Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,438 – Brendan

Posted by Uncle Yap on September 27th, 2011

Uncle Yap.

What a tour de force by this Master.



(spoiler space to prevent a mild reproof as suggested by NeilW … thanks)  He used the mini-theme of lexicography to bring to light some rare wit and humour, especially of the Irish and other quirky types. I was distracted by having to look up various references that it took me more than a delightful hour to completely solve today’s puzzle. Bravo! Brendan.

8 KANGAROO Allusion to this marsupial whose young always travels in the pouch with its mother for Kangaroo, a novel set in Australia by D. H. Lawrence, first published in 1923. See samak @ 1 for a more plausible parsing.
9 ECLAIR *(A RELIC) “a cake, long in shape but short in duration, with cream filling and usu chocolate icing.” (Chambers)
10 OATS cd In Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, oats were defined as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” The description reveals his low opinion of the Scots … A Scotsman’s retort to this is, “That’s why England has such good horses, and Scotland has such fine men!
16,3 is harmless drudge which Johnson’s definition seems to be. See also samak @ 1
11 DICTIONARY *(ROAD IN CITY) such as Concise Oxford, Collins or Brewer
12 DEFINE Ins of FIN (some fish) in River DEE
14 SEEPAGES See Pages (refer to other places) to seep is to ooze or percolate
15 GNOCCHI GN (rev of No Good) + *(CHOICe) Italian dish of small dumplings made from flour, semolina or potatoes, sometimes with the addition of cheese, and served with a sauce.
17 COLLINS Ins of LL (lines) in COINS (changes) for Jackie Collins
20 MONAURAL Ins of ON (acceptable) A (area) in MURAL (work of art) having only one ear like Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
22 BEYOND *(DONE BY) as in His performance was better than (beyond) expectation of a boy his age
23 OFF BALANCE Ins of B (British) in OFFA (8th century Essex king) + LANCE (weapon)
24 BRED B (book) RED (colour)
25 CRORES Ins of R (rupees) in CORES (central parts) CRORES (esp of rupees) ten million, or one hundred lakhs (Chambers) new word to me
26 THE IRISH Samuel Johnson once said “the Irish are a fair people, they never speak well of one another.” I was momentarily distracted by a web page of  Irish humour .  For example “You know it’s summer in Ireland when the rain gets warmer.” Hal Roach.  What an enjoyable distraction

1 PANACEAN Ins of AN ACE (expert) in PAN (be critical)
2 AGES WAGES (carries on, e.g. a war) minus W to give AGE (esp in pl) a long time, however short (Chambers).
3 DRUDGE D (duke) RUDGE (Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty, a novel by Charles Dickens)
4 CONCISE C (first letter of court) + ins of IS in ONCE (previously)
7 BIERCE BIttER CluE for Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (1842–1913) an American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist and satirist. Today, he is best known for his short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and his satirical lexicon, The Devil’s Dictionary.
13 IN CHAMBERS Cha of INCH (move cautiously) AMBERS (warning signals between RED and GREEN)
16 HARMLESS H (husband) ARMLESS (with weapon not so)
18 NONSENSE Ins of O (nothing) in NNSENSE (lots of points on the compass) Nonsense, n. The objections that are urged against this excellent dictionary :-) Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
19 PLANETS Ins of ET (extra-terrestrials) in PLANS (policy)
21 OXFORD Ins of X (vote as in the cross on the ballet paper) in O (old) FORD (Gerald Ford, Jr. (1913–2006) the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977) I found at least one town named Oxford in more than 20 states in the USA
22 BREWER Ins of *(WE’RE) in BR (British Rail, the operator of most of the rail transport in Great Britain between 1948 and 1997)
24 BORE Quotations “Bore: a person who talks when you wish him to listen” [Ambrose Bierce in The Devil’s Dictionary]

Key to abbreviations
dd = double definition
dud = duplicate definition
tichy = tongue-in-cheek type
cd = cryptic definition
rev = reversed or reversal
ins = insertion
cha = charade
ha = hidden answer
*(fodder) = anagram

62 Responses to “Guardian 25,438 – Brendan”

  1. samak says:

    8 KANGAROO “Mother and son” might allude to Kanga and baby Roo in A.A.Milne’s books.

    16,3 is harmless drudge which was Johnson’s definition of a lexicographer in his dictionary.

    21 OXFORD Mississippi was made famous during the civil rights movement when officials attempted to prevent James Meredith, an African American, from attending the University of Mississippi; people were killed in the riots that followed.

  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks, UY.

    I agree with all samak’s points.

    17 – don’t you think Brendan is more likely referring to Wilkie rather than Jackie, given the relatively high-brow nature of the puzzle?

    26 also refers to the proverbial “luck of the Irish.”

    19 – I thought the parsing of this one was PLAN above (covering) ETS

    I think you will get some mild reproof again for giving away the mini-theme in your preamble… :)

  3. molonglo says:

    Thanks Uncle Yap for a helpful blog. I totally missed COLLINS,figuring it was JKR, even though that wouldn’t work properly. I got two thirds of the way through this without trouble, but failed to recall 7d, even when thinking this lexicographer might begim with BIER. It’s one thing to recall famous Bierce and Johnson quotes – but were we supposed to know the various Chambers references? I didn’t like 4d – laboured – or 1a much, though I got them all right. But I certainly didn’t mind the overall challenge, so tks Brendan.

  4. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Many thanks, UY. Well, if this theme doesn’t appeal to crossword lovers, what will? I thought it was a lot of fun. Thank you to Brendan for the clear gateway clue, which got me going; but even then I struggled a bit and finished one short (CRORES) – perfectly fair, but couldn’t see it.

    I think the use of the various quotes is okay, and my favourite today was OFF BALANCE. KANGAROO is a bit cheeky, since it certainly references Kanga and Roo, which is not made plain; but the surface was no doubt irresistible, referencing Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, which explores the relationship between Paul Morel and his mother. I’m a big Lawrence fan and read A A Milne to Kathryn about a million times when she was little, so this one was my first in today.

    Thanks to Brendan for an hour’s entertainment this morning.

  5. andy smith says:

    Thanks Uncle Yap – but can you be more explicit on parsing of 16?

  6. artoo says:

    25ac was my first in, but (nitpick) a crore (10 million) isn’t a “huge” number in its natural context; a crore of rupees (~125K) won’t get you much more than a decent flat in a major city, a crore of people isn’t a lot either. Super entertainment, thanks Brendan and ???.

  7. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Hi andy smith

    UY will be getting some zeds at this time, so I’ll try to explain HARMLESS unless someone’s beaten me to it. I took it to be H for ‘husband’ and ARMLESS (‘with weapon not’, ie without a weapon) and the definition being ‘benign’. I think the ‘so’ is just pointing you in the direction of the answer.

  8. andy smith says:

    ty Kathryn’s Dad, see it now.

  9. Thomas99 says:

    Yes! Although either would work I’m sure in 17 Brendan means Wilkie, not Jackie, Collins! And your correction to 19’s right too of course – more than one alien.

  10. PeterO says:

    K’s D – an alternative might be H (‘husband’) + ARM (‘weapon’) + LESS (‘not so’), which assigns a purpose to the entire clue.

  11. Thomas99 says:

    andy/K’s Dad-
    Actually my parsing for 16 was diferent-
    H – husband
    ARM – weapon
    LESS – not so (as in “less interesting” = “not so interesting”)

    I suppose both work.

  12. Thomas99 says:

    Sorry Peter – cross posting.

  13. NeilW says:

    K’s Dad, I think you’ve got your time zones a bit mixed up! It’s only 5pm in Malaysia. :)

  14. MarionH says:

    My first post here, so thanks to all setters, bloggers and commenters for much enjoyment and for ‘de-confusing’ me many a time.

    Given the lexicographic theme, surely “Collins” (17ac) refers to the publisher of the ‘Dictionary of the English Language’?

  15. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Well, you have siestas in Malaysia, don’t you? And Peter and Thomas have the correct parsing, for sure. I’m out of here for today before I embarrass myself any further …

  16. NeilW says:

    Welcome, MarionH!

    The wordplay asks you to find the name of a novelist and the theme clue at 11 indicates this will also be the name of a dictionary.

  17. tupu says:

    Thanks UY and Brendan

    Super puzzle with lots of excellent clues.

    I was nearly defeated by 7d and 20a. I had to workm out Bierce from the wordplay and did not remember having encountered him and his work. I was held up by remembering something about mirrors re VG’s self-portraits and it only became clear when I saw the possibility of mural mas work mof art.

    I also had to work out 25a and check.

    The Chambers definitions in 9a and 2d were new to me and fun.

    Pleased to have got the parsings right for 8a, 16d etc.

    Ticked several as I went alomg e.g. 13d, 22d, 24d and also enjoyed the cheek of 14a.

    Many thanks Brendan.

  18. Gervase says:

    Thanks, UY.

    Nice one from Brendan. I got the theme early on with HARMLESS DRUDGE, which I recognised as Johnson’s tongue-in-cheek definition of ‘lexicographer’ (and I also took the parsing to be H+ARM+LESS). I realised that 7d was a reference to the Devil’s Dictionary, but I couldn’t remember the author, so had to look him up; parsing of 7d then became obvious. D’oh! Otherwise I managed the puzzle all by myself.

    Some splendid clues, with great surfaces. 8a clever (as K’s D has pointed out); 14a uses the dictionary theme rather well; 15a is well constructed; 22a is a brilliantly disguised anagram; 20a is a rare LOL clue from Brendan.

  19. dunsscotus says:

    Hi. Offa king of Essex? I thought it was Mercia, and Offa’s dyke is definitely a great long distance walk in Wales

  20. William says:

    Thank you, UY, and particularly Brendan for a superb puzzle.

    Had to look up CRORES and loved the “heartlessly bitter clue” for BIERCE.

    I was so surprised with the quoted Chambers definition of ÉCLAIR that I was moved to check it. Is this uncharacteristically playful definition the only example? I don’t recall any others.

  21. John Appleton says:

    Fabulous. Very pleased to see Bierce included in this.

  22. Dave Ellison says:

    Enjoyed this, but missed out on a couple, so thanks for the explanation UY.

    Having seen A Dish of Tea with Dr Johnson in Edinburgh recently refreshed my memory.

    25a I didn’t get.

    20a also – I thought I had all the elements: MURAL OK and A, but then it wasn’t OK! I was toying with something like _EARLESS early on. A fine answer in the end, pity I missed it.

  23. Robi says:

    A rather unrewarding slog – Google the quotations and get the answers.

    The literati obviously enjoyed this one; setters can’t be expected to cater for all tastes, so no doubt a clever puzzle with at least some clues that were approachable, even if CRORES is not in my everday vocabulary.

    I looked at all the eight-letter answers to try to find CHAMBERS, but then found it in the ten-letter solution to 13! I did enjoy MONAURAL and GNOCCHI. I don’t really get the ‘short in duration’ reference in the ECLAIR clue (and in Chambers.) Does it just mean it gets eaten quickly?

  24. crypticsue says:

    A tour de force indeed – I do love a Brendan puzzle and one with a theme and Kanga and Roo too is the icing on the cake, or should that be the chocolate on the eclair! Many thanks to Brendan and UY too.

    Yes, Robi, I do believe the short in duration does refer to the time taken to eat the cake.

  25. Mitz says:

    Lovely crossword – thanks Brendan; beautiful annotation – thanks UY. My only diversion that hasn’t yet been mentioned: at 2d I had “rages” for carries on rather than “wages”.

  26. Disco says:

    Thanks for the blog Uncle. I really needed it today as I threw in the towel with quite a few blanks left.

    Luckily, I recognised the definition of eclair straight away which gave me a start with ECLAIR and IN CHAMBERS. I used to share an office with a good friend and crossword enthusiast, Andy (now no longer with us, sadly) and he’d often wax lyrical about Chamber’s more whimsical definitions. Eclair was a common example.

    I also recognised the definition of a bore from the Devil’s Dictionary so that gave me BORE, BIERCE and DICTIONARY.

    Sadly, that was about the limit of my knowledge and there were just a few too many references which were way over my head. I’ve never heard of Kangaroo by Lawrence, had no idea what Johnson said about the Irish and so on. Even looking for Collins and Oxford as possible answers, I didn’t spot those two.

    I didn’t find it a particularly enjoyable puzzle but given the failure on Collins and Oxford I think that might say more about my frame of mind than Brendan’s output!

  27. Matt says:


    “A rather unrewarding slog – google the quotations and get the answers”

    Hmmm. I think you’ve found a clever way of making any puzzle like this unrewarding. Wikipedia has the same effect with general knowledge questions, and calculators used to make mental arithmetic boring. You could save the trouble and just click ‘reveal’.

    I’m glad that I didn’t have the temptation, sat on the train as I was. As such I found it extremely rewarding, amusing, and quite educational.

    Sorry if I come across as facetious, it just seemed like an odd criticism.


  28. tupu says:

    Robi et al
    I have just found the floowing which may be of interest.

    I feel sure that you are right re ‘eaten quickly’. :) A more prosaic idea might be that its fluffy pastry and fresh cream soon turn soggy and sour but it rarely gets such a chance if I’m around!

  29. tupu says:

    ps sc. ‘following’

  30. William says:

    Tupu @28 – how marvellous, thank you so much for that, how clever to find it.

    I love VAMP – ‘a featherless bird of prey’.

  31. Robi says:

    tupu @28; thanks for the link – very entertaining.

    Matt @27; sorry if my comment seemed too grumpy. Yes, I could use the cheat button or abandon the crossword, but that is not the point. What I meant to infer was that if you don’t have a good grasp of literature, it is nigh on impossible to solve the clues (I’m also a crossword virgin, having only been doing these for less than a year.) I think if there was a puzzle with a lot of technical, scientific words, others might find it difficult. So, different strokes for different folks! That is not to take anything away from the crossword, which most people enjoyed and had a selection of clever clues.

  32. Norman L in France says:

    Thanks for Vamp. Check the definition for Mullet. Spot on.

  33. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Uncle Yap

    Too tough for me. Failed on KANGAROO, CONCISE, SEEPAGES and CRORES. Didn’t know of the novel and never heard of CRORES

  34. Disco says:

    I think it was a fair point, Robi. For some of the clues, at least.

    I don’t think every answer in a crossword should be familiar to everyone. I love working out a clue and then having to look it up to find out why it’s right. It’s definitely one of the joys of crosswords.

    If I’d worked out CRORES, which was feasible (but alas not to be) from the clue, I’d have been over the moon. If I’d worked out KANGAROO from a vague reference to mother and son then I’d have to call the Vatican and ask them start the canonisation process (or keep it on hold pending my second miracle at least).

    For my liking, the puzzle had a few too many clues like that where an impressive knowledge of literature or lexicography was a prerequisite.

    But, as Robi said, to each their own. My liking isn’t everyone’s (thankfully) and on a different day I may have felt differently.

  35. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks UY and Brendan.

    I remembered to look for a theme for once, but failed to identify it properly – having correctly got all the clues naming dictionaries, I failed to make the connection! The one I didn’t know was BIERCE, which I worked out from the wordplay, then stupidly assumed that the other interrelated clues had to do with his Devil’s Dictionary when, as it turns out, only one or two did.

    So thanks also to all commentators for making this into an enjoyable and instructive crossword and blog.

    Re ECLAIR, apart from what others have proposed, it occurs to me that, as the French for “lightning”, its duration is very short :)

  36. yogdaws says:

    Haven’t commented on this site for an ‘age’. But this was such a fine piece of work by Brendan with such a perfectly cruciverbalist theme that I just had to stick my oar in.

    Thank you, Brendan. Thank you Uncle Yap.

    Oh, and thank you Samak for your Pooh-parsing…

  37. Thomas99 says:

    There are by my reckoning 15 clues involved in the theme – more than half of them. I don’t think that’s a “mini-theme”.

  38. amulk says:

    Some nice clues, but overall there were a few too many obscure references for my liking, so that even though I finished (a heavy dose of guesswork involved), it was without any real understanding in many cases, and hence I cannot really say I enjoyed the puzzle. 10ac, in particular had a double dose of obscure references – you had to know who the self confessed “harmless drudge” was and what he thought about oats. I’m sure it’s all meat and drink to long term solvers but as I said not really to my taste.

  39. caretman says:

    I’ll throw in my vote on the positive side for this puzzle.

    I thought it was excellent. Although there was a prominent theme, that theme entered in multiple, varied ways so it didn’t feel as though one was beaten over the head with it. And most of the solutions were generally familiar terms and all were solvable.

    I had encountered ‘crore’ at a meeting in Delhi many years ago and it had stuck in my mind, so I was able to get 25a. But the NW corner beat me in the end and I had to look up novels by Lawrence to get 1a, which in turn gave me the last letter I needed to solve 3d. Thanks to samak @1 for explaining how 1a worked.

    My COD was 20a; what a wonderful definition!

    Thanks, Brendan, and UY.

  40. jvh says:

    Thanks, Uncle Yap.

    I have always liked the extremely detailed definition of “Sloane Ranger” in my 1993 edition of Chambers.

  41. NeilW says:

    As a footnote, I eased into this because I came across the Devil’s Dictionary a few years ago and discovered, for Apple users, that for a paltry sum, it’s available as an app – highly entertaining in a “Stephen Fryesque” way and thoroughly recommended (as is the Chambers Dictionary app which I enjoyed using to confirm ECLAIR etc.)

  42. Tokyocolin says:

    Thanks Uncle Yap and Brendan for a very entertaining puzzle. The theme gradually revealed itself quite late but I was already hooked and eschewed aids to manage this one unassisted. One of Brendan’s best to my mind.

    I am surprised at the number of people who were not familiar with crore. Lakhs and crores seem quite familiar to me and I assume there are more Indians in London than Tokyo.

    Yes, there were some obscurities in this but in an alluring, informative way. Much more enjoyable than researching villages in Shropshire or TV show references. For me at least.

  43. riccardo says:

    I loved this puzzle

    One minor nitpick… I am not Indian but I have always heard crore used as its own plural.

  44. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    A suitably taxing puzzle for me. I got them all but 8 remained only partly or entirely unexplained,so thanks for help.
    As someone says, the theme was good because, like the recent potter theme, it was applied in a variety of ways – excellent.
    I used (r)ages not (w)ages,like Mitz and Wilkie not Jackie.
    And come on, scientific types. I am one but I’m sure knowing a bit about books isn’t beyond us!

  45. sidey says:

    I think 22d wins in the silly definitions stakes.

    Zymurgist: Brewer,the last word in dictionaries.

    Unfortuneately not in the online version here

  46. Derek Lazenby says:

    For someone whose formative years in the library were spent in the Westerns (I grew out of it) and SF (I didn’t) sections, this was a struggle. Almost got there. Not surprisingly then I had to look at the list of novels too get 8, but then had to smile, having been “civilised” w.r.t. A.A.Milne by my wife when our kids were little.

    Can’t see any reason why the average solver should have heard of 25. Are we supposed to know the names of numbers of every one of the member states of the UN? Please don’t say India is different. I’m getting old and decrepit, but the Empire and India was still before my time.

  47. Phil says:

    The real delight was the discovery of Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary. A mine of splendidly cynical definitions that greatly detained my completion of the crossword. That required a bit too much googling to cover my ignorance to be anything like as much fun as AB:

    ARCHITECT – one who drafts a plan of your house and plans a draft of your money
    ALLIANCE – in international politics the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other’s pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third

    For this, Brendan, many thanks

  48. Scouse Tim says:

    My Chambers has zythum after zymurgist. Zythum is beer so that’s still the last word – great.

    I thought of myself as a dictionary bore until today. Not in same league as the “1 hour” solvers. I never heard of crores or Bierce before and not heard of kangaroo book either! I was dissappointed the Dickens character wasn’t Herbert Pocket which would also have fitted the theme nicely.

    Great stuff Brendan though 5d parsing seems a bit dubious

  49. buddy says:

    I guess most readers of this blog have a fairly extensive vocabulary – and here in rural Lincolnshire “Panacean” is a regular feature of our daily discourse.

    But “crores”???!?

    Do me a favour.

  50. gnomethang says:

    Can I have a bit of resolution on 17a please?
    The wordlplay given above is:
    //COLLINS Ins of LL (lines) in COINS (changes)//

    The online print that I have gives the clue as:

    Novelist making change, inserting lines (7)

    I cannot reconcile ‘making change’ with ‘coins’ although I solved the clue. Surely ‘makes change’ or ‘creates new phrase’ would be accurate. Is there a change in the paper edition? Knowing the setter I would suspect an error on someone else’s part!.

    Other than that i am stunned by the whole thing, smiling and shaking my head as I put each answer in. 22a was a massive favourite amongst many so thanks to Brendan and to Uncle Yap for the dissection.

  51. tupu says:

    Hi gnomethang

    I think it reads as follows. Novelist is the definition and he ‘makes’ (e.g. produces) coins (= change) with ll (lines) indserted. The key is to separate ‘making’ and ‘change’.

  52. RCWhiting says:

    I think you are absolutely right.
    I mentioned this error recently because I think it is one of the commonest causes of posters asking for elucidation.
    It should be a golden rule of solving that wherever a compiler has written two words adjacently do not accept the pairing however cleverly s/he has made them seem connected.

  53. gnomethang says:

    Thanks tupu. I can see my way round it but find it a bit non-Xim which is surprising.

    Def makes Wordplay is one thing but the change in tense (Sometimes known as Bedouin Disease – they wander in Tense) is not even tacit/understood as far as I can see. Having said all that I am not an Indy aficionado (although I ‘blog Brendan’s alter ego Virgilius every other fortnight in the Sunday Telegraph) so maybe I am griping over nothing.

  54. RCWhiting says:

    I have just recalled the example from yesterday when even the great Eileen was fooled.
    In that case the subterfuge included even the use of an hyphen!
    It was ‘Adopt self-regulating……’ which was *(adoptself).

  55. gnomethang says:

    @RCWhiting – OK I realise that but then having accepted ‘making’ as the link for def = wordplay then surely CHANGE does not equate to COINS but merely ……I’ll get my coat! Pence – double DO(UG)H!

  56. gnomethang says:

    Don’t you love it when, convinced you a right, you start typing then a sack full of pennies (or change or coins) hits you on the top of the head!.
    Thanks to all and good night!

  57. pommers says:

    I don’t often post on here but this time I just have to come out of the closet to say thanks to Brendan for a brill puzzle! A bit bookish for me but got there in the end with some Googling. Nice challenge which I nearly gave up on but persevated!
    Gnomey – get your head in gear before engaging keyboard (or i-Phone) – see you tomorrow on BD!
    Also thanks to UY for the explanations.

  58. gnomethang says:

    Evening Pommers, Don’t tell everyone, I will! (I actually stopped and stared at it for about an hour! Catch you tomorrow!

  59. pommers says:

    Sorry Gnomey, I’ll keep quiet in future! Probably breaking 225 rules now! Naughty corner again!

  60. Prolixic says:

    Time for bed Pommers, you have a blog to prepare tomorrow :).

    Many thanks to Brendan for a superb crossword and to UY for unravelling it in all it’s glory.

  61. pommers says:

    Blog actually dependant on getting into the website – took about an hour and a half today! We live in hope and I’m sure someone will help if I shout loud enough! Off to bed now!

  62. tupu says:

    Hi gnomethang

    :) It seems that several pennies dropped at once.

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