Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize Puzzle No 25340 by Puck

Posted by bridgesong on June 11th, 2011


Given the structure of the grid I was expecting to find a nina in the letters that form the circumference of the puzzle but it soon became apparent that the final destination referred to in the preamble was not to be found there.  It turned out to be at 2, 17 down.  The clues themselves showed considerable ingenuity and a variety of clue types.  One (2, 17 down again) is the longest clue of its type that I can remember encountering.  Some clues were very easy, but they were balanced by others, particularly the asterisked ones some of which were virtually impossible to solve until the theme had been deduced.

I solved most of the puzzle in bed on Sunday morning.  My wife was reading a book next to me.  By some extraordinary coincidence it was Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry, which is not only set in and around Highgate Cemetery but also features a Guardian crossword setter as a character in the novel.


Hold mouse over clue number to see clue.

7 HALIFAX I in HALF-AX(e). I generally consider it a weakness in a clue for it to include part of the solution (except of course for hidden words), but the insertion of the letter I (the setter) just about justifies it in this case
8 See 24
9 BLAH Hidden reversed in “lethal blows”
10 ACCOLADES CO(mpany) in AC(e) LAD(i)ES. I guessed this fairly quickly but only managed to deduce the wordplay as I wrote this blog. It wasn’t immediately obvious which word was going to lose its last letter (become de-tailed).
13 ROOF RACK ROO, FRACK (for frock)
15 ASHE A SHE. Younger readers may need to be reminded of the achievements of Arthur Ashe
17 CROP Hidden in “elastic rope”.
18 See 11
20 OOMPH MOO reversed, PH
24,8* MICHAEL FARADAY ICH in *(ALE,A FARMYARD) less R. I’m not sure that this works as a clue, even allowing for the lack of a definition. There doesn’t appear to be anything to show that ICH is inside the anagram (or anagrams, as the clue seems to suggest). Thanks, Sil, for clarifying this
25 STIR FRY Cryptic definition
1,23* KARL MARX L in KARMA, RX. This was the first of the asterisked clues that I solved, and it opened up the theme for me, as I knew that Marx was buried in Highgate Cemetery.
2,17 HIGHGATE CEMETERY HIGH (drunk) GATE (number of people) C(arriag)E MET(ropolitan) E(xit) R(ailwa)Y. “Remains there” is the definition; it’s one of the longest clues I can remember.
4* PAUL FOOT * (A FOOL PUT), but also PAUL (another Guardian setter) FOOT (a measure). I hadn’t realised he was also buried in Highgate Cemetery. 
5 See 22
6 See 21
11,18* CHRISTINA ROSSETTI (w)RIST in CHINA, * (STORIES, T). When I saw “first mate” in the clue, I was looking for a name including the letters eve, as this usage had appeared in a crossword by another setter earlier in the week. Here, however, “first” indicates that “mate ringing topless joint” comes before the rest of the clue. 
12 GUSTO * (OUT, G S) 
14 CLOTH CLOT, H(ard)
16 OCTETTES ETC in SET-TO all reversed
17 See 2
19 SMITHY S M I, THY. The first three letters are the leading (or “top” letters of Some Money It).
20 OWLETS 0 W(ith), LETS. LETS stands for Local Exchange Trading System.
21,6 SLIPWAYS W A (lad)Y in SLIPS. This was the last clue I solved and I was troubled by the W until I realised that it refers to the fact that W is M upside down (or turned). “Piers” is the definition and the surface reading is brilliant.
23 See 1

25 Responses to “Guardian Prize Puzzle No 25340 by Puck”

  1. Sil van den Hoek says:

    For us this crossword had a very unusual feel.
    Positive? Negative?
    Surely original.
    And we liked it.

    For us, no problems with 24,6.
    ICH (setter in Bavaria) plus (ALE)* – giving ICHAEL – in [there’s your container indicator] (A FA[r]MYARD)* (anagrind: getting drunk). Nothing wrong with that.

  2. mologlo says:

    Thanks bridgesong. Halfway through I checked the unknown PAUL FOOT on Google and saw where he was buried. I already had 17d so that rather spoiled it, eg KARL MARX was then inevitable. It was an unsatisfactory theme anyway, although I got there in the end with one further cheat – having got MICHAEL I couldn’t come up with FARADAY. Struggled a lot with the last two. Good marks to Puck for 1a, but 21,6 was a painful stretch: slipways and piers are different things.

  3. Biggles A says:

    Thanks bridgesong. Like you, I found Karl Marx to be the key but I had to confirm the other occupants. 21, 6 was my last and I’m still unhappy with it. I agree with molonglo, slipways and piers are completely different, even opposite, things – one keeps you dry and the other makes you wet. I was left with the impression that Puck in his enthusiasm to work Piers Morgan into the clue let his standards slip.

  4. Paul B says:

    ‘Remains there’ does not define a place name. ‘Remains here’ just might.

  5. Coffee says:

    Another vote against 21,6 – last to go in and only got it because we couldn’t think of anything else, but couldn’t parse it. Readers of Private Eye should get PAUL FOOT, but it wasn’t until we got 11,18 that the penny dropped. Then we just looked for a space to fit Karl Marx, so to speak.
    Thanks Bridgesong- very Twilight Zone about your wife reading Her Fearful Symmetry! Hope she liked the ending more than I did…

  6. Mystogre says:

    Thanks bridgesong. Like the others, I had trouble getting 21,6 to parse. It turned out to be the only thing I could put in there and I still don’t like it.

    But, I did enjoy the rest and got the location before the occupants. Then I had to search for 11,18 and guessed that was where Paul Foot was buried from Private Eye.

    25ac gave me a smile, as did OOMPH. An enjoyable way of passing a few hours on a wet Saturday. So thank you Puck as well for a good idea.

    Today’s looks more challenging.

  7. NeilW says:

    Thanks, bridgesong.

    The very length of the clue to 2,17 gave it up quickly and then, with the theme obvious, the rest was “dead easy”! (Thanks to Google of course.)

    I, too, was a bit surprised by 21,6 but looked up SLIPWAY in Chambers: “a pier in a dock or shipyard that slopes down into the water” and then cross-checked pier: “a mass of stone, ironwork, or woodwork projecting into the sea or other water, as a breakwater, landing stage…” so there’s nothing wrong with the definition, even if it seems, in common usage terms, odd.

  8. Biggles A says:

    NeilW @ 7

    Thanks but there is no such interpretation in the OED.

  9. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Bridgesong, Google and Puck this was very enjoyable but, after guessing the cemetary, I had absolutely no idea whose remains had been buried there.

    Anyway, where are the other Marx Brothers buried?

    SLIPWAYS was my last and it very nearly slipped away.

  10. bridgesong says:

    I’m with Neil W @7 on slipways. I too had my doubts but was persuaded by the Chambers definition.

    Thanks, Sil, for your explanation for Michael Faraday. I look forward to meeting you and others in a fortnight’s time.

    Coffee @5, I’ve now read the book and I didn’t like the ending either!

  11. tupu says:

    Thanks bridgesong and Puck

    I very much enjoyed this puzzle which I thought was pretty well clued with some amusing devices.

    I particularly enjoyed solving 10a, 15a, 21a, 22,5, 24,8, 19d, 21,6!.

  12. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, bridgesong.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this [many thanks, Puck], not being nautical enough to have any problems with 21,6 apart from discovering that I had to invert the M – a brilliant clue, I thought.

    I also liked the clue for PAUL FOOT, who did a lot more than write for ‘Private Eye’!

    I think 25ac is a charade, rather than a cryptic definition, ‘fry’ being ‘a swarm of young, esp of fishes just spawned; young salmon in their second year’ [Chambers].

  13. tupu says:

    ‘Owlets’ is a word I have very rarely encountered since my boyhood days at a school that had the owl as a ‘totemic symbol’. The word figured in a sentimental school song referring to the pupils as ‘owlets whose name is legion’ who are enjoying themselves on summer holidays while at school ‘the owl alone is pining upon the ancient wall’! :) I knew it would come in handy some day!

  14. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu

    Have you seen page 9 of today’s Guardian? :-)

    I saw it immediately after reading your comment! [Unfortunately, it’s not in the online version.]

  15. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen
    :) Many thanks for that unusual ‘school photograph’! Quite cheered me up.
    I had only got as far as the crossword page, having heard all the depressing news I wanted on the radio.

  16. Epee says:


    thanks for explaining all of this. I am sitting looking at my crossword which had 2 blanks, 7A (HALIFAX) and 20D (OWLETS). I feel particularly peeved about the latter; of course I saw ‘owlets’ as matching a definition of young (albeit a very general definition – maybe young birds rather than young ones ?) but bartering system = LETS ? Can anyone honestly say they’ve ever heard of such a thing ? Like some others I thoroughly enjoyed 21D6D ; like the way it contains IP (PIers M head reversed !) as well as W (MORGAN head reversed). DOn’t think I’ve seen M become W in this way before.
    Cheers Epee

  17. Robi says:

    Pretty difficult. I got HIGHGATE CEMETERY and then KARL MARX and Googled the rest.

    Thanks bridgesong for explaining the parsing of 2,17. Re HALIFAX, I know from Scrabbling that you can use the AX spelling (given in Chambers as N. American.) Eileen @14; I also enjoyed the “school photograph.”

  18. Carrots says:

    I struggled with this but (with google`s help) I managed to plant all the corpses except CHRISTINA ROSETTI of whom I had not heard. Getting into the theme was pretty straightforward, but some of the other clues (e.g. SLIPWAYS and HALIFAX) have remained a mystery until Bridgesong`s blog this morning.

    However, absolutely no complaints and many thanks to Puck for an entertaining and challenging puzzle. Now, on to the Pasquale, which I hope will take my mind off melting plasticards as wife and daughter embark on a frock-shopping trip…..

  19. sidey says:

    A pier may have a slipway and a slipway may be built on piers but PIER can’t define SLIPWAY. Stupid clue, ghastly editing from the Graun yet again. And Chambers is simply wrong if they have put it in the current edition. It has no common usage to support it either.

  20. bridgesong says:

    Eileen @12: you’re right of course, I did identify both stir and fry but just got the clue classification wrong.

    Epee@16: yes, I had in fact heard of LETS, there are several such schemes in the UK and abroad, but I was a little surprised to see it in Chambers.

    No further comments for a while: my allotment is calling and the weeds won’t wait!

  21. tupu says:

    Hi Epee

    I too have heard of ‘lets’. My recollection is that it started in Canada. It is basically moneyless – participants get points for services for others and can then spend them on services from others within the LETS community.

  22. Biggles A says:

    I see it Sidey’s way!

  23. Thomas99 says:

    I was astonished to find that a slipway can be called a pier but apparently it can. My partner isn’t particularly seafaring but she knew it. “Chambers is simply wrong” (Sidey @19 above) is not a very persuasive argument!

  24. Paul (not Paul) says:

    A bit of a slog for me but I got there in the end.

    The sheer length of the clues prevented me from enjoying the puzzle as much as others. Brevity is the soul of wit.

    I was amused by the definition of Tomb Raider as a film which has passed without comment. I look forward to someone clueing Pride and Prejudice as a TV series and waiting for the reaction!

  25. bridgesong says:

    In case anyone is still reading this thread, (and in the hope of having the last word!) I can add that the definition of slipway in the 1993 edition of Chambers is exactly the same as the one in the current edition quoted by NeilW @7 above. I do accept that there’s nothing in the OED to support this usage, but Chambers is the bible for most setters.

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