Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,416 / Tramp

Posted by duncanshiell on September 1st, 2011


Tramp is a recent and welcome addition to the Guardian crossword stable.  His puzzles make you think.  His cluing tends to the complex construction that I prefer, but I also think there are a varied selection of clue types here that should suit everybody’s taste at some point.

I particularly like the way that a number of Tramp’s clues encapsulate a theme of their own – examples today being 12 across with its horseracing theme and 27 across with its cricketing theme.

I suspect that overseas solvers, with little or no interest in quintessential British sports such as cricket or darts, will struggle with the SE corner of this puzzle.

 There is plenty for the fashionistas with references to 1970s fashion (albeit fairly British again) and Calvin Klein.  

There are a number of music references – The Spice Girls, Elvis and Noddy Holder in the clues and MICHAEL JACKSON , [ROY] ORBISON and [DAME NELLIE] MELBA in the entries, not forgetting the large Japanese drum.

I have a query on the spelling of the entry at 9 across – are there really 2 Ps in the past tense of GOSSIP? Each of Chambers, Collins and the Shorter Oxford give the past tense with one P only.

The homophone of FUN GUY is something that I have come across before, but even so, it took a long time for the penny to drop.


No. Clue Wordplay Entry
1 SHIFT jams – almost hit OK + CANCEL for dead icon … (7,7) Anagram of (shift) JAMS and HIT (excluding the last letter [almost] T) and OK and CANCEL MICHAEL JACKSON (singer, songwriter, dancer, musician who died in 2009.  He was considered to be an ‘icon’ by many people)
9 … spread story; icon covering head in shocking Pepsi outburst (9) GOD (icon) containing (covering) an anagram of (outburst) (the first letter of [head in] SHOCKING and PEPSI)  I assume the ellipses are present between 1 across and 9 across because the word icon is used in both clues and they could be read together as a continuing theme. Afternote: Thanks to many readers for the comments explaining the very strong link between MICHAEL JACKSON, PEPSI and JAM. GOSSIPPED (spread) .
10 There’s no light here – Man United’s backing supporter … (5) MU (Manchester United) reversed (backing) + BRA  (supporter) UMBRA (shadow; dark part of a sunspot; "there’s no light here")
11 … one supports this in United’s home? (5) Hidden word in (in) MANCHESTER, the home of Man United (referenced in previous clue, hence the ellipses) CHEST (a bra, referenced in the previous clue, supports a CHEST)
12 A new suggestion for wager – Ascot, firm going, Dettori finally getting his starting orders? (9) A + N (new) + TIP (suggestion for a wager) + ASCOT (excluding [going] CO [company; firm]) + the last letter (finally) I of DETTORI   For non-UK and non-sporty solvers, the whole clue has a horse racing theme – [Frankie] Dettori is a well known rider, and Ascot is a well known racecourse ANTIPASTI (In Italy, hors d’oeuvre; appetisers; an order for starters) The singular is ANTIPASTO. Frankie Dettori is Italian.
13 Foreign news breaking: "Union backing musical" (8) (N [new] + N [new], i.e. new twice, or news) contained in (breaking) (U [union] + EVITA [musical] reversed [backing]) UNNATIVE (not native; foreign)
14 See 17   [HIDDEN] AGENDA
17,14 Ulterior motive of Häagen-Dazs? (6,6) The word AGENDA is HIDDEN in AGEN DAZS HIDDEN [AGENDA] (ulterior motive)
19 He helps priest change, we hear, by holding ring (5,3) ALTAR (sounds like [we hear] ALTER [change]) + BY containing (holding) <font color="blue">O (ring) ALTAR BOY (a boy assisting the priest at the altar)
22 Shell and scramble evolutional egg time 98) Anagram of (scramble) EVOLUTIONAL excluding the first and last letters (shelled) E and L OVULATION (the moment of release of an ova [egg] from the ovary; egg time)
24 OK I admit partially backing Japanese drum (5) (OK + I +the first two letters of (partially) ADMIT) all reversed (backing) DAIKO (a large Japanese drum)
25 Spice girl with a soprano (5) MEL B (reference The Spice Girls pop group, one of whose members was MELANIE BROWN, known as Scary Spice or MEL B) + A MELBA (reference Dame Nellie MELBA, Australian operatic soprana.  I don’t know what kind of voice MEL B could be described as having, but I suspect it wasn’t ‘soprano’)
26 70s clothing sounds like Noddy Holders’s cup of tea (6,3) KIPPER (one who kips; a sleeper; one who nods; noddy) + TIE (I am guessing that this a dialect version of CUP OF TEA, as spoken in the Walsall area, near Birmingham and Dudley, where Noddy Holder was born and raised) KIPPER TIE (a very wide, and often garish, necktie popular with British young men, in the 1970’s and sported by Noddy Holder, lead singer of Slade)
27 Without a run rate, almost leg before wicket, is possible match decider (9-5) DUCK (zero; no score; without a run) + WORTH (rate) + first two letters of (almost) LEG + W (wicket) + IS DUCKWORTH-LEWIS (reference the DUCKWORTH-LEWIS method, a mathematical means of determining the outcome of cricket matches if they are affected by rain.  I won’t even try to begin to explain the intracies of the method for those with no interest in cricket.  Even the afficonados of the game struggle with it and its use and interpretation can generate columns of newsprint in the British sporting press.  It’s use contributed to a couple of exciting semi-finals in last weekend’s 20/20 County cricket finals)
1 Picking up fun guy that could make your head spin? (5,9) Based on a homophone (sounds like; picking up) FUN GUYFUNGI (e.g. [magic] mushrooms) MAGIC MUSHROOMS (any of a number of varieties of mushrooms that contain hallucinogens with the potential to make your head spin)
2 Head for lavatory – is tension breaking into location of hadron collider? (7) (IS + T [{surface}tension]) contained in (breaking into) CERN (Organisation Européenne pour las Recherche Nucléaire, the name of the organisation located in Switzerland which is the home of the Large Hadron Collider, and its predecessor, the orginal, and now small hadron collider) CISTERN (tank holding water; important part of a lavatory system; HEA can be defined as an essential part, but also refersto energy of a fluid relating to height.  I think in America, HEAD can refere to the lavatory itself.  All of these definitions seems to relate lavatory and cistern)
3 Philosopher unconventional to realist (9) Anagram of (unconventional) TO REALIST ARISTOTLE ([Greek] philosopher)
4 This stops kissers getting chaps lap dancing with Elvis (3,5) Anagram of (dancing) LAP and ELVIS LIP SALVE (ointment for lips [kissers] to prevent chapping).  Chambers gives this as one word but I think many manufactures use two words to describe their products.
5 Ford’s early model passed by German manufacturer’s checks (6) T (reference Model T Ford, the early model of Ford car) contained in (passed by) AUDI’S (German [car] manufacturer’s) AUDITS (checks)
6 Two kings turn to pawns for weapons producer (5) (K [king] + R [rex; king] [giving Kings]) + U (turn) + ( P [pawn] + P [pawn] [giving pawns]) KRUPP (reference FRIEDRICH KRUPP AG (now ThyssenKrupp AG, a major weapons manufacturer)
7 Singer has straight daughter – alternatively the opposite? (7) OR (alternatively) + BI (bisexual) + SON  (opposite of ‘straight daughter’) ORBISON (reference Roy ORBISON [singer])
8 To insert Always, perhaps? (8,6) Anagram of (perhaps) TO INSERT ALWAYS SANITARY TOWELS ( a pad of absorbent material inserted during menstruation.  ‘ALWAYS‘ is a brand of sanitary towels).  I think perhaps is doing double duty here and the clue tends towards an &lit
15 Protector of plant’s opening job for warder (5,4) GUARD CELL (the job of a [prison] warder is to GUARD a CELL) GUARD CELL (one of the lips of a stoma [mouthlike opening {apparently of animals, so I am not sure of the reference to plants. However I do not have a good knowledge of zoology and botany}, so the plant allusion will no doubt be right]; a pair of special epidermal cells. Afternote: see comment at 6 below explaining the botanical reference in detail)
16 Set to grow weed in this? (5,3) PLANT (I think ‘set’ can mean ‘to begin to form a fruit or seed’ [plant {?}]; or set soemething in  the ground [plant it]) + POT (cannabis; weed)  I don’t think I have got this exactly right, but it’s something along the lines I have described. PLANT POT (you can grow cannabis [POT] in a PLANT POT)
18 Bed for 20 – he needed it to checkout university (6-1) Last letter W of [bed] BRISTOW; also DOUBLE (a darts player {e.g. Eric BRISTOW [entry at 20 down]checks-out on a DOUBLE) + U (university) DOUBLE-U (W, the 23rd letter of the alphabet)
20 "Bullseye … regains it" – Sid Waddell initially going over to darts player (7) First letters of [initially) BULLSEYE REGAINS IT SID WADDELL containing (going over) TO BRISTOW (reference Eric BRISTOW, World darts champion four times in the 1980s, a man who helped popularise darts in Britain.  Sid Waddell is a renowned television darts commentator with an extraordinary ability to express the English language in ways otherwise unimagined. Waddell quotes )
21 Good to go over writing material for "Chinese Tree" (6) G (good) + INK (writing material) + GO GINKGO (maidenhair tree; a Chinese ornamental tree)
23 In the style of Calvin Klein – sadly no longer in use (5) À LA (in the style of) + CK (brand name of Calvin Klein, an American fashion designer) ALACK (archaic word [no longer in use] denoting regret; sadly)

66 Responses to “Guardian 25,416 / Tramp”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Duncan. This was a delight. One or two rather obvious clues but nicely balanced by a few others that took some working out.

    I think the ellipses between 1ac and 9 refer to the time that he set his hair on fire during the filming of the commercial for Pepsi, which makes 9 an outstanding clue, even if the spelling might be dodgy.

    Isn’t the reference in 26 just to a (slightly suspect) Brummie accent saying “cup of tea”?

    I think you’re spot on with your reading of PLANT POT.

    I think the only one I wasn’t keen on was 8, where I wondered about the technicalities of always inserting but will leave it there, I think…

  2. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Duncan, for the blog, and Tramp for another highly entertaining puzzle.

    Favourite clue by a long way was HIDDEN AGENDA but now that Neil has explained 9ac I can see that that’s excellent, too.

    Along the same lines, 26ac is clued very relevantly, too, so there need be no arguments about accents today! See here:

  3. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Many thanks, Duncan, for your comprehensive blog.

    Took me a while to get going with this one, but in the end I really enjoyed it. With SANITARY TOWELS, BRA, CHEST and OVULATION I thought it might be a bit of a Grauniad feminist theme (only joking, only joking) but in fact it was a really well-constructed puzzle.

    ANTIPASTI was a long, but story-telling clue; HIDDEN AGENDA was excellent, as was ORBISON. A bit parochial? Maybe, but for me a delightful crossword.

    I agree with you on GOSSIPED, though. The rule is that if the stress is not on the last syllable, then you don’t double the consonant. Which is why you’d write ‘she cussed’ for ‘she swore’, but ‘she was focused’, despite seeing ‘focussed’ all over the place (including in the Grauniad). She no doubt sipped her drink as she gossiped with her friend.

  4. Artie Fufkin says:

    I think this is Tramp’s best puzzle yet. I found it thoroughly enjoyable and it made a dull commute to London really entertaining.

    My favourite clue was 17,14 which I thought was sublime.

    Some of the surface reading of these clues is very good indeed. Not sure whether it was intentional but Jackson had a hit with Jam from his Dangerous album (if my pop knowledge is up to scratch). The surface reading makes you think computing though with the use of SHIFT, CANCEL, OK and icon. I like clues like this.

    The Noddy Holder one made me smile.

    Another excellent puzzle. Thanks so much.

  5. Mystogre says:

    Great thanks to both Tramp (for an astonishingly eclectic crossword) and Duncan for explaining the bits where I had the word but not the full reason. I was also not too happy about the double P in 9ac. And I do agree with NeilW on the filming of the Pepsi commercial being the reason for the ellipsis. The first part of UNNATIVE did make me pause as it was not a term with which I am familiar.

    I did enjoy AGENDA, MELBA and ORBISON though. A great way to pass more time than I care to admit to, but work is finished for the day.

  6. Geoff says:

    Thanks, Duncan.

    Enjoyable puzzle, with a large variety of clues of different types and difficulty.

    There are rather a lot of inelegancies, though. 9a is misspelt – I can’t find any dictionary justification for this. 24a seems to be the usual transliteration in compound words, but on its own it is more properly TAIKO (as far as I can make out – it was a new word for me). 26a is a very iffy Brummie homophone – the first vowel in the West Midlands version of ‘cup’ in more like the ‘oo’ on ‘cook’.

    2d: I read this as CISTERN being a ‘head (tank)for lavatory’. Great surface.

    15d: The stomata on the surface of plant leaves are pores which allow carbon dioxide to be absorbed. The GUARD CELLS regulate the size of the aperture, typically closing the stomata during the day to avoid water loss and opening them at night.

    8d is great fun, but misleading as instructions for use!

  7. harhop says:

    Particular thanks for the comprehensive blog format

  8. tupu says:

    Thanks Duncan and Tramp

    A helpful blog.

    I got the answer to 1d from the letters and definition. The penny dropped in the end re Fungi/Funguy but not re ‘pick up’.

    I had to do quite a bit of checking e.g. re 24a, 27a and had mixed feelings about that. It feels good to have got the answer from the clue but not knowing the expression takes the edge off a bit.

    As for others ‘hidden agenda’ my answer of the day.

    I agree with NeilW re Noddy. I did not know Noddy Holder and had forgotten ‘kipper tie’ getting hung up on ‘kipper tee’ and finding the answer when checking this.

    Re gossipped – it is true that published dictionaries seem to give gossiped only. But Wikipedia etc. accept gossipped. I did not personally react negatively to it.

    K’s D. There is also a rule that is based on the strengthening of the vowel before single consonant plus e. The double p clearly fits that. Imagine if the word had been (as from its origin) godsib. Godsibed would feel quite wrong. Anyway, these rules are pretty arbitrary – we don’t even have a linguistic academy, thank goodness.

  9. duncanshiell says:

    Thanks to everyone who explained the Pepsi reference and the strong link between 1 across and 9 across. Thanks also to Geoff at #6 for explaining fully the botanical reference 15 down.

  10. Artie Fufkin says:

    I agree with tupu. Various online dictionaries give the past particple of gossip to be gossipped or gossiped. I must admit that I didn’t quibble the spelling of this until reading this blog!

    I’ve definitely learned something new today.

  11. cholecyst says:

    Thanks, Duncan. I especially liked 1dn because I’m just off to the woods here in Northumberland to pick some! Well, not quite. I’m after porcini (ceps) which are prolific this year.

    I agree with tupu @8 – there are no absolute rules in English orthography. In the end, usage prevails (as with meaning).

  12. Geoff says:

    tupu @8: I’ll accept, grudgingly, that the spelling GOSSIPPED has precedents, although the more kosher sources don’t admit it.
    However, the convention which you quote about consonant doubling after a short vowel only applies to stressed vowels. The usual spelling of the past tense of ‘clip’ is ‘clipped’ for this reason (‘cliped’ would look as though it should be pronounced ‘clyped’). Similarly, ‘pet’ gives ‘petted’ but ‘fillet’ gives ‘filleted’, because the ‘e’ is not in a stressed syllable.

  13. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Duncan, and thanks to Tramp for a really enjoyable puzzle. My favourite was HIDDEN AGENDA. I also really liked 1ac and 8dn. Failed to spot the fungi homophone at 1dn and also relied heavily on the check button for 27ac.

    This setter has a real lightness of touch, I think. I liked the variety, too.

  14. Kathryn's Dad says:

    tupu and cholecyst (the gall of the woman) are just picking on me today. I’m being targeted. Or should that be targetted? Er, no, it shouldn’t.

  15. smutchin says:

    Thanks for the excellent & comprehensive blog, Duncan. There were a few here that bamboozled me and I could kick myself for not getting some of them – eg 1d, 25a. “Picking up” is a clever and original homophone indicator.

    Wasn’t so keen on 17,14 – can’t help thinking there’s something not quite right about the way the clue is worded.

    I like Tramp, though. He brings a sense of fun to my mornings (especially with clues like 26a, which would be worthy of Paul).

  16. smutchin says:

    Kathryn’s Dad – like it or not, we have to accede to the inclusive approach to spelling variations adopted by Chambers, which is, as ever, the sole arbiter in these matters.

  17. Tramp says:

    Thanks Duncan for an excellent blog and thanks to all for your comments.

    I can’t explain GOSSIPPED. I doubt I would have typed that into the grid myself so I can only think it was the result of a fill from the software. I don’t remember the details as I wrote this puzzle months ago, but I think I satisfied myself at the time of writing that it was ok. I apologise.

    As NeilW @#1 states, 9ac relates to the accident involving Michael Jackson in which he burnt his scalp shooting a commercial for Pepsi. If I wrote this again, I wouldn’t use a nounal anagrind. Incidentally, this clue was a last-minute rewrite; the original involved too much toilet humour.


  18. Robi says:

    Good, entertaining crossword with lots of variety.

    Thanks Duncan for an exemplary blog. I didn’t get ‘fun guy’ as I always pronounce the ‘i’ in FUNGI as ‘ee.’ No doubt Eileen will know the Latin pronunciation of the plural of ‘-us.’ Yes, you might expect GOSSIP to keep the single ‘P;’ maybe it’s because of SIPPED, which has encouraged the lazy spelling.

    HIDDEN AGENDA was a classic.

    Thanks, Tramp for dropping by. You can tell us here what the original toilet humour clue was. We won’t tell!

  19. Disco says:

    I’m now dying to know what the original clue was for 9ac!

    Thanks Tramp and Duncan.

    I got off to a blistering start on this one and thought I’d be twiddling my thumbs for most of my lunch break (which makes it hard to hold my sandwiches). I ground to a halt with about a third of it done, though, and had an enjoyable bit of mulling-over whilst munching away. AGENDA was a lovely clue.

    My progress wasn’t helped by getting confused between UMBRA and UMBRO – who were the manufacturers of Manchester United’s kits throughout much of the 1990s.

  20. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Tramp, for popping in and congratulations on a superb piece of work.

    “Months ago!” I do hope that means we have plenty more puzzles like this to look forward to in the weeks and months to come!

  21. Tramp says:

    I don’t remember the original clue but it contained three wees (‘have wee’ + ‘reversal of wee’ + half-heartedly ‘had wee’) and was, correctly, deemed inappropriate.

    I wrote Hidden Agenda in the queue at Blockbuster video about four years ago. Probably the only time I’ve left there happy at what I’ve just discovered.

  22. Thomas99 says:

    I don’t think anyone’s pointed out yet that in 16d it’s “set to grow”=plant, not “set”=plant. Isn’t it?

  23. Tramp says:

    That’s right Thomas99 @#22 – I meant to say this in my previous post.

    Set to grow = plant
    weed = pot
    in this? = semi-&lit definition

  24. tupu says:

    Thanks Tramp. It’s always good when the setter drops in.

    K’s D and Geoff et al. I take your point re stressed syllables which gives a (little known)logic to the rule. But how old is the rule and who made it?

  25. bagbird says:

    I cannot find UNNATIVE in any of my dictionaries! It’s the sort of word I would want to use in scrabble but would never expect to get away with it. With a hyphen, possibly?
    Otherwise, very enjoyable, will look forward to more from Tramp.

  26. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks for dropping in, Tramp.

    You need to get the gig setting for the Indy. The Concise Crossword in the Indy i recently had ‘drunk’ as the clue and ‘pissed’ as the answer. The letters page in the paper in subsequent days had a number of comments about the appropriatness of this, essentially divided into two camps: ‘harrumph!’ and ‘get a life’.

  27. bdg says:

    re the comment on 2d… There was no “small hadron collider”. LHC’s predecessor was LEP, the Large Electron Positron collider. LEP was build to study the W and Z particles discovered at the SppS collider (the second p should have a bar above it, for anti-proton). Simon van der Meer, who won the Nobel prize with Carlo Rubbia for the W and Z particle, developed the technology to collect and handle enough anti-protons to go round in the same SPS ring as the protons; this was essential as the SPS wasn’t designed as a collider. Collecting anti-protons is hard and time consuming, though, and what really counts are the collisions between the quarks and gluons inside the (anti-)protons so LHC has two rings to collide protons. Before that there was ISR, the Intersecting Storage Rings, shut down in 1984 to devote money to LEP construction.

    The 35 year old SPS and its 50+ year old predecessor, the PS, are still giving valuable service accelerating the protons before they are injected into LHC.

  28. liz says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Tramp. I particularly enjoyed hearing how you wrote the HIDDEN AGENDA clue :-)

  29. Eileen says:

    Hi Robi @18

    Yes, if I were reading Latin, I would pronounce ‘fungi’ as you do but I’ve only heard the ‘eye’ pronunciation in ‘English’. [Ironically, the English pronunciation of Latin plurals ending in ‘ae’ is ‘ee’ – whereas in Latin it’s ‘eye’.]

    UNNATIVE is in Chambers, bagbird, without a hyphen.

    Many thanks for dropping in, Tramp. I’m really glad you remembered HIDDEN AGENDA for so long – but sorry you’ve forgotten the original clue for 9ac!

    in my blog of the Enigmatist puzzle last week, I commented that Paul might have given a rather different clue for SMASH HIT. I think many of you may have missed the comment posted the following day by jetdoc [Mrs E] but I’m sure you’d like to see it:

    “Eileen, the original clue for 1a was ‘Bestselling single hardly covering Pulp in glory!’ but it underwent editorial bowdlerisation, unfortunately.”

  30. Geoff says:

    Thanks for calling in, Tramp, and for giving us all so much pleasure: a great puzzle with plenty to argue about!

    tupu: As I’m sure you know, the general spelling convention to have double consonants after short vowels in stressed syllables is a common Germanic feature. However, English orthography has many eccentricities, largely because the spelling was more or less established at a time when the language was pronounced very differently – before the Great Vowel Shift and other more individual changes.

  31. Kathryn's Dad says:

    W and Z particles and the Great Vowel Shift in the same blog. I love this place more than is good for me.

  32. molonglo says:

    Thanks Duncan, and Tramp for the puzzle and the appearance. I finished it, but was (and to an extent still am puzzled) by details – the magic=pick up in 1d, the chest/Manchester link in 11a, and the18-20d suntleties. I knew Duckworth but not Lewis so had to have one google go; and was once a Slade fan so almost got 26a. Sometimes finishing a puzzle is immensely satisfying, but this one vexed more than it perplexed.

  33. Ann Kittenplan says:

    Thanks Tramp and Duncan for the detailed blog.

    Just to second comments about HIDDEN AGENDA, and a different but welcome and challenging clueing style.

    One nit I haven’t seen picked: In 7d is BI the opposite of straight? Not sure opposite is apposite.

    BTW In the blog of D-L should afficonado be aficionado?

  34. crypticsue says:

    Thanks to Tramp for the fun and Duncan for the excellent explanations. Hard to pick a favourite clue amongst the many – 8d was good wordplay but not sure I have ever seen that solution in a cryptic before!

  35. Tramp says:

    @#21 I meant “I’d”

    Ann Kittenplan – I see your point. If you take “opposite” to mean “contrary” then I think bi and straight are contrary: you can’t be both.

  36. duncanshiell says:

    When I write a blog I always wonder which ill thought out idea, or throwaway line in the blog will generate the greatest debate. On this occasion I certainly didn’t envisage an erudite discussion on whether or not to double consonants when forming the past tense of verbs, dependent on the stressed syllables preceding the consonant.

    At 2 down, I thought the tongue in cheek use of ‘small’ to describe the previous collider would produce a response, so I got one right. When I was training to be a land surveyor in 1970/71, at least one of my colleagues on the course went off to a job surveying the undergrpound workings at Cern.

    I’m not a cricket historian but I don’t think Duckworth exists without Lewis in cricketing terminology (if I am wrong, I am sure I will be told very quickly). You can find chapter and verse on the method at

    Molonglo @32 – I don’t think magic = pick up; I think it’s simply ‘magic mushrooms’ are an example of ‘fungi’ which sounds like (hearing; pick up) ‘fun guy’. I may be misinterpreting your point at 11a but ‘Manchester’ is the home of ‘Man United’ (clue 10) and a bra (clue at 10a) supports a chest (entry at 11a), and ‘chest’ is hidden in ‘Manchester’

    Ann@33 – Chambers gives both spellings but clearly favours your spelling over mine. On your other point, I don’t think I’ll enter the debate.

    Many of the other points in the comments have been answered, so I won’t comment further on those.

  37. Pyramid says:

    Great crossword and lovely to hear some feedback from the compiler – thank you.

    Agree re the inaccurate instruction for use at 8d! 😉

    Given the Bristow/Waddell reference, an excuse to share my favourite quote from the latter, following a title-win for the former: “When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer… Bristow’s only 27.”

  38. Robi says:

    bagbird @25; you might find the Scrabble checker useful, although I wouldn’t use it for friendly games! (UNNATIVE is allowed, apparently)

  39. PeterO says:

    Ann Kittenplan @ 33

    … and is son the opposite of daughter?

    In 2D, I think that the ‘head’ is the head of water provided by a cistern, which is one of the possibilities given in the blog.

    In 10A, my first reaction is that an umbra is the shadow of an eclipse, but I note that Chambers also gives it as the darkest part of a sunspot.

    Eileen @29

    I have come across the English pronunciation fun-jee (with a soft g).

    Thanks to Tramp for a puzzle that was enjoyable despite the references that were new to me, but gettable with online checks, and to Duncan for the blog.

  40. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks for the blog Duncan. A very challenging puzzle from Tramp

    After quite a while I thought that I had completed it correctly to find in Duncans blog that I had 15d wrong. I entered GUARD BELL thinking of a glass device to protect young plants from the elements. Wrong track altogether but enjoyable for all that.

  41. caretman says:

    Great blog, Duncan, and thanks to Tramp for dropping by.

    I’ll echo the comments on HIDDEN AGENDA, I thought it was a marvelous clue. But I’m mainly writing because I’m so chuffed that I got DUCKWORTH-LEWIS despite knowing nothing of cricket.

  42. scchua says:

    Thanks Duncan, and Tramp, for the puzzle and for dropping in.

    This was a refreshing puzzle. Last one in was KIPPER TIE (I’m sure I’ve still got a couple in the cupboard waiting for a fashion comeback!). Snookered myself because I confidently put in GINGKO, which is the spelling I’m familiar with, but didn’t realise it was only an alternative until I used the Check Button. Wide range of references, and was pleased I got DUCKWORTH-LEWIS, but only because I vaguely remembered it from some previous puzzle (after getting DUCK and LEWIS).

    Favourites were SANITARY NAPKIN, had a double-take and had to check the anagram, first because of the subject and second because of being instructionally incorrect!, which I immediately followed by UMBRA and CHEST, where the ellipses actually denoted a connection between the 2 clues, and ORBISON.

    Thanks again, Tramp, and hope to see more like this!

  43. Median says:

    Coming late to the discussion because I’m in the US at present, I agree this was a very good, entertaining puzzle. I needed the few easy clues to get me going, but I liked the range of topics, frequently unconventional style, clever devices (e.g. SHIFT, etc. in 1ac. – which successfully misdirected me for a while).

    Looking forward to the next offering from Tramp. Hope it’s before MARCH. :)

  44. Norman L in France says:

    Living less than 2 km from CERN I often wonder whether the bats we see at nightfall aren’t really large hadrons let out for exercise. They never seem to collide, so maybe Higgs’ boson will never be found.

  45. Cosafina says:

    Many thanks for an excellent puzzle, Tramp – it occupied my whole lunch hour instead of the usual 20 mins, although I also went for Guard Bell like gm4hqf @40 – I hoped maybe they rang a bell when it was time for the guards to open the cell doors!

  46. Mark Hanley says:

    Re: 26 ac – Slade were one of my favourite bands and Noddy a boyhood hero, but I’m from the West Midlands and cuppa tea in a Black Country accent is not “kipper tie” unless it’s done by Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer!!

  47. Tramp says:

    I got the idea for this clue seeing Noddy Holder himself on television. He told a joke/story that involved kipper tie/cup of tea so I thought it might have clue potential. As you all know, Noddy’s from Wolverhampton and after a bit of Googling I satisfied myself that it worked. On reflection, perhaps I should have put a question mark at the end or the word ‘loosely’ in there or something.

    The editor asked me to change this clue as it didn’t work for him but I requested it stay as is; I’m still glad I ran with it.


  48. cholecyst says:

    KIPPER TIE: Has nobody read Eileen @2?

  49. Tom Hutton says:

    Vulgar without being funny

  50. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    I thought this was not quite up to the very high standard which Tramp set himself last time (a little easier) but nevertheless a good challenge with some lovely clues.
    I also doubted the double p.
    I particularly liked 8d and 17,14; 27 ac was very clever but a little too obvious (especially for cricket fans or people (like me) who like to see mathematics being used in obscure places).

  51. RCWhiting says:

    I should have added that 22ac was quite brilliant.

  52. Davy says:

    Thanks Duncan,

    A great puzzle from Tramp but I was defeated by DUCKWORTH-LEWIS which means absolutely nothing to me.

    HIDDEN AGENDA was brilliant and OVULATION had interesting wordplay. Also MELBA was surprisingly difficult to get, even though it’s so obvious.

    I am offended by very little but I was surprised that 8d didn’t offend someone’s sensibilities.

  53. Dave Ellison says:

    KIPPER TIE was my first in (and the only one for a long time). I found this quite tough.

    I failed on 27a as I had DOUBLE I (for 1) at 18d – I was reading BED FOR 20 as “a section of a number, usually referring to a double or a triple”.

    17, 14a brilliant, though

  54. PeeDee says:

    Thanks Duncan and thanks Tramp.

    The most fun I have had doing a crossword for years! HIDDEN AGENDA was brilliant, as were many others too. SANITARY TOWELS was a gem, nearly pissed myself laughing.

    I really don’t care about a debateable spelling when the clues are this good.

  55. muck says:

    Thank you Tramp for a great puzzle.
    HIDDEN AGENDA my favourite too.
    12ac ANTIPASTI is in Chambers 11th edn as the plural of “antipasto=hors d’oeuvre” but not in earlier edns.
    It shouldn’t really be pluralised imho, but if Chambers says so…

  56. Graham H says:

    Kipper Tie: I knew the Noddy Holder joke – I thought it had been around a while – (still funny though).

    Umbra: Isn’t this the dark part of an eclipse – no light – as opposed to the penumbra, which is half-lit? So I’m happy with the clue.

    Overall this was smashing. Loved AGENDA, DUCKWORTH-LEWIS, SANITARY TOWEL and ALACK as well.

  57. Paul B says:

    Yes, good ‘un from Tramp, with some very amusing sanitary towels.

    Have to say he’s not the first setter to use the ‘agenda hidden in Haagen-Dazs’ idea though: FT had it from me on one occasion, and I wondered then whether anyone else had already nabbed it. When the boot was on the other foot, I marvelled at my genius in having come up with ‘Features editor?’ for PLASTIC SURGEON, only to be informed of my place in a very long queue.

  58. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I haven’t commented that much on Tramp’s recent crosswords, but today I will be more specific about why I like these.

    We loved 17,14ac (HIDDEN AGENDA) [despite Paul’s comment – but then great minds think alike], CHEST (11ac) [our last entry] and SANITARY TOWELS (8d). They were some of the best.

    As I said before, this time I would also like to make clear why I think Tramp is different from a lot of other setters:
    it is all about the surfaces – they are really exciting and what I would call (in Crosswordland) new-fashioned …..

    This is something that I already wanted to say a while ago when Tramp had his second (excellent) Genius puzzle published.
    These surfaces are just so good. A lot of brand names and well-known people come along, yes, but as long as they do not form the actual solution, it’s fine (and even better) by me. They make this crossword so “now” and therefore not “then”.

    A big plus!

  59. Daniel Miller says:

    I am totally stunned by the beauty of some of these clues. There is some quite stunning word play – so well constructed – in many of these clues. It is hard to choose between them the best of so many.. The smooth use of Dettori to indicate Antipasti whilst weaving a story amongst the sentence to suggest a racing related answer for 12 across is superb. The use of Haagen Daaz! The imaginative 1 across for Michael Jackson. The quite brilliant word play to arrive at Ovulation. The wonderful use of cricket terminology to clue D-L. Orbison.. Bristow.. the weaving of one answer to another clue.. and so on. Top Marks Tramp I salute you.

    Also United’s home (= Manchester)

  60. rfb says:

    Well, almost everybody loves this, except me. I agree that the clues were ingenious & very well constructed. But I found it very frustrating because of the number of references that were obscure to me:
    Frankie Dettori
    Noddy Holder (I have heard of Slade, but that’s all)
    Eric Bristow
    Sid Waddell
    Duckworth-Lewis (I knew there was a double-barrelled name to do with deciding the winner of a rain-affected limited-over cricket match, but to remember it??)
    Mel B (I had heard of the Spice Girls, but their individual names??)

    I think it would have been tough for me in any case but …

    Trying to solve this felt like being with a whole bunch of freemasons when you don’t know the secret handshake.

  61. Tramp says:

    I suspect people aren’t checking this now but in case someone does, here’s a summary form me.

    I’m pleased with the comments, especially the ones about my surface. A comment on the Guardian talkboards talked of my “inelegant surface” which I was surprised at. I think my clues tend to be long because I try my best to make a good story without superfluous words that just help the surface. I dislike clues that do not evoke some kind of picture on the surface and could only be crossword clues.

    I’m really surprised at the offence some people have taken to SANITARY TOWELS. Always is a UK brand of sanitary towel and they are inserted into knickers; I don’t see what’s “vulgar” about that. I realise it’s “non-sitting room material” but I clued TOILET ROLL in an earlier puzzle and nobody complained. I am not vulgar: a little saucy at times, perhaps.

    I posted my Haagen-Dazs clue on Paul’s cryptica site a few years ago. I was surprised nobody had already used it so I tip my hat to Paul B for beating me to it – fools seldom differ!

    Thanks again Tramp

  62. PeeDee says:

    Sil @58 – I think you have hit the nail on the head regarding the ‘new’ feeling. I couldn’t put my finger on what makes Tramp crosswords different, but that’s it.

  63. PeeDee says:

    @62 – sorry, I meant ‘now feeling’ not ‘new feeling’

  64. Paul B says:

    Ref 63: indeed!

    Ref vulgarity I can’t see you in that light at all: and even if anyone could, you would be far behind the Guardian’s leaders in that field.

  65. Paul B says:

    (I mean ‘ref 63′ as in ref 61, as you may have noticed.)

  66. Ste says:

    I find Tramp’s puzzles witty, entertaining (to the point I got a few surprised looks as I laughed aloud in the doctor’s surgery waiting room, funnily enough on solving ‘sanitary towels’) The themes are superb. I failed with Duckworth Lewis but, hey! – life’s for learning. And laughing. As for the vulgarity complaint, it’s prevalent in literature, theatre, film dare I say it the press (not excluding The Guardian) so let’s not get carried away. Once again: Super, Tramp 😉

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