Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,494 / Paul

Posted by Eileen on December 1st, 2011


I found this quite tough going but, looking back, I can’t really see why.  The clues are all fair and straightforward, with the usual wit thrown in – I blame my cold for making me more than usually thick-headed.


Going through the clues in order, as is my wont, my first in was 22ac [it should have been 12ac!] then the NAKED LADIES of LONG ISLAND gave me enough entry into the bottom right corner to see the anagram at [6]26, which gave me a moment’s hope of a mini-theme of one of my favourite comedy programmes but a quick look at the enumeration of 2,17 scotched that.

Thanks, Paul, for an eventually satisfying puzzle and for getting my brain in gear.


9   AGORA: AGO [previously] + [disaste]R + A: this is the definition I’m familiar with – the ancient Greek market place – but I met it in a Neo crossword the other day as an Israeli monetary unit, so I’ve filed that away
10  FÊTE: FEE [charge] around T[ime]
11  BABYLONIAN: BABY [little] + NI [National Insurance] in LOAN [advance]
12  TROWEL: R[iver] in TOWEL [drier]
14  ROMANIAN: RAN [controlled] around [borders] OMANI [Asian]
20  AIRBORNE: AIR [strain – a song] + R [solveR’s end] in BONE [something to contend with – ‘a bone of contention’]: the definition is ‘up’
22  LINNET: L [50] IN [the] NET
23  ALTERNATED: A + TERN [bird] in [cutting]  LATE [dead] + D[uck]
24,21  LONG ISLAND: anagram [ground] of LOSING + LAND [gain]
25,22  NAKED LADIES: anagram [hybrid] of AND LAKESIDE: a typical Paul answer but this time just the name of a flower [so-called because it blooms without leaves]: it has various other names but I think here it’s the Autumn crocus. I’ll leave you to google your own link!


1   METEORIC: E[g]O in METRIC [system]
2,17 TUBE STATION: BEST [most efficient] + AT in [breaking] an anagram [depravity?] of OUT IN
3,15  GLOBAL ECONOMY: GLOOMY [pessimistic] around [about] BALE [to package] + CON[servative] [Cameron’s party]: definition: ‘worryingly precarious thing': a beautifully constructed [&lit?] clue which raised a wry smile, which might have been a laugh out loud if it weren’t so horribly topical
4,19  ICEBERG LETTUCE: cryptic definition
5   TABLE MAT: reversal [turning up] of MELBA [Dame Nellie, ‘sweet singer’] in [to plug] TAT [rubbish]: I’m not keen on the definition:  ‘this is flat’
6,26  MORNINGTON CRESCENT: anagram [fixed, i.e ‘rigged’] of TERMS NOT CONCERNING – and it’s a TUBE STATION
7,8   BANANA REPUBLIC: anagram [unstable] of INCAPABLE and URBAN: I spent too long trying to make an anagram first of STATE INCAPABLE then REQUIRING URBAN
13  WINDBREAKS: WINKS [bats] around [nipping] anagram [unruly] of BEARD: I think ‘bat’ really needs ‘an eye[lid]’ to equate to ‘wink’ but I liked the clue.
16  MARINADE: MARE [horse] round [on the outside] I[ncline] N[early] A[lways] D[ownhill] [first letters – ‘for starters’]; the definition is ‘steep’, so this is another nice ‘lift and separate’ clue, like 24,21 [‘losing ground’]
18  ONE-ON-ONE: O [oxygen] + NEON [another gas] + O [oxygen] + N [nitrogen – another gas] + E[nergy]
24  LICK: double definition

33 Responses to “Guardian 25,494 / Paul”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen. I, too, found this very hard and wondered if I was just having an off day. All very clever but, for me, the least enjoyable Paul for a long time.

  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    I, too, found this very hard and wondered if I was just having an off day. All very clever but, for me, the least enjoyable Paul for a long time.

  3. NeilW says:

    Oops, sorry about that!

  4. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen. I struggled with this, at the halfway mark, beaten by the likes of 3,15 and 6,26. The latter in not just a 2,17 but also a game with loose rules,n’est-ce pas? Had to resort to TEA evaluation for the breakthrough on 4,19. Some fine clues, thanks Paul.

  5. Eileen says:

    Hi molonglo

    Yes, as I mentioned, perhaps too cryptically, in my preamble, MORNINGTON CRESCENT is a ‘game with loose rules’, featured in the radio programme ‘I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue’.

  6. Thomas99 says:

    I’ve been thinking for a while that Paul must be deliberately trying some tougher puzzles, and this seems to confirm it. A bit of a shock for those expecting a normal Paul but very pleasurable – in the end – to solve. It reminded me a bit of Anax in places. All three of the big free online puzzles are very tough today (Independent and FT both have Monk), and in my opinion very good. It’s quite a day! Fortunately I had the morning off…

  7. Eileen says:

    Hi All

    It seems it’s not just me struggling, then!

    For some light relief, there’s a lovely interview with Tramp here:

  8. djawhufc says:

    Hi all

    Thanks Eileen for blog.

    It was a tougher paul but fairly clued I thought.

    I really enjoyed it and when I finally finished felt some real satisfaction.

    In my view if Araucaria is the Master then Paul is his apprentice- one day to take over the top job.

  9. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen and I hope you shake off the cold! I almost despaired of ever getting into this puzzle after only solving 18dn on the first pass. The rest came slowly, with 20ac the last to go in.

    Like you, I don’t really know why I found it so hard, except perhaps that Paul v cleverly concealed his definitions — ‘up’, ‘steep’ and ‘spectacular’ provided penny-drop moments (eventually!)

  10. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    This took me a while to get into, with only a couple of entries on the first pass, but I picked up speed and it didn’t end up taking much longer than an average Paul. There are a lot of long double word answers, which partly explains the relative difficulty.

    Some great clues, with well disguised definitions and anagrinds.
    I particularly liked 6, 26 with its &lit reference to the ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue’ game. The clue for 25, 22d was surprisingly demure for Paul.

    All in all, I found it a really enjoyable puzzle, only let down by the surfaces, which I felt were not really up to snuff.

  11. duncanshiell says:

    One of the most enjoyable daily puzzles I’ve done for a long time. I’m glad I had plenty of time to solve it, and even then I had to walk away and return a few times to get two or three more. It was MORNINGTON CRESCENT and TUBE STATION that eventually got me really going, before finishing with AIRBORNE.

    I’ll be impressed with anyone who solved this on the morning commute, unless they commute from Land’s End to Lerwick.

  12. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks Eileen and Paul.

    I did this in a bit of a hurry this morning, as I had an appointment – though punctuality is not so much a virtue here in Spain as in England :) – and assumed it was my being distracted that made it feel tougher than usual. Now I see I’m not alone. I think Gervase is probably right in his explanation of the proliference of double clues.

    Another difficulty, for me obviously, was not knowing the radio show, but from the above comments, I’ve a feeling its title actually does refer to this puzzle – not that there are no definitions, but, as some contributors say, they are well hidden.

    I did miss a bit of Paul’s wit as I was solving.

  13. crypticsue says:

    Me too – in the harder than usual and tough to get started club – but I enjoyed it in the end although not quite as much fun as some Paul puzzles. Thanks to him and Eileen too – hope the cold goes away soon.

  14. Richard Strasbourg says:

    Yes a real struggle before finally coming out on top. Took up a lot of the morning and “airborne” finally popped into place later in the afternoon. No complaints though – another great Paul puzzle. I was convinced at one stage that there had to be words or terms I didn’t know, but not at all.

  15. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Eileen, I also found it quite difficult. Failed to get AIRBORNE, though on reflection I don’t know why. Some nice clues eg to WINDBREAKS and BABYLONIAN.

    My main quibble. I absolutely loath puzzles where you are jumping around the grid, seeing this and that. One or two are ok but this puzzle was ridiculous.

    Next time I see such a puzzle I will give it a miss.

  16. Mitz says:

    Thanks very much, Paul and Eileen.

    As is very common with Paul (for me at least) a slow starter with gathering momentum. I often find that I get more in tune as time goes on and so the puzzle gets gradually easier. Didn’t get a single across clue on the first pass, but when I had a flash of inspiration and ‘iceberg lettuce’ went in it all started to fall into place. Enjoyed ‘banana republic’ and ‘marinade’ (amongst others) very much. A couple of others such as ‘Romanian’ and ‘linnet’ had to be solved backwards – ie I got the answer and then had to justify the clue – but unlike many others I don’t mind that.

    gm4hqf: not sure exactly what you’re getting at – do you mean solutions that occupy multiple locations in the grid, or clues that refer to other clues, or something else entirely?

  17. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Paul

    I solved this this morning after a very slow start and have only got back home now after having to go out. Like Stella I think Gervase is right about the effect of so many paired answers and I shared some of gm4hqf’s irritation.

    I can’t put my fimger on it otherwise but it certainly took longer than usual to get on P’s wavelength.

    Once started, a number of clues did please e.g.9a (at first I thought this was a ha ‘afore’ and (un)fortunately happened on agora when looking this up to see if it meant more than ‘previously’), 11a, 14a, 20a (last in as for several others – I toyed helplessly with ‘disburse’ first), 1d,2d, 3d, 5d, 6, 26, 7,8.

  18. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    I had decided to stay away for a while since a minority of posters seem to find enjoyment in aiming personal insults at me at any opportunity.
    However, I felt I could safely post today.
    This opinion is of course entirely mine, as always.
    I thought this was one of the best puzzles I have done for quite a while. A real challenge, it took me longer than usual and was difficult to get into.
    I could manage only ‘oneonone’ and ‘trowel’ for quite some time.
    There were too many really good clues to enumerate.
    My last in was ‘agora’, a word which lies on the absolute borders of my vocabulary.
    Well done compiler, and thanks.

  19. tupu says:

    I am reminded of some sudokus where the relevant numbers for determining a number in the middle of a line are dotted far away from each other at each end so that there is also a simple visual problem of combining their implications.

  20. gm4hqf says:

    mitz@16 I didn’t make myself clear. I meant clues referring to other clues. I get bored with jumping about the grid like a hen on a hot griddle.

    I suppose this is what makes the puzzle more difficult.

    No one else seems to mind so it must just be a dislike of mine.

  21. tupu says:

    Hi gm4hqf
    You are not alone – see my comment @17.

  22. Paul B says:

    Yet cross-referral is a common feature in Guardian puzzles, as is the multi-lit (sorry: one of my very own creations) answer. Not happy about it? Solve The Times crossword – such devices are not therein permitted.

  23. tupu says:

    Hi PaulB

    It is more their distribution than their presence that seems to disturb.
    :) Perhaps eye exercises might help.

  24. claire says:

    I haven’t posted for a while as I’m always rather late to the party, though I do enjoy reading the comments.

    I thought I’d add my two penn’orth on this occasion, though, as I could not believe this was one of Paul’s – I found it rather tedious and lacking in his usual fun. I don’t mean that it was difficult, though it was, but there were no ‘aha’ moments at all for me.

    As I’m only in a position to look at the crossword when I get home from work, this felt like putting in another shift at the coalface. On the whole I’d say I’m disappointed. I can’t remember the last time I gave up without finishing, but this evening I did – and I really don’t like doing that.

  25. dunsscotus says:

    Thanks Paul and Eileen. Like others I started slowly (not getting ‘fete’ means I was seriously off form, in fact) but picked up eventually. I may be in the minority but I really liked the cross-referencing and (therefore) the long answers. I suppose my feeling is that, once you’re in, you’re likely to get really noticeable progress in a short time.

    Perhaps, as some have said, there was a relative lack of humour, but as a devotee of ‘I’m sorry … ‘, I had to smile at Mornington Crescent.

  26. stiofain says:

    I too felt this was a bit stodgy and lacking in humour for Paul though i did like ICEBERG LETTUCE.
    I find the double clues annoying for a different reason – in the online version the clue numbers overwrite the first letters of the clue meaning I have to change browser or open the pdf or print version, a minor quibble maybe but also easily fixed by having a break space after the clue number(s). My mails to the xword ed. pointing this out and offering a remedy were of course ignored.

  27. gm4hqf says:

    Paul B@22 As a subscriber to the Guardian online I won’t bother with the Times crossword

    I don’t have the same problem as stiofain, above, as I always print out the puzzle.

  28. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Well well, dear RCW @18, I/we are completely with you in your judgment of this Paul puzzle (even if AGORA was our, er, first entry :)).
    Where others were looking for wit and/or fun, we weren’t.
    One of Paul’s best efforts of late.
    As Eileen (many thanks, m’dear) said, some fine ‘lift & separate’ clues [16d, but also 20ac: ‘end up’].
    A splendid anagram for NAKED LADIES in 25,22d.
    Exquisite misdirection with ‘Bank, say’ in 2,17.

    Not sure whether the word ‘this’ in the clue of 6,26 is needed, but it doesn’t stand in the way either.
    We thought the ‘Sweet singer’ of 5d (Melba) also referred to ‘melba sauce’ being sweet (let alone our Melba Toast).

    22ac’s LINNET did remind me of the 10-0 in a return match a while ago.
    There’s a lot very good in this puzzle – 24,21 and 4,19 being certainly great examples of that.

    A puzzle hard to get into, but eventually solvable within the hour (for us, quite good, ya’know).
    And one that we completely finished, something that we weren’t able to do for a while ….

    For us, Paul on top form.
    But I am sure not everyone will agree.
    We’re all different, arent’we?

  29. Joan Miró says:

    Comments are completely unreadable on an iPhone. Given that I come to this website to read comments/discussion AFTER solving the puzzles – a total waste of time :(

  30. Martin P says:

    I think this was hard, because the possible definitions were so many in most of the clues, and the devices were not easily apparent either.

    However, much credit to the setter for not resorting to “Call My Bluff”-type virtually unheard-of words.

    Well done to the finishers though. Other half and I were worn out with one to go, “airborne”, though I’d got “strain” as a song, perhaps, and was on the way (I claim):)

  31. RCWhiting says:

    I’m sure someone must have pointed out that peach melba is a sweet.

  32. Tony Pay says:

    I find the comments here very easy to read on an iPhone. The interface is very smooth, and really quite large in sideways mode. Did you mean the comments on the Guardian page itself? (I never look at those.)

  33. Huw Powell says:

    I agree with the difficulty comments, and I ascribe it mostly to the seven two part clues – leaving us with far fewer clues to work on once bogged down – but also to the very artfully tricking cluing in many of them.

    I spent a long time staring at little more than the easy TROWEL, LINNET, ONE-ON-ONE, and LONG ISLAND and NAKED LADIES.

    Then I broke down and used OneLook to identify WINDBREAKS, and noticed that these were going to be tricky – “bats” for WINKS. Sadly I had to return there several times, it takes some of the pleasure out when one picks up a handful of checked letters the “easy” way. Luckily, so many were delightfully intricate that made up for it.

    The usual Paul wit may have been lacking, but I think it was here in a drier way, with the copious devices and general deception. I think 6/26 went in last, once there were only a few places the unused letters could function. I’ve never heard of the answer in this case of course, as an ex-pat.

    Thanks for the blog as usual, Eileen, and Paul for a nice head-twister!

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