Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,499 – Chifonie

Posted by Andrew on December 7th, 2011


In contrast to yesterday’s fairly tricky puzzle from Bonxie, this is a typical Chifonie, with entirely straightforward constructions, so one that would be suitable for beginners. I have a familiar quibble about 2dn, and have qualms about the repetition of a wordplay element in 25ac and 5dn, but otherwise clear and thoroughly sound.

4. BABOON AB (sailor) in BOON
6. FAREWELL FARE (food) + WELL (good). Well = good, as perhaps in the modern exchange “How are you?” “I’m good”
9. ENLIST EN (measure) + LIST (heel, as in lean over)
11. TERPSICHORE PRIEST* + CHORE. Terpsichore is the Muse (or “patron”) of dancing.
17. NUTCASE NUT (teachers’ trade union) + CASE (box of wine)
22. PURCHASE PUR[e] + CHASE (hound)
23. RABBIT RABBI + T. A very familiar construction
24. SUPERIOR (IS PURE OR)* for the largest of the Great Lakes
1. BOOSTS S[ales] in BOOTS
2. CALIFORNIA (AFRICAN OIL)*. My usual criticism applies: “in the USA” is not a definition of “California” *(still less “the USA” if “in” is a link word)
4. BREATHER RE (Royal Engineers) in BATHER
5. BALLROOM ALL in BROOM. This clue is rather too similar to 25ac.
7. EXAM EX (late) + AM (morning)
8. LARK L (sovereign, pound) + ARK
12. CONVERSION CON (study) + VERSION (account)
14. DEFLATED FLAT (property) in DEED
16. ISOTHERM (MOTHER IS)*. An isotherm is a line on a map joining points of equal temperature (cf “isobar” for pressure)
19. ISAIAH Initial letters of Imagine Saint Augustine Is Against Heathens. Isaiah is always a tricky name to spell, so having the letters provided is very helpful
20. OPUS Hidden in octOPUSes
21. GRIP Double definition

39 Responses to “Guardian 25,499 – Chifonie”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Andrew. As is so often the case, Chifonie makes Rufus look hard. If I paid for my newspaper, I don’t think I’d be a happy customer. At least 13 made me smile! :)

  2. Alex in Oz says:

    Thanks Andrew. Agree that this was definitely on the easier end of the spectrum, but I have recommended it to a few friends of mine that are looking to break into cryptics as a good introduction.

    In addition to ALL twice being used as a wordplay element, I also didn’t like PURCHASE being the answer to 22a and half of the double definition at 21d. As a relative crossword n00b, I’m not sure if that’s fair or not?

  3. stiofain says:

    More of a quiptic i think

  4. Median says:

    I agree this was a good one for beginners, but I enjoyed it too. Unlike yesterday, I didn’t need to bang my head against a wall for ages and can now get on with doing something more constructive. :)

  5. dunsscotus says:

    Thanks Andrew and Chifonie. I think, Andrew, we have to view ‘definition’ as a term of art in puzzling. After all, ‘state of the USA’ (for example) still isn’t a definition of ‘Caifornia’ either. If we start insisting on necessary and sufficient conditions, compiling would become harder! For me, it suffices that the solution is ‘in the USA’ and California – is.

    Smiled at the idea of a Muse as a patron of the arts. Agree with those above who note that this would be a very good puzzle for a beginner.

  6. cholecyst says:

    Thanks Andrew and Chifonie. Satisfyingly succinct – almost Rufescent, I thought. Didn’t have any problem with 2dn until I came here. I suppose California could also be in Mexico and there’s a California Country Park near Wokingham UK.

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and Chifonie

    Much easier than yesterday’s but pleasant enough and useful for beginners as several have said.
    :) NeilW: there must be other uses for a newspaper both mentionable and not!
    If you smoke, have you tried rolling your own?
    Some good cluing though. I liked 10a, 18a (nice surface), 2d (it seemed a slightly unlikely anagram to me but may be an old chestnut), 8d (nice surface again), 13d, and 14d.
    Median :) Its nice to think of you as a fellow Meccano fan!

  8. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    Very straightforward, but none the worse for that – more time for doing other things. But certainly could have been a Quiptic.

    Like tupu, I was entertained by the anagram in 2d; I don’t remember having seen it before either. Unlike Andrew, I don’t shudder when something like ‘in the USA’ appears, since it so frequent that it has virtually become a convention. Although it does seem that the Guardian compilers, at least, have taken the message that the Spanish Inquisition disapproves of this device – we have seen a lot more wording like: ‘somewhere in the USA’ recently.

  9. Wolfie says:

    Thank you Andrew

    A nice straightforward solve after Bonxie’s brain-stretcher yesterday.

    At the risk of boring regular posters here, I am unhappy about the use of the offensive term ‘nutcase’ in a Guardian crossword; this contravenes the newspaper’s stated policy set out in the style guide for contributors.

  10. Pianoman says:

    Is it the “stated policy” of Guardian logodaedalists to be a little bit patronising? I found this crossword a joy. Yes, somewhat easier than others, and one or two pedantic rules were broken, but it’s only a divertisement, not life and death. I had a great feeling of satisfaction having completed this. I am now a fan of Chifonie. If the Guardian Crossword Editor is reading this – please keep mixing them up for people of all abilities.

  11. tupu says:

    Hi Wolfie
    We’ve been here before and I am not unsympathetic in general terms. Madman is arguably worse. But I suspect context matters a bit. ‘He drove like a madman’ does not seem terribly offensive. Even less the old ‘I’m a Cadbury’s fruit and nut case’. :) But maybe we should just look back at earlier correspondence as your slight diffidence about ‘regular posters’ does seem to suggest.

  12. andy smith says:

    I would comment on the smooth surface readings of all the clues, and even if this was relatively easy it was in general very elegantly constructed. TY Chifonie.

  13. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    I thought this was quite straightforward although the RHS put it out of the Rufus league.
    I do find many of the pedantic complaints about individual clues tiresome.
    If people want definitions to be more precise then we will condemn ourselves to cryptic crosswords which cease entirely to be cryptic.
    For example, can anyone really object to 2d? What do you want?
    A state on the south-west coast of the USA, starting with C?

  14. Tata says:

    We must not forget that many people seem to enjoy taking part in the blog at least as much as solving the crossword. I am sure all will be grateful to Chifonie for the oportunity that her very pleasant puzzle has opened up for them.

  15. Roger says:

    Hi Pianoman. ” …it’s only a divertissement …” . Or as Carrots once put it, second only to cricket in The Important Things in Life !

    Maybe 21d could have been ‘Holdall 22′ or even ‘Catch 22′, so avoiding the second (crossing) PURCHASE. Liked BALLAD though.

    Hi Tata … I think you’ll find that Chifonie is a he !

  16. chas says:

    Thanks to Andrew for the blog.

    I have no trouble with ‘in the USA’. I think this usage more often indicates a city but I’m happy with today’s instance.

  17. yogdaws says:

    Gratitude to setter and parser but…

    Too easy for me.

    Signed, Lord Snooty

  18. MartDavis says:

    I like these easy ones, the hard ones are beyond me.
    There are at least three every week that I can’t finish, and usually one or two that I can’t even start, so all in all that sounds like a pretty fair mix.
    Just to prove my ignorance, does EN = enumerate by any chance?
    CON = study has got me beat though.

  19. Derek Lazenby says:

    Some ill considered comments there. The overall puzzle may have been on the easy side, but thank goodness those who think it was a Quiptic aren’t charged with producing one of those. Terpsichore has no place in a beginners puzzle. Today’s and yesterday’s comments are very revealing about the ivory tower mentallity of some of the residents here. In this day and age the majority of the population have (sadly) not the faintest clue about the muses, but are very familiar with terms like Axe for guitar, in other words the complete opposite of what one might conclude from reading posts here.

  20. Tata says:

    Hi Roger 15. Thanks. I am only a beginner. Sorry Chifonie.

  21. Tata says:

    Hi Roger 15. Thanks. I am only a beginner. Sorry Chifonie.

  22. RCWhiting says:

    Mart,are you referring to 9ac?
    If so, ‘en’ is a small measure of width which was used in the days of typesetting; a spacer between letters. It is quite common in crosswords as is ‘em’which equals two ens.
    ‘Con’ means ‘to study’ inter alia.

  23. RCWhiting says:

    Derek, interesting thoughts @19.
    I am not sure that obscurity of solution vocabulary is any indicator of difficulty. It is so dependent on the individual.
    You must,like me,be astonished some days at words which are considered obscure by several posters but seem very familiar to you. And sometimes the reverse.
    Could you imagine a crossword where all the solutions are in a primary school vocabulary but the puzzle is a real challenge to solve?

  24. MartDavis says:

    Yes, 9 ac, cheers.
    Maybe con has a similar derivation as connaitre, to know, in French?

  25. RCWhiting says:

    Ref: vocabulary.
    It always intrigues me how the blogger decides that some words need explaining, others not. I am not complaining but it does illustrate how subjective it all is.
    For example, today, ‘isotherm’ (explained), ‘Isaiah’ (not explained).

  26. Derek Lazenby says:

    RCW, I can imagine such a crossword actually! Mainly because word associations can be uncommon or even obsolete usages. It isn’t always easy recall the right association, even for more common usages. For example, on my web site there are the only two attempts I ever made at setting, and pretty pathetic efforts they are too, but the other day I revisited them and couldn’t (immediately) solve one or two my own clues because the associations which seemed so obvious back then have now slipped off the radar!

  27. tupu says:

    Hi Mart Davis

    re con: it is not prima facie from the same root as connaitre which links back, I think, to Latin cognoscere (to know, understand). It seems most directly to relate to ‘can’ (as ‘to know how’) and I imagine to ‘ken’ as in ‘do you ken John Peel’. The idea is, I gather, to know and thence get to know (study). These links seem also likely to stretch to German ‘kennen’ to know and ‘können’ to be able. I could also imagine that in the dim and distant past -gnosco and con might have shared roots but I have no way of checking this and would not be surprised to be wrong.

    Perhaps Gervase can help?

  28. Ciaran McNulty says:

    Mart – Con seems to come from germanic roots from what I can see. A more familiar related term might be the Scots word ‘ken’. Connaitre comes from the prefix ‘con-‘ meaning ‘with’ (to be with knowledge).

  29. tupu says:

    Hi Ciaran. I guess your posting crossed mine @27. The link to ‘can’ seems well documented. I imagine you mean correctly that the ‘con’ in connaitre comes from Latin ‘co/cum’ (cf Greek ‘syn’) for with.

    I tentatively floated the gnosco/ken/can idea having come across an unobvious romance/germanic link before. We have two sets of words for keeping watch. One is the set incluidng vigil, vigilance etc (romance) and the other is the set including wake, watch etc (germanic). It seems likely that these share a common earlier origin – vig and wak being closer than we might at first suspect.

    Con is clearly a tricky little word! I hope Gervase can add to this.

  30. Gervase says:

    Re the etymology of CON, in the sense of study:

    This is a variant of ‘can’ (be able), rather than ‘ken’ (know,as in John Peel), although both are etymologically related to the German ‘können’, as is the other English word ‘know’.

    They are from a Proto-Indo-European root, something like *gneH-, meaning ‘know’, which is also the source of the Latin ‘gnosco’, the Russian ‘znat” and the Albanian ‘njeh’ amongst many others!

  31. Gervase says:

    Further to my comments on CON, I suspect that the ending of the Latin ‘gnosco’ (‘I know’) is originally the inceptive -esco, which denotes ‘starting to’ or ‘becoming’, so that the verb ‘gnoscere’ strictly means ‘to get to know’.

    And ‘gnoscere’ was largely supplanted by ‘cognoscere’, which is a contraction of ‘con-gnoscere’. The prefix ‘con-‘ means ‘with’ or ‘together’ and in this case is presumably an intensifier.

    So there is a link between CON and the French ‘connaître’ (from the Latin ‘cognoscere’), but it’s the second syllable and not the first, as one might think!

  32. tupu says:

    Many thanks Gervase. Hope you don’t mind being called upon and glad to see my hesitant guess re a ‘proto-Indo-European’ root seems OK.

  33. stumped says:

    There were a couple of complaints on Monday about Rufus being too easy. Maybe so but even the experts were beginners once. Do you suppose newcomers to cryptics will ever join the exalted on a diet of Paul and Enigmatist alone?

  34. chas says:

    I have noticed that some people posting here complain when they think a crossword was too easy and others point out that the Guardian policy is to have a mixture.

    I am one of those who feel a little disappointed if I finish a crossword without exerting much effort but I seldom complain it was too easy.

    I am happy with the idea of a mix of difficulty levels. I think this, in part, is why the Guardian has a panel of compilers.

    I notice also that some solvers say “compiler A is easy for me but B is difficult” where other people rate them the opposite way round :)

  35. mhl says:

    Thanks tupu, Gervase and Ciaran for the discussion of CON = “study” – I’d wondered about that for a while. Is it used at all nowadays?

    I enjoyed this puzzle a lot, partly since it happened to be a good public transport length for me today – it’s always rather depressing to arrive at work with a largely empty grid…

  36. dunsscotus says:

    My thanks to Gervase. Impressive!

  37. flashling says:

    Well the first Grauniad I’ve done in a while, I couldn’t see the top half straight off and built from the bottom. 20 mins or so, I don’t have a problem with in the USA as a def in so obvious an anagram and such a well known target.

  38. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Let’s face it: we all know what to expect when Chifonie’s around. Mainly anagrams and charades/envelopes.
    Easier than Rufus? Perhaps.
    Quiptic? Perhaps.

    Clues like 20d (OPUS) or 16d (ISOTHERM) are giveaways, while 19d (ISAIAH) is just a waste of the setter’s energy: probably he’s gone all that trouble to find a nice surface, which was then cracked within 10 seconds.

    But I would also like to defend Chifonie.
    6ac (FAREWELL) and 7d (EXAM) are fabulous clues, in/despite all their simplicity.
    Writing good clues is not just about difficulty or devious devices, it is also about smooth and natural surfaces.
    Yes, Chifonie isn’t that challenging, but there is something about his cluing that fully justifies his place in the Guardian.

    I saw “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and thought: what is this all about?
    I saw the latest Harry Potter (in 3D) and liked it very much.
    Some things provoke deep thoughts but are pretentious, other things are lightweight but very enjoyable.
    Sometimes I prefer category #2 – thanks, Chifonie.

  39. stumped says:

    Sil van den Hoek @38 – “We” all know… I presume it’s not the Royal or your domestic circumstances indicated, but rather you lot that are “experts”. Your “we” is not we “we”.

    We beginners are glad to finish an ~easy~ puzzle without recourse to cheat or check and feel emboldened to tackle the hard ones. We come here to learn.

    yogdaws @17 – Thank You. Quite so!

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