Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,321 – Crucible

Posted by Andrew on May 13th, 2011


An outstandingly entertaining and interesting puzzle by Crucible, celebrating a quatercentenary, to end off an excellent week (I even quite enjoyed the Gordius!). I usually think of Crucible as being at the hard end of the Guardian spectrum: this one wasn’t easy, but everything in it was gettable with a bit of thought, which is just as it should be. I was lucky to crack the crucial 1dn/13ac early on, though it actually didn’t help hugely in getting the other thematic answers.

1. KHALIF K (end of “week”) + I (writer) in HALF (semi)
4. OFF-BREAK O (ring) + FF (fortissimo – very loudly) + BREAK (holiday), giving a type of delivery in cricket
9. NARROW 9 and 24 each define the other – there is no wordplay for this so technically I suppose it’s a straight (!) definition
10. EL DORADO D[igging] + OR in (A LODE)*. El Dorado (“the golden one”) was a mythical city sought by the Spanish Conquistadors. It was also the name of a brand of ice cream when I was young.
11. THE FLESH IS WEAK (WHAT SHEIK FEELS)*. The first biblical phrase, from Matthew 26:41
14. ZERO ER (“her” lacking its H or “aspiration”) in ZO (a type of cross-bred cattle, familiar to Azed solvers, but rare in daily puzzles)
16. DUST To “bite the dust” is to die, or “give up the ghost”. Perhaps also a biblical reference: “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:17)
18. EMACIATION Reverse Of (I CAME) + AT + (N with 10 first)
21. GIVE UP THE GHOST (HIGH-UPS GET VOTE)*. Another biblical phrase, perhaps more familiar in the past tense: it’s used to describe the death of Jesus on the cross, but also occurs twice in this form in the book of Job, e.g. 3:11: “Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? “
23. EUGENICS Anagram of SCIENCE with [h]UG[e] replacing one occurrence of C[entury). A very apt &lit.
24. STRAIT TRAITS with the last (back) letter moved to the front, completing the self-referential pair 9/24.
25. NED KELLY LIKED* less I in EL[evated railyway] , all in NY
1/13ac KING JAMES BIBLE (LIKES JABBING ME)* The King James Bible (aka Authorised Version) was first published 400 years ago. As the clue says, it is the source of several other answers in this puzzle.
2. ABRAHAM A BRA + HAM (act up). Biblical character as well as President, of course
3. IRON FIST IRON (golf club) + IS in FT – refernce to the (non-biblical) phrase “an iron fist in a velvet glove”
5. FILTHY LUCRE FILTH (police) + CRUELLY* less L. The expression occurs in several Epistles in the New testament
6. BIOPSY I OPS in BY (“by going over”)
7. ETAGERE AGE in ETRE (French for “to be”)
8. KNOCK-DOWN KNOCK (criticise) + DOWN (county). “Going for a song” = cheap = “knock-down [price]”
12. ENIGMATICAL NI in EG (“say”) + CALAMITY* less [happ]Y
13. JADE GREEN A DEGREE in NJ “picked up”
15. CATHETER THREE-ACT* – easy but elegant.
17. SAVAGED AV (Authorised Version) in reverse of DEGAS The “1” seems redundant here.
19. INSTANT SAINT* + NT (part of the Bible); definition “second”
20. QUINCE QUIN (one of five) + CE. Peter Quince the Carpenter is one of the Mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

43 Responses to “Guardian 25,321 – Crucible”

  1. Gaufrid says:

    Thanks Andrew
    It is a pity that all three on-line versions have ‘sheikh’ in 11ac which gives a superfluous ‘h’ in the anagram fodder.

  2. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Andrew and Crucible – super blog of a super puzzle! Too many goodies to pick out the best.

    I don’t understand your query about ‘1’ in 17dn.

    My paper version also has ‘sheikh’. As Gaufrid says, it’s a real pity that such a great &lit [?] should risk being spoiled!

  3. Andrew says:

    Thanks both for pointing out the extra K, which I didn’t notice. Fortunately “sheik” is a valid alternative spelling, so let’s assume that’s what was intended ;)

    Eileen, ignore the remark about 17dn, I don’t know what I was thinking there!

  4. Ian says:

    Thanks Andrew for the fulsome blog.

    A medium-difficult crossword from Crucible heavily reliant on anagram fodder that needed to be managed to speed up the solving time. Despite the superfluous ‘H’ in 11ac they came easy enough. That said, you have to admire the wordplay for the key thematic clue at 1dn. Given such an obvious indicator,the construction is such that it allows plenty of scope for misdirection and/or wasted time.

    The inclusion of several dollies at 4ac, 10ac, 25ac, 15dn and 22dn enabled the grid to be filled quickly with the remainder being a case of arriving at the right solution and parsing confirmation.

    8dn I liked, though for a particularly good example of the art of anagram cluing, 15dn was superlative.


  5. Shirley says:

    24 and 9A Strait and Narrow are also Biblical references.
    A great crossword – we got savaged without seeing Degas backwards!

  6. Geoff says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    Splendid puzzle, which I found a pleasant challenge.

    The extraneous H in 11a stopped me from trying to anagrammatise until I had most of the crossing letters, which was the only fly in the ointment.

    Having had ‘califs’ recently, we now get KHALIF. ‘Caliph’ must be on its way!

    The crossword is a a pangram as well as a thematic with several other linked clues. Clever.

  7. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Andrew this was a real joy!

    I was not familiar with the Biblical references but managed all the solutions regardless.

    Also, I’d never heard of ZO in 15a or Peter QUINCE as a carpenter.

    There are too many great clues to mention.

    Thanks Crucible!

  8. Eileen says:

    Hi Bryan

    It’s worth filing away the MND Mechanicals. They’re a gift to crossword setters [QUINCE could so easily – and more mundanely – have been ‘fruit’]. I think I’ve seen them all in crosswords at some time or other:

    QUINCE, a Carpenter
    SNUG, a Joiner
    BOTTOM, a Weaver
    FLUTE, a Bellows-mender
    SNOUT, a Tinker
    STARVELING, a Tailor

  9. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew for a very good blog and Crucible as usual for a VG puzzle.

    I found this quite hard but mainly enjoyable. The extra H in sheikh also appeared in my printed version and held me up because of the letter count.

    I missed the pangram – I forgot to look since its so long since we had one.

    I also missed a lot of the biblical refs, despite the hint in 1,13, though the answers themselves were clear. I also had to check Peter Quince.

    I stumbled over etagere. I thought there must be an anagram of etre and era and saw the answer while vainly checking my wrong guesses in Chambers. A nice clue and I should have guessed the answer.

    Lots of other good clues including 1a, 1,13, 14a, 23a, 26a, 13d.

    I seem to remember hearing that the combination of ‘strait’ and ‘narrow’ is a tautological usage, of a kind not uncommon in the AV, whose redundancy is designed to make sure the message gets home to all listeners with varyingly sophisticated vocabulary sets.

  10. Andrew says:

    It seems that “strait and narrow” (often “corrected” to “straight and narrow”) may come from the Gospel of Matthew:

    7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
    7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

  11. Bryan says:

    Eileen @ 8

    Many thanks for listing the MND Mechanicals.

    I anticipate that these will prove invaluable.


  12. Robi says:

    A good, though frustrating, crossword. I didn’t get KING JAMES BIBLE for a long while, and it didn’t help much afterwards as I am not much of a biblical scholar. As I got CATHETER early on, I thought the theme might have been medical (and EUGENICS & BIOPSY.) And then after OFF-BREAK, perhaps to do with cricket etc. etc.

    Thanks Andrew for a good blog. I didn’t like NARROW – as you said there seems to be no wordplay so it could have been much anything (although STRAI{gh}T and NARROW is a well-known expression, even to pagans.)

    It took far too long for the penny to drop in 1/13 that doctor was the anagrind and not a reference to KING. ETAGERE new to me, as was EL (not RY)=elevated railway; I did particularly like EUGENICS and FILTHY LUCRE.

  13. chas says:

    Thanks to Andrew for the blog.

    In 20d I had managed to assemble QUIN and CE then I had a suspicion about Carpenter so I checked my volume of the complete Shakespeare – and there he was!

    Once again there were cases where I thought the answer must be xxx – but why? Andrew sorted them for me.

    Favourite clue was 15d: an illustration of the art of saying lots in few words.

    Best pice of mis-direction: 25a. For a long time I tried to fit President Bush in somewhere but he refused to comply.

  14. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Andrew – more of a prize puzzle, I think.

    By the way – 10, being rather obvious, is not so obvious… You have to “start digging” as well.

  15. Crucible says:

    I apologise for the unforgivable superfluous H in 11. Those kind enough to give me the benefit of the doubt are far too generous. And to think I once spent a year proof-reading. God knows what I let through.

  16. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew, and thanks to Crucible for a great puzzle — and for dropping by! (I didn’t even notice the superfluous H.)

    Lots to enjoy here — I didn’t see all the Biblical refs and missed some of the wordplay, so again a puzzle to appreciate as much in retrospect as at the time of solving. My last was 6dn, which I thought was neat.

    For a time I had TRAITS at 9ac until I worked out what was going on. I also initially thought that 2dn was somewhere in Lincolnshire ending in HAM until the penny dropped.

    Best surface, I thought, was 23ac. What a good week it’s been :-)

  17. William says:

    Many thanks to Crucible for his magnanimous mea culpa – quite unnecessary.

    Andrew, thank you for the much-needed biblical references. One small point, aren’t you short of the d from ‘start of digging’ in 10a?

    Thanks again.

  18. Andrew says:

    NeilW and William – thanks for pointing out the missing D in 10ac. I’ll correct the blog.

  19. Andrew says:

    I should have mentioned that 10ac is a clever &lit: “El Dorado is applied to a legendary story in which precious stones were found in fabulous abundance along with gold coins.”

  20. otter says:

    Most of that was quite a struggle for me, but enjoyably so. Got KJV about half of the way through, as I thought of BIBLE for the last word (‘answers here’) – but didn’t twig he meant other answers in the crossword – thought he meant answers to life’s great questions. So that didn’t help me.

    Last in were KHALIF and ABRAHAM – two of the more simple clues, perhaps, but I completely failed to remember that Lincoln often refers to old Abe, and was thinking of the city only.

    Thanks a lot for the blog, which explained, among other things, ZO and QUINCE (got it from the wordplay and guessed he was a fictional carpenter, but didn’t remember from MND. Thanks to Elaine for the list of Mechanicals. I’d like to think I’ll commit them to memory, but the truth is that probably I won’t.

  21. stiofain says:

    A great puzzle and very pleasing to see Crucible becoming more of a regular. The Guardian web team have still not repaired the fault wheree the clue number, if it is for more than one light overwrites the start of the clue meaning you need to check in the PDF version.
    One niggle, and my pet hate, in an otherwise perfect puzzle was the plain wrong NI=ulster as ive said before this is like cluing ESP (spain) as Iberia. As an Irishman Crucible should really know better, catch yerself on mucker.

  22. retired pleb says:

    Excellent puzzle today, hence worthy of one my infrequent comments here !

    Last in was BIOPSY, like ZERO and XRATED

    Who shall we see tomorrow ??

  23. Crucible says:

    Stiofain: I do indeed know better, but if you think of all the other examples out there, not least the use of Ulster in Ulster Unionist Party (not to mention the many loyalist groups) I think you have to accept that this nominal land-grabbing is here to stay. It’s also much easier to squeeze into a clue – and even fastidious editors don’t seem to mind!

  24. otter says:

    Hi Crucible, thanks for an enjoyable and (for me) tricky puzzle. I think if a usage is common, even if technically erroneous, it’s acceptable. We had Ulster, Down and Knock in this puzzle – did I miss any?

  25. otter says:

    Crucible, 15: don’t worry – I once got a book title wrong when working as an editor, you can’t get much more crass an error than that.

  26. muck says:

    Thanks Crucible for a great puzzle, and Andrew for the blog.
    Which wasn’t ‘fulsome’ IMO Ian@4
    Chambers: fulsome (adj) sickeningly obsequious; nauseatingly affectionate…

  27. Roger says:

    Hi otter @24. If you’re on a general hunt for Irish connections, then I guess Ned Kelly had some … and while Jade Green isn’t particularly Irish, Kelly Green is !

  28. claire says:

    Great puzzle and great blog. Thanks.

    A lovely ‘do-able in the pub’ puzzle. Re QUINCE – I seem to recall them being described (in my version of MND, anyway) as ‘Rude Mechanicals’, which is such a lovely turn of phrase and caused great juvenile hilarity on first reading.

  29. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Here’s another one who would like to join the Chorus.
    I/We didn’t notice the redundant H in 11ac (something that can happen, although, Mr Editor …). Didn’t see that it was a pangram either – Crucible is quite fond of that, called it once even a kind of self-indulgence … :)

    I was wondering about Ulster/NI too, but as Crucible done this before ánd as he is from the other side of the Irish Sea, I couldn’t be bothered too much.

    Thanks Andrew, for the blog which explained for us the AV in SAVAGED (17d), although we had the idea that it had to be something like that. BTW, in this clue the ‘drawing in’ device is quite neat and apt.

    Only thing we weren’t so keen on (just like Robi @12) was the ‘self-reference’ in 9/24. That NARROW and STRAIT have a biblical connection doesn’t make any difference to me. We just felt that 9ac should have had a clue.

    But apart from that great stuff – doable, fair, precise and clever in places.

  30. caretman says:

    Otter @25, you don’t happen to have been the one responsible for the title of Marshall McLuhan’s book, “The Medium Is the Massage”, said to have been initially a printer’s error?

  31. Davy says:

    Thanks Andrew,

    This was certainly a great puzzle from Crucible and the apology was definitely unnecessary. I thought at first that the superfluous ‘H’ in 11a might represent ‘hence’ but unfortunately ‘H’ is not an abbreviation for hence. So it would have been the anagram (stirring) and hence(H). Too much thinking…I think.

    So many marvellous clues today but my particular favourites were EL DORADO, X-RATED, KNOCK DOWN and CATHETER.
    Many thanks Crucible.

  32. Paul (not Paul) says:

    I’m genuinely astonished by the number of people who didn’t spot the extra ‘h’ in 11 ac. Don’t you people count letters? It looked like an anagram but I didn’t start to unpick it until crossing letters confirmed it must be.

    Good puzzle though even for a confirmed atheist.

  33. Daniel Miller says:

    @Paul – I certainly did notice the extra H – Heavens knows why it was there..the theme got me through.
    In the meantime 5d Filthy Lucre and 13d Jade Green – great clues.

  34. RCWhiting says:

    Muck #26
    Great description of this board.

  35. mark says:

    Found it difficult but got most in the end. A few that I still don’t like though.

    25A EL for railway. Assume this is an accepted abbreviation but it’s passed me by til now.

    18A What a mess! So we have No as an abbreviation for number in the clue…which we then have to further abbreviate to N?! And I never like IO for 10. Got it but hate it.

    14A cross for cross breed and then a type of cross breed you need refernce books for. Stumps the commuter.

    11A Isn’t there a crossword editor to check these things? Thanks for the apology though Crucible.

  36. RatkojaRiku says:

    Thanks, Andrew, for a to-the-point, instructive and personal blog – I’ve never heard of that ice-cream that you mention, having grown up with just Walls and Lyons Maid.

    I spotted the potential for a pangram early on, having filled in the “z” in 14 and the “x” in 26, and it actually helped me with 20, since I knew I still had to accommodate a “q” somewhere. Indeed, without that help, I don’t think that I would even have solved 20, not knowing all the MND Mechanicals off by heart – thanks, btw, Eileen.

    Well done for scouring the grid for Biblical references, which one must assume were largely intentional since Crucible has not claimed otherwise – I am not sure that my own blogging patience would have stretched that far. While most of them were wasted on me, that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the puzzle, although recognising “strait and narrow” as such a reference might have made me more tolerant of the lack of wordplay in 9.

    The occasional typo (the extra “h” at 11 – an over-zealous spellcheck?) reminds us that compilers and editors are human too, since we bloggers are not immune to the occasional slip of the “pen”.

    Like liz, I too couldn’t get away from Lincoln as a place name, either in Lincolnshire or Nebraska.

  37. RCWhiting says:

    You are being very hard there. ‘el’ has been appearing in cryptics for decades (too often) and almost as often in Ameican films accompanied by thrilling car chases under the elevated section.
    Why should it be necessary to get the N in EMACIATION by going via No.?
    N is well recognised as the abbreviation for number in mathematics.
    It has even moved into common usage: he has been there for N years.

  38. RCWhiting says:

    I could add that most Scrabble players are aware of the cattle/yak cross since it can be zo, zho,dso, dzho, dzo, zhomo, dsomo, jomo, zobo, zobu and dsobo. How such an obscure (except in Nepal?) word needs quite so many spellings I can’t imagine.

  39. el stano says:

    Paul (not Paul) @ 32

    “Good puzzle though even for a confirmed atheist.”

    Who confirmed you? An anti-bishop?

    I thought EL might be East Lancs (railway).

    Stan (also atheist)

  40. Huw Powell says:

    Another great puzzle, and I vaguely recall, on top of a week of better than average ones.

    After the hour or two of staring finally broken by getting EMACIATION, things slowly progressed one hard-earned answer at a time, and ending with my giving up once I had ruined my chances of getting KHALIF by penciling in Mareham.

    Oddly, I didn’t notice the extra H until _after_ solving the anagram with a few crossers and obvious placements like the I in IS, and THE. When I listed the letters left to go in, I just missed the other H and that made it easy. I was perfectly willing to blame the Grauniad’s typesetters (and yes, I checked the pdf and on-line versions), as I bet most were, so it was very honourable of Crucible to turn up and take the blame. And I love it when the setters join in here.

    Although it took me ages to get what should have been an easy clue, 15d really made me smile, excellent clue indeed, as was the already-mentioned 23a.

    I had INSTANT “early on”, and so was looking for some kind of Bible. Rather embarrassed that I was researching what might have been obscure versions when I noticed that the best known one ever had the right number of letters – and fit the now obvious anagram fodder. Brilliant.

    Thanks for a wonderful treat, Crucible, and for the great blog, Andrew.

  41. ernie says:

    Thank you Andrew and Crucible. Hard work – finished Sunday lunchtime – great fun.

    First in were IRONFIST and CATHETER which I liked best along with KINGJAMESBIBLE.

    Is the setter taking the stick for an overzealous spellchecker (‘sheik’ is OK in 11a)?

    Needed the blog to explain SAVAGED and EUGENICS (on track with the latter but needed the significance of ‘essentially’ and ‘implication’ explained).

    Have met a ZO (not literally!) before but had forgotten him/her.

    Missed the pangram aspect – excellent.

  42. ernie says:

    Spent ages looking for suburbs of Lincoln (England) ending HAM.

    Used dictionaries – and Crossword Solver on the internet.

  43. nusquam says:

    Too late to add this?

    This was an excellent puzzle, and I enjoyed doing it. But in two respects it was a fridaythethirteenthogram as well as a pangram.

    The problem with 11a has been amply covered. But I believe there was also a mix-up with 9 and 24. ’24 9 features back to front (6)’ is an excellent clue for 24 if 9 has been separately clued. 9 should have been separately clued, and there are two signs that this was the setter’s intention. Firstly, the normal practice with genuine double light clues is to print both clue numbers in bold, whereas here only the first one was. Secondly, for a joint clue as interpreted in the blog, the reversal of order (putting
    9 after 24) was unmotivated as far as I can see.

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