Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,638 – Picaroon

Posted by Andrew on May 17th, 2012


A second outing for new setter Picaroon (first seen on 16th March), and another entertaining puzzle. He/she seems to have a rather distinctive style, but I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what form this distinctiveness takes. I can’t explain 22dn – no doubt someone will be able to point out the obvious.

1. LECHER LE (article in Paris Match) + CHER (“dear” – how a letter in French might start)
4. EMBALMER EM (printer’s measure of about 1/6 inch) + MARBLE*
9. INMATE IN (fashionable = “hot”) + MATE (drink)
10. SLAP-BANG G [force] + NAB + PALS, all reversed
11. ROARING FORTIES A in (FOR ROISTERING). You might be buffeted by the roaring forties.
13. IN THE LURCH Reverse of NI (UK province) + LUTHER* + CH
14. AGAR AGA + R. A jelly that (under its alternative name, agar-agar) I remember from school biology lessons.
16. LUSH LUS[t] + H
18. TONIC WATER WAT [Tyler, leader of the Peasants’ Revolt] in TO NICER
23. AVIATRIX A + VIA (Roman road) + TRIX (homophone of “tricks” = “gulls” as a verb)
24. PIRATE PI (good) + RATE. As Eileen pointed out in her blog of Picaroon’s first Guardian puzzle, one meaning of “picaroon” is a pirate.
25. EPIGRAMS E-PIG (online swine!) + RAMS (strikes)
26. EGRESS SERGE reversed or “from the right” + S
1. LAIR [Tony B]LAIR – remember him?
3. EXTORTED TORT (civil wrong) in EX-ED[itor]
5. MALEFACTION The anti-feminist league might be a MALE FACTION
6. AMPERE A MP + [w]E[a]R[i]E[d]. The definition “current measure” was rather a giveaway here
7. MEANING ME (grammatically the objective version of I) + N in GAIN (“ground” to indicate the anagram), with definition “import”.
12. NEUROTICISM (IN TOM CRUISE)* – better not mention the Scientologists…
13. ILL AT EASE Hidden in maIL LATE AS Express
15. DWELLING Reverse of G NIL LEWD
17. SWAHILI WAS* + HI (greeting) + LI[thuania]
19. TESTATE T (Yorkshire “the”?) + ESTATE
Thanks to PeterO: it’s actually THE less HE (“leaving”) + ESTATE, &lit. Thanks also to Miche, who points out that TESTATE can be (according to Chambers) a noun meaning “one who has died testate”)
20. DIETER Double definition – German name, and someone on a diet, who might be fighting the “Battle of the Bulge”.
22. MESS I have to admit defeat on this – presumably there’s a footballer (probably very well known) whose name is MESS + something meaning “back”. (I was going to query the spelling of “whiz” in the clue, but Chambers gives it as a variant of “whizz”.)
Thanks again to PeterO: the footballer is Lionel Messi, and the missing back is his final I.

54 Responses to “Guardian 25,638 – Picaroon”

  1. PeterO says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew. In 19D, it is T[he] without he. You are on the right track for 22D – the footballer is Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Argentina.

  2. Miche says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    19d: take HE from T[he] ESTATE for a perfect &Lit. (I knew TESTATE as an adjective, but it’s also a noun, as defined in the clue.)

    That was my favourite, but I also enjoyed the anagrams TRADITIONALIM and NEUROTICISM, and many others along the way. It took me an age to parse EGRESS and MESS[I].

    I don’t keep a close eye on the clock, but I think this took me nearly twice as long as the usual Graun weekday (and recent Saturdays). I didn’t mind, though. It’s an excellent puzzle.

  3. Andrew says:

    Thanks PeterO and Miche – I agree that 19d is a true &lit: I was going to query the grammar of the definition, but as Miche says TESTATE can be used as a noun.

    I haven’t, or have only vaguely, heard of Messi (my football ignorance is quite extensive) so I’m not too upset about missing that one..

  4. MarianH says:

    Thanks Andrew and Picaroon.

    I enjoyed this one – a nice mix of straightforward clues to get started, then a few that needed a bit more thought, and a fair number that raised a smile along the way.

    I needed help to parse a couple, 1a and 13, but in 9 I don’t see why mate = drink?

    My favourite was 25, just for the sheer silliness of ‘online swin’ :)

  5. MarianH says:


  6. frank r says:

    22d messi – i = mess

  7. frank r says:


  8. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Andrew, for a great blog.

    I’ve been really looking forward to another puzzle from Picaroon and this certainly didn’t disappoint. Beautifully smooth story-telling surfaces in 1, 13, 18,, 23ac and 2, 5, 7, 12, 17, 20 dn. I liked the ‘online swine’ and ‘marble bust’, too.

    I missed the hidden answer in 13dn. :-( . I also spent too long foolishly trying to make something of E DEN in 1dn and, in spite of the Picaroon connection, the first word which momentarily sprang to mind for 24ac was ‘mettle’! Ah well, this was all while I was still in bed – I woke up properly later on!

    Many thanks, Picaroon, for another excellent puzzle, with no obvious ‘ruffling of feathers’ – yet!

  9. Norman L in France says:

    Stick an accent on the ‘e’ and you get maté, a S American herbal drink. Never had it, so can’t comment on taste. Nice crossword, by the way, Picaroon.

  10. scchua says:

    Thanks Andrew and Picaroon, for an enjoyably challenging puzzle.
    MarianH @4, mate (2 syllables, with an accent over the “e”) is a South American tea-like drink.
    Re 11A ROARING FORTIES: I took the defn to be the region “where buffets are common” ie. In the latitudes between 40 and 50 degrees, as given in Britannica, though dicts also define them as the winds themselves.

  11. William says:

    Thank you both.

    Smashing puzzle that took me ages to get started properly – not helped by being unable to shift MISFUNCTION from my mind instead of MALEFACTION (which we’ve seen before, I think).

    Loved DIETER and the thought of an e-pig make me chuckle.

    Eileen @8 I too had METTLE originally.

    Re EM & EN I wonder if they can have a physical dimension. I always understood that an em was a space equal to the height of the font (originally the width of the M of course – hence its name) and an en was a space equal to half the height of the font. Perhaps Picaroon had a particular font in mind – the one the puzzle is set in, perhaps?

    Anyway, a cracking diversion – more please.

  12. MarianH says:

    Thanks Norman L and scchua. I’ve never heard of it, so I’ve learnt something new today!

  13. Thomas99 says:

    Many thanks to PeterO and Miche for pointing out the excellent &lit at 19d. I had foolishly thought it was t=the, which gives a just about viable non-&lit parsing. But the correct one makes it a great example of the genre and explains why he’s using that rarer nounal meaning.

    Thanks also to Andrew and the still-impressive second-timer Picaroon. There were some proper laughs here – malefaction, dieter, epigram etc…

  14. PeterJohnN says:

    I agree with schua @10 that the definition is the place where buffets are common. Andrews explanation should therefore read “in” rather than “by” the roaring forties.
    I would have pointed out that 16a LUSH is a noun meaning heavy drinker, as is “soak”.

  15. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and Picaroon

    A most enjoyable puzzle with LOL (Rebekah’s rather than DC’s version) on the way.

    Thanks too to PeterO for parsing ‘testate’. I had taken it as simply a cryptic def. having been misled into satisfaction after finding the word was also a noun.

    For some reason 15d took me a long time to see.

    I ticked several – 10a,11a,18a,24a!,5d,7d,13d,20d! but others also pleased.

  16. PeterJohnN says:

    PS thanks Picaroon for another enjoyable puzzle, with lots of neat surfaces. 1a reminded me that Colette was once described in all innocence as “a lady of French letters”, where the intended meaning was “a French lady of letters”!

  17. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I agree, another fine puzzle from Picaroon. I could handle some more of these. AVIATRIX and ROARING FORTIES were my favourites this morning.

  18. Robi says:

    Very enjoyable crossword with little abstruse information.

    Thanks Andrew; I would have liked ‘scientology’ [which fits in] to have been the answer to 12, although I think it might have got edited out. I thought TESTATE was just a [rather obvious] cd and missed the &lit parsing. I liked the idea of ‘prepared for roistering’ in your ROARING FORTIES!

    LECHER and INMATE were good, but I thought AVIATRIX and SWAHILI were probably the best.

  19. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    Great puzzle from Picaroon. I made a good start and then slowed down considerably, with the SE corner proving tricky. Couldn’t parse EGRESS, missed the wordplay for TESTATE and PIRATE was my last entry.

    1a took a while because there seemed to be too many words in the clue. ‘Match’ is a bit superfluous, though it is good for the surface reading; I wasn’t sure whether Picaroon intended LE to be ‘article in Paris Match’ or simply ‘article in Paris’ with ‘Match’ as a linking word, but the former reads better.

    Favourites were INMATE, COMPOST, DIETER – and PIRATE!

  20. Gervase says:

    Perhaps PIRATE took me so long because ‘pi’ (as an abbreviation for ‘pious’) means ‘sanctimonious’, and is used pejoratively, so isn’t really synonymous with ‘good’. But it’s not the first time this equivalence has been used, so I ought to have been wiser to it.

  21. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Andrew. Picaroon’s a really exciting new face. Let’s hope she/he can maintain this standard in future.

    William @11, use of the site’s search engine reveals only one hit for MALEFACTION (today) so I’m afraid you’re mistaken about the clue being recycled, at least in any of the puzzles blogged on Fifteen Squared.

  22. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Quite enjoyable slightly spoiled by the curse of enumeration.
    10ac, 13ac,18ac and 13d would have been much more challenging if Azed’s custom of giving just the total number of letters and the number of words had been followed.
    Of course, this is nothing to do with this setter but Guardian practice. What do others think?
    I liked 25ac and 19d. Last in was ‘pirate’, I was too excited at the coming Olympics to put ‘second place’ out of my mind.

  23. Paul B says:

    It’s accepted practice across all the dailies, not just Guardian.

  24. crypticsue says:

    Very enjoyable thank you Picaroon. Kept me occupied for quite a while this morning – well we couldn’t work as we were having new furniture delivered to the office which required major disruption including mending a printer that got dropped on the floor. Lots of very nice clues which I used to a masterclass on cryptic clues to my colleagues while we were waiting. Thanks to Andrew too for the blog.

  25. Matt says:

    I think the difficulty of the definition or puzzle parts of a clue needs to be adjusted to how much of a clue the enumeration gives.

    There’s definitely scope for adopting the Azed method when such answers are themed: enumerated answers fall far too quickly when you know that they’re all, for example, artists or beatles songs.

  26. Kathryn's Dad says:

    For a daily cryptic, I think the enumeration needs to be defined. If you want more of a challenge without that enumeration, then solve the Azed.

    Poetic scene has, surprisingly, chaste Lord Archer vegetating (four words) wouldn’t get you to THE OLD VICARAGE, GRANCHESTER very quickly, would it?

  27. Norman L in France says:

    Not a bad idea. If it’s tried, let’s hope we don’t regret it later!

  28. Tramp says:

    Lovely puzzle.

    In my view the enumeration is there to help the solver. Making daily puzzles adopt the practice used for barred puzzles would stack the odds too much in the setters’ favour; K’sD example clue highlights this brilliantly.

  29. RCWhiting says:

    Ignoring Paul’s irrelevant comment, that’s two maybes (maybe’s?) and two definitely against. It won’t happen but I think it is a significant issue, especially the point made by Matt.

  30. Tramp says:

    People that post on crossword blogs tend to be good solvers. To alter daily puzzles so they offer more of a challenge to those folk would risk alienating the majority of solvers who struggle to complete puzzles in their current format. I think posters on crossword blogs, when complaining about puzzles/clues being too easy, are forgetting the needs of the majority.

  31. Robi says:

    Thanks Tramp; I’m in the ‘not good’ solvers’ camp, so I think we should have the enumeration. If you want barred crossword difficulty, do barred crosswords.

  32. Matt says:

    Tramp; very good point – although I’d hesitate to describe myself as a good solver, most here are.

    I think there’s scope for using the proposal on Saturday prize puzzles, or Bank Holiday specials maybe. Particularly, as I said, if there are a number of answers belonging to a common theme. Araucaria’s Christmas special on Thomas Hardy novels, a couple of years ago, fell apart far too quickly due to enumeration, which meant that all that elegant wordplay was completely wasted (for me).

  33. grumpo says:

    I don’t recall coming across this setter before, but I’ll take your word for it. While I almost always enjoy crosswords – that is why we do them, after all – this one felt more of a chore, with clunky, grating clues and no humour. I hope I don’t see Picaroon too often or I shall have to change to another paper. Disappointing and dull.

  34. Gervase says:

    Well said, Tramp. Many people of my acquaintance who attempt cryptics in the quality papers feel pleased with themselves if they manage to fill in more than half of the clues, never mind finish the puzzle.

  35. RCWhiting says:

    “While I almost always enjoy crosswords – that is why we do them, after all ”
    Well,it is hard to disagree with that grumpo.
    However, what makes the practice more interesting is that each solver finds a different aspect to provide that enjoyment.
    Some look for humour, some for delightful surfaces, some for rectitude in cluing, some themes, some areas of expertise, some pangrams (!) and some a challenge to succeed.

  36. MikeC says:

    Thanks Andrew and Picaroon. Enjoyed this a lot. I thought there was some really ingenious wordplay. And (sorry grumpo @33) the neatness of a number of the clues certainly raised a smile for me, even if not quite a lol.

  37. Derek Lazenby says:

    Ha. Discrimination! When Tramp says that, everyone agrees. When I say that, I get yelled at. One law for setters……

    Anyway, nice puzzle. Didn’t fully understand all of it so ta for the blog.

  38. apiarist says:

    I really stuggled with this for about 5 hours but as I finished it found it very satisfying. I look forward to more from this setter.

  39. RCWhiting says:

    I think Tramp’s comments would be more valid if the daily Guardian cryptic was the only one available widely in the UK.
    I reckon there must be something approaching 50 each week.
    This means that each publication chooses where to pitch its particular crossword or in the case of The Observer cover a wider range by having two – Azed and Everyman.
    Crosswords probably operate like politics and commerce do; everyone seeks to maximise appeal by aiming for the middle market, thus ignoring the outliers.
    So why not delight the compilers union by having two daily Guardian crosswords – one for beginners and one for others. That won’t happen either!

  40. RCWhiting says:

    omission ‘two daily cryptic Guardian crosswords’

  41. William says:

    Neil @21 – many thanks for that, must’ve been mistaken. How did you carry out such a search may I ask?

  42. Eileen says:

    Hi William

    I had the same thought as you initially but found I was thinking of MALEFACTOR, which has appeared a few times.

    [Go to ‘Site Search’ in the right hand column and type in the word that you’re looking for.]

  43. Paul B says:

    Well, I don’t think it’s irrelevant to say that a convention, or ‘curse’, exists across the range of daily puzzles where such pertinent information has been neglected.

    For more difficult puzzles, which are aimed at a different audience, it’s quite appropriate to enumerate in the way described above. And as we see from the i editorial published today, some people think that some daily puzzles are difficult enough as things stand. So no thanks.

    As for having more than one Guardian cryptic puzzle, it seems to have escaped his notice that we already do, with the Quiptic (still a cryptic puzzle) offering a less taxing challenge to those who want it.

  44. William says:

    Eileen, thank you. What a useful tool – amazed I haven’t seen it before.

    You’re quite right, it was Araucaria’s MALE + FACTOR about a year ago that had lodged in the brain.

  45. Picaroon says:

    Evening all,

    Many thanks, Andrew, for the blog, as well to (the overwhelming majority of!) those posting.

    Just for the record, I’ll say that I don’t agree with the use of “with” in the clue for EPIGRAMS here and I’m not too sure why I wrote it like that. Definition WITH subsidiary indication seems fine to me (with in the sense of “possessing”), as used in the clue for EGRESS. But I don’t think it makes grammatical sense to say: subsidiary indication WITH definition. So apologies for the lapsus calami.

    Tramp: thanks for the vote of confidence. It means a lot coming from such a top pro.

  46. RCWhiting says:

    Mardy league – Premier Division
    Paul B 2 RCW 0

  47. Tramp says:

    Picaroon: thanks for the thanks. If only I were a top pro.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  48. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Really excellent puzzle by a setter we should savour.
    The only clue that we more or less didn’t like was SLAP-BANG (10ac), but I am happy to say that we parsed it wrongly …. :(.
    No cryptic definitions, but a crossword based on clever constructions – indeed, right up my street.

    And such beautiful surfaces on top of that!
    Like 2d or 13ac.
    Splendid hidden answer in 13d (ILL AT EASE), nice inclusion of the device within the surface in 7d (‘I gain ground’) and an anagram in 21ac (TRADITIONALISM) that was not that obvious as it could also have been (AIM)* into something.
    Special Prizes for the concise and elegant PIRATE (24ac) and TESTATE (19d).

    In his post @45, Picaroon worries about the use of WITH in 25ac, which may be irrelevant to most solvers but which makes immediately clear to me that he cares about his work.

    Top-notch crossword.

    Many thanks to my fellow citizen Andrew for the blog.
    Quite surprised though that Lionel Messi was a bridge too far.
    Even Arachne – who is also not into footie – knows him (and wrote a (very nice) clue on this magician a while ago) ….

  49. buddy says:

    Re Lionel Messi, it’s always as well to be upfront about your own pockets of igorance.

    I’d never heard of William Shakespeare until I encountered him in a crossword.

  50. JollySwagman says:

    This was a fine puzzle. I’m surprised the Picaroon doesn’t want to tell us more about himself – and his cruciverbal influences.

    I think you worry unduly about WITH as a bi-directional linkword. There’s probably a justification for it which I can’t think of right now but it sat well enough as a clue.

    @RCW I agree – I think – well I am assuming what you meant was to have 2 puzzles – one vanilla – one tougher – like the Torygraph do.

    In fact why the DT have no Toughie on Mondays, when the other papers also tend to have easy offerings, is a bit beyond me.

    In the case of The Observer, they satisfy hardly anyone. The Everyman is too easy and the Azed is too hard, or at least too much populated with non-words.

  51. RCWhiting says:

    Some good points there Jolly.
    If I seek something a bit more challenging in my morning paper (there is never a Quiptic in my copy) I get lambasted on here because I am neglecting the needs of beginners. One could reverse that and suggest that the needs of folk like me are being neglected.
    The only suggestion of yours which I cannot agree with is re:Azed, it is my Sunday delight despite all the obscure Scottish words. You do feel when it is finished that you have been in a decent tussle with the setter.

  52. nametab says:

    Thank you Picaroon. Some excellent constructions. One of those puzzles(like, say, Araucaria and Paul in 75% diffficulty mode) when you know that, if you keep concentrating, unravelling the misdirections etc, the answers will come. Very satisfying.
    Agree very much with Tramp @30 concerning meeting needs of a majority audience in a daily. My circumstances dictate that the crossword often doesn’t get started until after 9.30 pm. If I want a taxing one, I’ll search it out when there’s time.

    Gentle message to snipers: raising hackles doesn’t help your cause :)

  53. Huw Powell says:

    Very interesting. I managed to get it all, although there was still a lot of pencil before I came here for the parsings…

    Always nice to struggle with a new paradigm/wavelength.

    Thanks for the entertainment, Picaroon, and the blog, Andrew & everyone else.

  54. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Picaroon and Andrew,

    Finally got to this one, earlier this week – and very glad that I did – what an excellent puzzle. Like many my favourites were the E-PIG and T[HE]ESTATE.

    That SE corner was very tough and even after getting EGRESS finally – it still took quite a bit of thought to parse SERGE (which I hadn’t heard of as a French name – more from Russia – but happily see that is very common over there).

    Not a big follower of the soccer variant of football and it required the help of Mr Google to help locate MESSI who I find out actually captains Argentina.

    Anyway a great solve, even a few weeks after the fact!

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