Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize No 25,490 by Shed

Posted by bridgesong on December 3rd, 2011


Shed doesn’t get many outings in the Saturday slot, and I can’t remember blogging one of his puzzles before.  I thought  this was something of a curate’s egg of a puzzle, with a mixture of easy and difficult clues of varying quality.  I found it appropriately challenging for a prize puzzle, and even with the help of my regular solving partner Timon, it probably took us over an hour to complete.  I’d be interested in the views of others on 9 down and 23 across; is it reasonable to provide an anagram of a pretty obscure 13 letter word and expect solvers to work it out unaided?  If this were an Azed puzzle, I would have no objection.

1. Sculptor of decay (7)
MOULDER  Double definition

5. Right of officer to be wrong about court (7)
 CORRECT  C(ommanding) O(fficer) ERR (rev.) C(our)T. It seems to me that “of” in the clue is redundant, and the clue would work perfectly well without it. Indeed, in that event “to be” could be omitted also.

10. Setter’s introduced to supersoft exploiter of women (4)
PIMP  I’M in PP (pianissimo).

11. Potential butcher filleted scraggy piece of meat en route (10)
PSYCHOPATH  S(cragg)Y CHOP in PATH. A nice surface to this clue, I thought.

12. Fool — character from Lear — carrying monarch round (6)
DRONGO  R in DONG O. The Dong with the Luminous Nose is a character from an Edward Lear poem, and while the reference to Lear was appropriately misleading, I felt that some indication that drongo is an Australian term might have been fairer.

13. Natural defence for small boy absorbing brief life in retrospect (8)
ANTIBODY  OBIT (rev.) in ANDY. Although the clue is perfectly fair, the surface really doesn’t make much sense.

14. Falling, with drink unfinished, in pub before church (9)
INCIDENCE  CIDE(r) in INN, CE. The first and oldest meaning of “incident” in its adjectival sense, is “falling”, something cleverly exploited in this excellent clue.

16. Ill-humour about book, or a collection of them (5)
BIBLE  B(ook) in BILE.

17. In Africa, barter over counters (5)
ABACI  Hidden and reversed in “Africa barter”. Chambers gives both this version and “abacuses” as valid plurals.

19. Relate to mate shipwrecked before end of voyage (9)

23. Crowds catching an unpleasant whiff of 9 (8)
MAN-BOOBS  AN BO in MOBS. The definition is “9”, which is fair enough, particularly in a prize puzzle, but I can’t find MAN-BOOBS (with or without a hyphen) in Chambers. Perhaps it’s in the new edition (which I have yet to buy)?  Either way, it did make us laugh.

24. Spoil argument for vegetable (6)
MARROW  A simple two part charade.

26. Cheerful chime making little sense (10)
 BLITHERING  BLITHE RING. Particular thanks to Timon for getting this one, which puzzled us even after we had all the crossing letters. According to Chambers, it’s just a term expressing contempt, although to blither is an alternative form of to blether. Perhaps a question mark might have been in order.

27. Penetrators of the mysteries of origami coming from the East (4)
MAGI  Another hidden reverse.

28. Belittle qualification endlessly receiving publicity (7)

29. Play nurse first? (7)

2. Very short distance to pursue love letter (7)
 OMICRON  0 MICRON. It’s the name of a letter in the Greek alphabet, equivalent to our letter O.

3. Flower having risen, nothing’s rising outside (5)
LUPIN  UP in NIL (rev.)

4. Go off and trudge into river (7)
EXPLODE  PLOD in EXE. As well as the Exe, the river Po is among setters’ favourite rivers (or flowers) and we seriously considered Limpopo but fortunately rejected it.

6. Stone-baked hot pie (6)

7. Once more bring out of watering hole in delight (9)

8. Helen’s mother’s habit — erecting fortress (7)
 CITADEL  LEDA, TIC (all rev.) In Greek mythology, Leda bore Helen to Zeus (while married to somebody else).

9. Abnormal growth of company? A nasty image, needs refashioning (13)
GYNAECOMASTIA  *(CO(mpany) A NASTY IMAGE). Congratulations to anyone who managed to solve this without resorting to artificial or mechanical aids. It refers to the abnormal enlargement of a man’s breast, setting up the slightly dubious clue at 23 across.

15. Promoter of early growth in state raised 1 (9)

18. Bank of Scotland provides home for unhealthy type-founder (7)
BRAILLE  ILL in BRAE (a Scottish term for a bank).

20. Squire’s Alfa Romeo gets government almost overthrown (7)
ARMIGER  A(lfa) R(omeo) REGIM(e)(rev.). In heraldry, it refers to one entitled to a coat of arms, hence an esquire.

21. Military leader securing time with firearm (7)
SHOTGUN  T in SHOGUN. The shoguns were the hereditary military governors of Japan.

22. Do what must be done, slicing ends off butt (3-3)
DOG-END  DO (a)GEND(a). The use of “ends” in the clue is a weakness.

25. Appointed tasks concerning US seat of learning (5)
REMIT  RE M.I.T. (Massachusets Institute of Technology).

19 Responses to “Guardian Prize No 25,490 by Shed”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, bridgesong. I agree with most of your comments but have to say I found nothing objectionable about 9 or 23, given that this was a prize puzzle. I thought 20 was much more obscure. I suppose it just comes down to individual vocabulary – with my background, GYNAECOMASTIA went straight in on the first pass.

  2. Biggles A says:

    Thanks bridgesong. I confess to having needed electronic assistance to obtain 9 but I have no objection to it in principle. NeilW was familiar with it and I was similarly advantaged with 12, having used the term and having it used against me regularly in my schooldays.

    I haven’t often come across 26 in isolation; it is usually accompanied by ‘idiot’.

  3. matt says:

    Good puzzle. Although I only got perhaps 10 of the clues, from the blog I can see how the rest were fair and well crafted.

  4. molonglo says:

    Thanks bridgesong. I agree it was a stretch to have 9d, recondite itself, cross with a weird word – which is usually two – that only becomes plain when you’ve got 9d. Apart from that it was fair and fun, with ticks for the two misleading hyphenated clues, 19a and 6d. DRONGO is now never heard in Oz, except among people of the fifteensquared vintage, so that’s okay I suppose.

  5. crosser says:

    Thanks, bridgesong. Interesting puzzle- the only one I didn’t get was Drongo. I agree with Neil and Biggles above.

  6. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks Bridgesong and Shed.

    I eventually worked out 9d, then looking it up led me to the crossing 23ac, so no problem with that, but I must make a mental note that Shakespeare’s king is not the only Lear in crosswordland :)
    – not that this would have helped me here, I fancy, as I’ve never heard of DRONGO.

  7. Bamberger says:

    I’m a weakish solver so I didn’t get very far with this. I saw the answer to 9d on the Answerbank and that was enough for me to give up. I know that it is a prize puzzle and that in crosswordland all words, no matter how obscure, are fair game but I do agree that having 9 and 23 cross referenced to each other was sticking the boot in.

  8. tupu says:

    Thanks bridgesong and Shed

    I found this one quite hard. 9d and 23a were my last and I was running out of steam by then. Having decided that 9d began with ‘gyna’ I’m afraid I had a quick look at Chambers and found it. I was already on the trail of 23 having thought of mobs and BO so it fell quickly into place. In fact we have had the word before in the last year or so I think, but I can’t trace it.

    I guessed and checked ophite which I should have been more sure of.

    Quite enjoyably testing in retrospect. A generally very cleverly and fairly clued puzzle.

  9. Robi says:

    Clever puzzle; a bit of a curate’s egg as bridgesong says. MARROW seemed out of a Quiptic, but INCIDENCE and ARMIGER were more challenging.

    Thanks bridgesong; like NeilW, I had no trouble with GYNAECOMASTIA. For those who think this is unfair, it is just the same as a dumb scientist trying to work out all the literary references. Also, I did not know OPHITE, although it was a quite straightforward anagram. MAN-BOOBS is used quite a lot in the Guardian; especially in Steve Bell’s cartoons of Cameron. I thought 22 might have been FAG END, as I was not expecting ‘do’ in the clue and the answer.

  10. r_c_a_d says:

    Thanks for the blog.

    I too guessed GYNA and looked it up at the end. But I am not happy with MANBOOBS since I couldn’t find any reference to it as a single word.

    Found some of the other clues quite fun and some a bit painful. Very much a mixed bag, but I would probably have said this was a good puzzle if only 23a had been written as (3-5) instead of (8).

  11. fearsome says:

    Thanks for the post. I found this crossword quite tough. The clue that had me stumped me for ages was Drongo, as I was unfamiliar with both the word and the Edward Lear poem.

  12. Mr Beaver says:

    We gave up on ARMIGER and PRETEND, though the latter was perfectly getable.

    9d was new to me, but I didn’t think it out of order (except in the sense of it being an anagram ). Having the Y from 11a, and the letters, a beginning of GYNAE seemed likely, then it was just a matter of checking the dictionary, which I feel is quite legit. for an obscurity.
    MAN-BOOBS I would have thought is in common parlance (accepting that readers here are far from common folk ;)), and DRONGO almost as much so – in fact wasn’t it in a Gruaniad crossword recently ?

  13. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Nobody has mentioned 18d, which I thought was brilliant.
    No complaints at all and I thought it was averagely difficult for a prize puzzle.

  14. dunsscotus says:

    Thanks to Shed and Bridgesong, particularly for the help with Edward Lear. I used Chambers for ‘gyna-‘ words, which I don’t feel bad about.

    I agree with RCW about 18d, which was my favourite: ‘By yon bonny banks and by yon bonny braes, where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond’. Memories of school music lessons!

  15. Paul B says:

    I can’t see any reason why MAN BOOBS wouldn’t be supported in Chambers. Under BRASSIERE I mean.

  16. RCWhiting says:

    I found ‘drongo’ very familiar (I am not Australian).
    Isn’t it used often in British sitcoms where other more offensive terms are banned? It is nicely onomatopoeic and about the same severity as Del Boy’s famous ‘plonker, Rodney’.

  17. Genette says:

    “Drongo” was commonly heard on ‘Neighbours’ and ‘Home and Away’ so is familiar to anyone who grew up when they were required viewing for schoolkids!
    I had “indigence” for 14a, though I can’t remember what my thought process was – not good enough, obviously.

  18. RCWhiting says:

    That’s where I have heard it! Not British sitcoms but sitcoms on British TV. Thanks.
    Back in the 70/80s I had two young daughters who were obsessed with Kylie and Jason and a lot rubbed off on me.

  19. bridgesong says:

    Rather belatedly, thanks all for your comments. Perhaps I was unduly harsh about DRONGO and GYNAECOMASTIA, as nobody else seems to have been particularly bothered.

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