouble. I wonder if this is due to its combination of at least 3 ‘puzzling’ elements.

    1. The word seems unfamiliar to several solvers.
    2. The ‘baked beans’ idea of ‘sun-burned heads’ involves quite an effort of bridging imagination and some people do not know that ‘bean’ is (old?) schoolboy/girl slang for ‘head’ as in ‘bonked him on the bean’.
    3. The neat surface also involves ‘lid’ = ‘hat’.

    Others with more experience may correct me (please), but I suspect this degree of complication is unusual – and exceptionally clever given that the answer is so short. I was lucky enough to know the word, and only saw the logic once I was ‘entertaining’ it.

  49. Carrots says:

    Yep…Rufus is getting trickier…and “Goody” cries my newspaper bill. I also bought the Indy today in anticipation of a Grauniad walkover, but the Rufus puzzle is only just complete. Oh I do wish I could emulate tupu (who knows of all things) and bewitch ladies with talk of “predicatives” and such like.

  50. Martin H says:

    I know it’s late, but my earlier question was a serious one:

    In the light of 8d, can anyone tell me the difference between a cd and a simple pun?

    Because surely there ought to be a difference.

  51. tupu says:

    Hi Martin H
    Fools rush in! I was tempted to think about your question last night but left it till now.

    Firstly, I’m not sure if there is ‘a simple pun’. COD gives for pun.
    1. humorous use of word to suggest different meanings.

    2. humorous use of words with same or similar sounds with different meanings.

    3. play on words.

    We can probably leave 3 out here. No doubt there may be other glosses elesewhere.

    I take a cd to be a definition of something in a surprising (and often but not necessarily humorous) way.

    There is clearly overlap between these areas and ‘spokesman’ seems a good example. This seems to involve Pun 2.

    A. There are however some puns where no definition is involved. COD gives ‘Gout has taken him in toe’.

    Another example might be a mock examination question in ‘media studies’. “Pornography is the spice of life. Disgust”.

    B. There are also cds where punning (1) and (slang) metaphor seem hard to separate. 11a might be an example where ‘baked’, ‘beans’ and ‘lid’ are all played with.

    C. Then there are cds like 22a where I hesitate to describe the clue as ‘a pun’ but I suppose it might be a combination of weak puns (1). But we get close to saying that any use of different meanings of the same word(s) is a pun e.g. reluctance to give credit in 12a.

    Overall, it may be that function is the key. A cd is designed to define in a cryptic way. A pun is a kind of joke. When one combines both functions (as in many crossword clues) there will be overlap.

    A collection of rude noises? Punnet?

  52. tupu says:

    Another consideration is the world of riddles as cds. These need not involve puns at all. A very widespread riddle is ‘A house with no door’ – Answer ‘an egg’. Or I cam across one in Tanzania – ‘If they were spears they would surely kill us’ – Answer ‘the stars’. And there must be lots of coded cds of the sort Dan Brown goes in for.

  53. hughr says:

    Glad others found it tough. When I see a Rufus, I usually hope to have a sporting chance of at least getting half of them but I only got a few here.

    For 20 down I got the GIS bit but got RAT by thinking of desert rats as a nickname for certain soldiers. Probably not the right way to get at the answer but anyway.. I wasn’t familiar with RAT as a term for a deserter from the army, more as a grass or informer – probably been watching too much Sopranos.

  54. Huw Powell says:

    I guess I have never been very excited by “surfaces”, perhaps because I cut my teeth of the late Frank Lewis’ puzzles in The Nation, and he never really worked to make what I have seen in some of the UK setters’ clues’ amazing surface readings.

    I hate to come here to complain, since I think it is generally bad form, but reflecting Dave @ 12, yes, the odd cryptic def can be a nice bit of spice. But having them all over a puzzle, to me, detracts from what I came for – clue-solving.

    Sil & friend, I think part of what this puzzle difficult was my pet peeve – the grid is incredibly isolated. Finishing one quadrant gives one almost nothing to work with elsewhere. It didn’t help that most of the words that connect the quadrants were so-called “cryptic definitions”, by which I mean “unsolvable”.

    As far as the big E(X)TERNAL debate, once I saw it, I had no problem with something as trivial as a part of speech.

    Yes, I finished this one, amazingly (with lots of research, mind you).

    TOPI was part of a clue a few days ago, building TROPICAL or TROPICS or some such. But here it struck me as – I am sorry to have to say this – lazy. Why not come up with a good clue for TAPS or TYPE or TOPS or TAPE or, well, even TOPI?

    Thanks or the blog, mhl, and of course, even though I complained a lot, for the puzzle, Rufus.

  55. Martin H says:

    hi tupu – Sorry, I didn’t ignore your reply – I didn’t see it. I was out all day yesterday and only looked at the Orlando correspondence when I got in. Yes, it was ‘spokesman’ which set me thinking. We have the play on the meanings of ‘spoke’, but that’s all we have. You say there is no ‘simple’ pun – fair enough; I should perhaps have said an unadorned, undeveloped or bald pun. Rufus’s clue ‘A certain reluctance to give credit’ (12a) has something about it. ‘Certain’ and ‘reluctance’ develop the clue, quite cleverly delineating certain characteristics of scepticism. I don’t like it all that much, but at least it is an unambivalent cryptic description, whereas ‘spokesman’, apart from the double meaning, is empty. Kathryn’s Dad put ‘ghostwriter’, which I think is an acceptable answer, there being nothing to point anyone in the intended direction. In other words I don’t think 8d qualifies as a cryptic definition – it’s just a pun.

  56. tupu says:

    Hi Martin H

    Thanks. My comment to Carrots arose out of Orlando @25-29.
    It seems I tried to address your question more generally than you seem to have intended. I suppose my main point is that some cds are puns and others not, and vice versa. I see no great harm in this.

  57. Martin H says:

    Hi tupu – yes, I saw your comments under Orlando; they seemed a little inscrutable at the time, lacking a reference, and I didn’t have the nous (late, heavy day) to look in the right place.

    Your typically thorough general approach does reveal some interesting avenues to explore, like your example B. I’m not sure if slang terms are essentially different from any other sort of language as far as their use in punning goes. The interesting thing, I think, is that most slang terms have their origin in some sort of perceived resemblance between two things. So ‘bean’ for head is itself a sort of visual pun in the first place. The urge to make, or recognise, these and more complex sorts of playful connections surely explains, at least in part, the fascination of crosswords. As with the language in 12a, ‘bean’ and ‘lid’ lead us idiomatically to the type who would wear a topi, so I call 11ac a genuine clue in the sense I outlined in 55 above.

    As you say, “Overall, it may be that function is the key. A cd is designed to define in a cryptic way. A pun is a kind of joke”. So there’s the difference? Even if Samuel Beckett’s “In the beginning was the pun”, is true, I think we still need something more elaborate than just the joke to make a good clue.

    So I certainly don’t feel you’ve wasted my time. Thanks for your replies.


  58. tupu says:

    Hi Martin H

    Thanks for that. Sorry re inscrutability – :)its a good job I don’t set! Cheers.

  59. maarvarq says:

    No complaints about two clues (23dn, 24 dn) in a row using “ten” and an anagrind to produce “E-N-T”? I suppose most of the solvers were grateful for the small mercy (as was I :))

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