Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Cryptic N° 25,459 by Boatman

Posted by PeterO on October 21st, 2011


I found this tough going; either I am not on Boatman’s wavelength today, or he is committing some remarkably loose constructions. Still, there is much to like in the puzzle. Any shortcomings in the blog are the result of spending most of my time unravelling the wordplay in 1A!

As the theme of the puzzle is astronomical (with a side order of Batman), I find rather too many of the astronomical definitions to be imprecise.

1. Riddler endlessly chattering, loathing lost muscle (9)
SPHINCTER A charade of SPHIN[x] (‘riddler endlessly’) + ‘C[hat]TER[ing]’ with hating (‘loathing’) removed (‘lost’). What outlandish wordplay!
6. See 3
See 3
8. Moved in anger to expose newspaper boss (8)
OUTRAGED A charade of OUT (‘expose’) + RAG ED (‘newspaper boss’).
9. Inadequate theme: a Great Bear appears (6)
MEAGRE Hidden in ‘theME A GREeat’. ‘Inadequate’ would seem to be the definition (although it might be the hidden answer indicator). I cannot think of an adequate explanation for ‘bear appears’.
10. Wacky Tom and Taz are crackers (6)
MATZOT An anagram (‘wacky’) of ‘Tom’ and ‘Taz’. Matzot is one of the forms of the plural of matzoh (or other spellings), the unleavened bread of Passover meals, now generally in the form of ‘crackers’.
11. Players as Madrid’s, named as stars (8)
SIDEREAL A charade of SIDE (‘players’) + REAL (Real ‘Madrid’, the football team); or maybe the whole is a cryptic definition. ‘As stars’ is the definition, and ‘named’ does not seem to have much to do. See NeilW @4.
12. Investigator misses nothing in a crook (6)
CORNER A subtraction (‘misses’) O (‘nothing’) from COR[o]NER (‘investigator’). Not the expected meaning of ‘crook’.
15. Boatman’s type taken in on method of formation of stars (5,3)
MILKY WAY An envelope (‘taken in’) of ILK (‘type’) in MY (‘Boatman’s’) + (‘on’) WAY (‘method’). Here and in 2D ‘formation’ has the sense of structure, rather than creation.
16. Decaying star in dock after recorded statement (3,5)
RED DWARF A homophone (‘statement’) of READ WHARF (‘dock after recorded'; READ for ‘recorded’ is something of a stretch). The definition is also a little questionable: a red dwarf is a quite happy little star, decaying only in the sense that like any star it is burning its hydrogen fuel, and will eventually run out (although the universe is too young for this to have happened yet to a red dwarf).
19. Criminal bribed with earth-moving kit (6)
DIBBER An anagram (‘criminal’) of ‘bribed’. A dibber moves earth on a much smaller scale than the clue’s surface might suggest.
21. An awful thing: see a formation of stars die (8)
DISASTER An anagram (‘formation’) of ‘stars die’.
22. Leader to come back, able to move the spirit (6)
COGNAC COG, a reversal (‘to come back’) of GOC (General Officer Commanding, ‘leader’) + NAC, another reversal (though billed as a anagram ‘to move’ – and why not? A reversal is a particular type of anagram) of CAN (‘able’?). But see JPRidge @1 for a preferable parsing.
24. Unable to arrange formation of stars (6)
NEBULA An anagram (‘to arrange’) of ‘unable’. Here ‘formation’ may have either sense: in archaic use, a nebula might be a distant galaxy (formation – structure) or, more currently, a stellar nursery (formation – creation); but a nebula – the famous Crab Nebula for example – may also be the remains of a stellar explosion, not a ‘formation of stars’ in any sense.
25. Boatman unmoved after article regarding military invasion (8)
ANABASIS A charade of AN (‘article’) + (‘after’) AB (able-bodied ‘boatman’) + AS IS (‘unmoved’ i.e. unchanged).
26. The East is held back by America’s extremes? (4)
ASIA An envelope (‘held’) of SI, a reversal (‘back’) of ‘is’ in AA (‘AmericA‘s extremes’).
27. Volatile big shot takes medic on board aerial war contraption (9)
BOMBSIGHT An envelope (‘takes … on board’) of MB (‘medic’) in BOSIGHT, an anagram (‘volatile’) of ‘big shot’.
1. Dry sweat with Italian lady in a hot place? (5)
SAUNA A subtraction of S[we]A[t] – ‘sweat’ without wet (‘dry’) + UNA (the Italian indefinite article, feminine, ‘Italian lady’?)
2. Where the sky begins, the earth ends at last in formation of stars (7)
HORIZON H (‘the eartH ends'; dodgy both for the superfluous article and the s of ‘ends’) + an envelope (‘in’) of Z (‘last’) in ORION (‘formation of stars'; of course, the constellation is a happenstance of the earth’s position, not the result of any particular structural relationship among the constituent stars).
3,6across. An awful thing, the moment when stars appear (5-4)
NIGHT-TIME A charade of NIGHT, an anagram (‘awful’) of ‘thing’ + TIME (‘the moment’). This makes an amusing coupling with 21A.
4. A lot to arrange, not all reported (4,3)
TIDY SUM A charade of TIDY (‘to arrange’) + SUM[med up]? (‘reported’). Definition: ‘a lot’ (of money). See Rishi @2.
5. Rearranged thatching stuff to include pattern (9)
REMODELED An envelope (‘to include’) of MODEL (‘pattern’) in REED (‘thatching stuff’). Boatman uses the spelling without a doubled l, which is primarily American.
6. Support for afternoon service (latter-day version omitting original characters) (3,4)
TEA TRAY An anagram (‘version’) of ‘[l]atter-[d]ay’ ‘omitting original characters’.
7. Preserve holy one appointed by Spooner (9)
MARMALADE A Spoonerism of LAMA MADE (‘holy one appointed’).
13. Cracks in new order or else in new start (3-6)
ONE-LINERS An anagram (‘in new order’) of ‘or else in’ + N (‘New start’)
14. Sunday lunch of wild boar, holding whisky glass — bottoms up! (5,4)
ROAST LAMB An envelope (‘holding’) of STLAM, a reversal (‘up’) of MALT (‘whisky’) + S (‘glasS bottoms'; again, what is the justification for the plural?) in ROAB, an anagram (‘wild’) of ‘boar’. At best, ROAST LAMB might be an instance of ‘Sunday lunch’ (or vice versa).
17. Batman and Joker turning up for kids in Hollywood? (7)
DRACULA A charade of DRAC, a reversal (‘turning up’) of CARD (‘joker'; again, an instance) + U (‘for kids’, film rating) + LA (‘Hollywood'; this one might be justified as synecdoche).
18. Piece of branch with shoot on it (7)
FIREARM A charade of FIRE (‘shoot’) + (‘on it’ = on top of it) ARM (‘branch’).
20. Aging, decaying, taking two seconds for the formation of stars (3,4)
BIG BANG An anagram (‘decaying’) of ‘aging’ + BB (‘two seconds’). It was a while after the big bang that star formation began.
22. Origin of creation heralds appearance of stars (5)
CHAOS Initial letters (‘origin’?; the plural seems to have wandered to other clues) of ‘Creation Heralds Appearance Of Stars’. Apart from the number problem, a nice &lit.
23. An arrangement of stars wrongly set as &Lit (1-4)
A-LIST An anagram (‘wrongly set’) of ‘as’ + (‘&’) ‘lit’. The definition refers to Hollywood stars. Again, an ingenious coupling with 22D.

32 Responses to “Guardian Cryptic N° 25,459 by Boatman”

  1. JPRidge says:

    Thanks Peter for the blog and Boatman for the puzzle. The partial theme helped and hindered (23d). Struggled to parse a few but the blog has remedied that.

    Re: 22a – I parsed this one as “Leader to C[ome]” and a reversal “back” of CAN GO “able to move” esp. related to boardgames, card games etc.

  2. Rishi says:

    Re 4dn.

    I think it is TIDY (‘arrange’, v.) + SUM (hom. of ‘some’ from ‘not all’), ‘reported’ being the hom. ind.

  3. Rishi says:

    Re your query on 9ac: Inadequate theme: a Great Bear appears (6) MEAGRE

    Whimsically, if ‘Bear appears’, that is, if we make an anagram of ‘Bear’, we get BARE, which also means ‘meagre’.

    So is it a double clue – a ‘hidden’ or ‘telescopic’ and an anagram?

  4. NeilW says:

    Thanks Peter. I really enjoyed, as usual, Boaman’s slightly quirky clues.

    In 11, I think your supposed to read it as: “Players” SIDE, “as Madrid’s (SIDE is) named” REAL. Of course, there’s Atletico Madrid as well….

  5. NeilW says:

    “You’re” even!

  6. Alex in Oz says:

    Hi, Long time lurker first time poster here.

    Just thought I’d jump on to defend Boatman and the crossword because I really enjoyed this. Challenging enough for a Friday afternoon with plenty of “a-ha” moments.

    In 17d, I read it as card being an amusing person (or “joker”) rather than one of any of the cards one may find in a deck – which makes the cluing a bit more precise than suggested in the blog. Just a thought…

    Anyway, I had fun. Thanks Boatman for the xword and PeterO for the blog and explanations (esp. 16d, where the homophone definitely passed me by).

  7. molonglo says:

    Thanks PeterO, and Boatman. Flying start in NE, bogged in SE: needed TEA help for COGNAC and CHAOS, both fine clues, and utterly failed on the last, 25a. Not too happy about the single L in 5d, or crook=corner in 12a. But the outrageously good 8a more than made up for them.

  8. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks PeterO and Boatman for a cracking puzzle.

    Not being overly knowledgeable in astronomy, it seems to me, like others, that you’re being a little harsh on the setter, Peter. BTW, Boatman always uses his pseudonym in a clue or two, but I only see Batman, without the “o”, in one of them – quite a clever one, IMO.

  9. NeilW says:

    Hi Stella. How about 15 and 25?

  10. Roger says:

    Agree with Stella (8) {…cracking puzzle. Not being overly knowledgeable in astronomy, it seems to me, like others, that you’re being a little harsh on the setter, Peter}.This was a lot of fun … so many thanks Boatman.

    I especially enjoyed the SAUNA and the Spoon(er)ful of MARMALADE (!), had a grin over TEATRAY and SPHINCTER was clever.

    For me the H in 2d came from reading the clue as: Where … ‘the earth’ ends.

    Ref 14d, maybe bottom’s up would work better yet with whisky glass in hand one’s less likely to say it !

    In 9a I think the ‘Bear’ could be an extension of the starry theme or else indicates the answer is ‘born’ within and so ‘appears’.

    CHAOS has an air of &lit about it and I wonder if one was intended in ASIA.

  11. Boatman says:

    Yes, JPRidge, Rishi and NeilW, you’re quite correct in your parsing. I like Rishi’s and Roger’s alternative readings of “Great Bear”, though I confess it’s simply a compound as far as the logic of the clue is concerned.

    As for the results of taking a very literal approach to the definitions in a crossword (especially when done by someone who knows what he’s talking about) … I rather enjoy it – it just shows that there’s more than casual fun to be had from these things.

    And is ASIA an &Lit? Ah well, I couldn’t possibly say … Perhaps one of our subcontinental solvers can tell us?

  12. Stella Heath says:

    Hi NeilW, yes, but what I said was there’s only one B(no “o”)atman!

    Thanks for looking in, Boatman. I hadn’t commented on other contributors’ suggestions, but it’s good to see my suspicions confirmed :)

  13. PeterO says:

    Thank you, Boatman, for stopping by. Your comment arrived when I was in the middle of updating the blog, so that in my addition to 22A “a preferable parsing” should read “the right parsing”. Thank you JPRidge, and likewise Rishi and NeilW (that’s kind of what I was feeling towards in 11A, but I still have difficulty getting my head around the clue gramatically). Also Alex in Oz, to whom welcome; I had overlooked the joker/wag/card link in 17D, which indeed makes the clue more precise.

  14. Rob Lewis says:

    In 11 ac there may lurk the hyperbolic name given to the over paid and under-performing Real Madrid side – the ‘Galacticos’ which fits with the theme ( I think it refers to the size of their wage packets as opposed to them being the top stars)

  15. Stella Heath says:

    Hi Rob Lewis, I quite agree with you, though I think the name also refers to their habitual colour being white – lactic. Spanish journaists started referring to them as “galácticos” when they were indeed the major team in Europe, and there are still many that are intimidated by them because of their fame, but as you say, the present team – and for some years now – are unmanageable “superstars”

  16. John says:

    I’m amazed that “remodeled” passes without comment except as a note from the blogger.
    Does no one care about spelling any more?
    It won’t be long before “alright” is all right.

  17. cholecyst says:

    Quite tough, but it succumbed to inspired (=lucky) guesswork in the end. All apart from ANABASIS, that is. Ashamed to say I’d never heard of the work or the word. And John, I’m with you on “remodeled”.

  18. Paul B says:

    But ‘alright’ IS all right for some, presumably due to the prevalence of ‘already’ and ‘altogether': ‘remodeled’ though, godammit, and as you imply, really oughta have a USA-ge indicator.

  19. Stella Heath says:

    Given that Webster’s dictionary first appeared in the early 19th century, and that nobody seems to have any objection to Shakespeare spelling his own name as he felt at any given moment, plus the fact that there is no “Royal Academy of the English Language” or any other such institution, I feel the only justification for preferring one spelling over another is a question of consistency.

    In that context, British English prefers to double an “l” or an “r” in an unstressed syllable followed by a suffix, whereas the American version leaves it single. While the spelling of suffixes such as “-our/or” or “-re/er” is influenced by their origin in English, but Webster sought to standardis/ze, the doubling or not obeys to nothing obvious, and is probably more a matter of convention.

    I would certainly double the “l” in 5d., but then I would put a stop after an abbreviation, and no “e” after the “g” in “aging”, for example, and I see no-one complain about that :)

    On the other hand, these puzzles are published in English newspapers, so one would expect English spelling conventions.

  20. tupu says:

    Thanks PeterO and Boatman

    I didn’t get to look at this before late afternoon so all is pretty much said and done.

    The only one I failed to parse correctly was sauna- perhaps because I know too much about it. I saw ‘dry’ simply as referring to the ‘dry heat’ of sauna in strong contrast to Turkish baths and ‘sa’ as an abbreviation giving ‘signora una’.

    I found the clues a mixed bag – some contained very clear instructions and others were more complicated and a little questionable – e.g. because of the ‘regarding’ in 25a I thought the answer could be anabatic. But then I noticed the ‘as is’. I did part of Xenophon’s story for School Certificate.

    Overall clever with an enjoyable light touch and lots of good ‘aha moments’ both in solving and parsing.

  21. stumped says:

    Very enjoyable even though I gave up and cheated on 1a, 22d & 25a.

    1a Clue went over my head. Could have used brute force to deduce the solution from the crossing letters (I daresay it’s the only possible legal word) but what’s the point.

    22d Despite having the C & S, the solution eluded me. Because of the astronomical theme I didn’t consider Greek Mythology. Big Bang posits a Point Origin, antithesis of chaos.

    25a. Never heard of this word and lacking initial letter from Chaos didn’t get it.

    Having lived in New England for quite a while, I have ceased to care how a word is spelt or spelled.

    Even though I’m one generation removed from subcontinental origin, I don’t think many there would consider 26a &Lit.

  22. Paul B says:

    Yes, yes, there are some words you can spell in at least two ways and get away with it, but the item under discussion is an exclusively N.Am usage whichever way you look at it (i.e. in a Chambers way, or a Collins way), and it should not really go unindicated in a UK puzzle.

    Curiously, that old arsekisser Shaks is thought to have been the only Elizabethan writer to spell ‘silence’ SCILENS: this ‘knowledge’ has been used inter alia in various attempts to identify his hand in the works of his comtemporaries.

  23. stumped says:

    Paul B: point taken. For my part I entered remodeled without a second thought. However my accent still elicits comment, so all is not lost.

    Meanwhile back to Phi in Indy. Does anyone know how to retrieve archived cryptics there? I’d like to tackle Anarche from Thursday. I’ll ask on the appropriate blog when I’m done with Phi.

    Rediscovering cryptics is great fun, I’m hooked.

  24. PeterO says:

    Stumped – In case you miss this, I will repeat it in an email: to get an archived Indy, go to, and download their puzzle solver software. Fire it up,click on File, and then Download puzzle. Enter the URL
    (the quotes are there only to prevent the URL from appearing as a hyperlink).
    That should bring up Arachne’s puzzle. For another puzzle, the date of which you know, change the 201011 to the appropriate date (note the British style ordering DDMMYY). The other complication is that prize puzzles are put up on the web a week late, so you would need the date it goes on the web, not when it appears in the paper.
    I hope you are not stumped by all this.

  25. Stella Heath says:

    PaulB, there’s one word in your argument which, IMO, sums up the question: “unindicated” is probably the source of so many objections to the American spelling

  26. Allan_C says:

    Thanks PeterO for the blog, especially the parsing of ANABASIS which I put in as a guess.

  27. chas says:

    Thanks to PeterO for the blog.

    I am definitely one who thinks that in a British crossword foreign words should be indicated such as ‘remodeled’!!

  28. Paul B says:

    Those foreigners the Americans? True indeed.

  29. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    I did this at the coast without a dictionary so I failed to get ‘anabasis’,a new word to me. I was pretty certain I had remembered ‘matzot’correctly which meant I could write in ‘sauna’ but I was quite unable to parse it. Thanks for the explanation, PeterO, and much admiration for the ‘dry sweat’.
    In fact admiration for the whole thing,a delightful challenge and so much better than today’s ‘prize’ effort.

  30. Keith in Catalunya says:

    I thought the solution to 1 ac pretty well described the clue.

  31. Huw Powell says:

    Lots of fun with this one. Completed, slowly, with a few aids (mostly onelook to get 1A and 25A, and wikipedia to verify 10A and 19A). Enjoyed the theme, it’s so rare to see sciencey ones. Loved CHAOS, very sneaky; I almost fell off my chair when I got SIDEREAL because the starry theme had me thinking of days and years and how they are observed/measured.

    My only tiny miff is that there was no clue which yielded a starry answer without mentioning them directly. No big deal though.

    Thanks for the nice Friday workout, Boatman – and for dropping by the blog, and thanks PeterO for fighting your way through the blog – it’s always nice to remember that even the “experts sruggle at times!

  32. ernie says:

    Huw Powell @31 sums up my thoughts also. Slow, with aids, but good fun. Did not get CORNER or ONE-LINERS. ANABASIS was okay (though could not parse it – nor SAUNA): I’m a classicist turned scientist. As for US spellings, I keep an open mind. In fact I don’t object to slight imprecisions if the answer (whether I got it or not) seems justified.

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