Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,585 / Picaroon

Posted by Eileen on March 16th, 2012


It’s always a little disconcerting to come across an unfamiliar setter’s name – particularly on a Friday, when we expect something more challenging, and even more so if you’re the one due to blog. I don’t recognise Picaroon’s name and s/he hasn’t made it to Michael Curl’s excellent Who’s Who yet. [One more slightly disconcerting thing is that a Picaroon – I know from crosswords – is a pirate, so could this possibly be a subterfuge by some setter that we already know and love?]

Once I got into this, it didn’t take long to realise that here was a puzzle that was right up my street: inventive cluing, including three ‘lift and separate’ examples, with ingenious constructions and beautifully smooth surfaces [which really are worth going back to savour, after solving], and a wide range of subject-matter, with some witty political comments thrown in – in fact, plenty of smiles along the way, which always goes down well with me.

All in all, a gem of a puzzle: I could take a lot more of this setter – whoever s/he is. Many thanks, Picaroon, for an absorbing puzzle – and welcome, if you are indeed new!


1   INFOTAINMENT: anagram [jazzed up] of FAN NOT IN TIME: my first entry – and I was torn between thankfulness for an easy introduction and distaste for this clumsy word, defining ‘the practice of presenting serious or instructive subjects in a style designed primarily to be entertaining’
  HIGH TEA: anagram [nuts] of EAT after HIGH [wasted – under the influence]
9   FORTUNE: FORE [warning – an old favourite crossword word that I don’t remember seeing for a long time] round TUN[a] [fish] shaking [off] ‘a’
11  RANSOME: RAN [dashed off] SOME [a part]: the author is Arthur Ransome, best known for his ‘Swallows and Amazons’ series of books
12  RAILING: RAI [sounds like {in sound} RAY] + LING: two familiar crossword fish, presented in a more unusual way, with a nice misdirection in ‘sound barrier’
13  SPECK: S[second] PECK [kiss]
14  IMPULSION: I [current] + anagram [needs correcting] of SLUMP + IO [ten] before [is fronting] N [number] – wonderful surface and rather intricate but clear construction
16  LIP-READER: I [one] + PR [spin] in [taken in by] LEADER [Cameron – with a question mark, because he is an example] – and another brilliant laugh-out-loud surface
19  CHINA: IN [hot – recent, new] in [filling] CHA [tea] : [I wasted time trying to make it H[ot] IN something]
21  IDOLISE: I DO LIE [emphatic confession of one telling stories] round S [sun]
23  MINICAB: I [one] NIC[e] [endlessly gracious] in MAB [fairy queen] – nothing to do with Spenser’s ‘Faerie Queene':  Queen Mab, Queen of the fairies and bringer of dreams, is minutely described by Mercutio, who calls her ‘the fairies’ midwife’,  in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, where her conveyance is described as a wagon and a chariot
24  GNOMISH: anagram of [excitedly] SNOG HIM!
25  NECKTIE: charade of NECK [make out] + TIE [sporting contest] for this type of knot
26  NORMAN MAILER: another charade: NORMAN [French]  MAILER [correspondent] for this Pulitzer Prize winner


1   INGÉNUE: we need to move the IN of GENUINE [not faking it] to the beginning [going on top, in a down clue]: another ingenious construction – and brilliant surface!
2   FETLOCK: ET [thoroughly disheartened E[vangelis]T] in FLOCK [congregation] [mis]leading to ‘a bit of a nag’ – another wonderful story-telling surface
3   TRADE WIND: anagram [away] of DRAWN TIDE
4   INFER: INFER[no]
5   MARTIAL: sounds like [vocally] ‘marshal’ [officer]
6   NAUTILI: hidden in [stuffing for] tuNA UTILIsed: Picaroon seems fond of tuna!
7   SHORT SELLING: anagram [out] of SORT in [getting involved in] SHELLING [attacking]: ‘selling stocks etc before one actually owns them, when intending to buy at a lower price’
10  ELGIN MARBLES: E [Spain – IVR] + anagram [crippling] of GERMAN BILLS: another superb, topical surface for perhaps my favourite clue – but it’s a close-run thing
15  PYROMANIA: PY [PitY lacking ‘it’] + ROMANIA [whence Dracula is]
17  PRO BONO: witty double / cryptic definition and a wonderful mixture of the erudite and the popular: forgive me for spelling it out but I’m sometimes gently reprimanded for not doing so ;-) : fans of U2 are PRO [in favour of] the lead singer BONO and PRO BONO [publico] cases are those undertaken voluntarily and without payment or at a reduced fee as a public service – so ‘unrewarded’. Another excellent clue.
18  ELITISM: EM [M – character] round [eating] IS after [oppressed by, in a down clue] LIT [burning]
10  CONICAL: A L [a Liberal] after [propping up, in a down clue] CON [right-winger] IC [in charge] – one of my double-ticked clues for another superb piece of topical political comment
20  INCITER: IN [trendy] CITER [one using quotations]
22  ETHAN: THANE [there are several in ‘Macbeth’ – of which Macbeth is two] with the E moved to the beginning [‘on high’ in a down clue]

45 Responses to “Guardian 25,585 / Picaroon”

  1. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen, and a big welcome to Picaroon. I too was struck by the professionalism of the clues, and wondered if there could be any connection to the Picaroon of 9/11/11 which was blogged by Andrew. This didn’t actually take long to finish but numerous clues needed a good think afterwards, and even then I stumbled at 7, 18 and 22d, so thanks for the explanations. PRO BONO was especially nice.

  2. Eileen says:

    Hi molonglo

    The first thing I did, before solving, was to search the archive for PICAROON and found the same blog as you did. My heart sank a little, in view of my suspicions, when I saw it was an Enigmatist puzzle!

  3. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    Agree with everything you’ve said. I liked the way the two TUNA clues crossed. Early on, I had Sneck at 13, although I wasn’t really happy that a cut was the same as a mark. When the other NECK came up later, I thought that a setter of this quality would never have something like that and went back and saw SPECK at once.

  4. John Appleton says:

    Thanks to Eileen and another welcome to Picaroon. Very enjoyable.

  5. Ian Payn says:

    Can I join in the welcome? A fine puzzle, in my opinion (and thanks for the nice blog, while I’m at it). This week I’ve been testing out my “finishing without filling in” skills (the Smart-Arse Ploy, as it’s known). Degrees of success have been variable, with Gordius yesterday being fairly trivial, but today I gave up after half a dozen clues because it was obvious that it was going to take some real thought. It did. Didn’t take particularly long, but it needed attention.

  6. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    Great fun, with clever constructions, misleading use of words and some really good surfaces. Who is this pirate?

    Favourites were 16a, 19a, 25a, 10d, 15d, 17d (especially these last three).

    Only inelegance I could see was the use of IN = ‘popular’ twice (19a and 20d), but this is hardly a blemish on a fine puzzle.

  7. nusquam says:

    I too thought this was excellent, for the reasons which you give. I was baffled for a time by the structure of 9ac, and therefore all the more pleased when I saw what was going on.

    Two murmurs, to show that my praise is not undiscriminating. I thought ‘dealing with army’ was an odd equivalent of ‘martial’, and ‘Pulitzer Prize winner’ was a slightly niggardly definition of Norman Mailer.

  8. William says:

    Thank you, Eileen, I needed you for Queen Mab, I’m afraid.

    What a beauty! ELGIN MARBLES, FORTUNE and PYROMANIA were my favourites.

    Held up by putting ELITIST instead of ELITISM; wrongly accusing the setter of employing the over-used ET for ‘character’.

    I do hope Picaroon will drop in and identify him/herself. It didn’t ‘feel’ like any other setter but we all know how characters can be masked.

    Nusquam @7 – can’t think what troubles you with MARTIAL with its root of Mars “of or relating to war or to the armed forces” What’s the problem.

    More please from Picaroon. Lovely def: “A person who lives by his wits, a cheat, a pirate.” I presume it’s whence we get Picaresque as in Picaresque novels etc.

  9. NeilW says:

    nusquam, Araucaria clued NORMAN MAILER last year as “romanesque correspondent”, which I imagine might have been more up your street!(He went on, obliquely, to say that he was responsible for The Naked and the Dead (which were the halves of two other solutions.)

    I’ve a vague recollection of having seen him clued elsewhere as something to do with “french letters” as well… :)

  10. Robi says:

    Good one, Picaroon pirate man.

    Thanks Eileen; with ETHAN, I got the first three letters from the end of Macbeth, and then got stuck! Queen Mab sounded like one of my aunties. I obviously move in the wrong circles; on the rare occasions that I don a tie, I use a Windsor (never heard of the Ascot tie [but I have heard of necking.]) I thought 21 was I DO *(LIES), but that left the sun still shining.

    I did like FORTUNE, and, as you said, the very good surface for CONICAL. NAUTILI were cleverly hidden, I thought.

  11. nusquam says:

    William @8 For me, dealing with ? relating to, and army ? war / armed forces.

    NeilW @9 If you are defending the clue by giving it a track record in other puzzles, I am rather resistant to the idea that an insider crossword discourse can be used to justify otherwise stretched or slender associations. But I don’t think you are doing that, and so thank you for the cross-references. I like the French letters idea especially.

  12. nusquam says:

    Those question marks in my previous should have come out as ‘not equal to’.

  13. Alan Connor says:

    Hello puzzlers: a quick note to say that crossword setter Arachne / Anarche is taking part in a live Q&A at the Guardian, starting at 1pm GMT. Come chat with her!

  14. crypticsue says:

    Just repeating everything said before – clever enjoyable crossword, nice blog. Interestingly 1a was my last one in. Thanks to all concerned.

  15. chas says:

    Thanks to Eileen for the blog.

    I got 1a pretty quickly, giving me M for the start of 5d. Obviously the army officer was major – but I could not make any sort of ‘sound like’ starting from major. It took me much more time to spot that Marshal was also an officer :(

  16. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Alan @13

    [Have you any gen on Picaroon? ;-)]

  17. Alan Connor says:

    I don’t yet Eileen but am intrigued! “It’s coming to a point where a Liberal is propping up right-winger in charge” is so natural (and fair as a clue) that it alone tells me that Picaroon is a very welcome addition.

  18. Eileen says:

    Hear, hear, Alan – thanks for dropping back. But if even you don’t know…! Curiouser and curiouser …

  19. Kayoz says:

    I found this one quite hard, Picaroon. Thanks Eileen for the blog. I sure needed it.

    I couldn’t seem to get on the wavelength today. Perhaps it is because I didn’t start until evening, after a day of working on a friend’s last 5 years of tax returns. It didn’t come in the proverbial ‘shoe boxes’ – beer boxes instead.

    First in was 8a HIGH TEA. In 9a, I couldn’t work out how a Tun was a fish, doh.

    I liked FETLOCK and LIP-READER. I groaned at CHINA (like you Eileen I was working on the H). I couldn’t get ETHAN or MARTIAL. As far as Martial goes, I still don’t understand why it means ‘Dealing’. Any help?

    Oh, and I liked NORMAN MAILER. I don’t remember ever having seen a clue like that before. (I liked your comment Neil W about the french)

  20. Eileen says:

    Hi Kayoz

    The two definitions in 5dn are ‘dealing with army’ and ‘officer’. [I didn’t have nusquam’s problem of equating ‘dealing with’ and ‘relating to.’]

  21. Kayoz says:

    Ohhh, thanks Eileen. Brain dead tonight.

  22. Eileen says:

    Sorry – it was a homophone clue, not a double definition, but you know what I mean!

  23. NeilW says:

    Hi Kayoz – not my idea, I assure you!

    For “dealing with”, think “appertaining to” – for me, at least, they’re synonymous.

  24. Eileen says:

    Sorry again – we crossed. ;-)

  25. NeilW says:

    Snap, Eileen, although I think you answered better than I.

  26. Eileen says:

    Hi All

    I’ve just realised that Alan Connor’s link dpesn’t work, so, if you want to chat to Arachne, try this:

  27. Gervase says:

    nusquam @7: I thought ‘Pulitzer Prize winner’ was an excellent definition for NORMAN MAILER in the context of the clue, as such prizes are awarded for journalism as well as the various ‘literature’ categories. ‘French correspondent’ fitted well with the idea of a celebrated hack.

  28. Thomas99 says:

    Re 5dn, isn’t a court martial precisely a court that deals with the army? I also agree with everyone who’s said that “dealing with” can mean “pertaining to”. Martial means of/pertaining to the army (though it can also mean of/pertaining to war).

  29. Kayoz says:

    Thanks E & NW for the clarity.

    Great chat with Arachne on the Guardian site tonight. Always interesting to try to see where they are coming from. ‘They’ being the setters of course.

    She said she visits this site. I hope I have said nice things!

  30. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    All been said, really! Inventive clueing and smooth surfaces as you say. I too very much liked this début (if indeed it is such a thing).

  31. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    This was saved, for me, by the NE corner which caused some problems.
    This was surprising since ‘nautili’ went in very easily as there is one on the shelf right before my eyes.
    Warning = fore is so hackneyed that I failed to see it for some time and I also tried ‘major’ until I marshalled my thoughts correctly.
    Another obstacle in the NE was the clever double misdirection ‘sound barrier’.

  32. Derek Lazenby says:

    I thought for a minute that I’d cracked the Picaroon mystery in that maybe it was tip for a 50/1 shot in the Foxhunter’s Chase at Cheltenham. Picaroon first of all planted itself at the start and had to be conned into going, but once going it whizzed through and led for about 1 1/2 circuits. But then it faded out. So maybe that wasn’t the explanation afterall!

    Tough crossword for the class dummy, but got there in the end!

  33. Kayoz says:

    Hiya Derek I went to the races last Sunday too. It was a great day.

    Corbould Park, Caloundra, Sunshine Coast, Aus.

  34. Picaroon says:

    Greetings all!

    Eileen, thanks for the terrific and generous blog for my first ever daily cryptic. These are, for me, uncharted waters, so I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed the puzzle.

    Thanks, too, for the many other welcoming remarks. All very heart-warming and much appreciated.

    (No doubt I’ll end up ruffling some feathers in the future but I’m relieved to have, by and large, got away with this one…)

    Best to everyone,


  35. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. A little late to comment but agree that this was a real treat!

  36. liz says:

    And thanks Picaroon! In my haste to post…

  37. regalize says:

    Thanks Eileen, for the excellent blog, and congratulations Picaroon on your debut puzzle, everyting I want from a Friday Guardian slot.
    Ruffle away, thats what feathers are for!

  38. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Picaroon

    I have not been at all well today – Noro virus or something similar so read this through binoculars :).

    I found it rather hard to get into in the circumstances but it was clearly a good puzzle once I got started. I particularly liked 26a and 1d.

    I had to hunt out infotainment and got but missed the parsing of Ethan – googling revealed an EThan Macbeth and several EThans who had played the part. Thanks for the explanation – I like to think I would have seen it for myself in a less fraught state.

  39. nametab says:

    Echo Eileen’s comments about the delightful surfaces in many clues (14a,16a,1dn,2dn,10dn especially). Also, derivation in 1dn very neat. Hadn’t heard of Ascot necktie, and hadn’t worked out reason for Ethan.
    Just the right amount of stretch after a wearying week.
    Nice to meet (& hear from) Picaroon.

  40. Eileen says:

    For anyone who’s still there, thanks for the comments – I’m really glad that all here seem to have enjoyed this as much as I did.

    Late back to the party because I had to go out early to star as a random Villager and deliver three highly significant lines in our local pantomime. [‘March isn’t the time for pantomime’? – Oh yes, it is! ;-)]

    Out so early that I missed Picaroon’s visit, which was very welcome – but not very enlightening [apart from the ‘first ever daily cryptic’, which, I think, confirms some of our suspicions that this was not a tiro’s crossword!] Many thanks for dropping in and, again, for the puzzle: like regalize, I look forward to some feather-ruffling!

  41. Sil van den Hoek says:

    ‘My first ever daily cryptic’?
    Then I would say: where were you all those years?
    What a splendid crossword!

    10d, the Elgin Marbles, is just fabulous.
    As is 1d (INGENUE).
    And everything’s so precise.

    Yes, Picaroon, you got away with this one! :)

  42. Tramp says:

    I’d just like to echo most of the above. I thought this was a super puzzle.

  43. Rich says:

    Thanks Eileen & Picaroon

    No time yesterday, so only saw this today, and obviously didn’t recognise the setter, so started out nervously hoping for a goodie! Thoroughly enjoyable, with such excellent surfaces. I am glad I didn’t try to squeeze this in yesterday as it has been an excellent start to my first day off in nearly three weeks.

    Picaroon, I’d say 43 comments without a moan is surely a record here? Mind you, now we know what you can do the pressure is on for the next one :-)

    Now to print off the rest of the puzzles I’ve missed from the last few weeks – recommendations for any as good as this would be welcome.

  44. Qaos says:

    With today’s puzzle by Paul being on the more gentle side for a Saturday, it was a nice extra to tackle this one today. Lovely smooth surfaces and misleading definitions. So a big congratulations on your first G puzzle and I look forward to your next one!

  45. Tim says:

    Hi all,

    Very much enjoyed this puzzle. Thought I’d share just how misleading 10d’s surface was for me: my first attempt (with no cross-letters to help) was “being smaller”, which at least used all the right letters!

    Great debut, Picaroon!

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