Fifteensquared

Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize Puzzle No 25418, by Paul

Posted by bridgesong on September 10th, 2011

bridgesong.

After last week’s stinker of a double puzzle from Araucaria, this was much easier, all the more so once the theme had been guessed (which didn’t take long).    All the “John’s” references were to songs by Elton John, and although I’m not a particular Elton fan, it was easy to guess most of them from the enumeration alone.  Many thanks to my solving partner Timon for his help with the other clues.  There were some very nice definitions and surface readings.

I shall be walking the Dales Way the weekend that this blog appears so may be unable even to read your posts, much less to respond to them.  Apologies in advance for any errors or omissions.

*anagram

Hold mouse over clue number to see clue

Across
1 TOBAGO (C)ABOT (rev), GO. John Cabot was a 15th century explorer
4   See 19
9 YETI YET, I
10 DEROGATORY GORED (rev), A TORY
11 OFF-KEY OFF, KEY. A cricket field has two sides (determined by the batsman in play) the “on” or leg side, and the “off”.
12,16down CANDLE IN THE WIND CAN, *(DIDN’T LIE WHEN). Perhaps his best known song, following its being played by him at Princess Diana’s funeral
13 CHIROPODY CHI, *DROOPY. A classic Paul clue!
15   See 19
16 TICK Double definition; a tick is a biting insect, but can also mean a short period of time (“hang on a tick”) so therefore a bit.
17 BLACKLEGS B(owled), LACK LEGS. I like “not out” as a definition, helping to give a nicely misleading surface reading.
21 REFERRER RE F(rench), ERRER
22 UPSHOT UP SHOT.
24 SIAMESE CAT S(mall) *(MICE AT SEA). At sea is a common anagrind, so nice to see it used here as part of the anagram
25 RUBY Jack Ruby assassinated Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated President Kennedy.
26 DANIEL *(IN DEAL)
27 ARGYLE Hidden and reversed in “barely grasped”
Down
1 TWELFTH T(ime), FLEW(rev), TH(e)
2   See 19
3 GIDDY UP Another meaning for UP (see 22 across): it can mean “on a horse”.
5 ENGINE (hom)E, G in NINE.
6 LITTLE OWL *(TIT WELL + OL(d))
7 WORRIED *(WEIRDO + (gramma)R)
8 CROCODILE ROCK Another classic Elton song. The reference in the clue is to the stick of rock you buy at the seaside, which has a word (e.g. Blackpool) visible the length of the stick, so you can read it no matter where you bite into it.
14 ROCKET MAN John Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the earth
16   See 12
18 COUNTER Double definition
19,4,2,15 GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD Another classic Elton song, easily guessed from the enumeration. It refers to the classic film of The Wizard of Oz
20 WRASSE W(eaken) R(iding), *SEAS. As Timon said when he saw the crossing letters: “it’s got to be wrasse, it always is!”.
23 SORRY SOR(t), R(eall)Y. The final Elton reference; it’s the hardest word (but not in this puzzle!)

 

40 Responses to “Guardian Prize Puzzle No 25418, by Paul”

  1. matt says:

    yup, pretty straightforward. As you say, the defences started to crumble as soon as the ‘john’ reference was sussed. Could have been trickier by having ‘john’ tucked into the grid somewhere, but they can’t all be difficult, and nor should they be.
    Thanks Paul, thanks Bridgesong.

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks bridgesong. Too easy – the only tricky one was the last, 27a, which looked like an improbable anagram of ‘barely.’ I got the first John in 1a and was so misled for a few minutes until the Elton bell rang. Had to think about 16a, second last in, for a couple of ticks, too.

  3. Coffee says:

    I spent far too long being baffled, till my mum sent a terse email “ROCKET MAN !!! “- and thence the domino effect. A few LOL moments though, the John references were quite entertaining and I liked RUBY. REFERRER seems a clunky word, not sure if I’d let the kids at school use it!

    Thanks Paul & Bridgesong.

  4. Biggles A says:

    Thanks bridgesong. I agree with previous comments: not too much of a challenge, especially when the Elton theme emerged and I could compensate for my ignorance by reference to the internet. Of course I had to dabble initially with the Biggles – W E Johns – association but that was a dead end. I never did manage to decipher 8 properly, thanks for the now obvious explanation.

  5. Uncle Yap says:

    There were three Johns in the puzzle. Elton John with some of his songs of the seventies, John Cabot, the explorer and John F. Kennedy. The fourth, John Halpern aka Paul missed an opportunity to clue 25A as John’s assassin’s assassin in a shade of red (4)

    I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle and had to hold my horses for a week to say so (sigh)

    Thank you, bridgesong and Paul

  6. Geoff Chapman says:

    What Mongolo said – exactly. In such circumstances, where the same few clues prove the only problems, I don’t see it as a great crossword.

    Mongolo – “Thanks bridgesong. Too easy – the only tricky one was the last, 27a, which looked like an improbable anagram of ‘barely.’ I got the first John in 1a and was so misled for a few minutes until the Elton bell rang. Had to think about 16a, second last in, for a couple of ticks, too.”

  7. Geoff Chapman says:

    And apologies MOLONGLO.

  8. Stella Heath says:

    I failed to see who John was last week, so gave up until this morning when, as so often happens, the penny dropped straight away.

    Another theme clue is 9ac, which refers tto the song “I’m still standing”, hence the “character” in the clue leads to “I” in the answer.

    My favourite was 26ac, for personal reasons – it was often plaving the summer I returned to England, leaving my future Spanish husband Daniel waiting here in Spain.

    BTW, you failed to indicate the homophone in 21ac.

    Thanks for the blog, and to Paul for a few smiles.

  9. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, bridgesong, you lucky man. I hope the weather’s kind to you. ;-)

    Not my cup of tea at all, I’m afraid. My way in was the anagram at 26, so I googled ‘John, Daniel’ and reluctantly twigged the theme. I was staying with my son and he reeled off song titles which I entered when they fitted the enumeration – not the most satisfying way to complete a crossword. But I’m not complaining – today’s is much more up my street!

    Favourite clue: ARGYLE – and CHIROPODY made me laugh.

    Hi Stella

    I don’t know what you mean by a homophone in 21ac: I read ‘sinner might you say’ as indicating that ‘errer’ is not really a word.

  10. r_c_a_d says:

    This is the easiest puzzle I have seen over the year or so that I’ve been doing the prizes regularly. Not a fan of Elephant John, but knew the songs and that gave so many checking letters that nothing else was too tough.

    I did like Blacklegs, but otherwise a bit disappointing from Paul who is normally my second favourite setter after the master.

  11. Gervase says:

    Thanks, bridgesong.

    Fairly straightforward puzzle, with some nice clues and a few smiles.

    But a ‘Reg Dwight’s Greatest Hits’ themed crossword couldn’t fail to be bathetic after the previous weekend’s Araucaria double.

  12. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, bridgesong. Enjoyable puzzle, but pretty easy after the theme emerged.

    UY @5 Five Johns, I think, counting John Glenn as the rocket man.

  13. liz says:

    Sorry, UY, I seem to have forgotten how to count :-) I meant *four* Johns.

  14. Giovanna says:

    Thanks Paul and Bridgesong.

    Like Biggles A @4, I was thinking Biggles and went for Flying Ace initially at 14d; although I had John Glenn in mind!

    13a made me laugh but I was expecting something ruder from Paul.

    Giovanna

  15. Roger says:

    Thanks bridgesong.

    At 27a, I read ‘spinning’ initially more as an anagrind than a reversal indicator (‘reverind’ maybe … no, not the GOM), but then I guess the latter is just a special case of the former.

    Liz @12/13 … I suppose we ‘can’ include John at 12a.

  16. Stella Heath says:

    Hi Eileen, you’re right of course. I had “error” in mind, but that corresponds to “sin”, not “sinner”.

  17. tupu says:

    Thanks bridgesong and Paul

    I got relatively little pleasure out of this because I am not a fan of E. John and and even that is probably an understatement.

    Some good clues though and just a shame about the theme – at least for me.

  18. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Last week’s was certainly not a “stinker” but a delight.
    Whether I am a fan of the theme singer or not is quite irrelevant to me; what is very relevant is whether I get a decent challenge on a Saturday. This was a travesty of a Prize crossword.
    Like Eileen, I found today’s much better although still too straightforwad for the weekend.

  19. Eileen says:

    Just for the record, I didn’t say ‘better’.

    As I did say, there are themes that are more up one’s street than others – I’m usually reasonably fortunate, ;-)

  20. RCWhiting says:

    Sorry,I completely misunderstood your comment, Eileen.
    I do find myself out of step with many of you.
    You mostly seem to complain ferociously about a theme or the lack of precision of a particular definition. The only criterion which I apply is the overall level of difficulty (obviously as experienced by me).
    In fact I prefer definitions which are allusions otherwise the enumeration plus a precise definition turns the whole thing into a non-cryptic.

  21. Eileen says:

    Yes, RCW, we do seem to be on rather different wavelengths. I’m not sure how to interpret your ‘you mostly’ – is it ‘I, for the most part’ or [since you talk of 'many of you'] ‘most of us commenters’? As for ‘complaining ferociously’ about a theme – I simply said this one was not my cup of tea – or ‘lack of precision of a particular definition’, I hold my hands up that on my blog yesterday I unashamedly – but not, I think, ferociously – queried the definition, ‘on the farm’ for HEIFER and ‘[going] over the top’ for HAIRDRESSING [!]. [Incidentally, the clue for PIRANHAS has now been changed on the website to 'Ferocious swimmers cause mishaps round the land (8)']

    I know I’ve said, several times, ‘This seemed rather easy for a prize puzzle’ but I think / hope I have never said, ‘too easy’. There’s no harm in having an easier prize puzzle every now and again to encourage newer solvers. I still remember the thrill I felt, years ago, when I completed my first ‘prize’. I thought all I had to do was post it off and I would have won!

    Where I really disagree with you is re your, ‘Whether I am a fan of the theme singer or not is quite irrelevant to me.’ A couple of weeks ago, I blogged a Brummie prize puzzle themed around computers in which, as I said, I admired the cleverness of the cluing but had no interest at all in the theme and it was a real chore to look up all the references. I know I wouldn’t have had to do that if I hadn’t been blogging, but on so many other occasions it would have been a labour of love, as in other Brummie puzzles themed on composers, artists, actors and comedians, or Araucaria’s Shakespearean characters, for example. The ‘aha’ moments when you’re reminded of these perhaps half-forgotten references are so enjoyable.

    [And, as I've said, several times now, I'm aware that we on the Arts side have many more of these.]

    What I set out to say was that I was not objecting to Paul’s theme per se. I have said before on this site [and received some stick for it] that my children were brought up not to say [of food, mostly!] ‘That’s horrible!’, when what they meant was, ‘I don’t like this.’.

    As we’ve said so often about this site, isn’t it great that we’re all different? :-)

  22. RCWhiting says:

    I don’t think I can compete with that essay!
    Only the first line referred to you individually. I think ‘most of you’ and ‘you mostly’ made that clear.
    One recent example, and there are many almost every day, was an involved discussion as to whether ‘laser’ had been correctly defined.
    If it had been fully and correctly defined there would have been no need for the cryptic. As I keep saying, an allusion is all that is needed.
    A good one must be a challenge which outlasts a cup of coffee – if it is then I can forgive most other aspects.
    As for themes, I really don’t care. Even when it is Shakespeare I feel that scientist challenge that it won’t beat me (even though I decided years ago that there is nothing as humourless as a WS comedy).
    Actually I have managed a mini-essay after all.

  23. RCWhiting says:

    I didn’t address the ‘too easy’ point.
    If a solver finds a puzzle too difficult sh/e has two options: go and find an easier one, there are plenty; or persist until you succeed.
    I spent several years in my early twenties failing to finish Ximines but,like you, was delighted when I posted off my first success. Now I finish Azed almost without fail (except a playfair square, which I am still working on and hope to make it before I am 80).

  24. Eileen says:

    Sorry, yes, I did go on a bit! – thanks for your gracious reply.

    I can only say again that we’re all different: people drink coffee / solve puzzles at different rates. Vive la différence – and thank Goodness for this comprehensive and tolerant site! :-)

    [I do largely agree with you about Shakespearean comedies - cf Dud and Pete's Leonardo 'cartoons'. I've never understood why schools start off with 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' or 'Twelfth Night': I've always found that students engage more readily with 'Macbeth' or 'Julius Caesar', for example.]

    I have just seen your latest comment:

    “If a solver finds a puzzle too difficult sh/e has two options: go and find an easier one, there are plenty; or persist until you succeed.”

    I can’t resist turning this one on you: “If a solver finds a puzzle too easy – and s/he knows that Rufus Monday ones, by definition, will be – why not give them a miss? :-)

  25. Eileen says:

    PS I meant to ask if there’s any chance of meeting you in Derby on 26th November? ;-)

  26. RCWhiting says:

    Yes, you are right that I could change. My defence is that when I first adopted the G. 50 years ago all the expert greybeards told me that the G. was the hardest and the D.Tel. was the easiest among dailies; since the G. suits my other needs I would resent leaving it because the crossword standard was allowed to slip.
    Your invitation to Derby is very kind, especially if I had any idea what you are inviting me to!
    But thanks anyway, and no, I don’t fancy socialising (if that is what it is!) with crossword fans. I fear we would have litle in common.

  27. Eileen says:

    RCW – one last time – I promise!

    You’ve told me before that you don’t look at preambles to puzzles. It seems that you don’t look at anything else on the site, eg [under 'Announcements']

    http://fifteensquared.net/2011/09/02/sloggers-and-betters-midlands-3/

    We’ve had great fun on previous occasions – but you’re probably right. ;-)

    I’m signing off now.

  28. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks for pointing out the Announcements, Eileen – I have never noticed them before!

    Thanks, also, for the blog, bridgesong. Having solved only a couple of clues, this took me an age to find which John was intended (John Steinbeck, John Keates etc ?? etc) It was only in my studentless OU tutorial that I cracked it, and had to check the internet for CROCODILE ROCK; what an impressive number of albums EJ has produced.

  29. Smoz says:

    This is the first prize crossword I completed and posted. I was chuffed to bits (and I know it was quite an easy one). Don’t I just win the prize now?You mean there are other people entering as well? More than FIVE!? Thank goodness for the odd easier crossword.

  30. Paul B says:

    Who is this ‘Ximines’ of which you speak? (Not a compiler I’ve ever come across, although there was a Ximenes, IIRC.)

    As a matter of interest, what part of speech should these ‘allusions’, were they to replace the more traditional ‘definitions’, take? And how obscure should they be?

  31. Rishi says:

    It must be a simple case of typo. Ximenes is a difficult name to spell out.

    I have his book ‘The Art of the Crossword’ as well as a collection of his crosswords in a paperback.

  32. bridgesong says:

    Well, I’m glad to have provoked a debate anyway. Now back in my hotel room after making the most of what proved to be a reasonable morning before the rain arrived, I hope to have time to relax with today’s Azed. I should perhaps add that when I referred to last week’s Araucaria as a “stinker”, it was not intended as a criticism, just indicating that I found it tough. Eileen @9, thanks very much for your best wishes and I have no complaints about the weather (don’t ask about the mud, though!)

  33. RCWhiting says:

    Rishi, thanks for the kind thought although it was in fact a spelling error, which Paul was sweet enough to correct for me.
    The ‘allusion’ should be sufficient so that, combined with the cryptic, it leaves no doubt in the solver’s mind that s/he has the correct solution.

  34. Sil van den Hoek says:

    RCW, at last you have made clear what, in your opinion, a good crossword is.
    “The only criterion which I apply is the overall level of difficulty (obviously as experienced by me)”.
    That is indeed a way to look at crosswords, or more precisely one way to look at them.

    It does explain the discontentment you showed in many of your posts so far.
    What it does not explain is the disdain for crosswords that do not meet your requirements.
    Implicitely it also shows disdain for solvers who look at crosswords in a different way.
    Today you said “This was a travesty of a Prize crossword”.
    Why should you use these, in fact, insulting words towards an IMO respected setter?
    You must realise that this was probably a “travesty of a Prize crossword” to you.
    While I must realise that it was you who said it, you must realise that your verdict is not the ultimate truth, let alone the verdict of the average solver.
    We live in a country of free speech, but it is not on to make your own view on crosswords so important that it may even cause damage to the people who set and solve them.
    But to be fair to you, your recent comments at this place have been somewhat more lo-fi.

    The essential thing is though, as Eileen rightly says “As we’ve said so often about this site, isn’t it great that we’re all different?” (with a smiley) – words that could be said by me (in fact, I have said them on earlier occasions at fifteensquared).

    RCW, your criterion is apparently the level of difficulty.
    Well, mine is completely different.

    We are all different anyway. You are one who “spent several years in his early twenties failing to finish Ximenes but was delighted when to post off your first success”. I appreciate that very much, but it is not the world I come from.
    I started doing crosswords only three years ago, I am non-Brit and therefore I most certainly look at clues in a different way than you do. You read them in your first language, I read them in my second language. Perhaps therefore I look more at them from a setters (ie constructional) point of view, being not always familiar with idiom-related expressions.
    For me (and many others) the surface reading is very important. Even a simple clue can be so well formulated that it makes my day. Writing a really good clue is like writing poetry. The acclaimed “I say nothing” for EGO (one by Enigmatist) must surely not be up your street because of being too easy, just like my own “Well, of course” for SOURCE. But both also so extremely natural. Can you enjoy these?

    You also say “As for themes, I really don’t care. Even when it is Shakespeare I feel that scientist challenge that it won’t beat me (even though I decided years ago that there is nothing as humourless as a WS comedy)”.
    There you have a point. In the end, I do not care either.

    Any theme will do for me as long as the cluing is all right. Here I probably differ from Eileen and others. Elton John may be not everyone’s cup of tea [but he wasn’t that bad in the early seventies – in fact, he was quite good then, IMO], but why can’t he be a theme for a crossword? Don’t tell me “Elton John” is a modern thing. There is a world that goes beyond Shakespeare [whose dialogues I find at times Pythonesque :)], composers [Elton John not one of them?] and dead poets. If that puzzle in the Indy (by eimi himself) on Elbow (yes, Elbow) would have been a Guardian one – well, I am not sure what would have happened.

    The reason I found this crossword too easy was, that I found most of the themed clues from the enumeration after deciphering ROCKET MAN early on. Well, I would say, that can happen. Someone not familiar to Elton John’s songs (which I find a bit odd, btw) would have different thoughts. But then there’s Wikipedia to check – and why not?
    One is never too old to learn that there’s a world beyond one’s horizon.
    [exactly the reason why I never complain about unfamiliar words in Pasquale/Bradman’s puzzles]

    Aren’t we all different?
    Yes, we are.
    So, let’s be careful with right/wrong and good/bad.

  35. Paul B says:

    No problem there, RCW, but you are quite wrong to infer that I would seek to correct you. It was simply that, with your recent comments hinting at so vertiginous a depth of knowledge, I was a little surprised (and even a little hurt) to see you misspell a word that is, after all, no mere pseudonym: for does not the name ‘Ximenes’ associate with a whole tradition in crossword-solving?

    I should also thank you for continuing the revelations with regard to your proposed ‘allusive definitions’. I’m not sure I’m quite there yet, mind you, but perhaps the relevant light in my dim old cerebrum will click on as and when it’s ready.

  36. Davy says:

    Bravo Sil.

    English may be your second language but you seem far more capable than I of expressing your thoughts. English is my first and only language but I often struggle to compose a sentence that reflects how I feel.

    I will not comment further, as your words in #34 say more than I ever could.

  37. RCWhiting says:

    Strangely,sil,I agree with at least 75% of what you write.
    I do find it odd that I get so many negative comments directed at me.
    I seem to be guilty of just one offence: criticising crosswords.
    I have, on many occasions, praised (sometimes lavishly) a particular puzzle but it seems the custom here is to always praise which I find quite bizarre. When there is criticism it seems to be restricted to minute details about one definition(a chance to show off personal expertise) which as I have explained is not of great interest to me.
    My reaction is to a puzzle as a whole ie as a piece of work by a journalist. Does it give me a good challenge, that’s all?

  38. timon says:

    Glad Bridgesong’s safe and sound, though there’s little for him to clarify to judge from the preceeding posts.
    As to how difficult a prize puzzle should be, I think Smoz@29 puts it perfectly. I want more people to tackle and to enjoy cryptics or do we wish to be an arcane elite? The fact that Smoz completed a prize puzzle will surely have encouraged him to continue.
    There are puzzles and sites which pitch the level higher than the Grauniad for those with more advanced skills; I can’t see anything wrong with the setter (or editor) in a broadsheet occasionally giving us a pleasant work out rather than a hard slog (but then it is Bridgesong out there on t’moors, not me….).

  39. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #37:
    “I do find it odd that I get so many negative comments directed at me. I seem to be guilty of just one offence: criticising crosswords”
    Dear RCW, I respect your honesty and/or directness, but you must also realise that the way you present your opinions can be most insulting. A comment like #7 for today’s Rufus I would never have posted.

    “I have, on many occasions, praised (sometimes lavishly) a particular puzzle but it seems the custom here is to always praise which I find quite bizarre”
    Indeed, you have praised puzzles and/or particular clues recently, but the opposite of “to always praise” is not “burning down a crossword”. That’s where you go wrong. Even if a crossword is not fully up our street, “we” always try to be aware of the fact that a setter wrote his brainchild in order to entertain us.
    Many Guardian crosswords do not entertain you, probably because of not being challenging enough. For you, that is. What about the man in the tube, what about the woman during lunch? Different people have different needs.

    “When there is criticism it seems to be restricted to minute details about one definition(a chance to show off personal expertise) which as I have explained is not of great interest to me. My reaction is to a puzzle as a whole ie as a piece of work by a journalist”.
    I usually see crosswords as a whole too [although, as I said before, sometimes one single clue can make my day] and in that respect a crossword may feel good or perhaps not that good. But trashing it is normally one step too far for me. And, unfortunately, you have shown to be quite good at that.
    And I am not sure whether a setter should be compared with a journalist but one may of course have different ideas about that.

    RCW, I do understand your view on crosswords a lot better than a while ago. But you also must realise that what you call a “challenge” might be different from what other solvers think that is.

    However, a very interesting topic is your view on definitions.
    Just like Paul B, I would certainly not eschew a discussion on that.
    Allusions? Vague? Not precise enough? A bit loose? I know what s/he means, but …..
    Where should one draw the line?
    Perhaps, hopefully, this gets a follow-up.
    I fear not, though.

  40. sheffield hatter says:

    Oh dear! Just when it was getting interesting…

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