Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,374 – Crucible

Posted by Andrew on July 14th, 2011


I’ve found some of Crucible’s puzzles rather hard, so I was a bit worried when I saw that I had to blog this one, but it turned out to be quite reasonable, though a good mental workout and satisfying to finish. There were a few clues where the answer was fairly obvious when I had a few checking letters in, but the wordplay took some thinking to identify, especially the cleverly worded 10ac and 26ac. There were some links between clues involving 8 and 26 – diametrical opposites in the grid but otherwise unrelated, I think – though hardly enough to qualify as a “theme”. I’m not convinced by my explanation of 2dn and would be happy to hear alternatives. Hah! Got it – see below.

8. SANDWICH Double definition: Sandwich golf course is the venue for this year’s British Open, and Subway sells sandwiches.
9. PRAWN R in PAWN (chessman)
10. OPEN PE (gym) in (“hooked by”) ON (“regularly taking”, as in “I’m on valium”). The cryptic sense is very devious: you have to read it as “gym [that] regularly taking hooks”)
11. DISCUSSION DISCUS + IS< + ON (leg side, in cricket)
12. GROUND G[olfer] + ROUND
14. EYELINER EYE (survey) + LINER (ship), with a nice cryptic definition
15. ASTILBE (IT’S ABLE)*. This genus of plants in the Saxifrage family was a new word for me.
17. APOLOGY A + POLO (game) in G[u]Y
20. HOME-MADE (A MEMO)< in HE'D*
22. SESAME Hidden in raiSES A MExican
24. DEAL [i]DEAL, plus two definitions: wood, and the a town about six miles from Sandwich
25. GET AT G[ulf] + ETAT (French for “state”)
26. SEAPORTS EA[ch] in (“netted by”) SPORTS (displays), with the same sort of devious construction as 10ac – “Each [that] displays nets”.
1. CAR PARKS CARP + ARKS, and presumably there are lots of cars at the Sandwich course.
2. EDEN I’m not sure about this: Sir Anthony EDEN is the Prime Minister – could it be E[uropean] + DEN[mark]? That seems uncharacteristically vague for Crucible. No, it’s SWEDEN less SW = bottom left.
3. MINDED D[epartment] in (clothed by) DENIM<. Yet another devious containment indicator.
4. WHISKEY Anagram of WHY + IKE + [ei]S[enhower] (third letter) – the IKE makes this an indirect anagram, but I don’t mind too much as it’s a fairly obvious substitution.
5. SPRUCE UP Anagram of CUPRESSUS less SS (Sunday School) + P (quietly). I’m not sure about “outside” to mean “remove”, except perhaps as an order: “outside!” = “get out!”.
6. MARSEILLES M (“west end” of MED) + LIES< (is situated) is ARLES, and Marseilles (spelt without the final S in French) is a seaport.
7. UNDONE ON (performing) in NUDE, and UNDONE = OPEN (as in clothes)
16. BRACKETS B[ritish] + RACKET (business) +S (non-Ximenean indication of the end of graveS). Brackets support shelves etc.
18. GYMNASTS NYSTAGMUS* less U[niversity]
19. VERBOSE BO[ok] in (“boring”) VERSE
21. ON HIGH ON (performing – again!) + HIGH [School]
22. SUBWAY [t]UB[e] in SWAY (power), and TUBE (in UK) = Underground railway = SUBWAY (in USA)
24. DOOR Anonymous = without a name, so it’s DONOR less N.

54 Responses to “Guardian 25,374 – Crucible”

  1. Chiara says:

    Um, 15 ac. Astilbe is not of saxifrage family, so I am still puzzled about this clue!

  2. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Andrew & Crucible

    Like you, I’d never heard of ASTILBE – where on earth did Cruci find it?

    Otherwise very enjoyable.

  3. Andrew says:

    Chiara – Astilbe is a Saxifrage according to the Wikipedia article I linked to, and also

  4. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Andrew, not least for SWEDEN – I didn’t get any further than trying to justify Denmark and waiting to see how you’d done it.

    I did, eventually, explain OPEN, though, but it took a bit of thinking about. [The answer was easy enough, as I was able to put in 8ac immediately, as that’s where my son-in-law and grandson have gone today.] It’s a super surface, with all its boxing references.

    I was rather diverted by the idea of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports for a while, with Sandwich and Deal – and Rye in the clue for 4dn, [my favourite clue] – and spent a minute or two looking for more of those 26s.

    Many thanks to Crucible for a bit of a teaser!

  5. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks Andrew and Crucible. Quite enjoyable.

    My in to this was DEAL, which immediately gave 1a (having heard Sandwich on Radio 4 just a few minutes earlier).

    I thought I had heard of ASTILBE before, and indeed I had: Araucaria 21 Oct 2010 (Bestial*); and Gordius 10 July 2007 (It’s able*).

    Explanations for 10a, 26a and 2d eluded me.

    Last in HOME MADE

  6. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Andrew and Crucible

    Like you ASTILBE was my new word for today, had to check Chambers to confirm it.

    Pondered for quite a while on the BL corner. I found BRACKETS, GET AT, ON HIGH and HOME MADE quite testing.

    Very entertaining, now for the mundane business of shopping!

  7. Uncle Yap says:

    What a superb puzzle this is on the first day of the British Open at Sandwich … thanks Crucible and Andrew … as a golf enthusiast, I had no problem cottoning on to the theme. Most of the clues were very challenging and entertaining. My COD must be EDEN for the creative use of bottom left as SW

  8. molonglo says:

    Thanks Andrew. I got there, but not without minor niggles. I took a 50-50 punt on ‘estilba’ for 15a, and found the other version at once in the dictionary (hate having to resort to it). Never like the one-letter abbreviations in 25a, 3d and 16d. Nor what you called devious construction in 26a, the ‘downing, in 4d, the ‘outside’ in 5d etc. A style thing. As newspaper tipsters on horseracing sometimes write: ‘others preferred.’

  9. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks Andrew.

    While ‘saxifrage’ was vaguely familiar, I had no idea what it was, and much less ASTILBE, which I’d never heard of.

    Also, I was unaware of the sporting event starting today, so it was only when I guessed 1ac and looked for news in Google that I was able to crack a number of the connected clues.

    I smiled when I saw 2d – Sweden was the first country to come to mind, but I’d never seen the crossword reference to bottom left used in a clue :)

    As you say, some devious inclusion devices. Thanks Crucible.

  10. Geoff says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    Interesting puzzle, made trickier by a difficult grid (all lights in even rows and columns so few initial crossing letters) and some ususual indicator words.

    I had parsed 2d as E DEN(mark) – after lots of this sort of thing in yesterday’s crossword – so thanks for the illumination. The ‘European’, though obviously correct, is very misleading – I wonder if this was deliberate?

    The definition for CAR PARKS is extremely vague and I needed all the crossing letters to get it. And although I knew of 15a it took me a while to bring it to mind because of the definition. A ‘saxifrage’ is a member of the genus Saxifraga. ASTILBE is in the saxifrage family (Saxifragaceae), but that isn’t the same thing at all. Apples are in the rose family (Rosaceae), but that doesn’t make them roses!

  11. tupu says:

    Many thanks Andrew and Crucible for an excellent blog and puzzle.

    Like others, I was foxed by 2d (plumped for Denmark which is possible but not at all as good as Sweden where I hope to be next week). Also somehow missed the sense in Open, though this was obviously the answer, even though I saw its structure too!

    I did not know Subway restaurants, and kept looking for something with ‘pub’ before I got ‘sesame’ and the right answer.

    AS Eileen says ‘a bit of a teaser’. Many pleasing clues and ‘get at’ and ‘home-made’ probably my favourite answers though we’ve seen Sarkozy used like this before fairly recently I think.

  12. PeterO says:

    Crucible has a keen eye for devious wording! I think 5D works if you paraphrase it as “Take an anagram of the part of Cupressus outside Sunday school”.

  13. Median says:

    Another to sort out the grown-ups from the children. I thought I was one of the former, but I’m beginning to doubt it. For the third day in a row I’ve given up with several clues to go. Will I be back tomorrow? Of course I will!

    Seriously though, this short run of – I think – tough puzzles makes me wonder about the number of people who manage to solve the Guardian’s non-prize crosswords. Obviously it will depend on the setter, but does anyone have any info on this? For the harder puzzles such as today’s is it likely to be tens, hundreds or – surely not – thousands?

  14. Chiara says:

    Andrew, yes, you are quite right, sorry!

  15. Ben Smith says:

    I think 4d works more cleanly than the explanation.

    WHY with IKE inside and 3rd letter of HIS inside IKE?

  16. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    A jolly good challenge today.
    I particularly liked 25a and 3, 18d.
    After yesterday’s discussion about the need for a ‘port’ to be on the sea it was interesting to see 26a.
    I think the objections about ‘astilbe’ are going too far.
    The topicality does nothing to improve this solver’s enjoyment, but, as someone stated a while back, it is fun for the setter – so good luck.

  17. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    Well done on 2dn – far too busy today to spend time worrying about Denmark but I do remember thinking it didn’t seem quite right.

    Also, well done Chiara @ 14 for admitting gracefully. Take a look at's_law if you have a moment. :)

    I agree with Ben @15, by the way.

  18. Robi says:

    Burned by the Crucible! This took a hard slog to decipher.

    Thanks Andrew; I was another Denmark person. Is ‘shivering’ the anagrind for nude in 7, or am I missing something (a few screws probably!)

    Bit of a foody theme with a HOME-MADE PRAWN OPEN SANDWICH, SESAME and SHISH-KEBAB, washed down with a tot of WHISKEY. I’ll spare you a shaggy dog story as last time I did that it seemed to be unappreciated.

    I particularly liked APOLOGY and EYELINER.

  19. Crucible says:

    The conjunction of the words OPEN and SANDWICH in today’s big tee-off was too good to miss. The idea was to cram in as many words that could be preceded by OPEN or had something to do with SANDWICH (food and port). Apologies if this confused rather than helped. Sorry too to all non-golfers, especially those who thought they might escape Rory et al by trying the Indy instead.

  20. mike04 says:

    Thanks, Andrew. I wasn’t happy with my parsing of OPEN in 10ac – so thanks for the help.
    (PE in hOoKs regularly, with ON = OK)!

    Re 22dn: UK? Not in Glasgow! I thought this might be of interest:

  21. tupu says:

    Many thanks Crucible. I very much regret that the nice ‘open +’ theme went straight past me (the old wood for the trees syndrome I’m afraid).

  22. caretman says:

    Thanks, Andrew, for the blog and clearing up a couple of questions I had.

    Thanks, too, Crucible, for stopping by. I hadn’t noticed how many of the lights could be preceded by OPEN or had a relationship with SANDWICH; that adds to my enjoyment of the puzzle. I initially couldn’t get in until I got to the bottom half of the grid, but once in I made steady progress. I thought the (sw)EDEN clue was brilliant when I sussed it and also particularly liked HOME-MADE. Once I figured out the theme was the Open, I had to check to see where it was being held. Informed that it was Royal St George’s consequently helped me not at all in getting 1a but eventually I got there, although that was nearly my last in.

  23. Roger says:

    Thanks Andrew. As you say, plenty of odd construction going on today … such as Marseilles, quite possibly designed as an &lit. Not convinced about ‘plain’ = ‘home-made’, though.

    Cheer up, Robi @18, know how you feel. I too have on occasions had a bit of fun working all the answers into a little story … Paul’s puzzles seem to particularly lend themselves to this, I find ! Have never posted them for fear of the same (non) reaction. Perhaps one day. Agree about the shivering nude, btw.

  24. walruss says:

    It is unfortunate that the setter had to come in to TELL us what the idea is!! But, by and large, so what. It was an okay puzzle for me, and I enjoyed the Indy one too. Just over-egging a bit possibly.

  25. Crucible says:

    Roger: thanks for spotting the attempted &lit at 6D. I had a different clue until someone pointed out the vulgarity in it. It was (for your eyes only of course) “Thousands there gather behind one of 26″. Then when I realised how close Arles was to Marseille(s) I just had to try it. And I too was unhappy with plain for HOME-MADE but it’s there in Chambers. Collins, not the greatest dic for one-word synonyms, gives ‘crudely fashioned’. Try telling that to the WI!

  26. muck says:

    Thanks Crucible – whoever didn’t like “Thousands there gather behind one of 26? should get a life!

  27. Thomas99 says:

    The abandoned 6d’s a corker! The final version’s good too though.

  28. Eileen says:

    Hear, hear to comments 26 and 27!

  29. cholecyst says:

    Thanks Crucible and Andrew. The puzzle was about 100x more entertaining than any golf match (a good walk spoilt). Surprised that there seem to be so few gardeners amongst us – Astilbe is a fairly common plant with feathery fronds. Re 22dn: we don’t have a tube in Newcastle either – it’s the Metro. Crucible should get out more.

  30. Roger says:

    Thanks Crucible, nice one … hope it wasn’t an official veto, else dull times ahead methinks.

    Any WI’ers listening prepared to do battle with Mr Collins ?

    Cholecyst … feathery fronds growing merrily in the front garden even as we speak.

  31. Andrew says:

    Thanks to Crucible for dropping in and for pointing out the OPEN and SANDWICH connections, which I totally missed. So much for my “not much of a theme” comment…

    For those complaining about TUBE (UK) = SUBWAY (US), that’s the fault of my explanation rather than the clue: what we call the tube (in London, and I think nowhere else) is what Americans would call the Subway, which is what the clue expresses very well.

  32. Carrots says:

    Thanks for the work-out, Crucible: a bit like a visit to my physiotherapist, whose middle name is Torquemada. Thanks too, Andrew, for the working out: I needed it.

    I`m still a bit puzzled about the “S” on MARSEILLE: my (English) Edition of the French “Red Bible” spells it without. But, as long as the Frogs continue to hold Orsinades there and prepare the most divine Bouillabase, I couldn`t care less really.

    HOME MADE had stumped me too: “plain” is only a peripheral definition, the fundamental one being almost the opposite. Try my Salmon Trout En Gellais sometime!

  33. Carrots says:

    Sorry: that should have read “en gellee”.

  34. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Crucible @19:
    “The idea was to cram in as many words that could be preceded by OPEN or had something to do with SANDWICH (food and port)”
    I can see NOW open sandwich, university, door, minded, discussion, brackets and perhaps a few more, but that’s the thing: why should I (the solver) have made this connection whilst solving – unfortunately, it is not obvious enough (probably because the word “open” is too ordinary).

    There is a lot of subtraction/addition going on today.
    If one doesn’t understand what I mean, I would like to refer to 18d and 5d [which was rightly parsed by PeterO @12].
    But for us, it was just a bit too much of that today.

    To be honest, I (I say I, because I didn’t solve these puzzles with my PinC) felt today’s Radian and this week’s Redshank were so good that Crucible almost hád to lose. Sorry.

    We are not a big fan of fast food and certainly not of the use of SUBWAY in 8ac, but the only real problem we had with this puzzle was 6d, lauded by many as one of the best.
    Simplified it reads: LIES at M opening up ARLES.
    In our opinion the order of things is wrong here and leads to something that almost certainly does nót start with an M.
    That said, we’re happy to be enlightened!

    Our Clues of the Day:
    24d (DOOR) [a very nice device, getting rid of the N], 2d (EDEN) [we got it, we understood it, we liked it] and 3d (MINDED).

    Although we are supporters of Crucible, we thought this one wasn’t one of his best. But then, not every single puzzle can be a Masterpiece. Enjoyable it was, yes, but.

    BTW, where can we find G = Gulf (25ac)?
    [it’s not in my Chambers and Oxford, but perhaps Collins has other views?]

  35. Crucible says:

    Sil. G for Gulf is the first example in Collins, probably as used on maps.

    I agree that that pesky little word AT can mislead, but here it means BESIDE, i.e. before or after the M, in this case obviously after. As to the words preceded by OPEN, I think it would have added confusion if I’d signalled it in the 7 clues. I don’t know about you but I like to come upon patterns rather than have them thrust at me. Like Ninas and pangrams, you spot them or you don’t. Anyway, not noticing it didn’t matter.

    Would you have preferred the alternative 5D clue?

  36. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Well, Crucible (as I have to call you here [and nót there]), if G’s in Collins: that’s fine – no problemo [I already thought so]. Why are dictionaries at times so different?

    Your intentions with OPEN (however nice they were) were apparently not really picked up by solvers at this site. But it didn’t stand in the way of solving the crossword.

    Our last one in was SANDWICH.
    As I said in the Indy blog, golf is not my thing but I should have known that place “not far from” Deal as I have been there, albeit long ago (in the 70s).
    And the article in that Dutch newspaper pointed me in the right direction.
    The good thing about this clue was that if one didn’t see it, that one might think it would end in ….FISH (because of the clue of 9ac). Yes, a “sandfish” is really something (not prawn-like, though).
    So, we needed resources for SANDWICH, but felt gracefully defeated here.

    But, still not convinced re 6d (MARSEILLES).
    An still waiting for the right parsing.

    But, Duggie, 2.5 out of 3 this week.
    It’s quite amazing!

  37. Ann Kittenplan says:

    @Median 13 – No stats – but I would say – if you don’t already know this – if you’re stuck, have a break and come back to it later that day. The results can be surprising.

  38. Rosmarinus says:

    Astilbes and saxifrages are both plants of the famiy Saxifragaceae. Therefore 15ac was a perfectly valid clue. There do not seem to many gardeners among Guardian crossword solvers!

  39. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Dear Ann [which was a hit by my fellow compatriots The George Baker Selection [remember ‘Little Green Bag]]: have a break have KitKat :).

    I think Median@13 has a tremendous point here.
    Fifteensquared visitors are not really the average solvers.

    For example, while I am being ‘intellectual’ about today’s crossword, three quarters of the UK (or more) doesn’t know what I am talking about. I am always aware of that.

    Median says:
    “For the third day in a row I’ve given up with several clues to go. Will I be back tomorrow?”
    His answer is YES.
    That of many others will be probably be NO.

    The things we discuss here at this site most certainly go beyond “Everyman’s Life” [which would be a great title for the next Ray Davies album – btw, sort out the Kinks specials on BBC4 tomorrow].

    “We are the (Crossword)world”.
    That is what some people think we are.
    It is also what we are nót.

  40. Martin H says:

    Some great stuff here – I really enjoy this adventurous sort of clueing; but the devices in 10 and 26 which Andrew calls ‘devious’, I’m afraid don’t work for me. My test is: if you can read it out loud and the sense comes through, then it works, if not…….; but it didn’t spoil the crossword (nor did the golf business). Thanks Crucible.

    Sil @34 – ‘To be honest, I felt today’s Radian and this week’s Redshank were so good that Crucible almost hád to lose. Sorry.’ Aren’t you being incredibly arrogant here? Who asked you to set up a competition between setters in different papers, and then appoint yourself the judge?

    And your entry at 39 – what on earth are you on about?

  41. Median says:

    Ann Kittenplan @37, yes I’m well aware that it can help to take a break and return later if one is stuck. I might do that with a prize crossword, where my motivation tends to be a bit higher. However, with an ordinary puzzle on an ordinary day I don’t usually have the patience. If I reach a plateau before finishing and my computer is available, I’ll have a quick go with TEA. More often than not, this enables me to complete the job in a couple of minutes. If I’m still missing some, I’ll come on here briefly and see what my betters are saying. Then it’s on to other stuff, not another crossword!

    But back to my original point @13, I’d love to know how many solvers tend to complete the more difficult non-prize Guardian crosswords. I suppose it’s an unanswerable question, but I’d be surprised if more than 100 were successful today. If so, is it a wise approach for a national newspaper? Maybe Hugh Stephenson, the Guardian’s crossword editor, could comment on his policy in relation to the level of difficulty of published puzzles. (I’ll ask him.) If I were in his shoes, I’d be reserving the most difficult puzzles for competitions and reducing the risk of deterring new or less-skilled solvers with three tough ones in a row, as – in my opinion – has happened this week. (What will tomorrow bring, I wonder? :))

  42. Paul B says:

    Sil says: why are dictionaries at times so different?

    The OED at half-past eight is very different to the same tome at ten-past seven. However, at nine-thirty, Chambers is exactly the same as Collins. For Young of course, if you pass a single definition for SLIT through the relevant equpipment, you’ll get two entirely different definitions for ‘ENGLERT-GREENBERGER DUALITY’ and ‘SAUSAGE’ on the back screen. And that’s why I love physics.

  43. RCWhiting says:

    Martin H
    “Aren’t you being incredibly arrogant here?”
    How could you say such a thing.

    Median @41
    I suspect your estimate is very much too small.
    There will almost certainly be at least one member of the staff at each of the 4000 secondary schools who will finish The Guardian cryptic every day. So “we” are not as special as you think.

  44. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Martin @40:
    Crucible = Radian = Redshank.
    If you would have solved all three of them (but maybe you did), you will perhaps understand where I come from.
    Luckily, the (hugely respected) setter himself knows what I am talking about.

    The first line @39 was just meant as a ‘light touch’, hence the smiley.
    But I really think the point Median makes (all the more @41) is 103.75% valid.
    And the other 1.25% to make it 105% comes from the fact that it is good to realise that we – the people at fifteensquared – are certainly not the ‘average solvers’.
    Yes, I have my opinions on crosswords but I always bear in mind that at the table next to us there are nice people who are just enjoying their beer.
    Completely the opposite of arrogance.

  45. Sil van den Hoek says:

    PaulB @42, this wasn’t one of my questions tonight, but, yes, in the blog of last Monday’s Rufus I said indeed: “BTW, sometimes I wonder which dictionary the Guardian uses as its ‘standard’ one. The hyphenated TEA-ROOM is ‘tea room’ in Chambers and Oxford, and ‘tearoom’ in Collins. Or can setters do what they like as long as it can be found ‘somewhere’?”.
    Which indeed is a relevant question, I think. Or is it not?

    Things like this and, for example, getting an answer to how the clue of 6d really works (still haven’t got that answer) are for me a lot more important than wasting my time on replying to posts like 40 and 43.

  46. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Well, Paul, it was …. :)

  47. Martin H says:

    Sil – First part – I didn’t know all three were the same setter, and so read your comment from quite the wrong angle, and merely display my own ignorance. I’m sorry.

    Second – well, perhaps those of us who contribute to this forum not as elite a group as you make out, or even a definable set you could call ‘we’ – if that’s what you were trying to say. As RCW says, Median’s estimate of 100 who could complete today’s crossword must be way too small. Sorry again, but I think I called the wrong comment arrogant.

  48. Paul B says:

    I used to think The G uses Chambers, but I’ve a feeling that Collins is in fact their basic ref. Nevertheless, if a setter can justify an inclusion in some satisfactory way, whether that be the dicks we know and … tolerate, or a medical reference, or ODQ, or the cast list from a soap series, s/he will probably get away with it.

    As you may have guessed, English isn’t all that standardised, even post 1755 (and I don’t mean 5 minutes to 6 o’clock).

  49. Sil van den Hoek says:

    As I am still left with some kind of question mark re 6d (MARSEILLES), I would appreciate it when someone could point out what is wrong with my parsing/reasoning below (even if it’s very late in the day):

    “is situated over” = reversal of LIES, so SEIL
    “at west end of Med” = placed at (or as Crucible says: beside) M[ed]
    “opening up Arles” = put inside ARLES

    SEIL beside M, put inside ARLES
    In the order of things given, this does not lead to MARSEILLES.
    It could lead to eg AR(M-SEIL)LES or AR(SEIL-M)LES

    It looks like I have to read this as:
    put SEIL inside ARLES, and put the result of that beside M
    That would indeed lead to MARSEILLES.

    In short, the problem I have with this clue is
    – there are three subdevices A,B,C.
    – I read it as (A,B),C
    – it should be read as (A,C),B

    Even if I am not fully convinced (probably because of the ambiguity of the wordplay), I do see now that it can be justified by reading the clue in a certain (for me, unlogical)way. Maybe a comma after “over” would have done the trick for me.

    BTW, Crucible, since you asked @35, just like some others I think your alternative is hilarious ánd clever, and to be preferred (although my PinC certainly would disagree).
    I guess, the ‘vulgarity’ wouldn’t be an issue for the Guardian (having their very own Mr Bottom on the payroll), but I can imagine that you did not want to use it just for the sake of your own peace of mind.

  50. Bodgel says:

    A bit too late for anyone to read I expect, since once I start a puzzle I make every effort to finish before giving up … sometimes over several days. The one I couldn’t do was 20a even with all the crossings. I can think of no logical connection between “plain” and “home-made”. So Crucible @25 – maybe if YOU’re not happy with it, perhaps you could consider using a different definition, even if one dictionary or other supports it (mistakenly in my view). “He’d mistakenly held a note over domestic” perhaps?

    Generally I feel most examples of wordplay I see are fair enough, even when I have to rely on the good denizens of this site to explain them, but is there a tendency for definitions to drift further and further away from solutions, perhaps just as a way of reaching some expected difficulty level? It feels unfair to me.

  51. Dave Ellison says:

    Median @ 41. I think what you ask is very interesting. For what it is worth, I seem to remember the Guardian at one time used to publish the number of entries to prize crosswords (or maybe it was to the Holiday prize ones) and my memory is that around 200 people submitted an entry.

  52. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Martin, if you’re still there, re the second part of your post 47.

    Perhaps, I gave the impression that it’s Us and Them in Crosswordland. Us being the visitors of fifteensquared, and Them all the others in the world. And perhaps, you think that I think that Us is an elite looking down on Them.
    If that’s the case, then you may call it indeed an arrogant attitude.

    But it’s not what I meant to say.
    Yes, I do think that ‘we’ here at fifteensquared are not a random sample of crossword solvers. In general, we are above average solvers with an interest in exchanging ideas about (the solving of) puzzles.
    But ‘outside’ there will also be a lot of people like you and me and whoever – just as keen on crosswords as we are.
    So, I am certainly not saying that ‘we’ are the chosen few (if alone, we are).

    However, I also think that there is a majority of daily solvers that cannot be bothered too much by what we are doing here. They probably just want to solve today’s puzzle in the time available – on the way to work, perhaps at work, at home. And rightly so.
    For many of these solvers a triplet like Brummie/Puck/Crucible might be an unsatisfying offering for the reasons Median mentioned.

    When I say that I always bear in mind that there is, in my opinion, a majority that doesn’t want to go that far as ‘we’ do here, then I mean to say that I am well aware of the fact that everyone (here and ‘out there’) experiences crosswords in his/her own way. Moreover, I then realise that our opinions here may be interesting but certainly not always voicing other solvers’ needs.

    I hope, I made clear now that I am not putting Us above Them.
    It has more to do with humility than with arrogance.
    There are other voices outside fifteensquared and they are just as important. And they should be listened to. For example, by perhaps not putting a triplet like Brummie/Puck/Crucible on a midweek.
    In the end, the editor’s policy should be (and most certainly is) based on giving joy to as many people as possible – making Median’s ‘complaint’ a valid one.

  53. Huw Powell says:

    I was surprised to actually finish this after picking it back up today having taken a break to do the mid-month puzzlecrypt guest offering. At that point I was missing words in three quadrants, none of which were linked.

    I don’t think I used any research tools beyond confirmations, either (anyone who follows my editing patterns on WP could see I was working on this. Admittedly I *tried* – but no matter how much I read about Gravesend I still had to solve BRACKETS the hard way.

    I note that the Royal St George’s lacks an article on WP, which seems a bit odd given the current topicality. I never bothered to verify that some event was taking place in SANDWICH, just assumed there must be one.

    This puzzle as many have said offered some truly devious cluing, yet at the end of the day they were all fair (as long as one doesn’t object to graveSend). Last to fall was the SW corner, but once I got BRACKETS, HOME-MADE fell and the two little two-word clues had to be what I thought they might be. As far as plain = homemade, I think in the US that equation is very usable, due to the history of westward settlements. Astilbe is a very common ornamental plant, perhaps a different common name is used in the UK than in the US?

    So thanks for the blog, Andrew, and to Crucible for not only the lovely journey, but for dropping by and sharing the “theme” (which was not required for solving) he had hidden along the way.

  54. Martin H says:

    Sil – you’re right about the impression I had that you were dividing crossword setters into an elite ‘us’ – and ‘them’. I’m glad to hear, and accept, that that impression was mistaken. It came partially from your rather gnomic last two paragraphs @39, but more from your seemingly enthusiastic endorsement of Median’s speculative figure of 100 successful solvers of this puzzle. I’m sure this estimate is very much too small, and that the majority were, probably habitual, solvers who do not contribute to this forum. And there have always been off-line ‘forums’ where solvers get together to discuss and solve cryptics – in staff rooms, canteens, pubs etc. ‘We’ are only a small part of a large crossword-solving community. Occasionally there will be a midweek block of tough puzzles, but if they’re good ones surely all solvers, 15-squared-ers or not, will welcome them. And how do you know what solvers who aren’t part of this or any or no forum think? And how is the editor supposed to ‘listen’ to them?

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