Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,363 / Boatman

Posted by duncanshiell on July 1st, 2011


I have written this blog fairly early as I will be travelling for most of the day.  If the wi-fi on East Coast Mainline works well, I should be able to read comments mid morning.  The wi-fi was very good on the way south.  The first part of the journey involves South West Trains which doesn’t seem to do wi-fi at all.

This was a fun crossword that placed different stress on the words within the theme HOME FOR ANIMALS, sometimes focusing on HOME, sometimes on ANIMALS and sometimes on the whole phrase.  The word casual is also used with different meanings. None of the clues seemed, to me, to be particularly difficult, but they did require a bit of lateral thinking at times.

I noticed a lot of anagrams or part anagrams as I compiled the blog, perhaps more than I would associate with many Guardian crosswords.  There were also a lot of device used  to get first, middle or last letters of words, with 10 across AD-LIBS using no less than three of the devices.

You will note that I have struggled to parse 23 down CANAL to my own satisfaction.  I will be grateful for suggestions for better parsing.  It’s the word ‘film’ I have diffculty with.

I wonder if we will get a discussion on whether Fool’s gold and IRON ORE are interchangeable?

As I have had to finish this in a rush, I apologise if any odd typo remains. Please let me know if there are typos affecting the wordplay or definitions.

Clue Wordplay Entry

This tease contrived to produce delays (9)

Anagram of (contrived) THIS TEASE HESITATES (delays)

Metal in cable carries live power (4)

CU (copper is frequently the metal used in cables) + BE (lives) CUBE (power [in mathematics])

Slay damn evil wolf (5,3)

Anagram of (evil) SLAY DAMN LADY’S MAN (a would-be seducer of women; wolf)

Sharp taste spread round middle of mouth (6)

Anagram of (spread) TASTE containing (round) U (middle letter of (middle of) MOUTH) ASTUTE (sharp)

Off-the-cuff remarks in Asian capital should end party excess at last (2-4)

A (first letter of [capital] ASIAN) + D (last letter of [end] SHOULD) + LIB (reference Liberal[-Democrats] political party) + S (last letter of [at last] EXCESS) AD-LIBS (off-the-cuff remarks)

Rests on Boatman to get stuck into problem with resolve (8)

Anagram of (problem with) RESOLVE containing (get stuck into) I (Boatman, the crossword setter) OVERLIES (rests on)

Held in home for animals: a ram (4-2)

PEN (home for animals) + TUP (a ram) PENT-UP (held in)

Act before or after getting support for entry into home (8)

DO (act) + OR + POST (after) DOORPOST (support for entry into home)

Home for party animals (nearly 50 inside) (8)

DO (party) + (IL [49 in roman numerals; nearly 50] contained in [inside] MICE [animals]) DOMICILE (home)

Disturbance in the lead Asian capital (6)

Anagram of (disturbance) THE + RAN (in the lead; if youRUN a business or event, you take the leadng role) TEHRAN (capital city of Iran; Asian capital)

Casual home for some animals (8)

IN ([at] home) + FOR + MAL (some of the letters of [some] ANIMALS).  Alternatively FORM is the home for a hare, and I suppose you could have IN FORM (at home) + AL (a couple of the letters of ANIMALS), but I prefer my first choice. INFORMAL (casual)

Watch worn on top of knitted cuff (6

Anagram of (worn) WATCH + K (first letter of [top of] KNITTED) THWACK( hit; strike loudly; cuff)

Animal escaped into gorge? (3,3)

PIG (animal) + OUT (escaped) PIG OUT (gorge [on food])

Alternative Gothic writer returns an invitation one can’t refuse (8)

SUB (substitute; alternative] + POE (reference Edgar Allan Poe whose books were written in the Gothic genre) + AN reversed (returns) SUBPOENA (writ commanding attendance; an invitation one can’t refuse)

One at home in a bog (really evil type) (4)

Hidden word in (in) A BOG REALLY. Being pedantic, I don’t think the ‘a’ is necessary other than to make the clue flow better. OGRE (evil type)

Fish listen to one dance tune, then another (6,3)

CONGE (sounds like [listen to] CONGA [dance]) + REEL ([another] dance) CONGER EEL (fish)


Clue Wordplay Entry

Some animals reported and caught (5)

HEARD sounds like (reported) HERD (some animals) HEARD (caught)

Home for animals on the agenda for cutter (7)

STY (home for animals) +  LIST (agenda [a list of things to be done]) STYLIST (reference [hair] stylist; cutter)

Instant home for animals created from array of children’s products (5,5)

TIME (instant [defined as the present moment of time or a particular moment of time]) + STABLE (home for animals) TIMES [TABLE] (array of children’s products, where product is used as a definition of a quantity obtained by multiplication)

Catch fish rising over home for animals less than a dozen times (7)

NET (catch fish) reversed (rising) + FOLD (home for animals) TENFOLD (less than a dozen times)

One takes fall on head after this last animal (9)

S (last letter of [last] THIS) +  CAPE (head [of land], in the geographical sense) + GOAT (animal) SCAPEGOAT (one [who] tkes the fall)

Spooner’s traditional cover for tradesman’s entry into home for animals (7)

Dr Spooner would be speaking about a FLAT CAP (traditional cover for tradesmen) CATFLAP (entry into home for animals)

Home for animals of the ocean under cover (suitable for fish) (9)

BATTER (traditional covering for fish in fish & chip shops) + SEA (ocean) BATTERSEA (reference Battersea Dogs’ Home; home for animals)

Proclaiming something in City bank (9)

(NOUN [word used as a name of a thing; something] contained in (in) EC (the first part of the postcode, or more traditionally, the geographical reference for the City of London) + ING (reference ING Direct Bank) ENOUNCING (proclaiming, probably not a word that most of us use in everyday speech)

Casual racism: it follows coppers split by colour (9)

P (pence; coppers) + anagram of (casual) RACISM IT PRISMATIC (produced by means of a prism, hence split by colour)

Fool’s gold perhaps gets one right on the heart, losing head (4,3)

I (one) + R (right) + ON + CORE (heart, excluding [losing] the first letter [head] C) IRON ORE (Fool’s gold; iron pyrites is given as the definition for Fool’s gold.  Pyrites is defined as a sulphide; Ore is defined as a naturally ocurring mineral aggregate.  No doubt the chemists amongst us will give us chapter and verse on the connection, I think the ‘perhaps’ in the clue implies that ore and pyrites are not quite the same)

To counter racism, he wrote novel Noise about liberal left (7)

Anagram of (novel) NOISE containing (L [Liberal] + L [left]) ELLISON (reference Ralph Ellison [1914 – 1994], Amercian author, whose best known book, The Invisible Man addresses the issue of Racism in America in the 1930s)

Why did the naughty cow enter the house? (3,4)

Anagram of (naughty) COW contained in (enter) HOME (house) HOW COME (why)
22 See 3   [TIMES] TABLE

Boatman’s cut of film Tin Man, criminally bad (5)

CAN (tin) + AL (man’s name; reference Al Capone [a criminally bad man {?}])  CANAL is also a film channel, but you will deduce that I am struggling to get the full wordplay here CANAL (an artificial water course; boatman’s cut)

42 Responses to “Guardian 25,363 / Boatman”

  1. sidey says:

    23 down, canals are known as cuts, quite literally a boatman’s cut. No idea about the film bit.

  2. Aoxomoxoa says:

    23D – could it be “film Tin” = CAN (as in “it’s in the can”)?

  3. NeilW says:

    Thanks Duncan.

    I read it as a film tin = CAN like Aoxomoxoa; I was more troubled by the vagueness of AL – like you I plumped for Al Capone, but the film was titled Scarface wasn’t it?

    I didn’t care for RAN in TEHRAN – the tense seems to be wrong or I am I missing something even if you think that “in the” is doing double duty, which I didn’t.

    Otherwise classic chewy Boatman with loads of cleverness, with no particular favourite.

  4. Boatman says:

    Yes, I did have “in the can” in the head. To be fair, I could have left “film” out and the clue would have parsed more concisely, but it wouldn’t have been as much fun … not for me, anyway. “Man, criminally bad” = AL. A fairly broad category, I’ll grant. Did anyone waste any time trying to force “criminally” to work as an anagram indicator instead?

    Must add “chewy” to my list of interesting epithets.

  5. NeilW says:

    Thanks for dropping by Boatman, especially so early on. Glad you like “chewy”!

  6. Thomas99 says:

    Further to NeilW’s comment on 19a, any ideas for how lead=ran? As far as I can tell from dictionaries etc., lead is not an alternative spelling of led. I also toyed with double duty but it doesn’t seem to help. Also, I can’t find any sense in which “lead Asian”=Ran.

    Otherwise superb. Boatman is always a treat.

  7. Thomas99 says:

    I certainly hope we don’t “get a discussion on whether Fool’s gold and IRON ORE are interchangeable”, Duncan – the clue doesn’t require one! As you mention in the third column, it says “Fool’s gold, perhaps.”, which means fool’s gold is an example of the solution. And without claiming any expert knowledge, we can be pretty confident Iron Pyrites is an ore of iron, can’t we?

  8. molonglo says:

    Thanks Duncan, and Boatman for another testing puzzle. The top half was straightforward, helped by 6d being almost identical to an Araucaria clue in March. 13d was a tricky word, but Boatman has used it before (puzzle 24965). I had trouble with a few clues, notably ran=lead in 19a, the MAL fraction in 21 (where might this trend end?) and the plural p=coppers in 14d. But lots to like including e theme, and 25a. I had no problem with AL Capone in e last one down.

  9. tupu says:

    Thanks Duncan and Boatman – a good blog and an enjoyably varied treatment of a loose theme.

    I too puzzled over ran = lead. I know from long years of essay marking how common it is to meet ‘lead’ for ‘led’, but…!?

    I needed the blog to clarify 5d. I just parsed the clue wrongly and was left with ‘goat’ for ‘fall’. The ‘on’ fooled me.

    I guessed Ellison but did not recognise him.

    I looked up ‘cattrap’ and found the right answer, despite having both catflap (but no cat these days) and flat cap!

    Some amusing clues inc.12a, 16a, 25a, 3d!!, 20d.

  10. Roger says:

    Thanks Duncan and morning Mr B. I thought there may have been a lift-and-separate moment at 11a with the answer being ROWLOCKS … ‘rests on boat‘ … ‘LOCK’ (man, rugby player) inside (stuck into) ROWS (problem with resolve) … but it wasn’t to be !

    BATTERSEA, HOW COME, THWACK and OGRE all amused, while ‘tup’ (12a) always sends me towards Thomas a Tattamus …

    Like others, I don’t yet fully understand TEHRAN.

  11. Muz says:

    Thanks Duncan and Boatman

    A rare visit to the blog for me. I get a little time for the puzzle, but not much for much else.

    Re 17d, ore is defined purely economically – if you can dig something up and make a profit it is ore. So, truly, iron pyrites is “perhaps” iron-ore.

  12. crypticsue says:

    Of all the cryptics today, this one put up the biggest fight – thanks to Boatman for the great challenge – the NE corner took me ages. Thanks to Duncan for the explanations too.

  13. FranTom Menace says:

    Having just come back from our holiday and a break from the crossword, we struggled with this over breakfast. Putting ‘BACKDOOR’ in 15a (act ‘do’ before ‘or’ after support ‘back’ = entry into home) didn’t help, only realising it was wrong once we got ‘tenfold’ and ‘catflap’ It all looks fair, I think we’re just out of practice.
    Roll on Rufus on Monday!

  14. Duncan Shiell says:

    Now that I’ve read the comments, I can see the problems at 19a. I obviously took ‘in the’ to be doing double duty but still didn’t think it through. When writing a blog it’s often easy to concentrate on finishing rather than standing back for a moment and looking at the whole clue.

    I suppose if we really start clutching at straws we could say that RAN is formed from the lead characters of RANI (queen, derived from a Hindi [Asian] word) making the definition ‘capital’ rather than ‘Asian capital’.

    I note Boatman has commented on the ‘film’ issue; perhaps he can come back and comment on the clue at 19a.

    (The wifi works, but my booked train to Edinburgh was cancelled 1 minute before the due departure when we were all on the train. Still, moving north fairly rapidly now)

  15. Brian H says:

    I commented in “another place” that we have to beware of American usage where Boatman is concerned – he is a resident of Oregon State. Hence the US spelling of the Iranian capital, and the reference to an obscure American author who is only mentioned periphally in “The Oxford Companion to English Literature”

  16. Boatman says:

    No, you’ve got me there; I was definitely thinking “led” but writing “lead”. Well spotted, everyone.

    I thought I’d wait a couple of hours before owning up, to see whether anyone would come up with a better explanation … very much attracted to the RANI approach – must remember that next time I need a clue for IRAN …

  17. Robi says:

    Thanks Boatman and Duncan for a good blog, especially helping with the parsing of ENOUNCING and SUBPOENA.

    Brian @15; I would have thought that most Brits would spell TEHRAN in that way – seems to be common currency in newspapers.

    Boatman @4; yes, I did think criminally might be an anagrind – I was playing with Tin Man without the Boatman (I cut), but that didn’t leave (m)any possibilities.

    I particularly liked the surface of the clue for HOW COME.

  18. grandpuzzler says:

    Thanks to Boatman and Duncan. Hard work for me but got there in the end. Had to come here to understand the parsing of CANAL. Brian @15 – Boatman is in Oregon? Or were you thinking of Brendan?


  19. walruss says:

    I’m not comfortable with the HOW COME clue really, Robi. What’s ‘did’ doing there? Plus of course it would have to be the naughty c, o and w for the tenses to work…. I think?

  20. EB says:

    Thanks Duncan – very well set out and explained blog as usual.

    Great crossword Boatman – thanks very much. Can’t add much to what’s already been said just to add it was a very enjoyable challenge and, for me, it really was a challenge.

    @Brian #15 & grandpuzzler #18:
    Agree with grandpuzzler that Brian must have been thinking of Brendan re Oregon; Boatman lives in the lovely village of Ditchling, E. Sussex.

    More info from his website here:

  21. Duncan Shiell says:

    Comments on the blogs always fascinate me, not the just the ones on Fifteensquared. Setters are sometimes expected to be 100% accurate in their grammar, their punctuation, their definitions and their wordplay.

    How many of us are 100% accurate in everything we do? My blogs certainly aren’t error free. I can easily live with less than 100% accuracy in clues as long as I enjoy the puzzle and can see what the setter is getting at for a high proportion of the time. Often the best way to learn is to make the odd mistake.

    Of course, I also recognise that many comments are designed to generate debate and there is nothing wrong with that.

  22. NeilW says:

    Hi Duncan, again.

    Globally, I agree but – see my little campaign yesterday, when I was certainly not intending to get at Chifonie – editing is what editors are paid to do.

  23. walruss says:

    Hear hear! Slapdash=annoying, especially where the idea was good.

  24. scchua says:

    Thanks Duncan for the detailed blog, and Boatman for an enjoyable puzzle.

    Liked 22A THWACK, 25A SUBPOENA and 6D SCAPEGOAT, and the home and animal themes. Last one in was 23D CANAL, being another one who was hung up on the “criminally bad” anagrind and cutting out I/Boatman from Tin Man. Before Boatman’s explanation, I was sure that there was a film called “Tin Man”, and therefore didn’t question “film”. As it turned out, it’s only a TV mini-series (can it still be counted as a film?), though there is a movie called “Tin Men”.

    Hi walruss@19, perhaps your second question answers the first. The “cow” “did enter” … does work, I think.

  25. Geoff says:

    Thanks Duncan.

    Splendid entertainment from Boatman – for me the best puzzle for a while. Yes, there are a (very) few rough edges here and there, but I’m only inclined to carp pedantically with crosswords and/or setters that I do not particularly enjoy.

    Very typical Boatman, with a multilayered animal/animal homes theme and a characteristic reference to the occupation implied by the setter’s pseudonym (23d).

    Lots of splendid and varied clues here: ‘array of children’s products’ is a great definition, 6d is a good and funny Spooner clue (unlike most of this species), 11a and 7d have great surface readings which cleverly disguise how the clue needs to be split in order to parse the cryptic sense, 20d is just LOL (and yes, it could have been written with fewer words, but it wouldn’t have been as funny).

    This has already been pre-empted by Thomas99 (@7), but as a chemist myself, I confirm that 17d is perfectly fine: ‘fool’s gold’, aka iron pyrites [iron(II)sulfide] is an example of an IRON ORE, hence the ‘perhaps’ in the clue.

  26. NeilW says:

    By the way, Boatman, I respect your “owning up” @16 but I already understood your lack of response @ 4. My point is that the job of setters is to be brilliant – or chewy, if you prefer – and the job of editors is to clean up the inevitable slips along the way! Sycophancy now over. :)

  27. NeilW says:

    scchua – apologies if I’m stating the obvious – but perhaps your subconscious is talking to you of the Yellow Brick Road..

  28. scchua says:

    NeilW – huh? My turn to apologise if I’ve got your point wrong, but the “Tin Man” mini-series was a sort of sci-fi adaptation of the Wizard at the end of the YBR.

  29. Miche says:

    Thanks for helping with some clues (enouncing, for example) that I guessed but couldn’t quite parse, and one or two that stumped me altogether.

    A question: is it kosher to clue IL with “nearly fifty”? 49 in Roman numerals is XLIX.

  30. duncanshiell says:

    Miche @ 29

    Interesting point, and having done a bit of quick research, you are right, IL is not an accepted rendition of 49.

    This link gives a good example of your argument

  31. Roger says:

    Hi Mitch. You’re right, of course, but I guess IL (‘I’ before ‘L’) = ‘one before fifty’ = 49 !

  32. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Very enjoyable. I particularly liked the array of children’s products (3,22) which was outstanding.
    Another non-themed theme but that neither enhanced or marred the puzzle.
    Perhaps we need another name for these.
    To me a themed puzzle has “x solutions are of a kind and the clues contain no further definition” or the theme is given by one solution.
    This was neither of those.

  33. Taxi Phil says:

    20D having been my COD, for the benefit of Walruss, Scchua, and anyone else in doubt :

    “Why did you do it ?” is equal to the slangy “how come you did it ?”, hence “why did” = “how come”.

    Enjoyed this offering from Boatman a great deal, another favourite clue being 22A.

  34. Dave Ellison says:

    Didn’t enjoy this at all, didn’t finish.

    I do not like all the extraneous words in many of the clues:

    10 in
    12 a
    16 for
    22 on
    24 into

    3 created from
    5 on
    7 of the
    17 gets

    6a “carries” is barely justifiable
    19a “in the lead” a mess
    14d “split by colour” – prismatic does not mean this; “split into colours” would be nearer, but still not an adequate definition.

    Rant over

  35. stiofain says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this.
    RcWhiting @32
    anax has a theory on categorising these puzzles
    the emergent theme causing a backward smile versus the need for specialist knowledge/google slog (sloogle?)
    themed or thematic

  36. stiofain says:

    proper link

  37. Cruciverbophile says:

    Fascinating puzzle, thanks Boatman. It’s very noble of the setter to own up to led/lead mistake – one which anyone could have made – but shouldn’t the editor have picked this one up? Not for the first time, I wonder if there actually is a crossword editor at the Guardian.

  38. Paul B says:

    Why did you did it, Taxi Phil?

  39. aguers says:

    @Brian H

    ‘the reference to an obscure American author who is only mentioned periphally in “The Oxford Companion to English Literature”’

    Ellison is hardly obscure; this is more the fault of the Oxford Companion, which depending on which edition you’re using, can be extremely conservative in its coverage.

  40. RCWhiting says:

    Dave @34
    I certainly agree on ‘a in 12a. The omission of the article would have left it open to be a verb or noun,an extra dimension.
    Stiofain @36 Thanks.

  41. LR says:

    The led/lead mistake is not the worst mistake in this puzzle. LADY’S MAN is not an acceptable spelling of LADIES’ MAN.

    For shame.

  42. Pat O'Brien says:

    Hi Duncan,
    This puzzle was printed in today’s Brisbane Courier Mail. Like most others, I found it fairly easy and enjoyable.

    I thought you may be interested to know that 19a appeared as:

    “Sprinted after the explosion in Asian capital”.

    This is unusual as they usually print them as they appear in the Guardian (typos and all).

    But it is also the second time that they have done this recently – the previous time was a puzzle blogged by Uncle Yap a couple of months ago, when a particular clue prompted a bit of controversy and a lot of discussion and it was changed to read apropos a suggestion by Uncle Yap.

    I wonder if they read Fifteensquared before publishing?

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