Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,509 / Rufus

Posted by Eileen on December 19th, 2011


Since I started blogging, just over three years ago, this is the third Rufus pre-Christmas puzzle that has fallen to me and, once again, Rufus has managed to include a seasonal allusion in every one of the clues, which is no mean feat, and it raised a few smiles.

It seemed to take me rather longer than usual, especially the top half, but, looking back, I’m not quite sure why. It’s the usual mix of anagrams and double / cryptic definitions but there’s lots here to enjoy, I think.

Many thanks, Rufus, for this and for all the entertaining puzzles throughout the year – and a very Happy Christmas!


7   THRASH OUT: THRASH [party] OUT [unconscious]
  SNIPE: double definition
9   ASIA MINOR: an amusing anagram [cooking] of MARIAN’S [or, rather, MARIAN IS – thanks Roger: another instance of not looking back at the clue when writing up the blog]  and O [duck]
10   COMET: double definition; this was one of my hold-ups – I didn’t know / remember the complete list of Santa’s reindeer
12   ASTERS: anagram [wrongly] of ASSERT: there’s a cryptic element for us here in the ‘wrongly’, too, as asters are summer flowers, but I realise our Antipodean friends may well have asters at Christmas.
13  PERTNESS: anagram [swapping] of PRESENTS
14  NOWHERE: NOW HERE – two more meanings of ‘present’
17  ALADDIN: A LAD [a boy] + odd letters of DjInN – &lit
20  SNOWBALL: double / cryptic definition: I first thought of this as a charade but I’m happier to think of a ‘snow ball’ as a winter dance than to take ‘snow’ as synonymous with ‘winter’
22  ORCHID: anagram [spoilt] of  CHOIR + D[eck]: I really laughed at this one, because ‘Deck the Halls’ was one of the items in our choir concert on Saturday evening: fortunately, everything went well this time! I loved the use of ‘blooming’ and would defend it as a definition by taking it as a noun: it’s not in any of my dictionaries but I’m going to be a bit of a Humpty Dumpty here, becase I like the clue so much. ;-)
25  COMFORTER: double definition, referring to the saying, ‘Job’s comforters’, after the friends of the righteous Job in the Bible, who made his sufferings worse by telling him he shouldn’t complain.
28  ENDOW: E [note] + anagram [new] of DOWN – and a fourth meaning of ‘present’!
27  ADORATION: A DO [party] + RATION [helping]


1   GHOSTS: [toastin]G HOSTS [party-givers]: an excellent surface with the play on ‘spirits’ and also perhaps a whiff of ‘A Christmas Carol’
2   NAZARETH: anagram [using] of TEHRAN A-Z: I know it practically wrote itself in – but it’s a very clever anagram and paints a lovely picture! [Come to think of it, I suppose the Magi had sat-nav. ;-) ]
3   CHAINS: anagram [unusual] of CHINA’S
  RUDOLPH: cryptic definition: [‘Rudolph, with your nose so bright, Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?’]
5   INBORN: anagram [around] of ROBIN and N: ‘around’ seems to be doing double duty: Edit: no double duty – it’s an anagram of ROBIN + N[oel] – thanks Neil and Andy]
6   APRÈS-SKI: cryptic definition
11   ORAL: [m]ORAL[iser] minus ‘miser’ [ someone like Scrooge]
15  ORNAMENT: cryptic definition
16  REAL: hidden in faRE ALways
18  DECORATE: double / cryptic definition, referring to the ‘decorations’ of, say, Order of Merit or  Order of the British Empire
21  WISDOM: cryptic definition
22  OFFERS: [c]OFFERS [boxes] minus first letter [top]
23  ICEBOX: ICE [diamonds] + BOX [present]

31 Responses to “Guardian 25,509 / Rufus”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    In 5, around doesn’t need to be doing double duty if the “start of Noel” refers to the second N. Actually, I didn’t like that clue very much because of the inclusion “a” before “robin,” suggesting it was part of the anagram fodder.

    By the way, you’ve left the choir out of 22…

  2. Allan_C says:

    Yes, the Christmas holidays must have started with this gentle workout from Rufus. So cleverly put together yet nothing difficult – my only complaint is it was solved so quickly! Thanks, Rufus and Eileen.

  3. andy smith says:

    Thanks for the helpful blog. I agree, entertaining puzzle. I pursed my lips a bit at ‘blooming’ as a def for orchid in 22a, but not really complaining.

    5d I just took ‘around’ as an anagrind of ‘robin’ on the N from start of Noel – didn’t see any double duty.

  4. andy smith says:

    neilW – sorry, crossed.

  5. andy smith says:

    NeilW – re 5d again I thought the ‘a’ was OK – I parsed it as : “It’s natural, to see a ((robin around) the start of Noel)”.

  6. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Neil [and Andy] – CHOIR restored now.

    I did actually see the construction of 5dn when I solved it [honestly!] then missed it in my haste in the blog.

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Rufus

    An enjoyable and typically skilfully composed puzzle by Rufus. I had to look out the reindeer names for 10a, and forgot the well-known song line re guide in 4d though the answer was clear enough.

    Like NeilW I did not much like the ‘a’ in 5d.

    Lots of ticked clues on the way. Many thanks and seasonal best wishes Rufus,
    and may we all enjoy your light touch and easy wit for many years to come.

  8. mhl says:

    Thanks for a great post, Eileen, and thanks to Rufus for a delightful seasonal crossword. I found this a little harder than most Rufus puzzles, I think because the consistent Christmas theme to the surface readings made it that bit trickier to see past the surface. Thanks for explaining DECORATE, in particular, which I couldn’t see.

    I supposed that “Blooming” was “a blooming”, which seemed OK to me. Also, I wondered whether that was a reference to Raymond Brigg’s Father Christmas, who frequently used “blooming” as a minced oath. (That Wikipedia page is quite interesting.) Merry Blooming Christmas to everyone on Fifteensquared!

  9. mhl says:

    Oops, sorry for the misplace apostrophe – I meant “Raymond Briggs’s Father Christmas”, of course.

  10. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you Eileen.

    A curiously solver-unfriendly grid, and a couple of perhaps strained definitions, but a fun puzzle to start the week. I too had to look up COMET, but I thought RUDOLPH was a really clever clue.

    Many thanks to Rufus for all his puzzles this year, and I echo tupu’s last comment at no 7.

  11. Roger says:

    Thanks Eileen. I think you’ll find that MARIAN IS and O are cooked at 9a ! Briefly considered PLUCK at 8a for some reason … too many cookery programmes, I expect.

    Seasonal greeting to one and all.

  12. Roger says:

    GreetingS even.

  13. Paul B says:

    In a recession of this magnitude, shurely ‘greeting’ is okay.

  14. chas says:

    Thanks to Eileen for the blog.

    I’m kicking myself: for 16d I had REAL as ‘sort of ale’ but had failed to see it was included in faRE ALways :(

  15. bertandjoyce says:

    What a lovely lunchtime solve! Good surface reading throughout. In the SE corner we filled in 22d, 18d and 23d first and wondered (with a wry smile) whether there would be a NINA!

    Thanks Rufus and Eileen and Happy Christmas to both of you!

  16. sidey says:

    Nice puzzle in a grid that should be retired.

  17. Derek Lazenby says:

    Just to keep up the always has to be different tag, I finished the top half first.

    I don’t waste my time remembering nonsense like reindeer names. That is what Wikipedia is for!

  18. MikeC says:

    Thanks Eileen and Rufus. Cleverly constructed and solver-friendly. My COD was 9: the anagram was clearly signalled but the presence of both Turkey and duck sent me off in the wrong direction until I had some crossing letters. Nicely, and deviously, done!

    I’m with you, Derek@17, re reindeer names. Life’s too short for some lists.

  19. gasmanjack says:

    Can someone tell where the definition is in 17?

  20. RCWhiting says:

    It’s an &lit. Djinn is a Genii.
    Oh no it’s not.

  21. Eileen says:

    Hi gasmanjack

    Just to enlarge on that, in case you’re new to cryptic crosswords and / or unfamiliar with the jargon: ‘&lit’ means ‘and literally so’, i.e the whole clue is both definition and wordplay.

  22. StanXYZ says:

    Thanks, Eileen! As you say, very clever to have all the clues/solutions linked to the same theme!

    Hopefully, the rest of this week’s puzzles will be less thematic or have a different theme!

    Regards, Scrooge.

  23. Jim says:

    One of Santa’s reindeer — with a long tail? Could not remember the list either and guessed at Boxer, which had the xmas theme and a tail!

  24. Jim says:

    Can anyone come up with a good acronym for the list of reindeers?

  25. Jan says:

    Thanks, Eileen. I didn’t get Rudolph! :-(

    I remembered all the reindeer except Comet and Dasher and had happily entered VIXEN (long tail – yes?) until I solved 5d.

    But, for the first time ever, I have now read the entire poem which starts, “‘Twas the night before Christmas … ”

    A Visit from St. Nicholas

  26. Tonyc says:

    Hi thanks for this. 19D anyone ?
    I’ve got blank L blank O blank D blank

  27. Headteacher says:

    ALMONDS. It’s Rufus, it really is that obvious

  28. Robi says:

    Good, seasonal puzzle from Rufus – by next Monday, it will all be over bar the shouting!

    Thanks, Eileen; like Derek @17, I did the top half first and found the SW corner quite challenging. 14 was my last in; Rufus had me thinking too much of Christmas presents – neat clue! I also got ORAL before the penny dropped about the miser. My usual lack of biblical knowledge meant that I didn’t know the Job comforter reference (neither the reindeer,) but, as Derek says, that’s what Wiki is for.

  29. Eileen says:

    19dn: ALMONDS: anagram [cracking] of OLD MAN’S.

    Apologies, Tonyc and everyone, for the omission, for which I’m doubly sorry, as I thought it was a cracking clue, with an excellent surface. [Thanks, Headteacher – as you say, typical Rufus.]

    [Thanks for the link, Jan.]

  30. Davy says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    Very entertaining Christmas puzzle from Rufus where even the easiest answers had great surfaces. For some reason, I was particularly amused by Tehran A-Z and also liked NOWHERE, AMASS, ENDOW (so simple yet so effective), ORAL and DECORATE. This was also a Rufus that I finished as usually there are two or three that I can’t bring to mind. It was the SE that caused me the most problems today but none of the clues were difficult once the answer filtered through.

    All the best Rufus and long may you continue to entertain us.

  31. PeterJohnN says:

    Just back from holiday abroad. No papers or crosswords for over two weeks. Bliss! But read “At Swim-Two-Birds” by Flann O’Brien, which featured with his other major works in a brilliant Guardian crossword a few weeks/months ago. Very Irish in many senses, highly recommended. Today’s puzzle was a gentle re-introduction, though with Christmas upon us, I can’t really afford the time. Like many others, couldn’t, and didn’t really want to, remember the name of “Santa’s” reindeer. I much prefer “Father Christmas” to the Americanised version. Bah, humbug!

    Thanks Eileen and Rufus.

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