Never knowingly undersolved.

Cryptic crossword No 25,439 The Guardian by Orlando

Posted by Stella on September 28th, 2011


An enjoyable mix of fairly obvious anagrams plus some more obscure definitions and answers to keep me on my toes. Unfortunately, the explanation for one of the latter eludes me.

To see links at 10ac and 23d, hold mouse over the answer.

9. Point taken by smallest in litter? Nothing to be added to that (9)
10. Nader’s contribution to moral philosophy (5)
RALPH Hidden in “moRAL PHilosophy”. Quite apt.
11. Coin found by retired person in military base (7)
IGNOBLE <GI + NOBLE, an old English or Manx coin
12. Taking nothing in, beginning to feel a pain (7)
13. Roller with order for Rover (5)
WHEEL W + HEEL – an order to a dog to walk to heel
14. Desperate to get 21 down? Ha-ha! (4-5)
16. Palace official troubling monarch with “Dear Bill” letters (4,11)
19. Support is in sink (9)
21. Try some Bacon or Lamb? (5)
ESSAY Two essayists.
22. Loving Gordian knots (7)
23. Mary provides wonderful food when hosting party (7)
24. School master’s third brightest star (5)
GAMMA GAM, a school of whales, + MA.As the third letter in the Greek alphabet, I presume it’s also the way astronomers refer to the third brightest kind of star. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong :)
25. Slug behind tree in military base (9)
1. 14 down goes round Icelandic capital — a small city where people walk up and down (10)
STAIRWELLS STAR (see 14d) round I(celandic) + WELLS
2. Animals with peculiar prehensile tails, certainly not quite right (8)
REINDEER I’ve left this one till last, in the hope of inspiration, but unfortunately none is forthcoming. I have no idea how this works, other than that “REIN” could somehow be “prehensile”, and DEER have virtually no tails – certainly not prehensile!

Thanks to the first three contributers for shedding light on my blind spot :)

3. Rather balmy, somewhat like Basil? (6)
HERBAL Hidden in “ratHER BALmy”
4. A nobody taking out old queen (4)
ANNE A + N(o)NE, for a favourite crossword queen.
5. No fab clues — as an anagram is apt to be misleading (10)
CONFUSABLE *NO FAB CLUES – couldn’t be more obvious :)
6. One on a mission is less refined about 21 across, we hear (8)
CRUSADER CRUDER around SA, homophone of 21ac.
7. Grievance of Protestant leader with post-Reformation Latin (6)
PLAINT P(rotestant) + *LATIN
8. Time to put squeeze on 17? (4)
THUG T + HUG. Definition, 17d.
14. One given top billing in England? I’m a stranger! (7,3)
15. Period in China, both useful and unpleasant (3,7)
HAN DYNASTY HANDY + NASTY. This one provoked a chuckle
17. Not the last resort in state for Capone, say (8)
CRIMINAL RIMIN(i) in CAL(ifornia)
18. This bean may be transformed into a drink (8)
ABSINTHE *THIS BEAN, for a drink forbidden in the US, I understand, for its toxicity.
20. Orlando’s flowers … (6)
BLOOMS The actor, not the setter :)
21. … complete with flower for bear (6)
ENDURE END + (the River) URE
22. Freight heading off in legendary ship (4)
ARGO (c)ARGO, for Jason’s ship on his quest for the golden fleece
23. Drink picked up for Darius? (4)
MEDE Homophone of “mead”

38 Responses to “Cryptic crossword No 25,439 The Guardian by Orlando”

  1. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, Stella.

    2dn took a minute or two for the penny to drop: RE [last letters of peculiar prehensile] + INDEE[d] + R[ight]

    Lots of ticks [and smiles] – eg 9, 11, 14, 16ac, 2, 6, 7, 15, 20dn.

    Many thanks, Orlando, for a very enjoyable puzzle.

  2. Stuart says:

    Hello Stella – may I offer an explanation for 2d?

    Reindeer – (tails of) (peculia)r (prehensil)e + indee(d) (certainly, not quite) + r(ight)

  3. Roger says:

    Hi Stella. Re 2d: RE {peculiaR prehensilE tails} + INDEE(d) {certainly not quite} + R {right}

  4. Eileen says:

    16ac is a lovely clue, referring to the wonderful ‘Private Eye’ ‘Dear Bill’ letters

    See also:

  5. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the blog Stella – another excellent one from Orlando.

    Stars in a constellation are identified by Greek letters in order of their brightness (e.g. Alpha Centauri), so gamma indicates the third-brightest. I’ve just discovered that this is called the Bayer designation.

  6. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Stella. A nice puzzle from Orlando

    I concur with Stuart @2 but it took me quite a while to figure out why the answer was REINDEER.

    My type of puzzle.

  7. molonglo says:

    Thanks Stella, and Orlando. Threequarters of this was straightforward but I found the NW corner quite tricky. I finally cracked 13a, saw what the small city was and was nearly there. But 2d was devilish and 12 a very clever. Good to get there in the end.

  8. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Stella.

    Lovely puzzle, with bits and bobs of cross-referencing making it more interesting. Liked MADONNA especially, and PLAINT was one where a bit of French came in handy. Talking of which, I thought HAN DYNASTY was brilliant – it must have been done before, but I’ve never seen it, so it was my smiley moment this morning.

  9. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Stella. I really enjoyed this puzzle.

    In 9, I thought the def was “to be added to that” rather than the clue being an &lit.

  10. Stella says:

    Thanks all for your comments. It seems I was rather obtuse at 2d. Ah well, it’s not the first time :)

    Thanks for the link, Andrew – very interesting.

  11. Stella says:

    Hi NeilW. I understood THEREUNTO as meaning “up to that point”, therefore “nothing to be added to that

  12. Eileen says:

    Hi Stella

    I took ‘to be added’ as going with ‘nothing’ and the definition as ‘to that’, which I’ve just found as the [only] definition in Chambers. ‘

  13. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Stella.

    Interesting puzzle – as everyone has commented, a mixture of very obvious anagrams and ‘hidden’ clues with some much trickier charades.

    I liked the inclusion of two ‘military base’ clues: 25a a simple charade and 2d the most intricate and misleading clue in the crossword. 20d also nicely misleading. Other favourites were 23a (great surface) and 15d (neat and amusing).

    Although [GAMMA + Latin genitive form of constellation name] is usually used to designate the third brightest star in a conventional grouping, this breaks down in Ursa Major, in which the well-known seven main stars forming the Plough/Big Dipper are simply labelled alpha to eta from Dubhe at the rim of the saucepan to Alkaid at the end of the handle.

  14. Thomas99 says:

    Re 9a (my last in), like Eileen I took the definition to be “to that”. I thought it was probably the best clue, partly because of the craftily short but perfect definition.

  15. NeilW says:

    Hi Thomas, yes I agree with you and Eileen – I should have looked it up in Chambers!

  16. tupu says:

    Thanks Stella and Orlando

    An extremely good puzzle. I found 9a the most difficult to see, even though I felt ‘runt’ must be in there somewhere.

    I missed the parsing of 24. I thought of ‘gamma’ as third class in academic marking (I should have noticed there was no hyphen between school and master) and then found a wikipedia reference to ‘Gamma’ being the brightest star in constellation Draco. So I wrongly took it as a dd.

    Some most enjoyable clues inc. 9a, 13a, 14a (I was deliberately, I suspect, led at first into thinking this would be last-laugh), 16a (brilliant anagram), 9d (short and sweet), 14d and 15d!.

  17. Gervase says:

    I concur with Thomas99 and Eileen on the parsing of 9a. Good clue but not the best IMHO, because the surface is not perfect and ‘smallest in litter’ was so obviously ‘runt’.

    Back to stars: ‘third brightest star’ refers of course to the apparent brightness as seen from Earth, which is a combination of distance and ‘absolute magnitude’. The brightest star in the sky (apart from the Sun) is Sirius (? Canis Majoris), which is a mere 8.6 light years away and around 25 times more luminous than the Sun. On the other hand, Deneb (? Cygni), which is only the nineteenth brightest as seen from Earth, is around 1500 light years away but has the power of about 60,000 Suns.

  18. Median says:

    An enjoyable puzzle at just the right level of difficulty for my mood today. The only clue to defeat me was MEDE at 23d. But then it’s a long time since I studied the Bible. :)

  19. scchua says:

    Thanks Stella, and Orlando for a satisfyingly good puzzle (something like a fine meal, if I may say so).

    Favourites were 11A IGNOBLE, having got 25A first, “military base” was a clever misdirection; 12A FASTING, “taking nothing in” was a clever defn/misdirection, not the usual instruction “to contain O”; and 15D HAN DYNASTY, one of those revelations – a familiar word/phrase looked at in a new light – and that’s why I’m only a solver and not a setter :-)

  20. Paul B says:

    Well, that’s you and the Assyrians, Median!

  21. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    That was a real challenge which I failed to overcome.
    Like molonglo I quickly solved threequarters but found the NW a real struggle thanks to two mis-solutions. I had ‘anon’ for 4d and ‘hearhear’for 2d which made 11ac totally insoluble.
    Well done Stella and thanks.

  22. Stella says:

    “How sweet to earn a nobleman’s praise
    Capital both, capital both,
    We’ve caught it nicely.
    Supposing he’s right in what he says
    This is the style of things precisely!”

    Thanks RCWhiting, the song just sprang to mind :)

  23. chas says:

    Thnks to Stella for the blog. On 20d I had thought that BLOOMS was the most likely answer but had no idea why. You have now told me of an actor I had never heard of. It is probably 30 years since I went to the cinema – and I got rid of the TV quite a few years ago.

    On 23d I thought of MEAD/MEDE but I do not see ‘picked up’ as indicating ‘sounds like’!

    My laugh-out-loud was on 6d when I finally spotted SA/ESSAY :)

  24. scchua says:

    Hi chas, I think “picked up” is acceptable for a homophone indicator, as in “picked up in conversation” – if that was your question?

  25. grandpuzzler says:

    Thanks Orlando and Stella. Was held up by the NW corner for long time. HERBAL was well hidden.
    Military base was lovely misdirection. Couldn’t parse REINDEER so thanks for the explanation.


  26. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks Stella @22 but there is no nobility here, I am a committed anti-monarchist!

  27. William says:

    Thank you, Stella, fine blog.

    Like most, I spent most time in the NW corner of this excellent crossword.

    STAIRWELLS, REINDEER & IGNOBLE were brilliant, I thought, and HANDY+NASTY for HAN DYNASTY was lovely.

    MEDE beat me, I’m afraid. Biblical references frequently do, but that’s no excuse for missing the homophone indicator.

    Only slight niggle was CONFUSABLE – I thought it might have been concealed slightly better.

    Thank you, Orlando, for a super puzzle.

  28. yogdaws says:

    What with Brendan’s beautiful creation yesterday and this neat little number The Guardian’s having a bit of a purple patch if you ask me.

    Made an entertaining blunder on 9a. Thought it was an anagram of ‘LITTLEST’ – ‘smallest in litter’ (with ‘litter’ as the anag trigger) followed by ‘0’. Definition ‘point taken’ = STILLETTO. Thought I was being pretty clever till the errors started piling up and CHAMBERS reminded me that ‘STILETTO’ only has the one ‘L’.

    I know. I should get out more…

  29. Dave Ellison says:

    RCW @21 I too had tentatively put in ANON, which fitted the clue, though I was then a little uncomfortable with the initial A in the clue. It also held me up for a while, along with putting the old chestnut SIMPLE for 3d; though that felt a bit non-pc. The HERBAL was well hidden.

  30. Stella says:

    Hi RCW, in my opinion one can be noble without blue blood :)

  31. Davy says:

    Thanks Stella,

    A tricky puzzle from Orlando which was difficult to finish but very entertaining. I failed on MEDE as I was trying (and failing) to find a drink going backwards. I should have picked up on ‘picked up’ but I didn’t. Also, I didn’t know anyone called Darius and my knowledge of the bible is all but non-existent. Like other people, I found the NW section the most difficult with REINDEER being the last one in.

    Clue of the day for me was IGNOBLE for its superb misdirection and especially for the brilliant IG = retired person in military. I also laughed at WHEEL when it eventually went in.

    RCW: I don’t know how you could have put hearhear for 2d as it isn’t even a word !.

  32. RCWhiting says:

    I failed to find reindeer because of my errors and hear?hear does fit ‘quite right’ nicely. I took ‘animals’ as hares (harehare) and ‘peculiar prehensile tails’ to mean that the ‘Es’ were misplaced.
    All nonsense of course.
    Actually our ‘anon’ doesn’t fit because she was a ‘Anne’.
    Still it was a joy to fail after a struggle for a change.

  33. caretman says:

    I found the comments here interesting since I felt as though I sailed through this. It took about 20 minutes and for once I could identify all of the parsing. Usually I’m coming here for a half dozen explanations of how a clue worked even if I got the answer. I suspect that it was just an occasion in which my mind meshed with Orlando’s.

    An example was the excellent 11a. A clue I had encountered many years ago for the same word was ‘Earl with girl halfback on first base (7)’, which to Americans raises amusing images with its mixture of football and baseball terminology. This clue also used ‘base’ = IGNOBLE and preceded it with a natural adjective that encourages one to read the two words as a single unit, just as Orlando did with ‘military base’. So having seen and remembered well this example from before, I solved this clue much more quickly than if I had not had that experience.

    But it was still easy to admire the quality of the clues. HAN DYNASTY, REINDEER, and THEREUNTO, among others, were all excellent. There was even a clue on the naming of stars, which brought me back to my undergraduate days giving lectures in the local planetarium. So even though I solved it quickly (for me), it was quite enjoyable.

    Thanks, Orlando, and thanks as well to Stella for the blog.

  34. Davy says:

    Dear RCW,

    Despite your protestations, ‘hear hear’ is still two words and hearhear does not exist as a single word. It’s good to hear that you are capable of making mistakes and that you are just human after all.

  35. RCWhiting says:

    You really are strange, Davy.
    I did not make a single protestation,in fact I said ‘all nonsense, of course’. Although fun nevertheless; that’s fun, Davy, F-U-N.

  36. Davy says:


    It looks like I’ve rattled your cage but I’m glad you are having fun and you definitely need some after that dreadful rise in the price of your beloved newspaper.

    I will say this only once. I appreciate that you made a mistake in the crossword, but hearhear is not a valid word and I don’t understand how you could have even considered writing it in.

    I think this topic is exhausted now.

  37. Huw Powell says:

    I almost feel like just typing “ditto” today.

    Started by getting four unconnected words, and thought what a fun game that would be – to see how many discrete words could be filled in on any given puzzle…

    Loved the same clues as everyone else, especially the ones I couldn’t really parse (REINDEER came to me as soon as I had the R at the end, but remained in pencil due to a complete inability to see *why* it was right). Laughed out loud at HAN DYNASTY. Some clues were a bit easy, but were so perfect I didn’t mind.

    Thanks to Orlando for a wonderful puzzle, and to Stella for the great blog. Amusing that both of you were represented in it!

  38. Gordon says:

    Hi Stella

    This was in the Guardian Weekly, which I get here in the USA. I put it to one side and forgot about it until a couple of days ago – as I frequently do.

    I tried to make Brushy fit 3D for a while [Basil Brush] then Fawlty as in Basil Fawlty as I took fawlty to be a homophone of faulty which could sort of mean Balmy in its older definition as an alternative spelling to Barmy. Now that is convoluted isn’t it? Eventually the penny dropped.

    My reason for writing is that I suspect no-one has properly understood clue 21A. Yes Bacon and Lamb wrote essays, but that in itself would not make a cryptic clue. An Essay is an attempt [therefore try] at doing something. I know this as I collect stamps and initial designs for these are called Essays.

    Did you assume that everyone knew this or just forgot about it?

    Best wishes


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