Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,300 / Boatman

Posted by Gaufrid on April 19th, 2011


Uncle Yap is away so I have the pleasure of covering today’s excellent puzzle.

An appropriate theme for the week before Easter, including as it does the ‘cross’, with several clues also being of an ecclesiastic nature. Some fine surfaces, interesting definitions and unusual anagram indicators in a puzzle that I found tricky in places. I did have one or two concerns whilst solving, for example 1dn and 5dn, but this did not detract from a most enjoyable solve.

Whilst checking Chambers to confirm a suspicion about 5dn I came across the following definition which amused me, particularly with the local elections coming up soon which has resulted in a plethora of leaflets and several knocks on the door.

bafflegab noun (slang) – the professional logorrhoea of many politicians, officials and salespeople, characterized by prolix abstract circumlocution and/or a profusion of abstruse technical terminology, used as a means of persuasion, pacification or obfuscation”

7 OSTRICH *(H[i]STORIC) – what would setters do without cricket (presumably many spectators solve crosswords to wile away the time whilst field settings are rearranged etc)? This time we have a reference to the retired umpire Harold ‘Dicky’ Bird.
8 PINHEAD P IN HEAD (may be heap’d?) – a reference to ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’ or ‘Whether a Million of Angels may not fit upon a needle’s point’.
10 CHAPEL H[oly] (holy cardinal) in *(PLACE) – an unusual anagram indicator in an excellent clue.
11 PROLAPSE PRO (expert) LAPSE (mistake) – “a falling down or out of place (usu of an organ, esp the womb)” (Chambers).
12 LUDO *(LOUD) – another anagram indicator that I don’t recall seeing before.
13 PERFECTION *(PIECE FRONT) – ‘cross’ as in ‘hybrid’ for the anagram indicator.
14 TRIAL SAMPLE TRIAL (cross) SAMPLE (piece) – ‘trial’ and ‘cross’ as in ‘suffering’.
19 CROSSWORDS CROSS (partial theme) WORDS (debate)
23 BULLETIN BULL (beast) homophone (report) of ‘ate in’ (was not out for lunch)
24 FRIEND FRI (last day of week) END – another clue where one of the words needs to be split before parsing.
25 MONGREL hidden in ‘aMONG RELiquaries’ – ‘crosspiece’ needs to be split to give the definition and the containment indicator though ‘among’ appears to be doing double duty as part of the indicator and part of the fodder.
26 REVERSE RE (Christian teaching {Religious Education}) VERSE (part of the Bible)
1 ISTHMUS IS TH[e]M[e] (theme pointless) US (Boatmen) – is it reasonable to use ‘Boatmen’ to give US?
2 TRAPDOOR ROOD (cross) PART (piece) reversed
3 SCHLEP C (college) in *(HELPS) – “a journey or procedure requiring great effort or involving great difficulty” (Chambers)
4 LINOLEUM L (50) IN O (love) L[if]E U (classy) M (gent) – an interesting definition!
5 THWART double def. – ‘baffling’ is an adjective but according to Chambers the only adjectival use of ‘thwart’ is in the sense of “crosswise, transverse, adverse, cross, perverse, cross-grained” though perhaps ‘perverse’ is close enough to ‘baffling’ for the clue to work.
6,22 PASSION PLAY PA (father) SION (heaven) in SPLAY (spread)
def. & cryptic def. – again the theme word needs to be split to give the definition, this dramatic presentation.
Edit: Thanks Eileen for the parsing that I had failed to see.
9 SPORTS ARENA TSAR (person with power) in SPORE (seed) N (new) A[thletics] – I spent far too long trying to find a three-letter word that I could put inside an anagram of ‘can seed’ followed by ‘a’ to give the name of an arena.
15 ATWITTER WIT (satirist) in [h]ATTER (Tea Party man loses head) – the character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
17 CROÛTON ROUT (hammer) in CON (racket)
18 MADNESS MAD (cross) NESS (piece of land into water) – a ‘ness’ is a headland.
20 SILAGE IS reversed LAG (convict) E (ecstasy)
21 SOFTEN [weaknes]S OF (possessed by) TEN (Cardinal of the Cross) – ten is a cardinal number which is also depicted by the Roman numeral X.

44 Responses to “Guardian 25,300 / Boatman”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid.

    The answer to 6,22 was obvious enough but I’m still no closer to understanding the cryptic definition part; obviously I’m missing something glaringly obvious but would appreciate a little more explanation.

  2. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Gaufrid, for an excellent blog of, for me, a very difficult puzzle, which I’m afraid I gave up on, which was disappointing, since I usually enjoy Boatman’s puzzles.

    There were several cases [eg 10ac] where, even though I got the answer, I couldn’t parse it, and so was grateful for the blog.

    However, I can help with 5dn. It works if you take the definition as ‘be baffling': ‘to be baffling’ = ‘to thwart’.

  3. Eileen says:

    I’ve just seen Neil’s comment: this is one I could do!

    PA [father] + SPLAY [spread] round [over] SION [heaven]

  4. Eileen says:

    Sorry – I meant ‘across’, not ‘over’,

  5. Gaufrid says:

    Hi NeilW
    Fortunately Eileen has now supplied the wordplay for 6,22. My ‘cryptic’ interpretation was from having a mental image of Christ on the cross which is often depicted on top of a hill with nothing but sky behind him.

    Hi Eileen
    Thanks for the parsing of 6,22. I like your explanation for 5dn but that would mean either ‘be’ is doing double duty or ‘could’ is simply a joiner for the two definitions. If the latter then it is possibly a case of misdirection taken a step too far.

  6. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen. SION isn’t in my iPhone Chambers and a quick hunt around the web doesn’t give Heaven as a definition, even of the transliteration Zion, so I’ll remain feeling very slightly justified for missing this!

  7. Eileen says:

    Hi Gaufrid

    Re 5dn: I thought you would say that – and I thought the same – but, since we had a case of ‘double duty’ in MONGREL …

    Hi NeilW

    My Chambers doesn’t give ‘Sion’ but does give ‘heaven’ for ‘ZION’.

  8. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Gaufrid, which I needed more than ever this morning! I found this very hard and the only way I finished was with a much heavier use of the check button than I would have liked. Needed the blog to understand 10ac, 8ac and 6dn (thanks Eileen!).

    A real toughie. The def at 4dn made me smile.

  9. Gaufrid says:

    Hi NeilW @6
    As Eileen has indicated, Chambers does give Zion=heaven but not Sion. However, Oxford Online has “Zion or Sion – (in Christian thought) the heavenly city or kingdom of heaven.”

  10. NeilW says:

    Hi Eileen – yes, you’re right. It’s in the iPhone’s Chambers as well. The clue still seems a little unfair, though.

  11. Geoff says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid.

    This was a real toughie – I stared at it for about a quarter of an hour and only got one answer. Eventually it did succumb, but it has taken me most of the morning, on and off.

    Curiously, PASSION PLAY was one of my first entries, and I managed to parse it (as Eileen), after a bit of a struggle.

    There are several clues where the wording is rather loose: 5d, as already mentioned (‘be’ has to be counted twice), 10a (‘place’ is anagram fodder as well as part of the def), 9d (where ‘can’ seems to be a linker – it doesn’t make any sense otherwise), 25a (‘among’ is both the container indicator and part of the container). Even Araucaria is rarely so cavalier!

    I don’t really understand the parsing for 8a. PINHEAD came to me very quickly, because of the ‘million angels’ reference, but I didn’t put it in until I had 4d and 6d. It seems to be a ‘reverse clue’ because of the wording (ie the answer could be taken as a cryptic clue for the clue as written). It looks to me like IN inside *(HEAPD), but I’m not sure quite how that fits.

    Despite some very good clues (I particularly enjoyed 7a, 11a, 24a, 26a, 17d, 21d), this puzzle was, for me, a bit more trouble than it was worth.

  12. Geoff says:

    Correction – I have seen P IN(side) HEAD. Duh!

  13. Robi says:

    This was only enjoyable in a masochistic way. I eventually finished with heavy use of a word search programme and the check button.

    Thanks Gaufrid for a splendid blog. I needed your help on a number of these. I even missed the ha in MONGREL, but by then my brain was pretty fried. PINHEAD was a classic – I thought it was an anagram of HEAP’D and IN, but I see from the blog what was intended.

    Maybe the clue to PROLAPSE is a reference to spinal discs that should be in, but in a prolapsed state go out (?)

    Re LUDO, explode and explosive are in my Chambers Anagram Indicator list. BTW does ‘bags’ in this clue refer to anything or is it just there to make a good surface?

  14. rrc says:

    I enjoyed a number of clues 7 8 10 17 18 20 23 25 which seemed a lot easier to work out that the crosspiece references most of which escaped me. agree with Liz far too much use of checkbutton, and even a couple where I couldbt be bothered to work out the answer a very mixed bag

  15. NeilW says:


    I wondered as you did about LUDO and bags – googling the combination does reveal a type of bag called LUDO but I never really got to the bottom of it, having really wasted too much of the day already on this puzzle!

  16. Tony says:

    Several knocks on the door at election time, Gaufrid? You should consider yourself privileged. I’m in my 50s and although I’ve had many leaflets through the door, no one has ever knocked on it to ask me how I intend to vote or if I would please vote for a particular candidate. I would love to have such a discussion. Thanks for the solution, anyway.

  17. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Gaufrid.
    Fine blog of a very tough and very enjoyable puzzle.
    This one had a bit of everything,a well worked theme,clever wordplay,witty definitions and this setter’s trademark use of Boatman/men.
    I am probably more used to Boatman than most Guardian solvers as he has set puzzles in Araucaria’s One Across magazine for quite some time;including the prize puzzle in this month’s edition,which,I’m sure,will be even harder than this one!
    I well remember one of his puzzles where nearly evry clue featured ‘Boatman’ as either definition or as part of the wordplay.It’s amazing how many ways it can be used e.g. I,ab,tar etc.

  18. tupu says:

    Thanks Gaufrid and Boatman

    Very hard and took rather more time than I would wish on a weekday.

    I failed to get the first part of 14a, and missed the correct parsing of 8a.

    I was convinced for a time that 5d would be Chiron – the cross part (chi) was OK but not ‘ron’ plus it became clear it didn’t fit.

    Much enjoyed seeing and parsing several clues inc. 11a!, 13a, 23a, 25a, 26a, 15d!.

    As neither religious nor a christian, I worried at first that I might not get anywhere at all with this easter offering. I also wondered a little what those who are both might make of it.

  19. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu

    Re 5dn

    I love your cross for chi – but, most uncharacteristically, you’re confusing Chiron with Charon. 😉

  20. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen

    Very many thanks for putting it so kindly.
    :)Oh dear. No wonder it didn’t fit – apart from all the other reasons!

    Re 7a I see from elsewhere in the Guardian that Harold ‘Dickie’ Bird is 78 today!

  21. Ian says:

    Thanks Gaufrid. This was unquestionably a demanding puzzle that contained several very complex constructions. This was Boatman at his most inventive, ingenious and playful.

    The novel approach to inserts and anagrams I much enjoyed.

    It took me three vists each of around 30 minutes. One before breakfast, two after.

    Started with the relatively simple ones that I assume everyone got reasonably quickly. They were Ludo, Ostrich, Lopsided, Atwitter, Isthmus, Trapdoor and Friend. There was then a lengthy gap. Timeout.

    The rest came slowly, especially as the religious theme wasn’t to my taste. The second phase included the horrible homophone for Bull-etin, Crouton, Pinhead and Madness.

    All done eventually but with no less than three unsuccessfully parsed. Thanks to Eileen for the explanation to Passion Play.

    Difficult – just about doable.

    Favourite clues:

    Sports Arena, Crouton and Thwart.

  22. Sil van den Hoek says:

    This was very hard. I usually like Boatman puzzles a lot, so I was a bit disappointed (about myself) that I got stuck in the NE and had to give up.

    It was clearly a tour de force by Boatman, so much cleverness and variation on a theme.
    Yet, I became slightly annoyed by the fact that I constantly had to split cross/piece (and week/end, too).

    It has already been mentioned that ‘among’ is doing double duty in 25ac (MONGREL), a thing that I didn’t really like. One reason for having CHAPEL but not being able to parse it, was another case of double duty (‘place’ as fodder and part of the defintion). Not so keen on that.

    I agree with Gaufrid (lucky you!) about the use of ‘us’ in 1d.
    For me, it feels like the wrong part of speech here. ‘Boatmen’ = ‘we’ would be correct, I think, but then it’s Crosswordland.
    Also like you, Gaufrid, I was focused on ‘can seed’ as anagram fodder in 9d. It wasn’t like that, but I’m not sure what to think of the word ‘can’ in this clue.
    An ‘interesting definition’ in 4d’s LINOLEUM. It surely is. The construction of the clue was (also) not my cup of tea: a chain of abbreviations.

    A crossword that was the opposite of a gentle stroll and – that may be clear – didn’t give me all of the joy that Boatman normally provides.
    That said, some great clues of course such as: 1ac (OSTRICH), 21d (SOFTEN), 26ac (REVERSE) or 6,22 (PASSION PLAY), to name a few.

  23. tupu says:

    Hi Sil and Gaufrid

    RE ‘us’. I am less troubled about this. There are situations where we use this and comparable forms idiomatically where ‘we’ might seem strictly speaking more correct.
    ‘Who is it?’ ‘It’s me, us’. ‘Hi, don’t worry about the noise, it’s only us’. And certainly in dialect we might also hear ‘Us northerners like our chip butties’ etc.

  24. Eileen says:

    We frequently meet ‘me’ as standing for, say, Boatman – and I don’t remember any complaints. I agree with tupu.

    I understood Gaufrid to be questioning whether it was reasonable for the plural, ‘Boatmen’, to give ‘US’. I had the same thought initially and decided that it was.

  25. Thomas99 says:

    I agree with Eileen re 1d. I don’t see the problem with boatmen=us in 1d. Boatman=me would be ok wouldn’t it? Is the problem that “us use it to cross…” doesn’t make a perfect surface (although as tupu says they do say that in some parts of the country)? But the surface isn’t that; it’s “Boatmen use it…” so I think it’s fine – and rather clever.

  26. tupu says:

    I think the parsing might be as Gaufrid says with ‘use it to cross a piece of water’ as definition.

  27. FLS says:

    We thought this was really quite unenjoyable on the grounds that religious based themes seldom make for interesting solving. Clunge!

  28. Superdad says:

    Is the anagrind in 10a not “non-conformist” rather than double duty place and the definition “of worship”?

  29. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Superdad @ 28, I think it is just as Gaufrid points out: H inside an anagram of PLACE. The anagram indicator used is: non-conformist. And the definition surely “place of worship” (therefore ‘place’ doing double duty ), but there is the confusing thing that one of the meanings of CHAPEL is … nonconformist (as an adjective).
    It’s all a bit too mixed up (to my taste, that is).
    Even “nonconformist place of worship” could be the definition.
    Maybe Boatman is fooling us all, with just “Holy cardinal” leading to CHAPEL ….
    Don’t think so, though. :)

  30. tupu says:

    Hi Sil

    I suspect, for what that’s worth, that both ‘nonconformist’ and ‘place’ are doing double duty here. As Eileen hints, this looks almost like a ‘signature’ feature of this puzzle, but a quick look at his two previous offerings also suggests it is not always his way with clues. Especially in 10a it becomes a sort of structural form of ‘double definition’ that allows different readings of the surface which converge on the same answer. From that point of view the redundancy in the double message is helpful for solving, but I can well understand that you prefer the possibility of stricter parsing. :) Having failed to get 14a (I plumped in desperation for ‘treat sample’, I would have welcomed some such extra pointer for that clue which does seem rather vaguely worded, though others do seem to have got it.

  31. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Gaufrid

    Afraid that I couldn’t get on Boatmans wavelength with this one.

  32. Wolfie says:

    Gaufrid – thank you for your excellent blog for a very difficult puzzle, which is the first Guardian cryptic for ages that I have abandoned unsolved. Perhaps it would have done better duty as the Saturday prize. Midweek I give myself a one hour limit and was nowhere near finishing when I ran out of time. Still, I confess that I can’t find much to complain about in the clueing.

  33. Martin H says:

    This felt forced; determinedly themed puzzles often do, but ‘crosspiece’ was surely always going to be a demanding element to handle. Simple ‘cross’ might have given the setter more flexibility – we might at least have been spared the repeated splitting that annoyed me and others. One or two questionable definitions and constructions have already been noted, but I’m surprised nobody has remarked on ‘spore’ = ‘seed’. ‘Satirist’ for ‘wit’ seems too loose too.

    Some lovely inventive and witty clues weren’t really enough to make this the excellent puzzle it could have been.

  34. Dad'sLad says:

    Thanks Gaufrid,

    I am a bit stubborn about trying to solve the puzzle before leaving for work in the morning and posting straightaway if there’s anything to help with. But this took all of 35 minutes this morning even with liberal use of the check button, swallowing posting (and breakfast!) time, hence my late appearance.

    Still not sure what to make of this. The answers are very fair with no obscure words/names at all – in stark contrast to some weekday puzzles this year. The less common meaning of THWART and the PINHEAD quote I didn’t know but they are fair clues. Nevertheless I still didn’t get the usual degree of satisfaction from completion. But hey-ho we all have our crosses to bear.

  35. Brian Harris says:

    Thought this was pretty awful for the most part. Overly complex constructions and some very tenuous synonyms (“wit” does not equal “satirist” as Martin H points out). Didn’t like the theme either. Too clever and no fun. Struggled to complete 3/4 of it then gave it.

  36. PeeDee says:

    Thanks Gaufrid, I needed your aid for the last couple of entires, very tough.

    I thought Boatman traded off some tighness in the clueing to get good surfaces in this puzzle. The surfaces were very good, I was immediately hooked by some of the clues, especially the leading clue 7 across which I just had to try and solve immediately. I can forgive bending of the rules when it results in an interesting and intriguing puzzle. I think that a talented setter taking liberties for effect is not the same thing as a weakly constructed puzzle from a poor setter.

  37. Carrots says:

    Not many puzzles recently that I`ve had to cheat with in order to get a start. I chose TRIAL SAMPLE and the clue to this solution alone should have sent me to bed in a darkened room, nursing a migraine. Foolishly, I persisted, and before it was put to bed after a couple of joyless hours, I felt that I`d lost a friend (Boatman) who has entertained and bedevilled us so joyously in the past.

    Maybe it was the quasi-religious theme, maybe it was the liberties taken in the clue-ing, or maybe it was just a case of a setter more focussed on confounding solvers rather than bewitching or seducing them…..whatever it was, this puzzle now enjoys pride of place on my dart-board.

    So, if you wake up in the night Boatman, with pangs of pain from well targeted arrows, `tis only I, returning the compliment.

  38. taxi phil says:

    Thank goodness for this blog ! I’m just home after working a 15 hour day, in the slack times of which I’ve read two papers and done the puzzles (or not as we shall see !)

    Boatman’s offering was the last thing I went to to. I expected a challenge – I DIDN’T expect to meet my Waterloo ! I knew it wasn’t brain failure, as I’d already done The Times puzzle in about 8 minutes.

    I must have spent a good two and a half hours over this beast (in sessions of between 5 and 20 minutes per visit) and finished less than half the puzzle. It didn’t help that I failed to crack 6/22, and that I didn’t translate “Ostrich” despite seeing the anagrind (no wonder I couldn’t justify “chorist” !)

    8 was totally unknown to me, I saw “chapel” but didn’t enter it because I couldn’t see the wordplay, failed lamentably to identify what should have been a simple one in “ludo”, and couldn’t prefix “sample” (“trial” was rather apposite !)

    I didn’t get (and wouldn’t have got) “thwart” either.

    I was prepared to be very critical of this puzzle, but thanks to the excellent blog I’ll hold my hands up and say “Well done Boatman – you totally outsmarted me this time !”

  39. Roger says:

    Thanks for ‘bafflegab’ Gaufrid … what a lovely word (and what a mouthful of a definition !)

    Found this a clever and ultimately enjoyable puzzle despite sailing through some pretty choppy waters. Especially liked isthmus, ostrich and bulletin.

    Learning last time of your interest in old buildings, Boatman, I thought we may have had a ‘transom’ or perhaps a ‘transept’ … but ‘ness’ made a return as promised so thanks for that and for a great puzzle.

  40. Radchenko says:

    Thanks for the blog and the explanations.

    Thanks also to everyone who could not finish it. It is always good to know you are not alone.

    Frankly I’ve been feeling like I’ve had some kind of brain injury in the last few weeks. The puzzles seem to have been getting harder and I’m solving fewer and giving up up on some, like today’s, hardly half way through. Some of the weekday puzzles are harder than the prize crossword or the Genius, I have found.

  41. Tony Davis says:

    We almost got there, with many misgivings along the way – 10ac being one of the first to be guessed but last to be entered – but gave up with two unsolved: 14ac and 15dn. SAMPLE was obvious, but TRIAL as a synonym for ‘cross’? Too obscure, I feel. In spite of our reasoning correctly that ATTER must figure in 15dn somehow, and even after I hesitantly suggested WIT for ‘satirist’, we failed to come up with ATWITTER (not a word we often use). However, we were heartened to find that Eileen, our lodestone and guiding star, also gave up, which to us confirms that this puzzle, though containing some gems, was ultimately flawed.

  42. Fallowfield says:

    This was an excellent example of a puzzle crucified on a theme.

  43. Boatman says:

    Late greetings, all. I was overly occupied on Tuesday and forgot to check in to see how you were enjoying the (cross)piece, otherwise I might have joined in the discussion on double-duty words. In the end, Tupu explained my way of thinking pretty clearly. Also, it was good to see that Roger noted my throw-away remark last time about the return of the ness …

    One thing that I can’t take credit for: I was stunned to hear that Tuesday was Dickie Bird’s birthday – not the first interesting co-incidence that’s happened since I started compiling. Clueing, it seems, moves in mysterious ways.

  44. Huw Powell says:

    Whew. A week later and I gave up with two to go, and a few still in pencil. Brutal puzzle, glad nobody posted spoilers on the ensuing blogs.

    Thanks Uncle Yap for explaining what I did get, and Boatman for a very strange trip.

    I did enjoy the theme and the many twisted ways it was used, which sort of justified (?) some of the loose cluing elsewhere…

    Message to our dear editor, Hugh: “this should have been a Thursday or Friday, if not a Prize, puzzle”.

    By the way, I spent two or three days staring at 3 solved clues, getting nowhere.

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