Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,647 – Rufus

Posted by Andrew on May 28th, 2012


I found this a bit harder to get going on than usual for Rufus, but after getting a few answers in it all fell into place quite quickly. I have to say I thought some of the cryptic and double definition clues were rather weak this time.

7. OVERPOWER OVER (superior) + POWER (force)
8. FATAL FAT AL is the obese man who might (or might not) have a fatal attraction
9. PILCHARDS (CHIP LARD)*. Not difficult, but a very smooth clue
10. SKIES Not-very-cryptic definition
17. ARMBAND ARM (member) + BAND (orchestra)
20. QUAGMIRE AGM (Annual General Meeting) in QUIRE (25 sheets of paper)
24. STORK Homophone of “stalk”
25. PILLORIES Cryptic definition
1. AVAILS A V (Roman 5) + SAIL*
2. BRACKETS Double definition
3. DONALD (OLD AND)* Another easy but pleasing anagram clue.
4. HEAD OFF “Head off!” might be an “order to execute” someone.
5. RACKET Double definition
11. PIER Homophone of “peer” (=equal)
15. MOUNTS UP Double definition, where “shows appreciation” means “increases”, as saving might, for example. The trouble is that this means almost exactly the same as “rises”
16. NAIL A in NIL (= nothing = love)
18. BANKRUPT Another rather weak double definition – someone who is bankrupt has “no means”, and is on their uppers.
19. RELIEVE Again a not-very-cryptic definition
21. GARTER Double definition – the Order of the Garter and a “hose connection” being something that keeps your socks up.

53 Responses to “Guardian 25,647 – Rufus”

  1. Sylvia says:

    Took longer than usual to log into the mindset of Rufus. ‘Amusing’ was the last to
    dawn on me.

  2. Rick says:

    Thanks for the blog Andrew – very helpful as always.

    I guess that Rufus is my least favourite setter. It’s nothing about “easiness” – I don’t claim to be a good solver and I am quite happy when the puzzle is at the simpler end of the spectrum. I guess it’s just that I’m not on the correct wavelength a lot of the time.

    I like crosswords where, once I’ve seen the answer, I’m convinced I’ve got it right (or appreciate that I’ve failed to parse it at all). The problem I have with Rufus is that I can get an answer, see that it fits, but still not be convinced there isn’t another possibility. For example, in 4 Down, one could also have “Take Out”; admittedly a weaker answer than the one given but one could argue that it fits both halves of the double definition. This type of clue does often lead to this sort of problem.

    If one were being very pedantic then, in 3 Down, whilst Donald is the natural answer one could argue that Doland also fits (and there is no cross-check to refute it).

    Some of the other clues were not very satisfactory for other reasons. For example, I agree with you Andrew that 10 across and 19 down are hardly cryptic and that the two halves of the double definition in 15 down are very similar (one could argue that this also applies to 18 down).

    Of course, I appreciate that many people do like Rufus and that a variety of different styles is a good thing (as we have a range of different tastes).


  3. Dave Ellison says:

    No! No!! Never!!! not in my neck of the woods is STORK a homophone for “STALK!”

    Thanks Andrew, needed your blog for about half the answers today – I gave up through lack of interest. I seem to be in Rick’s camp.

  4. Thomas99 says:

    Thanks for the blog, and to Rufus to what many seem to agree was an enjoyable but harder than usual offering.

    I don’t quite agree about 15 – the meanings were certainly distinct enough to fool me for a while, and to leave me in no doubt about the parsing when I cracked it. With 18, which must I think be a Cryptic Definition not a DD, the point is surely to understand that bankruptcy is not just poverty but poverty involving one’s “means” being declared non-existent. It couldn’t be a DD as “by no means” (unlike, say, “with no means”) does not mean bankrupt. It is not that unusual that Rufus’ DDs and CDs get condemned because they’ve been misparsed and I think that’s what’s happened here. I found it a particularly hard, rather intricate CD that I enjoyed finally working out. (I should admit that I do usually find CDs quite challenging.)

    I agree that 10a is a very simple one but I found 19d to be pretty crafty, as it not only has a misleading surface reading (suggesting “tax-free”) but looked to me like a possible DD too.

    Rick @2 – Re 3d – surely “take out” simply doesn’t mean “intercept” and “head off” does, so you can be sure that one is wrong and the other right?

  5. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and Rufus

    I found parts of this quite hard, especially the SW corner. It can take time to get on Rufus’s wavelength as others have said. Some typical good surfaces and some clever cluing but not the most consistently amusing of R’s puzzles.

    I suspect that 18d is best treated as CD rather than a DD. Also 15d is almnost a sort of extended CD – one can give a standing ovation (rise) to show appreciation.

    I liked 14a, 20a, 21d (a very smooth surface) and 22d.

    I was not much taken with 10a. I suppose skies above! and heavens above! are synonymous exclamations.

  6. Rick says:

    Thomas99 @4:

    >> Rick @2 – Re 3d – surely “take out” simply doesn’t mean “intercept” and
    >> “head off” does, so you can be sure that one is wrong and the other right?

    I agree that “Head off” (when you see it) is much better but there does seem to be some agreement that “intercept” and “take out” are not so far apart; have a look at

    for example which gives “take away” as a synonym for “intercept” and also gives “intercept” and “take out of play” as synonyms for “block” and

    which gives “intercept (a player)” and “take out” as meanings for “cut out”. I think they (i.e. “intercept” and “take out”) could be regarded as being pretty close in a sporting context.


  7. tupu says:

    HI William

    Sorry we crossed re 18d – it took me too long to formulate my response.

  8. KeithW says:

    I wholeheartedly agree that STALK and STORK are not homophones but I initially overlooked that indicator and wasted a while trying to work SNIPE into the grid!

  9. aztobesed says:

    My scribbled notes today were peppered with CD? / DD? CD? / DD? At 15 I fell for the theatrical CD – a ‘standing ovation’. So ‘stands up’ got the gig. The actual clue has a nice take on ‘appreciation’. I think Rufus would offer the defence that part of the solving means waiting for the crossers to confirm but on normal Mondays you can be pretty confident with his cluing – so this made a nuttier Rufus than normal, which is no bad thing. Next time I might have to use a pencil with a rubber on the end. So well done, Rufus…

  10. Robi says:

    Yes, a bit harder and enjoyable mainly. A particularly nice surface for PILCHARDS, I thought.

    Thanks Andrew; some entertaining clues such as GARTER [could be the American version holding up stockings] and FATAL. SKIES had a very weak clue – I thought of it at once but couldn’t believe it was the answer until I had some crossing letters. I thought the dd in MOUNTS UP referred to getting on a horse for rise.

    Dave @3; STALK hom. for STORK works fine here. I think we have to cut the setter some slack for different regional pronunciations.

  11. Thomas99 says:

    Re homophones: I agree with Robi. Come off it! It never occurred to me to complain that a clue for Falstaff using “False” and “Taff” didn’t work, but like half of this country I wouldn’t ever pronounce the last syllable of Falstaff to sound anything like “taff”. Fortunately I have not been buried in soundproofed peat for my whole life and consequently know that a lot of people people do. In my opinion if two words are pronounced the same then they can be said to do sound like each other in a crossword. Note that I didn’t include “by you”, “in your neck of the woods”, “by the people you happen to prefer” or similar in that sentence. I don’t think this is really as controversial as people sometimes pretend; I mean, he’s not exactly drawing on a very obscure accent, is he? Have you really never heard anyone from London speak English…?

  12. sidey says:

    This is a really poor grid.

  13. Rob says:

    Does ‘dotard’ fit 3dn if you read the clue as more ‘quick crossword’ type ie a he that is both old and foolish? Must admit I wrote this in without looking too hard at the clue

  14. Rick says:

    Rob @13: Seems like an entirely sensible answer to me.


  15. tupu says:

    I agree with Thomas, and we have been through all this many times before. The match need not be 100% and could not be with any word with an ‘r’ in.
    ‘We hear(rr)’ is not ‘sounds exactly like’. I suppose a question mark might help, but maybe ‘rhotics’ might simply take pride in this special feature of their pronunciation. After all there are lots of legitimate variations in the pronunciation of English.

  16. Thomas99 says:

    Rick @6
    I’ve followed those links – I see, I’m not familiar with the sporting context but I take your point. Sorry I called it 3d instead of 4d. I think I must have been distracted by “Doland”.

  17. tupu says:

    Hi Robi

    It fits but is not cryptic at all and not necessarily male.

    Belated congrats by the way on your recent success!

  18. Rick says:

    Thomas99 @16:

    >> I’ve followed those links – I see, I’m not familiar with the sporting context but I take your point.

    My suspicion (which I’ve not researched) is that it’s probably of American origin and, pursuing that analogy, ….

    >> Sorry I called it 3d instead of 4d. I think I must have been distracted by “Doland”

    … no problem – I do appreciate that “Doland” was a bit of a curve ball! (-;


  19. aztobesed says:

    Perhaps he’s winking with one eye here – it’s the way LondonerS TALK.

  20. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    On a difficulty scale for just Mondays this was a 10.So does the breaking of the much reported special instructions to the Monday setter lead to a reversal of the usual defensive posts?
    When I put in ‘stalk’ (not at all homophonic for me) I thought ‘that will cause an over-heated rumpus’- oh well.
    Last in was ‘racket’ but only because I had refused to write in ‘skies’ until it became sadly inevitable.
    My father always wore garters and he wasn’t American.

  21. Robi says:

    tupu @17; the first part of your comment, I think, relates to ‘Rob’@13 [not my alter ego!]

    In case anyone is wondering about the second part, I managed to win the Prize Crossword from a couple of weeks ago.

  22. Robi says:

    RCW @20; ‘My father always wore garters and he wasn’t American;’ yes, but wearing the American version is more fun [so they tell me ;) ]

  23. RCWhiting says:

    Robi,I am glad you told me that. I shall keep my eyes open next time I visit my local Bernardos, they are now top of my shopping list.

  24. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Rufus and Andrew

    Agree that this was a harder Rufus than normal with most of my problems in the bottom half. Like KeithW@8, I had put in SNIPE first which made unnecessarily hard work for both crossing down clues and had written in STOCKADES for the structure with holes for head and hands (don’t know why – I always confuse it for them) – thankfully the Spanish governess set me right!

    AMUSING was last in and finished up having DUDES instead of DUPES – so Rufus wins today. :(

  25. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Rufus and Andrew

    Agree that this was a harder Rufus than normal with most of my problems in the bottom half. Like KeithW@8, I had put in SNIPE first which made unnecessarily hard work for both crossing down clues and had written in STOCKADES for the structure with holes for head and hands (don’t know why – I always confuse it for them) – thankfully the Spanish governess set me right.

    AMUSING was last in and finished up having DUDES instead of DUPES – so Rufus wins today! :(

  26. brucew_aus says:

    Oops sorry … issue with the submit key and fat fingers …

  27. Hazza says:

    Oh go on then. I’ll ask. What do stalk and stork sound like when they don’t sound like each other? As a Lancastrian who has lived and worked in the north west, midlands, south east, north east and Scotland and spent plenty of time in the others, my head’s spinning trying to think of other ways to say them. Help.

  28. Paul B says:

    Yee need te be canny wi those homophone indicators. Hev ye met me bord?

  29. Paul B says:

  30. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    I’m glad that everyone else seems to have found this trickier than the usual Rufus. I thought I was losing my mojo (too much sun?) when this took me longer than Saturday’s prize puzzle (which, unusually these days, was no walkover).

    Difficult even-rows-and-columns grid, with all of those unchecked initial letters. Like RCW, I refused to enter SKIES until I had everything else round it. AMUSING took a long time – I was confused by the two As in the clue. But I was amused by Fat Al, and liked 9a and 20a.

  31. Hazza says:

    Well, 30 years living in the NE and working in the rig yards, I still can’t hear a Geordie saying stalk and stork differently. Talk yes but not those two. Nor a Mackem either. Nor a Boro lad. Yer macken it up.

  32. Robi says:

    For those homophone refuseniks, please see 365 here.

  33. tupu says:

    Hi Robi
    Thanks and apologies.

  34. RCWhiting says:

    I come from the West Country and when we see a R in a word we don’t just pronounce it we turn it into a tasty meal which lasts until the cider turns up. There is no R in ‘stalk’ but there is in cider.

  35. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Oh dear god, we’re off on another homophone debate, so we’ll be hear (sic) till midnight. I am a Geordie, and can assure you that STALK and STORK are absolutely homphones. Rhotic pronunciation – Eileen will be under the duvet …

    Anyway, hardish puzzle from Rufus – if you can’t get a way in through the dds and cds (which I do enjoy), you can struggle … which I did today.

    Thanks to setter and blogger.

  36. Robi says:

    RCW @34; There is no L in ‘stork’ but there is in ale………..

  37. aztobesed says:

    Robi # 32

    I wouldn’t like to be labelled a ‘homophone refusenik’ but No 266 — morning / mourning is troublesome. I was once told by a distinguished actor that it is vital to make the distinction here —

    ‘Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
    To give these mourning duties to your father…’

    — he claimed it was indefensible to give ‘morning duties’ — which might suggest something to do with the King’s toilet. The solution was to think of the word as spelt ‘muorning’ to accent the sense. It’s one of the few ‘homophones’ I balk at.

  38. Eileen says:

    … with my fingers in my ears, K’s D! – a promise is a promise. ;-)

  39. William says:

    Hmm…bit of a bore, I’m afraid. I agree with all the points Rick makes @2.

    Tupu @7 perhaps you didn’t mean me?

    If our regulator will allow it, being hopelessly off-topic, I would ask you all to rejoice with me – after 15 years of sending them off, we won Paul’s Prize Crossword 25634!

    Only 15 years to wait for the next one, I suppose.

  40. Hazza says:

    Oh well. Apologies for fanning the homophone bonfire. I’m none the wiser but I’ll leave it at that. Quite a difficult one from Rufus but enjoyable as usual. Thanks to him and Andrew.

  41. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Rufus and Andrew,

    This took some getting into today. Amusing was the last in for me, too.

    Would be interested in Dave Ellison’s version of Stalk.

    Good luck with the garters hunt RCW!

    Congrats. to William.

    Giovanna x

  42. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I think the embers of the last homophone debate are still gently glowing at the base of the bonfire, Hazza, so it didn’t take much fanning …

    But seriously, this homophone thingy is always going to be complicated by folk who say ‘well, it doesn’t sound the same to me’, and that’s a great celebration of the range of British accents. So maybe we should accept ‘sounds like’ or ‘we hear’ or ‘caught’ as ‘sounds like where some people come from’. Although obviously that wouldn’t make for a great surface reading.

    Just a thought.

  43. Gervase says:

    I think I’m with K’s D in taking a liberal interpretation of homophones. There are triplets like paw/pore/poor that are pronounced identically by some people and all differently by others. I’m relaxed about accepting them in others’ crosswords, but I would try to avoid them in my own. I’d try to stick to things like site/cite/sight, where there is much less controversy.

  44. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Yes, well done William!

  45. tupu says:

    Hi William
    :) Apologies to you too. I clearly meant Thomas99! I can only plead that the solving and blogging were done in a hurry shortly before a visit to the dentist for a threatened molar extraction (which fortunately turned out to be unnecessary).

  46. tupu says:

    Of course it would have been unfortunate if it had been unnecessarily carried out!

  47. Median says:

    Did the NW and SE corners, then a lot of head-banging. Decided life was too short, gave up and came here. Seems I wasn’t alone in thinking this was a tough Rufus, partly because of the grid. Ne’er mind, eh?

  48. William says:

    Ha-ha, Tupu! Many thanks and no apologies necessary.

  49. Robi says:

    William @39; congratulations! Looks like two in a row for fifteen squared.

  50. stiofain says:

    Re the grid. Rufus seems to use this one and others that practically split his puzzles in half or quarters more than others.
    Perhaps this is also part of his remit I remember when I started solving completing a full quarter or half was an achievement and other beginners may feel the same.
    I thought this was the best Rufus in ages and have no problem with the homophone – surely by their nature they cant work in all accents and restricting them to eg received pronunciation wouldnt work.
    Although we do have our cockney ‘ero for more specific ‘omophones.

  51. Paul B says:

    With each quadrant joined to its neighbour by one light only, this pattern plays tough. But I confess I’m irritated by any grid that gives me nothing, or very little, in the rest of a puzzle after I’ve conquered one corner of it.

  52. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Maybe not the most obvious example of such a grid, but, for me, the grid of today’s Dante (FT) is also a contender for ‘The 4 Grids in 1 Prize of the Year’. For some reason, Dante (Rufus) uses this particular grid very often (more in the FT than in the Guardian, though). Just take a look there, and see that much depends on the four words in the centre.
    Normally I don’t care about grids, but indeed these 4-in-1 crosswords (like in today’s Rufus) should ideally be avoided, in my opinion.
    Unfortunately there’s nothing that’s ideal in this world.
    Or should I say fortunately ….. ? :)

  53. PeeDee says:

    I found this difficult, well above the usual Monday standard.

    As for homophones – spoken language varies… just get over it!

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