Fifteensquared

Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize 25,550 / Crucible

Posted by Eileen on February 11th, 2012

Eileen.

For me, this was the most enjoyable Prize puzzle for ages. Some clues kept me guessing, as they should, in a Prize, but they were all quite clear in the end, after a few blind alleys, red herrings and wild goose chases.

There’s a nice mixture of topics – literary, scientific, popular culture, including a couple from way back, apart from the interesting theme of diarists – and some inventive cluing, with witty surfaces and some rather unusual anagram and insertion indicators.

I’m one of those people – I’d find it very hard to change the habits of a lifetime – who doggedly go through the clues in order, so it’s rather frustrating if, as here, the clue to the theme comes at the very end! Fortunately, I saw it immediately and went back through the clues expecting an entertaining solve – I was not disappointed.

One pleasure of blogging Saturday puzzles is that there is more time to explore / remind myself of sources of references, which is something I’ve missed for a while. I admit that, sometimes, it’s a slog to look up all the references but not this time – it was right up my street! Huge thanks, Crucible, for a cracking puzzle – a real gem!

Across

1 Back Nesbitt with one pound over beers here (6,3)
PUBLIC BAR
Reversal [back] of  RAB C [Nesbitt] + I [one] LB [pound] + UP [over]  – not something I’ve ever watched but at least I’d heard of it

6 How to work with the foreign “author” of a 23 (4)
MOLE
MO [modus operandi - how to work] + LE [French {foreign} 'the']
The right Mole this time, unlike the Gordius puzzle I blogged last week, where the interloper, Nigel Molesworth, made an unwarranted appearance. [A correction appeared – two days later! – in the Guardian archive of the puzzle but not, as far as I saw [I may have missed it] in the Crossword column or ‘Corrections and Clarifications’in the paper.]
This is Adrian, tne fictitious – hence the inverted commas – diarist, celebrating his thirtieth anniversary this year, creation of our local heroine, Sue Townsend

8 Fruit beds oust loss leader in springtime (8)
APRICOTS
COTS [beds] replace [oust] L[oss] [leader - first letter] in APRI[l] [ springtime]

9 Capital is Bonaparte’s core Iberian destination in Fielding’s 23 (6)
LISBON
Two bites at the cherry here: Lisbon ['capital' of Portugal] is the Iberian destination of Henry Fielding’s ‘Journal of a voyage to Lisbon’ and also the middle letters [core] of capitaL IS BONaparte – how neat is that?

10 Fixed savings account originally lacking insulting double-digit rises? (1-5)
V-SIGNS
Anagram [fixed] of SAVINGS, minus ‘a’ [first letter -'originally' - of  'account' lacking]
Having ?S?G?S, I spent time working on ISA ['savings account'] – to no avail, of course, until the ‘double-digit’ penny dropped – a great surface!

11 As a favour, twice aim non-stop to turn over vote (2,6)
EX GRATIA
Reversal [to turn] of AI[m] + TARGE[t] [another aim] – non-stop [minus last letters] round [over] X [vote] – great construction

12 Note shabby clothing for subject of a 23 (6)
POOTER
POOR [shabby] round [clothing] TE [note - 'a drink with jam and bread'] for Mr Charles Pooter, subject of  ‘Diary of a Nobody’

15 Made quick call, ordering Kindle loaded with no-frills book (6,2)
LOOKED IN
Anagram [ordering] of KINDLE round [loaded with] [b]OO[k] ['no frills' - it works for me!]

16 Men in civil partnerships in 4’s destination? (8)
HEBRIDES
HE BRIDES – very nice!
Boswell [4dn,  qv] wrote ‘The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides’

!9 Opposition wise, say, to implicate gravity after Soyuz regularly lost bits (6)
SYZYGY
YYs [sounds like [say] wise] ) round [to implicate] G[gravity] after S[o]Y[u]Z [regularly losing bits]
A six-letter word with no vowels – what a feat to include it in a crossword!
[And a very useful Scrabble word - even though you'd have to use a blank tile for the third Y] Definition: opposition

21 Writer is in Paris holding talks about Italy (8)
ESSAYIST
EST [French - in Paris - for 'is'] round [holding] SAYS [talks] round I [Italy]
What a lovely smooth surface!

22 12 like inferior wine? (6)
NOBODY
NO BODY: good wine is often described as ‘full-bodied’

24 Draper perhaps, subject of a 23 (6)
MADMAN
I had to consult Google for this, never having watched ‘Madmen’  and thus being unaware of its hero, Dan Draper. The reference is to Gogol’s short story, ‘Diary of a Madman

25 Take some credit for ward? (8)
OVERDRAW
A reversal [OVER] of WARD

26 Interminably long time covered by Defoe’s 23 (4)
YEAR
YEAR[n] – ‘interminably long’  – I loved that!
Daniel Defoe wrote ‘A Journal of the Plague Year’
A contender for my favourite clue,  for the superb surface

27 Correspondent’s last word after bank closes (9)
SINCERELY
SINCE [after] RELY [bank] – the possible last word, before the signature, in a letter

Down

1 Various happy events haven’t escaped author of a 23 (5)
PEPYS
Anagram [various] of [ha]PPY E[vent]S minus [escaped] HAVEN’T – in the correct order [how brilliant is that?]
And I love the ironic surface, because, while Pepys undoubtedly recorded various happy events, he’s our main source for the two great tragedies of the 1660s, the Great Plague [cf 26dn] and the Great Fire of London. I think this has to be my favourite.

2 Fielding’s heroine’s doctor tried to pen good book first (7)
BRIDGET
Anagram [doctor] of TRIED G[ood] B[ook]
I immediately thought [as I'm sure I was meant to] of Henry Fielding, especially since he’s made one appearance:  there’s a Bridget in ‘Tom Jones’ but she’s not the heroine – then the penny dropped – [many apologies Helen!] – it’s Bridget Jones’ diary that we’re supposed to think of here – eventually – the misdirection being all the more effective because, this time, there’s no mention of 23dn in the clue.

3 Hagiolaters adore these pieces I set on top (5)
ICONS

This took some staring at until I realised that it’s COINS [pieces] with the I moved to the beginning [set on top]

4 Author of a 23’s small intestine cramps (and large) (7]
BOSWELL
BOWEL [intestine] round [cramps] S [small] + L [large]

5 I walk round institute beset by ground rules? (9)
RELIGIOUS
I GO [I walk] round I [institute] inside [beset by] anagram [ground] of RULES
A beautifully crafted clue, which at first seemed to have no definition, but if we take ‘religious’ as a noun, ‘a person bound by monastic vows’ [Chambers] and ‘institute’ as ‘monastic institute’, we have an & lit – I think!

6 Subject of a 23 in dubious arms deal one cut (3,4)
MRS DALE
Anagram [dubious] of ARMS DE[a]L minus ‘a’ [one cut]
Mrs Dales diary  was part of my childhood – everything stopped for fifteen minutes each afternoon at 4.00pm  when the harp signature tune introduced this radio soap.  I laughed out loud at the idea of  Mrs Dale being involved in a dubious arms deal!

7 I confess supporting new painting upset treatment of star (9)
LIONISING
I SING [I confess] after [supporting, in a down clue] a reversal [upset] of N[new] OIL [painting]

13 Blow up at least 12 deliveries to gallery (9)
OVERSTATE
OVERS [there are six balls, or deliveries, in an over in cricket] TATE

14 Huge stars in Man Utd, as fans describe them? (3,6)
RED GIANTS
GIANT [huge] in REDS [Man Utd to their fans] – I think

17 Scale of river water in Seine lifted spirit (7)
RÉAUMUR
R [river] EAU [French for water, therefore 'in Seine'] and a reversal [lifted] of RUM [spirit]

18 Strike isn’t designed to comfort Jones’s Wall Street colleague (3-4)
SIT-DOWN
Anagram [designed] of ISN’T round [to comfort] DOW [Jones's Wall Street colleague]: there might be eyebrows raised at the insertion indicator but it works for me, taking ‘comfort’ as ‘hug’

20 On TV he breezed about absorbing energy for rear end (7)
ZEBEDEE
Anagram [around] of B[r]REEZED. with E [energy] substituted for R [last letter - end - of 'rear']
Zebedee was the lovable jack-in-the-box character in ‘The Magic Roundabout’, who ended the programme with his ‘Time for bed’. I think this could be called a semi-&lit.

22 Relative makes odd noises these days (5)
NIECE
NIE [odd letters of N[o]I[s]E[s] + CE [Common Era - these days]

23 Daily Record’s inflammatory? Not half (5)
DIARY
Half [or not half!] of incenDIARY [inflammatory] to give our theme word

45 Responses to “Guardian Prize 25,550 / Crucible”

  1. stiofain says:

    Great puzzle as always from Crucible and blog from Eileen.
    I always go through across then down too and remember Paul putting the key clue in as the last down entry before, surely no accident.
    I only guessed MADMAN knowing the story but not the TV reference it has been bugging me all week ( I tried to fit VOLEUR in somewhere using the same logic about halfway through to no avail )

  2. JoannaM says:

    Many thanks, Eileen and Crucible.

    Managed to convince myself that 7d was idolising which made Mole impossible to find. Ended up with very dodgy Mein (Kampf) for 6a. Doh! Thanks for explaining where I went wrong. Mrs Dale made me laugh too.

  3. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Eileen for such a comprehensive and insightful analysis. I’m not as disciplined as you and try to identify the theme as early as I can, in this case without too much difficulty so quite a few answers followed. I did waste some time though trying to accommodate Anne Frank. I didn’t know 24 and toyed with RAGMAN but couldn’t reconcile it. It never occurred to me that there might be a noun form of RELIGIOUS and I had decided the definition must be missing. Is it really an & lit though? I think the personal pronoun refers to the solution.

  4. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen. Your solving method reminds me of (I think it was) the great Roy Dean who when asked how he did it(solve in under 5 minutes)replied:”I do the across clues and then the down ones.” I’m nothing like that, and jump madly about. MADMAN was a fine clue, as was the entire TV series. Great to see SYZYGY,which I remember from studying Gnosticism (out of curiosity). Thanks Crucible for this beauty.

  5. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen, for the blog and solution to 24, which defeated me. (I eventually plumped for “layman”, even though I couldn’t find any good “diary” reference to support it.) What infuriates me the most is that I’m a fan of the series, enough to know, by the way, that it’s Don, not Dan!

    Otherwise, I really enjoyed this; the first half was done in five minutes but the other half took more like five hours, dipping in and out, to complete (wrongly, thanks to Mr Draper!)

    I’ve been smiling all week at the debate about &lits knowing this blog including the excellent RELIGIOUS was coming today. :)

  6. NeilW says:

    Just checked the annotated solution to see if it had anything to say about RELIGIOUS to support or negate Biggles A @3 and, curiously, I see it uses the same Google reference as you, Eileen: it calls him Dan too!

  7. cholecyst says:

    Thanks Eileen and Crucible.

    At last my usual solving route pays dividends! (Start at the last Down clue and work backwards.)

    I am still savouring the image of a wild goose pursuing a red herring down a blind alley, closely followed by Eileen (preamble)!

  8. Eileen says:

    Hi NeilW @6

    That’s weird: I did get Madmen from Google, as I admitted, and your comment made me think they had it wrong, too – but not so! Whoever wrote the annotated solution must have read it wrongly, as I did.

    I’ve said before that I usually forget that there is an annotated solution. I presume it comes out just after midnight, like the day’s crossword. Since my blog is scheduled for 12.02, there’s no way I could rely on that, even if I wanted to!

  9. NeilW says:

    Hi Eileen – I wasn’t suggesting anything like that! I just thought it was a bizarre coincidence. Obviously the annotator isn’t a fan either. :)

  10. Eileen says:

    Neil, I *know* you weren’t!! I just meant it was a bizarre coincidence, too!

  11. r_c_a_d says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen. I didn’t enjoy this puzzle as much as the previous week’s Paul. Mainly because it required knowledge I lack.

    I did almost finish, on wordplay and guesswork, but 24 is impossible if you haven’t seen the TV show or heard of the short story.

    Clearly I could have spent the day googling diaries … But that’s not my idea of a fun solve.

    There were still some highlights though: I really liked ZEBEDEE and VSIGNS.

    BTW a “red giant” is a very large astronomical object, so I think “huge stars” is the definition for 14.

  12. tupu says:

    Many thanks Eileen and Crucible for an excellent blog and puzzle.

    Extremely satisfying with many of smooth clever surfaces.

    I had to check Draper and Madman, though I guessed that might be it along with ‘ragman’ as another possibility. I also had to check Pooter. I missed the point about Bridget Jones and don’t remember thinking about ‘religious’ as a noun.

    A moment that sticks in the mind is seeing ‘wise’ = ‘yy’. Lots of other pleasing clues inc 1a, 6a, 9a, 10a, 11a, 16a, 19a, 26a, 2a, 1d, 4d, 6d, 18d, 25d.

  13. Robi says:

    Burnt at the Crucible! This took most of Saturday to solve (with liberal use of Google,) but then it was a Prize one.

    Thanks Eileen for a good, comprehensive blog. For your future reference, the annotated solution comes out at 15.00 GMT on a Friday, so you can always take a peak before posting!

    LISBON was nicely hidden, and I, too, went on the ISA route for 10 at the beginning. Without parsing properly, I confidently entered RED DEVILS for the Man. Untd. name, which held me up a bit. I also was looking for Ann Frank, but she never appeared. The visit to her ‘home’/hiding place was an emotionally crushing experience.

    HE BRIDES was good; I thought Eileen would like that one! ;)

  14. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Robi, but I really didn’t wish to know that!

    Interesting, though: the reason for the timing of the blog is that the rule for the Prize puzzle is that entries should reach the Guardian ‘by first post on Friday': Gaufrid has been sufficiently [and understandably] sceptical of the efficiency of the postal service to request postponement of the blog until first thing on Saturday. ;-) Maybe we could publish it earlier?

  15. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Eileen and Crucible. I failed on the explanation of quite a few: 11a, 27a (the RELY part), 2d (for which I am kicking myself now), 3d (I had IDOLS) and 5d.

    I used to use SYZYGY in playing Hangman.

    I agree with r-c-a-d about the definition of Red Giants.

    I almost always plough through from start to finish, but, curiously, I tried today’s Araucaria in reverse order, and it gave a very easy solve.

  16. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Eileen. Brava!

    Splendid puzzle from Crucible which took me much longer to solve than most recent prize crosswords. I never have the discipline to work systematically through the clues , but dot around like molonglo. For some reason, the left hand side fell out easily, but I had a lot more trouble with the right hand side, and 6a and 6d eluded me for ages (cue for self-kicking).

    Clever clues and surfaces, and a wide range of references: you don’t often get Rab C Nesbitt and Don Draper rubbing shoulders with Defoe and (the elder) Fielding. Use of the two Fieldings was devious, and I was misled for a while into thinking that the ‘Jones’ in 18d was Bridget.

    14d is an interestingly overlapping double def: ‘huge stars’ are astronomically RED GIANTS, as are the leading lights of Man U to those deluded enough to follow them.

  17. dunsscotus says:

    Thanks to Crucible and Eileen; a most enjoyable puzzle. The reason I dont’ go through the clues in order is that one would be, in a sense, wasting information. I start with either 1 ac or down (it’s a nice feeling if the first one drops into place) but as soon as I get something I make use of the cross lights. This is intermediate between those who follow the numerical order and those who self-confessedly dodge around.

  18. Miche says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    I don’t know how anyone has the self-control to avoid looking ahead at cross-referenced clues. LISBON took me straight to the theme, and so I had an eye open for Messrs Mole, Pepys, Pooter etc. Last in for me were REAUMUR, which I had to check with Chambers, and RELIGIOUS – a beautiful &lit.

    ZEBEDEE is a nice &lit, too – he bounds about on a big spring at his rear end that absorbs (and releases) energy.

    I think the “instructions for assembly” in 2d are a little more than the anagrind: *TRIED (“doctor”) enclosing (“to pen”) G[ood], with B[ook] placed “first.” If it’s just *(TRIED + G + B) then “to pen” is superfluous. I too had the wrong Fielding in mind at first, thinking of Amelia and Sophia before I remembered Bridget Jones.

    I seem to be alone in disliking 16a. There’s a fine line between playful jokes and mockery, and I think “he brides” is uncomfortably close to the line. I don’t want to 13d it, but it did slightly sour my enjoyment of an otherwise excellent puzzle.

  19. rrc says:

    Fair amount of venom about this puzzle on line last week which I thought slightly unfair because I thought there were some cracking clues (HEBRIDES AND NEICE) although I found it a difficult puzzle to complete!

  20. sidey says:

    Very nice puzzle and blog, thanks for both.

    Pepys’ ‘happy event’ was the restoration of the monarchy I think.

    Syzygy is an astronomical thingy so the inclusion of gravity and the spacecraft makes an excellent clue.

    Madman was fairly obvious from the diary reference but the telly reference passed me by entirely. I suppose BBC4 is fairly ubiquitous since digital telly, apparently The Killing (in forrin) got higher viewing figures. Is this a fair reference? No, in my exceedingly humble opinion. Rather spoiled an otherwise excellent puzzle. This brings me back to the available reference sources the average user is expected to have available. ‘Draper’ as a reference to Mad Men is buried under ‘surnames’ on the Wiki disambiguation page here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draper

  21. matt says:

    Really enjoyed this; good use of a theme. Reminded me a bit of Crucible’s “potter” themed one, paid tribute to by Araucaria.

    Didn’t finish it though.

    Thank you for the blog Eileen.

  22. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Miche @18

    You’re quite right. of course, about 2dn: I’m pretty sure I saw it that way when I solved it but was a little hasty when I blogged it a couple of days later

  23. Sil van den Hoek says:

    This was by far the most challenging Saturday crossword since, well, since ages. Finding the theme word in 23d very early on wasn’t a guarantee for a quick solve.
    We failed (as ever, far away from resources) on 24ac (MADMAN) and 3d (ICONS), but we are apparently in good company.
    Just like Dave Ellison (@15), we considered IDOLS too. After seeing the explanation for 3d, I must say this is quite a nice clue.
    Missing the solutions mentioned above, we thought: Crucible is a fan of pangrams, so let’s see if that might help. Nearly all the letters of the alphabet were there (not: F J Q). The best we could come up with was FAQMAN and, well, nothing else [the J was of no use for 3d]. So, nice try, but pointless.
    Only a pity that DIARY (23d) was so similar (visually) to Daily Record and therefore (too?) easy to find.
    Full marks to Crucible.
    And to Eileen too [although, 14d should really be seen as r_c_a_d @11 told us].

  24. NeilW says:

    Final comment from me: thanks, Crucible, for a wonderful crossword. Why did you ruin it with the obscure Draper clue?

  25. Gervase says:

    I think it extremely unfair to carp at the ‘obscurity’ of the Draper clue. Mad Men was (is?) an extremely well written and acted series, much discussed for its treatment of social habits, norms and fashions in 1960s America, and which has made something of a heartthrob star of its leading man, Jon Hamm (who plays Don Draper). The first few series were shown on BBC channels, and therefore freeview, and, given the nature of the drama, I would imagine that the demographics of its audience were more likely to be readers of the qualities than the red-tops.

    In what way is this ‘obscure’ relative to a word like ‘palimpsest’, which occurred in Paul’s crossword this week? I’m sure that a poll of a random selection of the ABC1 population would show that more people were familiar with Don Draper than knew what a palimpsest was.

    ‘Obscure’ seems to be shorthand for ‘I didn’t know it and it wasn’t easy to get the answer by Googling’. Shame on you.

  26. scchua says:

    Thanks Eileen for the blog, and Crucible for a challenging (as it should be) Prize crossword.

    Besides the time taken to complete, the only difficulty was IDOLS/ICONS, not being able to see the parsing.

    And I must congratulate you on a watershed blog (probably realised by others too, but not commented on) – you’ve included the clues in the blog, and in colour too! Good on you, giving the lie to “I’d find it very hard to change the habits of a lifetime” in your preamble! Whatever next? Pictures? Maybe not :-)

  27. NeilW says:

    Whoa! *Shame* on you for insulting me, Gervase. I had already expressed my embarrassment (if you’d bothered to read the initial comments) at missing the reference. I don’t believe your kind of comment has any place in a (previously) friendly community. My point was, purely, that, yes, I got it but I didn’t believe that a wider community would do the same. In the context of the puzzle, it was extraordinarily abstruse. Of course, if you can explain the relevance, I will bow gracefully.

  28. Eileen says:

    Thank you scchua, but it’s not by no means a ‘watershed blog’

    As .I said in my offending comment on Thursday evening, “I do, however, when monthly blogging the Guardian Prize puzzle, take the time to cut and paste the clues” and I have been doing so, as it happens, for exactly a year now, ;-) as you can see:

    http://fifteensquared.net/2011/02/12/guardian-25238-brummie/#more-26369

    And, as I’ve already explained, it’s lack of technological skills as much as anything else, that would prevent me from providing pictures directly.

  29. Eileen says:

    Please delete the ‘not’ in the first sentence of my comment 28! ;-(

  30. scchua says:

    Eileen@28, I’m afraid you’re spending unnecessary time cutting and pasting the clues, even on a monthly basis. There is a website specially written for 15sq bloggers which will reproduce clues and answers (at least for the Guardian, and Independent). This is what I meant when I said that it would take me more time not to have the clues in. If you’re interested in saving time, check out this:

    http://www.drurys2.org/crosswords/home.aspx

  31. matt says:

    Hi Neil W

    I know these things are matters of taste but I’m not sure the reference to Don Draper is all that obscure, or extraodinarily abstruse within the context of a puzzle that features other fictional characters (Mole, Zebedee etc).

    Even if it were, I’m not sure that such obscurity could ruin such a prize puzzle.

    With no crossing letters, I confidently entered “whicker” for 20 down, thinking of Mr Alan (who breeded about on TV) and whicker-chairs, that definitely absorb energy for my rear-end. I now feel like a bit of a pillock.

  32. Gervase says:

    NeilW: I apologise if you feel insulted. I had no intention to ‘insult’ anybody; my comment was more in the nature of a reprimand, and wasn’t in any case directed specifically at you. ‘Abstruse’ might well apply to the construction of a clue, in the case of a particularly complex charade, for example, but I would be wary of using the word ‘obscure’ to describe the answer to any clue relating to cultural items (whether ‘high’ or ‘popular’) rather than ‘dictionary words’. I know precious little about jazz or rap artists, or the Z list ‘celebrities’ on the many reality TV shows, but many others certainly do.

  33. Eileen says:

    scchua @30

    I’m afraid this may be getting tedious for other commenters!

    If I may refer you again to my comment [of Wednesday, not Thursday evening, as I said before - but you know the one I mean], I said, ‘… and a very helpful blogging colleague who offered software that allowed one to show instantly the clues for the day and simply fill in one’s own blog – again, too much, I’m afraid, for this technophobe.’

    You really have no idea of my limitations. I’m virtually cpmplete self-taught when it comes to IT and, although I used not to make too bad a job of teaching other people other things, I’ve been less successful with myself, in this respect, I’m afraid. There is no use at all in tryng to guide me through the processes – I don’t understand the terms used: I would need someone standing over me, actually *showing* me what to do.

    Perhaps you’re beginning to understand that there was absolutely no malice in my ‘horrors!’ comment? I simply meant that if pictures became de rigeur on a blog, it would be time for me to give up – which is more or less what I said in the preamble to the blog to which I referred you in my previous comment!

    I’m quite happy to continue with my whimsical cutting and pasting – as I say, I’ve been doing it for a year now!

    May we leave it there, please?

  34. scchua says:

    Okay, I only had the well-meant intention of trying to help. I’m sorry if you found it a little too insistent, which it wasn’t meant to be. You’ve now made it quite clear where you stand, and I won’t make any more unwanted suggestions or advice.

  35. Paul B says:

    I would tend to side with those who have said that, in a Prize puzzle, some unusual entries are okay, if not de rigueur: some themes in Grauniad puzzles over the years have been wildly unfamiliar, but as a solver I would always relish rather than shrink from these.

    If you trust your compiler (and we would indeed trust Crucible) to provide a reasonably decipherable cryptic build-up, I can’t see why this sort of thing would create a problem. If there is a possible snag, it’s where such crafting is inadequate, poor, or – for truly recondite words and phrases – an anagram, which will always be of extremely limited assistance: naturally one desires to avoid the old you-either-know-it-or-you-don’t.

  36. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    This is what I call a prize crossword and expect one to be.
    I agree with every word of Eileen’s comment.
    Dave @15 Sadly,I think today’s would be a weak effort whichever order you were to tackle it.
    Gervase @25 That all sounds very sensible.

  37. sidey says:

    Dear Gervase, I pointed out earlier that the BBC4 television transmission of Mad Men was viewed by fewer people than an obscure Danish detective story.

    You and Crucible presumably have seen it, the vast majority of the world hasn’t a clue that it exists let alone the name of a character in it.

    Do stop.

    You are embarrassing.

  38. RCWhiting says:

    Madmen audience 500,000 (not including me).
    Henry Fielding’s ‘Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon’ readership ???

  39. Dave Ellison says:

    Well, I don’t mind these so called “obscurities” in Guardian Crosswords, as they can lead to interesting areas of which I was previously ignorant. As I think I have pointed out before, I read some Smollet as a result of a clue in the 1960s – though I wouldn’t read any more of him; and, likewise from a clue at a similar time, some Stephen Leacock, which has been a delight and pleasure ever since. I am sure there are others I have forgotten.

  40. Paul B says:

    Well good for you, Dave. Obviously the setting of a Prize crossword assumes on the part of solvers greater or in some way easier access to information sources, and, like all normal people, you appear to opine that it is really quite ludicrous to demand absolute simplicity of a weekend puzzle. Isn’t it nice when people actually think about things a bit before posting?!

  41. NeilW says:

    If any of the last few commenters bother to revisit on a Sunday: the “obscurity” of 24 was the conjunction of the surname of the lead character of an American TV series with a Grogol short story with no other pointer than DIARY. My objection is not to obscurities in a prize puzzle – I expect and welcome them but there should be some chance of deducing the answer other than pure serendipity.

    RCW – “Henry Fielding’s ‘Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon’ readership ???” How many of your 500,000 viewers of the TV Series have also read any Grogol do you suppose? (Oh, and normally solve the Guardian prize puzzles to completion?)

    May I also say that I think that it is a “shame” that, of late, the aim of some contributors to this site seems to have shifted from constructive criticism of crosswords to destructive sniping at other posters.

  42. matt says:

    Hello Neil,

    You’re right that the atmosphere has occasionally been a bit more antagonistic, recently. I guess there’s a balance to be struck: fun, robust debate with commenters putting forward their individual opinions on the one hand (something I love this site for); blazing (or icy) arguments with participants digging their heels in and refusing to concede the validity of alternative points of view on the other.

    I think a lot of it is to do with language: as others have pointed out, tone of voice is hard to gauge online, and words like ‘shame’ or ‘ruin’ can come across as strident, and can quickly raise hackles.

  43. RCWhiting says:

    Well,I did not watch any of the TV show but for a few weeks quite recently,it was all over the media. Reviewed positively in the press and on radio and TV but also referred to in comparison with a British ‘copy’ (which I also did not watch). It was hard to miss.
    I was familiar with the title ‘Diary of a Madman’ although I have not knowingly read anything by either Gogol or Grogol.
    The truth is that ‘obscurity’ is entirely in the memory of the beholder.

  44. Andy D says:

    Enjoyable (almost entirely) – finished all but 24A on the day but it’s been lying around all week with 24A staring at me. I’d googled all sorts of diaries: batman, layman, gasman, barman etc.

    Had another go yesterday and found the Gogol story, then “draper madman” finally found the TV series, which I now remember seeing the beginning of a couple of times.

    Obscurity is indeed in the mind of the beholder so no complaints from me.

  45. Tramp says:

    I’m late responding to this one. I enjoyed the puzzle a lot. My favourite was LOOKED IN (great surface). Super blog Eileen as well.

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