Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian prize 25,574 / Bonxie

Posted by Eileen on March 10th, 2012


I have said several times that we don’t see enough of Bonxie, so I was pleased to see his name on this puzzle. However, I found it a rather mixed bag, with some pretty easy clues in the bottom half [15, 17, 20, 21, 22ac and 21dn, for instance] and some more challenging ones in the top half, several of them involving [for me] unusual words or rather dodgy cluing. I’m afraid that, when some of the pennies did drop, it was with more of a dull ‘I suppose it has to be that’ thud than a ‘Aha, of course!’ ping.

Bonxie’s puzzles very often have a theme but I haven’t spotted one this time [which, of course, is not to say that there isn’t one]. I have to say that, without the name on it, I don’t think I would have recognised it as a Bonxie puzzle. It seemed to lack the usual wit and sparkle and solving it was more of a slog than the enjoyable experience that his previous puzzles have been for me. I hope others fared better!


7 A number shout showing approval, when holding clubs in card game (7)
PIN [Personal Identification Number] + OLÉ [shout showing approval] round [when holding] C [clubs]: a card game I’ve come across only in crosswords.

8 Dash after school orchestra (7)
GAM [school – of whales] + ÉLAN [dash]: I’ve rarely seen ÉLAN outside crosswords and learned GAM only fairly recently – through a crossword: the same applies to GAMELAN itself, so this clue might be fairly tough for newer solvers

9 My Family run through for the audience (4)
‘Homophone’ [‘for the audience’] of skewer [run through]: fortunately, I had some time ago been curious enough to research Bonxie’s pseudonym and identified him as a member of the SKUA family, or rather, indeed, as the Great Skua  [Bonxie is apparently a keen birdwatcher]. A clever clue – and the best in the puzzle, I thought, since ‘My Family’ is a TV sitcom which might well have a run-through for an audience

10 Fools a bird (9)
SAP SUCKER: two words for a fool that I knew, to produce the name of a North American bird that I didn’t.

12 Comprehensive to remove uniform from budget (5)
This seemed to be the only word to fit but I was reluctant to enter it for a while: the construction appears to be ALL O[u]T minus U [uniform]: my problems with this are that ALL OUT to me does not equate to comprehensive, which, for me, is  ‘all- in’, and I can’t see ALLOT = ‘budget': an allotment might be part of a budget but for me they’re not synonyms

13 Displayed eggs by Spooner at exhibition (4,4)
Spoonerism of showed [displayed] roe [eggs]: I’m not keen on Spooner clues at the best of times, unless both parts are recognised expressions. I thought this was a poor example, since ‘show’ appeared in both elements

15 Bank providing heartless response (4)
RE[p]LY: response minus P [its middle letter – ‘heart’]

16 Secret service once carrying gong into battle (5)
MM [Military Medal – gong] in SOE [Special Operations Executive] – ‘secret service once’
I had this entered for a while before I could explain it: I was so sure that the ‘gong’ must be the more usual OM and searched long and fruitlessly for SME!

17 Fight with witness (4)
VIE [fight] + W [with]

18 Throw a bug into school (8)
A TAP [a bug {verb}] in CULT [school]
I would query the definition [throw] here

20 Explain love’s effect (5)
Anagram [effect] of LOVES
Chambers: SOLVE: to settle; to clear up or explain
Collins: SOLVE: to find the explanation for or solution to [a mystery, problem, etc]
On such authority, we can’t fault the clue – but it raised a wry smile, because surely the distinction between ‘solving’ and ‘explaining’ in Crosswordland is the raison d’être of this wonderful site of ours? ;-)

21 Soldiers given effective support (9)
RE [soldiers] + IN FORCE [effective]

22 Gather food (4)
Double definition

24 Drunk? Open the liquor! (7)
Anagram [drunk] of OPEN THE: This spelling does not appear in the several listed by Wikipedia but Chambers gives it

25 Light hair regularly requires a grip (3,4)
Alternate [regularly] letters of hAiR + CLAMP [grip


1 Twist head off lizard (4)
[s]KINK: I didn’t know this lizard  minus [head off] its initial letter: I only knew skink from the Scottish soup, cullen skink

2 Type of fat cat — and where to find it? (8)
TOM [cat] ALLEY [where to find it]: another new word for me, totally gettable from the wordplay but sounding curiously unlike what it is. ‘Fat’ is the rather loose definition [irresistible for the surface, of course] but Chambers gives: American lobster fat [‘liver’] eaten as a delicacy

3 Stop on the first Underground (6)
CLOSE [stop] + T [first letter of The], closet and underground both being metaphors for ‘secret’

4 Distant place endlessly eroded by flood (8)
SATUR[n] [distant place endlessly] + ATE [eroded]

5 Animals, say, reared on cold island (6)
GE [reversal – ‘reared’ of  EG [say] + C [cold] KOS [island]

6 Penny’s bearing twins! (4)
P [penny] AIR [bearing]

11 Ice is within safe limits (9)
RIME [ice] in PETER [safe]
I’m by now so used to ‘safe’ in crosswords being PETER that, as soon as I saw the initial P and the definition ‘limits’ I put it in  – then wondered about RIME = ice: I’d always equated it with frost but I’ve learned something – see here
I wonder if the ‘is’ in the clue is necessary?

12 Ground a bit of nutmeg into sphere (5)
N [bit of nutmeg] in AREA [sphere]: I initially looked for something different here, being so used lately to ‘ground’ being an anagram indicator.

14 Falstaffian part to be selected (5)
hidden in tO BE SElected

16 Fought to put small box over light source (8)
S [small] + CUFF [box] + LED [light-emitting diode - light source]

17 Lively base straddling the equator? (8)
VILE [base] round ]straddling] O LAT [the latitude of the Equator is 0º]

19 Fiery comic character created high tension (6)
ALI G  [comic character] + HT [high tension]: I wasn’t happy at first  about ‘created’, then concluded that it referred to the fact that Ali G is a fictional character, which makes it rather good

20 Boat changes direction to procure drink (6)
wHERRY [boat] with w[est] changed to S[outh]: I spent part of my childhood in Norfolk – I might have struggled more, otherwise

21 Cross street full of holes (4)
RD [road – street] containing [full of] OO – which look like holes

23 Adherents of “flower power” (4)
CAM [the familiar crossword river – ‘flower’] + P [power]

33 Responses to “Guardian prize 25,574 / Bonxie”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Eileen. I found this rather difficult and spent quite some time on the top left corner. I had never heard of TOMALLEY though it was derivable enough; nor had I encountered the alternative spelling of PINOCHLE. It took some time for SKUA to sink in too, even though I seem to remember being alerted to the definition of bonxie in a previous Prize crossword. Some of the others which look straightforward enough now also caused me undue difficulty. All in all I thought it was quite a good test.

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen. I couldn’t finish this on Saturday, stymied in the NW corner. Google got the lizard on Sunday, and, inspired, I checked Bonxie for the bird. I’d had ‘omega’ for 12d, fooled by the bit of nutmeg, but junking that idea helped wrap it all up. I had the parsing right all along for 2d but TOMALLEY, last in, was way beyond my ken.

  3. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen. Like Biggles A, I found the NW really tough and had to walk away and come back to it the next day. Even then, I failed to understand the “family” connection to SKUA so thank you for putting my mind at rest!

    I too, found the definition of ALL-OuT as comprehensive a bit dodgy and more for the surface than the solver. The only way that it can mean comprehensive, as far as I can see, is an all-out strike which includes all the workers.

    No real complaints though – this was a really good prize challenge so, thanks, Bonxie.

  4. TokyoColin says:

    Thanks Eileen. I am a bit surprised at the negative reactions to this one. I solved it in one enjoyable sitting. I suppose it helps that I knew most of the ‘obscure’ words – gamelan, skink, sapsucker etc. And I don’t have any problems with rime for ice, catapult for throw, all out for comprehensive (all out war).

    Some clever clues with aha moments, esp. 17dn. Maybe O LAT for equator has been done before but a first for me.

    Skua was my last in. I thought it was too much to hope for a Bonxie connection but there it was. A fitting finale. Many thanks Bonxie.

  5. Robi says:

    A fairly brutal test, only completed with the help of my internet friends (especially SKUA, which I didn’t think to link with Bonxie.) Needless to say that I didn’t get much else done on that Saturday evening.

    Thanks Eileen. I’m somewhat surprised about your comment on elan. Seems to me to be a fairly usual word (but then, maybe, I’m thinking about the Lotus Elan.) I, also, had to think twice about ALL OUT, but I think it’s OK in the sense of ‘he launched an all-out attack on his critics.’

    PINOCLE, SKINK and TOMALLEY were new to me.

  6. r_c_a_d says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen. I found this hard and never got into a flow: just solved a couple at a time and then came back to it later.

    I didn’t get SKUA. Thought Bonxie was just a made up name and didn’t think to look it up.

    ALL OUT as comprehensive and ALLOT as budget is fine for me. Hard to say objectively whether I enjoyed the struggle or not. But definitely better than an easy puzzle.

  7. Davy says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    I totally agree with your assessment of this puzzle. I just found it a hard slog with no ‘fun’ at all. To me, entertainment value is the main thing and this had very little. Sorry Bonxie.
    Looking forward to today’s alphabetical though.

  8. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Bonxie

    I agree with Eileen’s assessment. This is a clever puzzle, hard in places, and it felt a bit less fun than some other hard ones this last week. I did not know tomalley (I cheated by impatiently hunting tom words) or sapsucker, and I had to be reminded about gam after getting 8a. I notice I put no ticks in along the way though I remember liking 19d (thanks Eileen re created) and some others e.g. 1d, 7a (I’ve come across this in the odd novel) and 3d. A great deal of work has clearly gone into this puzzle, and it certainly gave the little grey cells something to keep them busy. I’m sorry not to have enjoyed it more than I did.

  9. Wolfie says:

    I’m glad to see that I am not the only one to have found this a slog! At the time I attributed my slowness to the effects of a head cold…

    Eileen – OED has the first meaning of ALL-OUT as ‘entirely, completely, quite’ and gives examples of this usage going back as far as the fourteenth century!

    Thanks as always for the blog

  10. Davy says:

    If anyone is having difficulty printing today’s crossword, then I have a workaround.
    Position the mouse pointer on the grid, do a right click and select print.

  11. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    I struggled with this one, but eventually finished it after several sessions spread over a couple of days. For me, a bit more trouble than it was worth, though I have no issue with the clues. Trickiest parts for me were the NW and the SE – I tentatively had KINK, and TOMALLY was one of my first entries, but 9a looked unlikely until at last I remembered what a bonxie was.

    I share Robi’s surprise at Eileen’s comment on 8a. GAMELAN was a familiar word, and so is ‘élan’ – it was the GAM which floored me! (I know them as ‘pods’.)

    O LAT = ‘equator’ is excellent – haven’t seen this before

  12. rrc says:

    The difficulty of a saturday crosssword can be seen by the number of clues people seek advice about on other websites. I think by the end of Saturday there were about 4 clues which hadnt been mentioned. I think then its not unreasonable to suggest that this was difficult: I didnt enjoy it – just found it a very hard unenjoyable slog, what a contrast today!

  13. sidey says:

    Odd how we all differ. I’d finished (and enjoyed) this by 2am last Saturday. People seem to have been making dreadfully heavy weather of some very well crafted clues.

  14. Bullhassocks says:

    I’m afraid I’ll have to side with those who thought it a stinker overall. I rarely have trouble with the Guardian prize puzzles, but there were several clues here of a different order, in terms of obscure answers and dubious definitions.

  15. Kjbsoton says:

    Thanks bonxie for this challenging puzzle. It
    Was good fun but took a long time to solve.
    Glad to understand skua clue, that had me stumped

  16. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    I went further than Eileen and refused to write in ‘allot’. Although some of the above comments have made the comprehensive a little more acceptable I am absolutely with E.on allot = budget.
    Nevertheless it was a good struggle and well up to what I expect on a Saturday.

  17. Gervase says:

    I was reasonably comfortable with ALLOT: ‘all-out’ war is total or ‘comprehensive’ conflict; to ‘allot’ is to ‘assign’ which isn’t quite the same as ‘budget’, but was near enough in the context of this rather tricky puzzle. And with the crossing letters there wasn’t much else it could be.

    The definition which I thought was most off-beam was ‘fat’ = TOMALLEY. Chambers defines the word as ‘lobster fat’, which is presumably Bonxie’s justification, but this is just plain wrong: as Eileen’s link to Wikipedia explains, TOMALLEY is the digestive organ of the lobster, the hepatopancreas – analogous to the ‘brown meat’ of a crab. It’s equivalent to defining ‘fat’ as ‘liver': it certainly contains fat, but a lot else besides.

  18. tupu says:

    I too was a bit hesitant about ‘allot’ but it has a sense of designating money etc for particular purposes which is very similar to budget(ing)for various things. I also worried a little re ‘all-out’ but once again the comments bring out the logic of it here as in make an all-out (comprehensive) effort. I don’t think the words need to be synonyms but simply to have significantly overlapping meanings. Bonxie is pushing it slightly but not unacceptably I feel.

  19. tupu says:

    Hi Gervase
    We crossed again.
    Re tomalley – I can’t speak with any authority having never heard the word before :) but OED defines it as “1. The fat or ‘liver’ of the North American lobster, which becomes green when cooked, and is then known as tomalley sauce” which seems OK for ‘type of fat’.

  20. RCWhiting says:

    “I don’t think the words need to be synonyms but simply to have significantly overlapping meanings. ”
    You are wonderful. How pleasant to read those words from someone other than me. I instantly withdraw my silly comments @16.

  21. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the comments. I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one not to have enjoyed this so much: after posting the blog, I’d been wondering if I’d maybe been too harsh.

    I don’t remember Bonxie ever dropping in here but, if he does, I hope he’ll see my comments about this puzzle not being so enjoyable as usual as a kind of back-handed compliment. ;-)

    [Slightly off-topic regarding this puzzle but recent enough to be relevant, I hope:
    RCW – I was rather disconcerted to see you in total agreement with me, since our views are usually diametrically opposed. I was particularly disappointed that you seemed to have failed to see the joke in yesterday’s Shed puzzle [or maybe your irony was lost on me]. I do hope you have seen Shed’s late post, confirming that you were, indeed, the inspiration for that wonderful puzzle.]

  22. RCWhiting says:

    Well, Eileen, I am obviously not a close friend of Shed’s as you are (??) but I took his comment yesterday (“got me started”) as referring to his comment,not the crossword.If you are right then I must feel the onerous weight of vicarious fame on my unworthy shoulders.

  23. Gervase says:

    tupu: the OED is also physiologically inexact in its definition of TOMALLEY! Don’t these august bodies employ zoologists? Fois gras (an analogous comestible) consists largely of fat, but wouldn’t be defined as ‘fat’.

  24. Eileen says:


    I refer you to my comment 6 yesterday and I have absolutely nothing left to say.

  25. Eileen says:

    Rather belatedly …

    Hi Bullhassocks and Kjbsoton

    I don’t recognise either of your names: please forgive me if you have posted before – welcome and hope to hear from you again! :-)

  26. RCWhiting says:

    Eileen, you sound a little irritated,I hope not. My comment was meant to be light-hearted.
    I do have a sense of humour,just not with crosswords.

  27. Bullhassocks says:

    Thanks for the welcome Eileen. Not posted before: a long-time lurker, but always appreciative of your solutions and insights.

  28. Paul B says:

    Beg to differ: definitions should either be directly synonymous, phrasally so, or a CD-style version of either to be fair. Being in the right part of speech helps enormously, too (though for some papers it doesn’t appear to be essential).

    As to this puzzle, I didn’t solve it. Or try.

  29. Sil van den Hoek says:

    As to this puzzle, we did try it, but not fully solved it.
    [while I agree with what you say about definitions, Paul B, to which post are you referring?]

    The worrying thing of this puzzle was that, after we filled in a great deal of the East that Saturday at our favourite spot in Cambridge Town, we couldn’t be bothered to pick up the pieces again a day later or so.

    Unfortunately, not the first time this happened with a Bonxie.
    We are just not at his wavelength (which doesn’t mean he isn’t a good setter, I hasten to say).

  30. drago says:

    Thanks Eileen and Bonxie.
    I agree with Eileen: ‘comprehensive’ means of broad scope or content, ‘all out’ implies effort.
    A ‘comprehensive attack’ would be on many fronts, but might not be ‘all out’. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the phrase ‘comprehensive war’ either (except perhaps in the Daily Mail).
    I do think ‘allot’ for ‘budget’ is ok though ‘I have alloted/budgeted £5′.
    I didn’t finish this puzzle – tomalley was totally new and I’ve been under the misapprehension that a gamelan was an instrument, not an entire orchestra.

  31. PeeDee says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    I thought this was very hard, a real slog all the way. By the end I had used so many ‘aids’ that I can’t realy have claimed to have solved it. I’m not complaining though, this is my failing, not a fault with the crossword.

    I had no problem with either all-out or budget. I’m with tupu and RCW’s here, definitions don’t have to be an exact match, this is what cryptics are all about.

  32. mikeymike says:

    After three weeks, and only managing to get about 5 solutions, I caved in and came here for the answers. I’m relatively new to cryptics, but manage to solve about 90% of most puzzles. This one was just terrible. I thought maybe I was being particularly dense, but looking at the answers I think the clues and answers were just too obscure and there was no way I could ever have come close to solving it. Where Araucaria is, in entertainment terms, like a long soak in a warm bath, this Bonxie was like taking a freezing cold shower. I shall be avoiding him/her – or at least approaching with some trepidation – in the future.

  33. Keeper says:

    Mikeymike, I empathize with your comments. I had set this one aside, hoping for some inspiration, but I finally had to throw in the towel with only about 6 answers filled in. I came up with BALINESE for 17d: BASE straddling LINE (equator); referring to the “lively” Balinese dance. The presence of GAMELAN at 8ac, which was one of the few I actually got, convinced me that BALINESE was right and sent me looking for other Indonesian-themed answers. I never recovered from that mistake.

    I was familiar with pinochle (my grandfather used to play it all the time), but not the PINOCLE spelling.

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