Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize 25,478 / Paul

Posted by Eileen on November 19th, 2011


An entertaining pot-pourri of a puzzle from Paul, to round off an excellent week: a mini-theme of Dad’s Army  and mini-mini-themes of pastas, Prime Ministers and flowers. Just right for a Saturday, I thought: it took a little while to get into but, once I guessed the theme [from PIKE], it unravelled steadily – but not too quickly – with several penny-dropping moments, like 9ac, and a rather longer wait for the explanation of 25ac to dawn. My thanks to a wise owl for just a wee hint that it was connected with a word that had been discussed here ‘some months ago’, involving the usual abbreviation for ‘company’, which stirred a faint memory, and a quick search of our very useful archive revealed that it was, in fact, over a year ago and I’d blogged the puzzle in question! I said then that I’d never heard the word before – and I haven’t heard it since, till now. [Someone commented here on Wednesday [again on a blog of a Paul puzzle] that I’d led a sheltered life! I had been thinking that Paul had been on his best behaviour in this puzzle – I thought the reason I couldn’t explain it was that the said Jones must be a cricketer [or snooker player] or whatever… ]

Many thanks, Paul – I really enjoyed this!


8 A compound to the east of British hall (8)
A SILICA [a compound] to the east [right] of B[ritish]

9 Food for 13, 3, 25 and 2 etc, cryptically? (5)
PA’S TA: another way of saying ‘Dad’s Army': we’re used to seeing TA [Territorial Army] clued as ‘volunteers': the Home Guard , nicknamed ‘Dad’s Army’, was also a volunteer force: this clue raised a chuckle, when I got it.

11 Picture battleaxe as flower (10)
simple charade of SNAP [picture] and DRAGON [battleaxe  – both used figuratively to denote a domineering woman]

12 Brown clothes unusual for US president (6)
TAN [brown] round [clothes] RUM [unusual]

14 First William’s home and not the Prince of Darkness (8)
NOR [and not] MANDY [one nickname of Peter Mandelson,  another being the Prince of Darkness]; Normandy was the home of William I [the Conqueror]: perhaps a little hard on both counts for non-UK residents – but I liked it a lot

15 Pity hopeless state is standard (7)
Anagram [hopeless] of PITY + CAL[ifornia] [state]

17 Void serial number with dexterity (7)
SL [void {empty} serial] + EIGHT [number]

20 Contrary part of the brain welcoming naughty word, the blooming thing (8)
Reversal [contrary] of PONS [part of the brain] round [welcoming] anagram [naughty] of WORD: I had to laugh at ‘naughty word’, from Paul, being simply an anagram! – the second flower

22 Amusing chap’s decay (6)
FUN GUS – amusing chap

23 Dear divorcee upset about publicity (10)
Anagram [upset] of DIVORCEE round [about] PR [publicity]

24 Sharpen weak sounds (4)
Sounds like [no comment!] WET [weak] – I wondered why not ‘sound’?

25 Welshman with the balls to leave company (5)
[co]JONES: no further comment, except to say that at first I thought the clue was the wrong way round but I think we need to take ‘leave’ to mean ‘leave out’

26 Drop in price for 9 (8)
FALL [drop] in FARE [price] for a type of pasta


1 PMT, did you say? (4,4)
PM [Prime Minister] + T [sounds like {did you say?} ‘tea’]: knowing several PMT jokes, I really liked this ‘lift and separate’ clue. Earl Grey  was a British Prime Minister who gave his name to a blend of tea

2 Fish dish with grand filling (4)
K [grand] in [filling] PIE [dish]

4 Drop in route for 9 (7)
SAG [drop] in LANE [route] for the second type of pasta

5 Drag artist about to fade, turning up for number (8)
Reversal [‘turning up’] of LA RUE [drag artist] around DIP [to fade]: a couple of potential traps here: I was wise to the ‘number’ one – we’ve had it several times lately – but I’ve got so used to ‘lift and separate’ clues [eg, in this puzzle, 1 and 7,3dn] that I was not going to be beguiled by ‘drag artist’, especially with RA lurking in there, so it took me a minute or two to recognise the double bluff, referring to drag artist Danny La Rue

6 Increase a lot in case requiring negotiation (10)
Anagram [negotiation] of A LOT IN CASE

7,3 PMS in doll, now hair ruffled (6,6)
S in anagram [ruffled] of DOLL NOW HAIR: again, nothing to do with pre-menstrual syndrome or tension but, for the second time, PM as Prime Minister – Harold Wilson  whose hair was, here at least, anything but ruffled.

13 3’s leader’s publication to protect in struggle at home (10)
MAG [publication] round [‘to protect’] IN + WAR [struggle] + IN [at home]: reference to Captain Mainwaring in ‘Dad’s Army': this is the only one of the theme clues that isn’t free-standing, so more difficult for those not familiar with the programme, but the wordplay is very straightforward

16 Perfect game concealed by bank, hard to improve image (8)
AI [perfect] + RU [Rugby Union – game] in [concealed by] RBS [Royal Bank of Scotland] + H[ard]

18 Employ female to feed the blessed insect (8)
USE F [employ female] in [to feed] HOLY [the blessed]

19 State’s agent holding up fine diamonds (7)
SPY [agent] round reversal of [holding up] F[ine] ICE [diamonds]

21 Brave old islander surfacing (6)
Reversal [surfacing – coming up] of O[ld] + JAVAN [islander]

22 One’s felt the Iron Lady (6)
FE [iron] + DORA [lady] for the felt hat: [I thought the surface of this was quite creepy!]

24,10 Brew Welsh tea — why choose another? (4,4)
Anagram [brew] of WELSH TEA

30 Responses to “Guardian Prize 25,478 / Paul”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Eileen. It wasn’t until I had filled in the last square that realisation of the theme dawned. 1 and 7 eluded me for a long time and although 9 emerged quite early, I failed to recognise the association with Dad’s Army. I needed internet assistance to confirm Mandelson in 14 and the pasta variety in 26. I’m doubtful that FUNGUS is synonymous with decay and I think in 25 that it is the company that leaves the balls for the Welshman. ‘Leave’ and ‘leave out’ mean different things to me.

    Still, I wondered at one stage if I would make it so it was satisfying to get there.

  2. Paul (not Paul) says:

    My co-solver and I came at this in a quite peculiar way.

    We wrongly guessed from crossing letters that 1d was Dads Army, solved Mainwaring, Wilson et al and then realised that it was in fact Earl Grey! I wonder if at some point in the crossword’s evolution that Dads Army was the solution to 1d but he couldn’t make the grid work.

    A great Paul that kept me much amused.

  3. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen. I did know the magic word at the heart of 25a but failed to make the connection. Your good blog also helped with 5d – another self-kick for not spotting dragman Danny. I got the PMT in the opening minute but the PMS only at the very end. I’m still not happy with the S in that clue (7,3). Had to dredge hard for the Dad’s Army stuff, even when 13d emerged from the cross-letters. Whereupon the three pasta answers all got chuckles. Excellent again, Paul.

  4. dunsscotus says:

    Thanks Paul and Eileen. I agree that fungus/decay is a bit of a push, otherwise a very nice puzzle which I found easier than some recent midweek offerings!

  5. r_c_a_d says:

    Just popped by to see what people thought of the PMT and PMS clues, which I didn’t really like.

    PIKE gave the game away for me and I did like PASTA very much.

    Over all, much easier than those in the previous few days.

  6. r_c_a_d says:

    Oops. Meant to add that I am of the generation for which Pike is always the Dad’s Army character first and a fish second…

  7. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks Eileen.

    I completely missed the Dad’s Army them until you pointed it out, having got the politicians one and discovered that MAINWARING was also the name of at least three UK politicians, this dismissing the one person of that name I was actually familiar with as part of a theme :(

    This obviously complicated my understanding of 9ac, which I got via 26ac, and I finally decided the reference to the other clues was as a synonym of “money”, very important for politians :)

    I didn’t know the original meaning of BASILICA

  8. Stella Heath says:

    Oops! I hit “submit” too soon!

    … until I looked it up to explain 8ac.

    All in all, a great Paul, which as so often happens I only fully appreciated after visiting 225.

    Thanks for the entertainment and enlightenment :)

  9. stumped says:

    Thanks Paul for a nice puzzle I thought I might actually finish, and Eileen for good blog which explained the clues I failed to solve and those I did solve without knowing why.

    Got 13d Mainwaring early on directly from the word play and knew I wouldn’t need to panic.

    Paul (not Paul) @2 – Paul could easily have had 1d as DAD’S ARMY with 10a being ISLE.

    Agree with others about fungus/decay.

    Don’t like clues such as 14a, far too topical. My test is whether one could solve it, say, 5 years hence. Recently WERRITY was a solution, not on in my opinion.

    Failed to solve

    5d Forgot the lesson about ‘number’ recently learnt when it indicated ‘needles’. How could one forget Danny La Rue!

    1d Was fixated on the T being Thatcher and cast around for word play based on Iron Lady and T.I.N.A – ’nuff said.

    8a Didn’t even begin to consider BASILICA which I mistakenly think of only as a religious building.

    15a Am accustomed to only 2-letter abbreviations for US States. Kept trying to use ID(aho), IL(linois) or IN(diana).

    Favourite clue 11a – Thatcher again :)

  10. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Paul

    A nice blog and an excellent witty puzzle. My only problem was not getting round to checking the spelling of Grey!

    I enjoyed the themes. I liked 9a, 14a (though I take the point re topicality and, also, location of solvers might have caused difficulties for some), 25a, 5d, and 13d among others.

    R 25a, the word was very popular with Hemingway if I remember rightly. I think the structure of the clue is just about OK – ‘leave (behind)’ is how I read it.

  11. Robi says:

    Nice puzzle, although I took a while to get started.

    Thanks, Eileen for a good blog. Once I got MAINWARING and WILSON, I found the theme, but had to look up the characters. Without much thought I put in ARTHUR WILSON at first when I saw the cast. It took a while for the penny to drop about PASTA, and, I too, dabbled with Dad’s Army for 1. Both my Oxford Thesaurus and Chambers Crossword Dictionary have FUNGUS as a synonym for decay, although, like others, I would find it difficult to think of a context.

    Many good clues with SNAPDRAGON and PASTA probably my favourites.

  12. Davy says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    A very entertaining puzzle from Paul that I also found quite tough. I realised last night that this was only half complete so I made every effort to finish it and only got the last two clues this morning. The last one in was Earl Grey which, like tupu, I also misspelt. Amazingly, I also didn’t realise that he was a former PM.

    I disagree with r_c_a_d on the PM clues and welcome any new clue structures. It also took me a while to see them.

    Amongst many gems, I particularly like NORMANDY, SNOWDROP, AIRBRUSH and FEDORA for its great surface. I also agree about the ‘nearly’ clue for 1d.

    Thanks Paul for all the fun.

  13. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Paul for the entertainment and Eileen for the explanations!

    Mainwaring at 13d was late in but once solved, the delight of the rest of the Dad’s Army theme became evident; with 25a evoking recent sightings of the said parts dangling provocatively from shop frontages in Umbria!

    Great fun and I enjoyed Normandy at 14a, too.


  14. Roger says:

    Thanks Eileen. Although perhaps not in the same league as Paul’s mid-week offering this was still good fun, I thought.
    Did wonder about PAST (it) Army at 9a but PIKE rather put paid to that ! {On which subject, any excuse to look again at
    this classic scene }

    LA RU(DIP)E needs ‘turning up’ at 5d, btw (sorry !).

  15. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Roger – corrected now.

    And thanks for the clip. :-)

  16. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Agree this was rather too straightforward compared to the excellent mid-week run.
    I was delighted by the original PMT and PMS.
    Fungus=decay,have a heart, just how precise do you want these definitions to be and you had the clear cryptic pointer to help!

    After Huyton yesterday and HW here it is good to see one of my heroes being remembered.

  17. Eileen says:


    “Agree this was rather too straightforward”

    Who is it that you’re agreeing with?

  18. matt says:

    I liked this one a lot, perfect difficulty level for me. Big fan of PMT / PMS and PASTA

  19. Davy says:

    Yes Eileen, I wondered too who my friend RCW was agreeing with ?. Perhaps he has an imaginary friend who agreed that it was rather too straightforward. As I said above, I would disagree with both of them.

    Please explain RCW why the following answers are so obvious. I’d love to know :

    BASILICA (Is silica the only compound ?.)

    SNOWDROP (Is pons an obvious part of the brain ?.)




    The PM clues which you liked.

  20. Stella Heath says:

    Quite true, Davy, I had to ‘wiki’ parts of the brain to find “pons”; didn’t know the original meaning of BASILICA; and as a ‘foreigner’ (ie. one who lives outside the realm) had no idea of MANDY = “Prince of Darkness”.

    Our friend RCW likes tough puzzles, and makes that very clear. It’s nice when (s)he appreciates one most of us find challenging

  21. RCWhiting says:

    Eileen,as one retired teacher to another,you are a stickler.
    I saw a couple of comments along the lines of ‘this was easier than the ones in the week’ which I,personally, had very much enjoyed.
    So I was loosely agreeing with those comments.
    Alternatively, I feel that I am perfectly entitled to comment on my own view of the level of dificulty of any crossword in The Guardian.
    Nor do I think others are justified in demanding that I prove myself correct,clue by clue.
    I rather suspect that Davy thinks I must be lying because my assessment was at variance to his.
    I do not demand proof of why anyone else has a contrary view to mine.
    I have said before that, unlike a lot of posters,I rarely (if ever) haggle over some minutiae in one or two clues, I am very tolerant in that way. My criterion is difficulty ie how long does my solving pleasure last.
    Today’s alphabetical was on the easy side (he says cowering under the table).

  22. RCWhiting says:

    Davy,just to be generous I think our methods of reasoning could be different which is why I find clues easy which you don’t.
    Let’s consider SNOWDROP.
    ‘naughty word’ – anagram, ‘blooming thing’ – a flower.
    Did I know a flower with (word)* inside it (welcoming).
    Yes,I did,instantly,Snowdrop. So I had no need to even read the rest although I saw rev(snop) and knew that ‘pons’was a part of the brain.
    This illustrates why I do not get hung up over imprecise definitions like many others seem to.

  23. Davy says:

    Dear RCW,

    In 21, you said the following :

    “I rather suspect that Davy thinks I must be lying because my assessment was at variance to his.”

    So, let me get this right. I think that you are lying when you say the crossword was rather too straightforward. So logically, I think that you thought the puzzle was difficult. Very strange !.

    Yes RCW, you have the right to your own opinion but it’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it. You have this arrogant attitude which people just do not like. You seem to think that the crossword is published for you alone and that no-one else matters. As has been said before, the crossword caters for a wide audience and solvers of different abilities. We don’t all have a brain the size of a planet and if there was an Enigmatist type puzzle every day then there would be many complaints.

    So RCW, just have a little more understanding and maybe think of others as well as yourself. A big ask I know.

  24. RCWhiting says:

    You are always so rude, Davy,I think I will ignore you now.

  25. Will Mc says:

    It’s amazing how some people come to resemble their initials.

  26. dunsscotus says:

    May I strike a positive note with regard to contemporary solutions? I like the Mandy/Prince of darkness type of clue because they often ‘ring a bell’, so that I have to do a bit of research, to refresh my memory of recent history. I agree that this may provide a problem for the editor of a future anthology, but that’s what editors are for.

    Finally, speaking as a (semi)retired teacher, can some of you stop giving us a bad name?

  27. r_c_a_d says:

    I agree with dunsscotus about Mandy: that was actually a highlight for me in this puzzle when it finally clicked.

    Contemporary words and phrases are fine if they are widely used, I think. And the Prince of Darkness has been “around” since 1997.

    I wasn’t so keen on Werrity the other week since he was a flash in the pan and I don’t follow current “affairs” that closely.

    Interesting to see wide support for PMT + PMS. Oh well. My instinct was to groan with pain at them, but I appreciate the originality.

  28. RCWhiting says:

    A very regulat trap in solving cryptics is to consider two adjacent things, that seem linked, as one. Usually a compiler does this with words but in this case (original to me) he has done it with letters (PMS, PMT), this is a very commendable development which has potential.

  29. Eileen says:


    These are commonly known as ‘lift and separate’ clues and I remarked on them in my comment on 5dn.

    Thanks, dunsscotus and r_c_a_d for bringing us back to the puzzle. I’m interested to see, r_c_a_d, from your email address, that you are masculine – so thanks for the sympathy. ;-)

    One of my favourite pmt jokes:

    ‘How many pre-menstrual women does it take to change a light bulb?’




  30. RCWhiting says:

    As a relative newcomer to this MB and all the jargon I welcome the occasional explanation, so thanks Eileen.
    After 50 years of solving Guardian crosswords it has been quite strange to discover this little world on here.
    Strange, sometimes enjoyable, sometimes not so.

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