Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Cryptic 25554 Paul

Posted by scchua on February 9th, 2012


This was an interesting puzzle, thanks Paul.  It was challenging and hard to get into because the gateway clue to the theme, was tricky – complex wordplay and an unusual definition.  Definitions are underlined in the clues.  At the risk (cf yesterday’s blog) of horrifying (again) Eileen (palms to cheeks, “Who are these newcomers with their new-fangled ideas?”), the picture set at the bottom has an unidentified link to the crossword.  But seriously….

I’ve never been (and not flippin’ likely to be!) flippant about the business of 15sq.  My view is that if there is a “Thou shalt not…”, besides those decreed by the moderator, it should be “Thou shalt not ever knowingly underexplain”, to borrow from the 15sq motto.  I would be wearing mental blinkers if I thought that readers would all be alike, have the same blind spots and behave the same way, especially if I thought they would all be or behave like myself.  There is a very wide spectrum of readers, like there is a spectrum of bloggers.  Hence, from me, the comprehensiveness right down to giving the clues and underlining the definitions.  I won’t assume that there isn’t someone who won’t find this helpful in some way, merely because I myself might not find it so, or because I think no-one would find it so.  (In fact, it would take me extra effort to delete the clues from the output of  the blogging software that I use (courtesy of drurys)).

I believe I can say that I’ve never failed to take care of the main business before anything else – I surely haven’t fooled or confused anyone that this is not a “for heaven’s sake, crossword site”, have I?  Anything else is an extra, the icing, a cherry on the top, offered but with no compulsion to take.

For example, if all I wanted to show was a picture, and why not (“….a thousand words” and all that), why would I only provide a link that requires the reader to open up another window?  Not user-friendly, surely.

The quizzes are offered as an additional enjoyment to be got from the crossword – the theme always linked to it.  It requires the same intellectual curiosity and facilities to solve the quizzes as the crossword, or to click on a link for further reading.  If anyone says “Nope, I’m only interested in the answers and how to explain them.  Anything else, extra information, witticisms, entertainment, pictures etc. you can keep.” – that’s fine, since, as I said, there is a spectrum of readers.

In conclusion, if anyone wants to stop and smell the flowers, they’re there.  If anyone wants to stay on the mental straight and narrow, or is of the “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” type, that’s okay too.  For the latter just scroll/stroll past all those pesky comments, links and pictures very quickly.


1 Freak has the occasional party (7)

ODDBALL :  ODD(the occasional, as in “the odd drink or so”) + BALL(a party involving music, dance and food)

5 See 14

10 Service block (4)

MASS :  Double defn: 1st: The church service; and 2nd: A solid lump

11 Lean outlines a number of points, personal, in film location (10)

TINSELTOWN :  TILT(to lean to one side) containing(outlines) [N + S + E(north, south and east,a number of compass points)] + OWN(personal, as in “one’s own style”)

Defn: Aka Hollywood, the town,location where films are made.  The nice surface has a misdirecting reference to David Lean, English film director, producer screenwriter, and editor, famous for The Bridge on the River Kwai, Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, A Passage to India, Great Expectations and Brief Encounter.

12,16 Characters representative of the 17 on trial, legs akimbo, as attendants off piste? (6,5)

CHALET GIRLS :  CH(International Vehicle Registration code for Switzerland, from Confederation Helvetique,characters representative of the Swiss,answer to 17A) placed before(on) anagram of(akimbo) TRIAL LEGS

Defn: Girls who temporarily keep house for holidaying skiers,chalet attendants off the ski slope,piste.  Read more on:  Here’s an excerpt: “Somewhere between these stereotypes – Barbarella and Cinderella – lies the real chalet girl….”

13 Elgin having lost marbles, horse half gone, revealing habit (8)

NEGLIGEEAnagram of(having lost marbles) ELGIN + GEE{“gee-gee”,horse minus(gone) half of the word}

Defn: Revealing nightwear,habit – I had “low-necked”=”revealing” in the puzzle I blogged 2 days ago.  Nice surface with Elgin and his marbles (the sculptured sort).

14,5 Building is sensational pad, this 17 edifice (6,3,7)


16 See 12

17,19 Second dark man, fool, laid back in embrace of the missus, as multitasker (5,4,5)

SWISS ARMY KNIFE :  S(second time period) + {reversal of(laid back) [INKY(dark) + MR(mister,man) + ASS(fool)] contained in(in embrace of)} WIFE(the missus)

Defn: A multi-tool that might include, besides the main blade, a smaller second blade, tweezers, toothpick, corkscrew, can opener, bottle opener, slotted/flat-head screwdriver(s), phillips-head screwdriver, nail file, scissors, saw (regular, wood), file, hook, magnifying glass, ballpoint pen, fish scaler, hex wrench w/bits, pliers, and keyring.  And there’s more: USB flash drives, digital clock, digital altimeter, LED light, laser pointer, and MP3 player. I would think that whatever multitasking the missus can do pales in comparison – a cheeky Paul-esque surface reading.

19 See 17

23 Long-distance traveller *** cool! (8)

STARSHIP :  STARS(*** looking like small stars) + HIP(cool,trendy,with-it)

24,25 Barmy notice that may be 17? (6,5)

CUCKOO CLOCK :  CUCKOO(barmy,crazy) + CLOCK(British slang for “to see” or “to notice”)

Defn: As Harry Lime (Orson Welles) said: “In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

26 Reused manuscript most bleached, devils inscribed (10)

PALIMPSEST :  IMPS(minor devils) contained in(inscribed) PALEST(most bleached,whitest)

Defn: A parchment on which previous writing has been erased to make way for new writing – an early form of re-cycling.

27 Noise primarily in boor — or boar? (4)

OINK :  N(initial letter,primarily of “noise) containing(in) OIK(British slang for oaf,lout,boor)

Defn: Noise made by a boor, if you decide to call him a pig as well, and a boar, a real pig.  A nice WIWD (Wordplay Intertwined With Definition) clue. 

28 17 location in 17 centre for Italian sculptor (7)

BERNINI :  BERN(answer to 17A,Swiss capital city) + IN + I(middle letter,centre of “Swiss”,answer to 17A)

29 Difficulty with infusion of one’s own blood going this way and that (7)

SNAKING :  KIN(one’s own blood relations) contained in(infusion of) SNAG(difficulty,problem)


2 Flip over king, say, and queen, perhaps on a now obsolete coin (7)

DRACHMAReversal of(flip over) CARD(in a deck, an example of which,say is the “king”) plus(and) HM(abbrev. for Her Majesty, the Queen – “perhaps” signifying it could have been His Majesty instead?) placed above(on, in a down clue) A

Defn: Former Greek currency, made obsolete by the euro

3 17 place bottom on top of lap (5)

BASEL :  BASE(bottom) placed above(on) L(initial letter,top in a down clue oflap”)

4 Contents of a pack including drink — that’s ironic, to say the least! (7)

LITOTES :  LIES(what comes in a pack) containing(including) TOT(a small measure of drink) – I hope I have this right, as I can’t quite pin down “ironic”. 

Defn: An understatement

6 In time sell short — or pay back (6)

AVENGE :  VEN(“vend”,sell minus its last letter,short) contained in(in) AGE(time period) 

7 Gut feeling it’s how teachers make money? (9)

INTUITION :  Cryptic defn: Teachers make (extra) money in the tuition they give

8 Roosevelt’s initiatives exposed something slippery, by the sound of it (3,4)

NEW DEALHomophone of(by the sound of it) “nude”,exposed + “eel”,something slippery,hard to catch

Defn: US President Roosevelt’s series of economic programmes,initiatives to help Americans affected by the Great Depression of the early 1930’s

9 Constant return generated a little money to feed one side of Manchester (13)

UNINTERRUPTED :  {Anagram of(generated) RETURN + P(abbrev. of,a little penny, money)} contained in(to feed) UNITED(one football team,side of Manchester, now trailing the other side, City, in the Premier League)

15 No one with hair on end underwrites a claim (9)

ASSERTIONReversal of(on end, in a down clue) {NO + I(Roman numeral for one) plus(with) TRESS(a braid of hair)} placed under(underwrites, in a down clue) A

18 Power demonstrated by a hollow tyrant cutting pay (7)

WATTAGEA TT(“tyrantminus all its inner letters,hollow) contained in(cutting) WAGE(pay)

20 Mexican state currency protecting the queen, say (7)

YUCATAN :  YUAN(the currency of China) containing(protecting the) CAT{could be,say an adult female (cat),a queen}

21 Disapprove of loud argument over French veto (5,2)

FROWN ON :  F(abbrev. for forte,musical direction to play loudly) + ROW(argument) placed above(over, in a down clue) NON(the French negative,veto)

22 Feature about work, one of his taking a minute? (6)

CHOPIN :  CHIN(facial feature)containing(about) OP(short for opus,musical work)

Defn: Frederic, one of his compositions is Waltz No.6 in D flat major, popularly known as the Minute Waltz.  In fact “minute” is meant to indicate “little”, since Chopin did not intend for it to be played in one minute, which would be about 3 times its intended tempo.  This always reminds me of Victor Borge having a go at it:

25 See 24




57 Responses to “Guardian Cryptic 25554 Paul”

  1. Eileen says:


    I wrote the following as soon as I got up this morning, so that it would be all ready to post on your blog when it appeared. I was hoping that you wouldn’t have seen my unfortunate comment in the meantime:

    ‘Re-reading my last comment on my blog yesterday, I realise now how easily it could be misconstrued. A throw-away remark, whch was intended as a light-hearted comment to the effect that it takes me all my time to solve a couple of crosswords and maybe blog one of them, let alone work out connections between pictures, now sounds like a crticism of your clever quizzes, which I know are much appreciated. Please put my tactlessness down to envy of your technological skills and accept this as a sincere apology.’

  2. Gervase says:

    Thanks, scchua, for your customarily comprehensive and illuminated blog.

    Good one from Paul, with more of the trademark humour which has been in shorter supply recently.

    LITOTES is ‘ironic, to say the least': a figure of speech using understatement in an ironic way (‘not inconsiderably’ = ‘to a very large extent’).

    I knew I was going to enjoy this one when PALIMPSEST leapt out at me on first reading (easy clue if you happen to know the word). The useful crossing P gave me CHOPIN, hence BERNINI, so I cracked the theme and it all fell out nicely.

    Favourites were the cheeky &littishness of 12,16, the Araucarian 23a and 27a, 4d (good word) and the ‘nude eel’ at 8d.

  3. Shirley says:

    sccuha “That’s ironic to say the least” is an example of litotes

  4. NeilW says:

    Thanks, scchua, for a super comprehensive blog of a real toughie from Paul. (All very satisfying though.)

    There are a couple of tiny errors in the blog (hardly surprising in such an extensive work):

    15 I think you mean placed below rather than above.

    18 Its A TT inserted in WAGE.

  5. NeilW says:

    By the way, I see Paul is optimistic about Greece’s future in the EURO or perhaps he sought assurances from the editor that this puzzle would be published in the very near future!

  6. molonglo says:

    Thanks scchua – and thanks Eileen for your final entry in yesterdays blog. Today there were so many excellent and testing clues – 15d to name but one – that it is hard to know how this fell out so easily, commencing with 23a (a gift) and going round the board anticlockwise from the SW corner. Probably 3 years in CH, and having 28a as an absolute favourite account for it.

  7. scchua says:

    Thanks NeilW, typos now corrected.
    Thanks Eileen, accepted.

  8. Mitz says:

    I normally kick off by simply thanking blogger and setter. Usual thanks to Paul for what was, for me, a real test. Special thanks, though, to scchua, Eileen, Uncle Yap and all of the bloggers. The work you do is massively appreciated, and your individual styles compliment the hugely different approaches of the many and various setters.

    scchua: your blog today is a tour de force.

    Didn’t get a single across clue on the first sweep. Had better luck (slightly) with the downs – ‘nude eel’ was my first in (with a grin) and a few others soon followed, including the excellent ‘Yucatan’. The key at 17 had me completely baffled, however, until ‘cuckoo clock’ came in a flash of inspiration (having crossing letters in a phrase often helps). After that, I made reasonably steady progress. Enjoyed especially ‘Chopin’, ‘starship’, ‘litotes’ and ‘drachma’ (nice comment @5 NeilW!) – my only very tiny quibble would be ‘oik’ = ‘boor’ – I would normally associate the former with a weasely, conniving, nasty little piece of work, rather than an overbearing bully. That said, I believe our current Chancellor revels in the nickname ‘oik’ (going all the way back to the Bullingdon) and he has certainly been known to be a little on the boorish side…

  9. cholecyst says:

    Thanks scchua. A very amusing puzzle. Litotes reminded me of the following from Acts:

    “But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people” Coincidence?

    My only gripe was with AKIMBO to serve as an anagram indicator. Can anyone explain this? Chambers gives not even an approximate meaning.

  10. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Paul and scchua.

    Took me a long time to complete this one. Palimpsest was a new word for me and I had to look it up.

    Are there such things as “chalet girls”? I pondered on chalet maids for ages till I sussed it out.

    Found the puzzle quite difficult.

  11. Mitz says:

    By the way – baffled by the picture quiz, even though I know which specific bridge that is…

  12. Gervase says:

    cholecyst @9: You’re right that ‘akimbo’ is a bit iffy as an anagram indicator. I didn’t notice it at the time, because the word was chosen to fit the surface and it seemed obvious that it had to be an anagrind. ‘Akimbo’ = ‘bent’, which is also used sometimes used as an anagrind, although it doesn’t really accurately convey the ‘mixing’ instruction. However, I have to say that I’m very libertarian when it comes to anagrinds, unlike definitions, where I can get a bit pernickety (as yesterday, for instance. (Contrary – moi?)

  13. Mitz says:

    cholecyst: I think ‘akimbo’ is one of those words whose official definition is at variance to its most common usage. Colloquially it is taken to mean ‘all over the place’ or ‘spread out’ and the purist would certainly blanch at it being applied to legs, meaning ‘with feet far apart’ when actually it can only correctly describe the position of one’s arms. However, ‘legs akimbo’ is a very common phrase, and here it fitted the overall surface beautifully (especially in the context of Paul’s slightly risqué style).

    *prepares for accusations of hypocrisy following my pedantic excoriation of ’99’ = ‘ic’ yesterday…

  14. Mitz says:

    Ha ha! I suppose we all reserve the right to be pedantic when we feel like it, eh Gervase?

  15. Gervase says:

    Mitz: Absolutely. And if you’re going to be pedantic, you should always do it properly….

  16. togo says:

    Mitz re the (tiny) oik controversy…

    Only cuckoo clock gave me Oink. I had confidently placed N into ‘Pig” (boor or boar) to get a noise – Ping! Nowhere near as good as Oink, even though I would agree that your weaselly characteristics (not of course *yours*!) do expand oik beyond boorishness…… but just convincing enough to be a right pain until I clocked the clock!

    Thanks to Paul and to Scchua – and ALL the bloggers

  17. Martin says:

    Congratulations scchua on a most comprehensive analysis and thanks Paul for a wonderful puzzle with many delights.

  18. crypticsue says:

    When you see ‘set by Paul’ you know you are in for fun and this certainly was him in great cheeky form. Hard to pick a favourite today although 8d did make me laugh out loud (which is not good in a shared office!). Thanks to Paul for a great crossword and scchua on the wonderful blog.

    Coming here from a blog which always has illustrations and the full clues, I must admit that even after 40+ years, I do find that useful. On the other hand, I don’t mind the short and sweet bloggers approach either. All the bloggers provide a great service for all levels of solver and long may they continue.

  19. Robi says:

    Nice one, Paul; I got into it via BASEL.

    Thanks scchua for your usually entertaining blog. Re different styles of bloggers; it’s horses for courses, and we are all indebted to the efforts of all the various volunteers for spending their time on this. I usually do the crossword online, so it is helpful having the clues as otherwise you are forever changing tabs backwards and forwards – I suppose I should just bring the Guardian upstairs next to the computer!

    I’m a bit mystified by the picture quiz (which, by the way, I find very entertaining.) There is, of course, FERGUSON. I gather that Harry Ferguson was the first Irishman to build and fly his own aeroplane. And one ‘Jen Ferguson’ did a painting of the Brooklyn Bridge, although this looks a bit more like the Golden Gate to me.

    Back to the crossword; akimbo in the ODE is: ‘(with reference to limbs) flung out widely or haphazardly,’ so it seems to me to be OK as an anagrind. I got NEGLIGEE because it’s a Paul crossword. I thought the city was spelt/spelled BERNE. I guess this is the anglicised version.

  20. togo says:

    More on bloggers – a conversation that probably ought be be happening elsewhere on this site, but, hey.

    I come to 15 x15 to listen to/eavesdrop on and very occasionally join in with a voluntary conversation between a wide range of personalities – all contributing because they enjoy crosswords. If there were not the variety of characters – bloggers and posters – and styles – bloggers – I would drift away. The sheer gusto of some bloggers, the different range of cultural references, the differing eye for detail and precision, the contrasting senses of humour, make this site worthwhile. ‘Looking up answers’ is, of course important, but I would find it tedious if there were a rigid framework that squeezed out individuality.

    Bloggers also join in the conversation and have become real (imagined?) personalities for me – just as have most of the regular contributors. And no, I’m not lonely – I just enjoy different sorts of company – even online!

  21. Mr. Jim says:

    Thanks to Paul and scchua for clearing up the few I didn’t get (mostly the SW corner). CHALET GIRLS my CoD — typical Paul. Also noteworthy that BASEL was clued such that it couldn’t be spelled BASLE. Now I see the answer, STARSHIP makes me groan.

  22. Kaylily says:

    Sincere thanks to scchua and Paul. What fun.

    Well, this one was just hard at times. In between were those ‘ahah’ moments that Paul ensures. My partner hates Paul (not personally, crossword solving wise), but I quite like his approach. Partner is also fastest anagram solver I have ever met, and bright, so very helpful with crosswords. He got 1ac ODDBALL, say no more!

    I didn’t finish this one – missed 23ac STARSHIP and 13ac NEGLIGEE. I like STARSHIP. When I do Paul’s crosswords, I feel that I can be in his sort of headspace or not. I still enjoyed it a lot. Liked CUCKOO CLOCK.

    I would also like to send my thanks to everyone involved with this site. I have been a silent lurker for a year or so. I have only been doing the on-line daily crossword for a few days (used to do it in local paper) so I have now posted a few comments on this site.

    It does seem that there are a lot of new visitors these days. I have no idea whether that is good or bad. I did like the original chats among the ‘usual’ crew. I miss that. So would you please all come back and take over from us newbies. Ta.

  23. togo says:

    Pictures: Sarah, Harry, Craig? But the link to Switzerland/Swiss – though praised by Niall Ferguson that seems a bit slim (on more than one count)? Will we ever know?

  24. Miche says:

    Thanks, sshua.

    In my sheltered life I have never heard of chalet girls, but it wasn’t too hard to work out. I had also unacountably forgotten that queen can mean a female cat. She doesn’t show up as often as Tom.

    San Francisco and Sarah Ferguson (I don’t recognise the plane) share initials. Swiss Federation?

  25. Miche says:

    *unaccountably – sorry.

  26. Mitz says:

    Miche – I’m sure you’re on to something (ie the initials SF being the link). However, I found the picture of the bi-plane and it appears to be a Fisher Classic. Nowhere on the manufacturer’s website can I find anything that might be the ‘S’ part of the bargain (unless it’s ‘Superlite Fisher’). How are we doing, scchua?

  27. Rich says:


    Berne is the German spelling as is Basle, which as Mr Jim pointed out had to be the English spelling to fit the clue.

    The only reason I know this is because my sister lives in Germany in an area called Berne and whenever she tells her address to English speakers she always points out “that’s Berne with an ‘E'”. Her husband apparently got fed up with English spelling in his address.

    Re the letters “SF” – there are three TV channels from Switzerland called SF1 SF2 and if memory servers SF Info – is that the connection?

  28. Thomas99 says:

    No, Basel’s German, as is Bern (see the various municipal websites). The French versions are Basle (but usually spelt Bâle) and Berne. Berne in Germany (which I don’t know) would presumably be pronounced as two syllables. But the captil of the Swiss canton is definitely Bern in German.

  29. Thomas99 says:

    Sorry – capital, of course – and it’s the capital of the whole country, not just the canton!

  30. Rich says:


    Was thinking “German” for Berne (in Germany) and typed it instead of French.

    You are quite correct Thomas!

    On a different note sorry scchua, forgot to say thanks for the blog.

    Also to echo various other posts. I’m not sure the format of the blog is *that* important. What I really look at is the content. I have no issues (not even a pet hate!) with any blogging style here and am grateful that people do this voluntarily. Especially if I’ve had trouble parsing a clue.

  31. scchua says:

    Hi to all attempting the quiz. Sad to say, you’re as cold as the weather in Europe :-) . The link is not connected to the puzzle’s theme at all, and another hint: there’s a setter’s device in use too.

  32. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Paul for a fun crossword and scchua for the usual superblog – both much appreciated.

    Rich @ 27, I always thought Basel and Bern were German versions of the places.

    Lots of smiley moments in this crossword mixed in with the harder words and oink made me laugh aloud, too. Keep them coming – or bring it on – as one hears these days!

    Giovanna x

  33. tupu says:

    Thanks Scchua and Paul

    An excellent blog of an excellent puzzle!

    I found this hard in places – 9d was my last in and took an age to see because I thought the second half must be ‘cropper’ – but always enjoyable.

    Lots of clever, amusing clues. Ticked 11a, 14,5, 23a, 24,25, 27a, 29a, 1d, 3d, 7d, 8d, 9d, 15d, 18d. 17, 19 also pretty impressive.

  34. Giovanna says:

    scchua, Is the theme anything to do with light? We have light aircraft, lights on the bridge and brilliant diamonds – or even ligthts in a crossword sense?


  35. Rich says:

    Giovanna @27

    You’re right! Basle and Berne are French, Basel and Bern are German (and usually the English as well).

    My mistake was typing German not French as I was thinking German at the time with reference to another Berne which is in Germany and has absolutely nothing to do with Switzerland.

    A case of finger/brain disconnect autopilot engaged I’m afraid!

    Mind you, I wonder which usage is more common in Switzerland? After all the Swiss commonly speak all three languages, plus Italian for that matter.

  36. andy smith says:

    Rich@35 I worked in Bern (a lovely town) for a couple of years. If you are in a German speaking canton (like BERN) it is BERN; if you are in a french speaking canton its Berne. No idea what it is in the Italian cantons but I hazard Berne also.

  37. scchua says:

    Hi Giovanna, the link is a musical one.

  38. Mitz says:

    OK – I’m usually quite good at this kind of thing, but scchua, you have me stumped. We have:

    Biplane / barnstormer / Fisher / light aircraft
    (Orlando) Bay Bridge / San Francisco
    Sarah Ferguson / Fergie / Duchess of York

    And musical references in today’s crossword: Mass, Chopin. Any others?

    I’m clearly missing something fundamental because I don’t see any link at all!

  39. scchua says:

    Hi Mitz, the only one you’re missing is airplane.

  40. Miche Doherty says:

    As in Jefferson Airplane/Starship?

  41. MikeC says:

    Thanks scchua and Paul. Enjoyed this one, even though the SE corner defeated me.

    And my thanks, also, to all the bloggers, whatever style they choose. Despite my not completing this puzzle, 15 squared has improved my solving – and enjoyment of crosswords – enormously. And if we can have some fun and occasionally “scholastic” disputes as well, so much the better.

  42. scchua says:

    Right Miche Doherty (not Miche@24/25?) and the rest?

  43. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Unlike Mitz I do not start with a sweep, across or down.
    I usually jump on a short one and hope to get a start there.
    Today I went for 25d which was ‘see 24′ which referred to 17ac which was linked to 19ac! Perhaps a Mitz sweep would be a habit worth developing!
    Nevertheless, an enjoyable and fairly testing puzzle.
    There is a niche genre of films in which ‘chalet girls’ feature regularly!
    First in ‘palimpsest’, last in ‘palais ….’

  44. Robi says:

    scchua @42; Bay City Rollers?

  45. scchua says:

    Sorry Robi, only one group :-)

  46. Giovanna says:

    Rich @35 and Andy @ 36, Basle is Basilea and Berne is Berna in Italian. You wouldn’t guess Basilea but then how does Leghorn relate to Livorno?!

    Giovanna x

  47. Robi says:

    Giovanna @46; according to Wiki: ‘The city of Livorno was known during the 16th-17th centuries as Legorno.’

  48. Jamestheghillie says:

    You’re making me feel old.

    As any fule kno, a Swiss Army knife also includes (or did) a device for taking stones out of horses hooves!

  49. Joshua's mum says:

    Late as usual to tackle the crossword, but I think this was one of the best so far this year. Every clue was logical and satisfying, save perhaps 10 across. Many thanks to Paul for giving me a real treat, especially in the Swiss army knife, Palais des Nations and tinseltown.

  50. Gervase says:

    Giovanna @46: Re the odd looking Basilea, Italian exonyms are a constant source of delight and bewilderment. I remember being very confused about the route of a train to ‘Monaco’, until I realised that this is the Italian name for Munich (or should I say München).

    I have been puzzling over why I found this puzzle so much easier than most other posters seem to have done. It occurs to me that there are several factors which influence the degree of difficulty of a crossword:

    Vocabulary – it helps if you know the words, which in this case I did, fortunately.
    Shape of the grid – a lot of unchecked initial letters round the perimeter makes a puzzle trickier for me, but there were none such in this one.
    Construction of the clues – Paul’s aren’t the easiest, certainly, but I find it easier to spot the definition in his puzzles than in some others

    For me, there is another factor: the nature of the crossing letters. Uncommon crossing letters can make solutions to the remaining clues easier to find. I’ve often groaned when a recalcitrant clue has crossing letters which would all score 1 at Scrabble; there seem to be too many possible solutions. For interest, I have calculated the average Scrabble score of the crossing letters in the four puzzles that have appeared in the Guardian this week. The results are as follows:

    Paul 1.65
    Gordius 1.57
    Brendan 1.48
    Rufus 1.38

    Perhaps this is one of the reasons I don’t generally find Rufus’s crosswords as easy as many other do.

  51. RCWhiting says:

    Interesting thoughts Gervase. Attempting to quantify the unquantifiable,eh?
    You have got Rufus as 20% harder than Paul – hard to match with experience.
    If the clue is easy, especially if the definition is very obvious, the criteria you mention do not really come into play.
    However, I always like to see someone attempting to analyse something, whatever the outcome.

  52. Rich says:

    Interesting take on crossing letter Gervase.

    I have to agree I sometimes find Rufus less accessible than say Paul or Brendan. I had thought it was just the fact that there’s usually a theme and/or that my mind set and general knowledge was compatible with my two favourite setters.

    Your theory may also explain why I found Gordius yesterday easier than I usually do.

    Very interesting.

    Giovanna @46

    You’re right I never would have guessed Basilea. I remember a seasoned traveller once telling me that if you have some French then adding either a final ‘E’ or ‘A’ and putting on an outrageous accent often delivers comprehensible if not good Italian. He also said it didn’t always work as he had once asked for the bill for lunch by saying “l’addizziona per favore”. At which the English speaking waiter dissolved in floods of laughter.

  53. Giovanna says:

    Rich @ 52 Well you never know your luck!!

    I once made a wonderful mistake in an ironmonger’s in Paris where I was searching for a knife to cut the bread. I was a young student at the time, short of money but reasonably resourceful. Being unable to recall the French for knife, except that it began with a c, I described its function in great detail. Alas, to the great amusement of the proprietor, the word was culottes!! This was long before they were a fashion item, I hasten to add. Needless to say I have never forgotten couteau and the said knife survived many a student outing round Europe!

    Gervase @ 50. Yes it’s most disconcerting. Sometimes it is listed as Monaco di Baviera, which still bears little relation to Munich.

    All good fun, though.

    Robi @ 47. Thanks, it makes a little more sense now.


  54. scchua says:

    Gervase@50, I think one of the reasons why Rufus seems easier to me than other setters is his style of cluing – heavy with cryptic, double and the odd triple definitions, and light on elaborate charades involving reversals, containments/insertions, topping/tailing/disembowelment, and cross-referencing clues. And I guess I’m better at the former than the latter. Which illustrates another factor – each individual mind will have different propensities for the different types of intellectual processes required for solving different types of clues (besides vocabulary, knowledge, etc) – it all depends on how your brain has been wired. Eg. What makes a crossword easier for me is the inclusion of anagrams (but not long ones I’m afraid), just like one of the commenters above. I wonder what were the conclusions of that student’s research that was publicised on 15sq.

  55. scchua says:

    Hi Mitz, Robi, togo, Miche, Rich, Giovanna, Miche Doherty, and any others: Starship was a group from San Fancisco that evolved from Jefferson Airplane. Its first two hits in the mid-80s were We Built This City (a reference to San Francisco) and Sara, homophone (setter’s device) of Sarah (Ferguson).

  56. Robi says:

    Thanks scchua for putting us out of our misery!

  57. scchua says:

    And thank you all for your comments! It’s you for whom the blog’s all about!

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