Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Genius 105 / Crucible

Posted by duncanshiell on April 1st, 2012


The Genius puzzle could be described as one of the blocked crossword world’s entry into the more challenging type of crossword arena championed by the likes of The Inquisitor, Enigmatic Variations and The Listener.  The March offering by Crucible was ceratinly a challenge for me.

The preamble stated "Seventeen clues lack a definition and lead to a partner in a well-known pairing.  The required grid entry, however, is the other partner in the pairing.  With these clues the letter count indicates the solution to the clue, not the word to be entered in the grid.

Perhaps the easiest bit was detecting the vast majority of clues which would lead to the untered member of the pair, given that 15 clues had an answer length different to the space available in the grid.  The final two turned out to be the two final down clues where the the length of each member of the pair was 4.

I found some of the pairs fairly quickly e.g. – EASTMAN KODAK, BACON and EGGS, BANGERS and MASH, OWL and PUSSYCAT, SKULL and CROSSBONES, BATMAN and ROBIN, and BOOM and BUST   For some of the others, I got the unentered partner fairly quickly e.g. ONIONS, LEWIS  but could not come up with the entered Partner very quickly.  For ONIONS I thought LIVER or STEAK.  For LEWIS, I thought HARRIS, especially with Western Isles in the clue.

It took me longer than it should have to get HERE, MARKS, HARE, LENINIST, ANDROCLES, DRAGON, and BEER.  The unentered partner that took the longest was JEFF.  In some cases I deduced the entered partner and reverse engineered the clue to understand how the unentered partner was constructed.

There were some excellent normal clues in the puzzle.  I particularly liked the clues to INTERCHANGEABLE, ASSEMBLIES and FENCED.

I have no skills as a setter, but I suspect it easier to write clues with only wordplay than it is to write clues requring wordplay and definition.

Overall, an enjoyable struggle.

No. Clue Wordplay Answer Entry
9 Son, feeling faint, eats a half-kilo, needing more oil? (9)

(S [son] + QUEER [feeling faint]) containing (eats) (A + KI [first two letters of [half] KILO])


SQUEAKIER (needing more moil) SQUEAKIER
10 Drive car out of city (4) HEREFORD (city [in England near the Welsh border]) excluding (drive … out) FORD ( of car) HERE THERE (reference HERE and THERE)
11 Thousands employ old American lawyer (5

(K [thousand] + K [thousand], togethemaker forming thousands) containing (employ) (O [old] + DA {District Attorney; American lawyer])

K (O DA) K

KODAK EASTMAN (reference the once dominant global company EASTMAN KODAK, a pioneer in photographic equipment and film,  but now in serious financial difficulty as it tries to restructure and refocus its business.  Linda McCartney was an EASTMAN)
12 Writing about first zoo (5) MS (manuscript; writing) + ARK (reference Noah’s Ark; first zoo) MARKS SPENCER (reference MARKS & SPENCER high street and out of town shopping mall retail business
13 Engages every other member (4) EGGS (Letters 1, 3, 5 and 7 of [every other member] of ENGAGES) EGGS BACON (reference BACON and EGGS, a popular constituent of the British breakfast)
14 Dried out note: "Fantastic beer party!" (7,2)

SO (note of the tonic sol-da) + an anagram of (fantastic) BEER + DUP (Democratic Unionist Party, a political party in Northern Ireland)


16 Like twins in list about children in English row (15)

(IN + TABLE [list]) containing (about) (CH [children] contained in [in] [E {English} + RANGE {row}])


19 Flare up possibly limits private hours now and then (9)

SOS (an appeal for help in an emergency; one way of appealing for help at sea is by launching a flare; flare up possibly) containing (limits) (ME TIME [time for oneself; private hours])


21 He nicks a run (4)

HE containing (nicks) (A + R [run])

H (A R) E

HARE BURKE (reference BURKE and HARE.  William BURKE and William HARE ran a lucrative business [for a time] in Edinburgh in 1827/1828 to provide 17 cadavers for the Edinburgh Medical School.  16 or the 17 cadavers were provided by  BURKE and HARE murdering victims.)
22 Back number is retained by left wingers (8)

(NINE [number] reversed [back] + IS ) contained in (is retained by) LT (the first and last letters of [wingers] LEFT)


LENINIST MARXIST (reference MARXIST LENINIST, a follower of a variant of Marxism developed by Lenin)
23 Bottom of plum tree (4) M (final letter of [bottom of] PLUM) + ASH (tree) MASH BANGERS (reference BANGERS and MASH, [sausages and mashed potato] another staple of the British diet)
24 Bone marrow is cramping leg (6)

ON (middle letters of [marrow] BONE) + IS (containing (cramping) ON (reference the leg or ON side in cricket)


ONIONS TRIPE (reference TRIPE and ONIONS, yet another peculiarly British dish, perhaps less of a staple of the diet than it was in many communities in the past)
25 Eg Soprano chief restricted in oil rig at sea (9)

CH (chief) + (R [restricted] contained in [in] an anagram of [at sea] OIL RIG)


CHOIRGIRL (female member of a choir, who possibly sings the soprano part) CHOIRGIRL
1 Lib Dem (not the deputy leader) cleverly blocks idiots in meetings (10)

(Anagram of [cleverly] LIB DEM excluding [not] D [the first letter of {leader} DEPUTY]) contained in (blocks) ASSES (idiots)


2 Headless chicken (3) FOWL (chicken) excluding the first letter (headless) F OWL PUSSYCAT (reference the OWL and the PUSSYCAT who went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat in the nonsense poem by Edward Lear)
3 Reaver or benefactor in Nottingham, originally (5) First letters of (originally) REAVER OR BENEFACTOR IN NOTTINGHAM ROBIN BATMAN (reference BATMAN and ROBIN from the world of cartoon superheroes)
4 Gigantic bird left stuffed in range (9)

(ROC [enormous bird described in Arabian legend] + L [left]) contained in (stuffed in) ANDES (mountain range in South America)


ANDROCLES LION (reference ANDROCLES and the LION, variously described on the web as legend dating back nearly two thousand years, a fable by Aesop or a play by George Bernard Shaw [based on the fable])
5 We’ve lifted legal limits (5)

UK’S (United Kingdom has; we have; we’ve) reversed (lifte [down clue]) + LL (first and last letters of [limits] LEGAL)


SKULL CROSSBONES (reference SKULL and CROSSBONES as depicted on a pirate flag, often used as a symbol to signify danger)
6 Doctor No retrieved silver probes (6) AG (chemical symbol for silver) contained in (probes) (DR [abbreviation for doctor] + NO reversed [retrieved]) DRAGON ST GEORGE (reference ST GEORGE and the DRAGON and the legend of the slaying of the DRAGON by ST GEORGE))
7 Hedged redneck’s regular instalments in his bank (6)

(Letters 1, 3 and 5 [regular instalments] of REDNECK) contained in (in) FED (Federal Reserve Bank in the United States.  A redneck is a poor white farmer in the southern USA, hence The FED is therefore his bank)


9 Sunday Times likes bizarre clothes (8)

S (Sunday) + (an anagram of (bizarre) LIKES containing [clothes] [T (time), T (time) giving times])

SKITTLES BEER (reference the pub game BEER and SKITTLES)
14 Catechisms represented by diagrams (10) Anagrams of (represented by) CATECHISMS SCHEMATICS (diagrams) SCHEMATICS
15 Gripping outstanding yarn penned about females (10)

PILE (the raised or fluffy surface of a fabric, carpet etc; outstanding yarn) containing (penned) (RE [about] + HENS [females])


PREHENSILE (capable of grasping; gripping) PREHENSILE
17 Butcher, say, or cutter, say, about to start (8) RE (about; ‘to start’ indicates that RE comes first in the answer) + TAILER (sounds like [say] TAILOR [cutter]) RETAILER (a butcher is an example of [hence the word ‘say’] a RETAILER) RETAILER
18 Bush disease’s giving India a miss (8)

BERI-BERI’S (disease’s; BERI-BERI is a mainly tropical disease caused by lack of thiamine which results in nerve inflammation, paralysis, oedema and heart failure) excluding (giving … a miss) I (International Radio Communication code for India)

BERBERIS (any shrub of the barberry genus Berberis; bush) BERBERIS
20 Western isle, misleadingly (5) Anagram of (misleadingly) W [western] and ISLE LEWIS MARTIN (reference American comedy duo MARTIN and LEWIS [Dean MARTIN and Jerry LEWIS].  The collaboration occurred in the early days of each man’s career)
21 Throw away a line in two  bits (6) BIN (throw away) + A + RY (railway; line) BINARY (reference counting in BINARY where only the digits 0 and 1 occur.  In this context 0 and 1 are known as binary digits often shortened to bits) BINARY
22 Nice setter leaves (4) JE (I in French.  Nice is in France so the setter [of the puzzle in France] would describe himself as JE) + FF (folios; leaves [of paper]) JEFF

MUTT (reference MUTT and JEFF, a long-popular American newspaper comic strip created by cartoonist Bud Fisher in 1907 about "two mismatched tinhorns" [flashy small time gamblers or worthless people] It is commonly regarded as the first daily comic strip.  MUTT and JEFF is also cockney rhyming slang for ‘deaf’.

23 Coach test opener (4) BUS (coach) + T (first letter of [opener] TEST) BUST

BOOM (reference BOOM and BUST, alternate periods of economic expansion and recession, a situation that politicians of all parties always proclaim is not going to happen on their watch ………)

6 Responses to “Guardian Genius 105 / Crucible”

  1. Norman L in France says:

    Thank you, Duncan. Always hard to remember what happened a month ago, but I do recall entering sausage instead of bangers and only twigging after an hour or so. Jeff was wonderful, and gave lots of us on the Guardian website no end of trouble. I don’t think I’ve ever read the comic strip but it was certainly floating around in the recesses of my mind, including the rhyming slang.

  2. Gordon says:

    Thanks Duncan

    In my normal way I managed to get this finished just yesterday [4 out of last 6 occasions – I wish there were a prize for the latest correct entered solution, I’d win it every month!].

    I tend to try and do these crosswords throughout the month, and then get serious about it in the last few days.

    I was stuck on 22d for over a week. Despite me living in the USA and having an American wife I had never heard of the comic pairing, nor the cockney rhyming slang. I was convinced the answer would be MYTH and would have put that in before the deadline if I had not managed to crack the Nice Setter bit yesterday morning. I did not know FF for folios either, but with the JE worked out I went through every combination of letters and reverse engineered the answer in about 3 stages. I’m not sure whether I was proud of myself or just plain relieved at the end. I’ll be interested to learn how many other Guardian readers knew of this comic pair – certainly I would not say they were a ‘well-known’ pairing unless I’ve been living in a cave for the last 60 years.

    Well done for a nice blog Duncan, and also Crucible for a very enjoyable 28/29 clues.

  3. Jan says:

    Thanks Duncan for well-coloured blog.

    These are the (rather lengthy) notes I made on completion

    I found this a hard challenge. It took three sessions before it was completed.

    I have looked back through the 225 archives and find that I usually like Crucible’s Genius puzzles. I can’t say that I liked this one.

    Having to solve seventeen clues from the wordplay only and with no letters to help, I nearly gave up. I actually solved four of them backwards: finding a word which fit the grid, did it have a pair? and, if so, could I make that word fit the clue?

    It took a long time to see how, SKULL worked (I had US and LL), ONIONS (I had ON from ‘bone marrow’ but I never remember the cricket defintion of ‘leg’) and JEFF got the biggest groan. I was about to look up the French for ‘setter’ despite knowing that ‘setter’ is I or me. I was also tempted by ‘hare and hound’ and ‘March hare’ at 21a. I felt a bit of a berk (and hair)!

    I didn’t enjoy the puzzle but I enjoyed the challenge. Does that make sense? If I hadn’t managed to finish it, with a complete understanding, I would have hated it. I think there were too many unknowns for me: a theme so broad with proper nouns included.

    Crucible, you did a grand job, and the more I think about what to say the more I realise that, actually, I must have enjoyed it. There, in writing down my comments I’ve managed to change my own mind. It was probably the recollection of trying to think of the names of breeds of hens when I asked my husband to give a four-letter word for chicken and he said, “Fowl”.

  4. Crucible says:

    Sorry to have disappointed you, Jan. And thanks for the detailed blog, Duncan. I’m not going to apologise for 22d, though I never expected it to be such a stumbling block. To me, the pairing trips off the tongue but then … As I’m sure you’ll be glad to know, if you wait a few months, there might just be “Partners: the Sequel”.

  5. briggg says:

    I solved all but five of the clues in my first sitting but was dismayed to find I had lost my print-out the following day and could only remember half a dozen. Started up again and solved all but Jeff/Mutt (though Lewis/Martin held me up, like many I couldn’t get Harris out of my mind even though it wouldn’t fit.)
    Mutt & Jeff was hidden away in a recess but I wasted far too much time trying to fit mote (&beam?) or Myth (&lore????)in. Doubly exasperating as I had Je in mind as the French setter on the first pass.
    This was a Genius set at the right level for me, after a couple in Jan & Feb that I got bored with before making any break through. This was exasperating but very definitely rewarding. Thanks Crucible and thanks Duncan for the blog.

  6. Trebor says:

    I thought this was great. Had to resort to google to verify a few (I just accept this with Genius, EV etc) but nothing too obscure.
    Absolutely loved the idea and look forward to someone doing a “Heroes and Villians” or opposites themed puzzle along the same lines…

    Like Duncan I was also held up as a result of confidently putting Harris in for the Lewis partner. I think that would have been a better answer – a sort of &lit that even encompassed the connection.

    Very much nitpicking now, so I’ll end by thanking Crucible.

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