Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25424 / Crucible

Posted by mhl on September 17th, 2011


This was a delightful crossword, with a theme of Last Night of the Proms (which was in the evening of the day the crossword came out) and every clue having a musical theme. In terms of difficulty, we found this very easy compared to recent prize Guardian crosswords. The most surprising clue to me was 11a, due to a construction that you rarely see outside advanced cryptics. The quality of the cluing here was excellent, I thought, as we’ve come to expect from Crucible.

9. NOSTALGIA (ITALIAN SONG)*; Definition: “Longing”
10. YAHOO Hidden reversed in: “bOO HAYdn”; A YAHOO is an uncultured person, who might boo during a piece by Haydn
11. CLING TO This is a compound anagram, a speciality of Azed, and it’s very unusual to see one in the Guardian crossword: CLING TO [“this”] with CAREER is an anagram of ELECTRIC ORGAN; Definition: “Stick with”
12. TOP SPOT S[oprano] in PP = “pianissimo” in TOOT = “horn blast”; Definition: “Either way” (the answer is a palindrome)
13. RING A mutually recursive clue with 8: [wagne]R + IN = “at home” + G[ötterdämerung]; Definition: “In this” (or the whole clue) referring to Wagner’s cycle of operas, “The Ring of the Nibelung”
14. JACK HORNER J[azz] + ACKER = “Bilk” around HORN = “instrument”; Definition: “Corner boy”, referring to the nursery rhyme “Little Jack Horner / Sat in a corner”. A “corner boy”, as devotees of The Wire will know, is someone who sells drugs on street corners
15. UTRECHT UT = “Doh!” (“ut” was the old name for the note named “do” or “doh” in the Solfège) + RECHT = “Mozart’s right” (i.e. the German for “right”); Definition: “Dutch city”
17. OLYMPIA (MOI PLAY)*; Definition: “a London venue?”
19. SICKNESSES SIC = “So” + [barto]K = “[BARTOK]’s last” + (SEEN)* around SS = “bodyguard”; Definition: “ill feelings”
22. PROM PRO = “for” + M = “millions”; Definition: “Tonight’s the last one”, referring to The Last Night of the Proms
23. AT ONE GO (NOTE)* in AGO = “past”; Definition: “Simultaneously”
24. HAPPIER PIE = “[JACK HORNER]’s sweet” with (HARP)* outside; Definition: “More content”
26. CHANT Hidden in “czeCH ANThem”; Definition: “Crowd’s singing”
27. KRUMMHORN (M[u]RMUR HONK); Definition: the whole clue – this is the less common spelling of “krummhorn”
2. ASSIGNOR There are two cryptic parts: (SONG AIRS)* and AS SIGNOR = “like Italian man”; Definition: “He puts over title”
3. LANG Lang Lang was playing Lizst’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at the Last Night of the Proms; Definition: “Archbishop”
4. IGNORANT (RING)* around O = “another [RING]” followed by ANT = “worker”; Definition: “unaware”
5. BARTÓK TO in BARK = “husky voice”; Definition: “Composer tonight” – Bartók’s “The Miraculous Mandarin” was on the programme for the Last Night of the Proms
6. SYMPHONY MY + S[chubert] reversed + PHONY = “fake US”; Definition: “work”
7. CHOPIN C[abbie] = “Cabbie’s initial” + HOP IN = “invitation” (particularly a cabbie’s invitation); Definition: “composer tonight?” – Chopin’s Grande Polonaise brillante, Op. 22 was on the programme for the Last Night of the Proms
8. GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG (A GENT GOT DRUMMER)*; Definition: “last part of [RING]” – Götterdämmerung is the last opera in Wagner’s ring cycle. Although it’s conventional to ignore accents in crosswords, we agreed that this is odd in the case of umlauts in German, where conventionally you would add an “e” if you’re dropping the umlaut (e.g. Goetterdaemmerung)
16. CONCERTO CONCERT = “agreement” + O = “[RING]”; Definition: “there’s one by Liszt tonight” – again, a reference to the programme of Last Night of the Proms
17. OVERHAUL OVER = “Finished” + HAUL sounds like “hall” = “tonight’s main venue’s acoustic”; Definition: “repairs?”
18. PORTICOS PORT = “Left” + IC = “in charge” + OS = “very large”; Definition: “grand entrances” – a nice reference to the problems of acoustics of the Royal Albert Hall
20. CHORAL C = “about” + HORAL = “every hour”; Definition: “Beethoven’s Ninth [SYMPHONY]” – Beethoven’s 9th is famously a choral symphony, containing “Ode to Joy” in the final movement
21. SPOOKY OOPS = “Sorry” reversed (“for resurrecting”) + K[e]Y = “heartless key”; Definition: “weird”
25,1. POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE A glorious anagram: “COMPACT DISC PER ANNUM”; Definition: “One of tonight’s regulars”

13 Responses to “Guardian 25424 / Crucible”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks mhl. Although I stumbled upon the theme fairly early through 22 and 7 it never registered with me that every clue had a musical theme. Unfamiliar with Azed, 11 was my last and took a lot of agonising. Is CRUMHORN the more common spelling of 27?

  2. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Welcome back, mhl, on a planet we call Fifteensquared!

    I think you might perhaps agree when I say that this was the easiest Crucible so far.
    A puzzle like this is only easy when you’re tuned into the “theme”.
    Unfortunately I was, so things fell too quickly in place.
    [and a lot quicker than in the recent Elton John puzzle]

    The cluing was very good as we’ve come to expect from Crucible and that’s why I agree with you that it was a “delightful” crossword, even if not challenging enough.
    It reminded me of that Oscars puzzle by Brendan, which was also the product of a setter who did put a lot of effort into it to make things work. But.

    The problem with these kind of themes is that the solutions are part of a limited set. Either you know them (all) or you don’t. I remember a puzzle by Loroso with a lot of birds in it – either you know some of them or not, but they are a subset of something very very big.

    That said, and don’t get me wrong, it was a fine crossword – with a very appropriate theme for the day.

    Many thanks for the blog, Mark, but I think 9ac should be an anagram of Italian song minus IN.
    The only one I didn’t understand was CLING IT (11ac).
    So thank you for explaining. Yes, very clever. But when you say of this device “it’s very unusual to see one in the Guardian crossword”, you are probably right but certainly nót in connection with Crucible. He did it many times before.

    Btw, thanks Crucible, for highlighting the city in which I lived more than half of my life (15ac). And I think the clue was one of the best, too.

    Once, thanks mhl, and hope to see you in the Midlands!

  3. molonglo says:

    Thanks mhl. Good discourse last Saturday by Eileen et al on themes and difficulty, especially of prize puzzles. These ought to test the solver for more than half an hour. Today’s didn’t, even for someone unversed in classical music and unaware of the proms. One small problem only, the parsing 11a, and you’ve explained it.

  4. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl and crucible

    As Sil says, welcome back mhl. Very helpful blog, though
    :) like Biggles A, I’m puzzled by the difference between KRUMMHORN and krummhorn!

    Very enjoyable with excellent cluing. Although ‘Lang’ is a common ‘archbishop’ I had to check the program to get the answer to 3d.

  5. Roger says:

    Thanks mhl, especially for explaining CLING TO. Didn’t TLNOTP once mark the end of summer ? Now it’s halfway into autumn !

    No doodling required so this must have been fairly straightforward. That said, I wasn’t overkeen on ‘repairS’ = OVERHAUL or ‘either way’ as (presumably) the definition at 12a. Just me, probably.

    Did like the construction of IGNORANT, enjoyed the CHOPIN and while LANG¹ was familiar, LANG² wasn’t. Knew 27a as CRUMHORN as did Biggles @1 but the clue is still a wonderful (albeit perhaps unkind) &lit.

    UT (15a) was new to me when it cropped up recently. Glad I made a note of it.

  6. MEB says:

    Roger is wrong about TLNOTP, I’m afraid. I have in my posession the prospectus for the 64th Season of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts held in 1958. The last night was held on Saturday, 20 September, even deeper into autumn than this year. The last night has always landed in mid-September.

  7. r_c_a_d says:

    Thanks for the blog. I too got CLING TO but didn’t get the parsing. Took a while to spot the prom theme even with the blatant hints – just me being slow – but that at least made the puzzle last a bit longer. Enjoyable and satisfying to finish (if you count getting 11 without knowing exactly why… At least I know a lot about electric organs now :)

  8. chas says:

    Thanks to mhl for the blog. It usually seems to me that there are one or two answers where I think “I am sure that xxx is what’s wanted but why!” and you have cleared up those for me.

    I thought about Götter… vs Goetter… and realised that doing it the way that Crucible chose means we are left with Yahoö – which looks odd!

    Once I had spotted the theme I was able fairly quickly to spot most of the related answers but there were some where I wanted to check. I turned to the Guardian Guide booklet and found it USELESS. The Radio3 section just listed the composers – not the names of the works. The BBC1 and BBC2 columns added little more. I had to go to the BBC website and fight my way through lots of stuff to get the checks I wanted.

  9. RCWhiting says:

    I agree entirely; I am also similarly ‘unversed’ but I certainly knew what day it was thanks to the BBC TV trails which have seemed interminable.
    “We found this very easy…the quality of clueing was excellent”
    “Easiest Crucible so far…delightful”
    I know some of you think I shouldn’t say these things but the above quotes are quite meaningless to me.
    Roger, I think if you consider both ‘repairs’ and ‘overhaul’ as nouns it makes more sense.

  10. Wolfie says:

    RCW @9
    The comments you cite are ‘meaningless to you’ because it seems that your view is that unless a puzzle is difficult there is no pleasure to be had from solving it. I am one of those who enjoys solving cryptic crosswords at all levels. An easy puzzle can entertain and divert providing the clueing is witty and elegant – as in this offering from Crucible.

    I enjoy hiking in the high fells of Cumbria; this doesn’t mean that I can’t also enjoy a stroll in the park…

  11. RCWhiting says:

    Fair enough Wolfie, as long as you are happy.
    To me a ‘puzzle’ must puzzle me, otherwise it has failed its primary function. Of course, wit and elegance can add to the pleasure of the puzzlement; it’s rather like maths. proofs.
    C’est la vie.

  12. Alexlotl says:

    I enjoyed this one. I’m in New Zealand, so it wasn’t until I solved POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE that I worked out it was Last Night of the Proms themed – I just thought it was a generally musical thing.

    Completed the whole grid apart from CLING TO and LANG. I actually guessed the former, but didn’t feel I was allowed to write it in, as I didn’t know why – I’ve not met a compound anagram before! As for Lang, despite presumably having watched Derek Jacobi play him in The King’s Speech, I don’t think I’ve ever heard his name before, and I had no idea who was playing at the Proms that night.

    14a was in first. 12a (Palindromes FTW!) and 27a were the most satisfying to solve.

    15a involved a bit of Googling of the term “ut”, which has netted me a good bit of trivia, not to mention a bizarre version of The Sound of Music going through my head: “Oot, a word, a Yorkshire word; Ray a drop of golden sun; Me the name I call myself…”

  13. Smoz says:

    Enjoyed this alot and it took a good amount of effort, even when the theme emerged. Unfortunately got 23ac wrong so 20dn was too. Glad to learn about 11ac – must log away for future ref. Loved 10ac although the young person now would surely have no idea what it meant beyond the search engine. Are there other words that have been co-opted and their meaning blurred?

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