Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize 25,670 / Puck

Posted by Eileen on June 30th, 2012



Well, I’m certainly not complaining about this Prize puzzle not being challenging enough / being over too quickly! I had all the answers in on Saturday but it took a day or two longer to parse some of them. I found it pretty hard going but very rewarding in the end.

We were told that this was a centenary puzzle and 23rd June, the day of publication, was the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing: a momentous occasion – in fact, this is Alan Turing Year – deserving an appropriate tribute, which this puzzle certainly turned out to be. I approached it with trepidation: regular readers will know that the subject matter is way outside my comfort zone. My computer ‘skills’ are almost entirely self-taught and just about stretch to posting these blogs. I am almost totally ignorant of computer jargon and so when I saw COMPUTER LANGUAGE spelt out at the top and bottom of the grid, clearly enough for even Nina-blind me to see, my heart sank to the floor. I had to do quite a bit of research and learned a lot of stuff along the way!

As I got further into this puzzle, the brilliance of the construction and the excellence of the cluing became more apparent.  Because of my ignorance, there may well be details I have missed, so I look forward to having any gaps filled in.  Fortunately, I was able to get the COMPUTER in the top row mostly from non-themed clues [though it did give me RISC at 8dn, which I would never have known was a ‘word’] and then the penny dropped that the repeated ‘topline’ in the clues referred to the top row and was to be replaced by ‘computer’.

There is some very intricate interlinking of the clues and it was only as I came to write up the blog that I realised that I hadn’t solved the clue at 23,14, because the answer had already been filled in, as part of the brilliant word chain: ALAN TURING-MACHINE-CODE-BREAKER – excellent stuff! There are also some wonderful story-telling surfaces, which always go down well with me.

Ironically, the parsing that held me up was mostly of non-themed clues [13ac – I took a long time to see the rat – 24ac, 5dn and 18dn] and there were some very loud clunks as pennies dropped! I ended up full of admiration for this puzzle: it took writing the blog to make me realise that I’d enjoyed it more than I thought I had! Many thanks, Puck, for the entertainment and the education.

[Definitions are underlined.]


Simple task for topline poet, beginning to invoke Nora Batty
anagram [batty] of POET I[nvoke] NORA: I have seen this clever exploitation of Nora Batty before – lovely!

10 African native agreed a place to start reading
OK [approved] + A + P I [page 1 – place to start reading] for this familiar crossword African native – I love the trendy leggings!
11 Chuck out topline key
double definition: I didn’t know there was an eject key but found this

12 Seeing the future copper hit out
anagram [out] of COPPER HIT

13 Desert Rat returning to a North Dakota 9 after vacation
AB = ‘tar’ [‘rat returning] + A N D [a North Dakota] + ON  [O{peratio}N – answer to 9ac – ‘after vacation’]

14,1 Topline line opposite to that choice admen are flaunting
anagram [are flaunting] of CHOICE ADMEN: LANGUAGE appears on the bottom row [‘line opposite to that’], so the definition is COMPUTER LANGUAGE

17 Bugs city area on Long Island initially
EC [city area] + O[n] L[ong] I[sland]

19 Wordplay with change of heart from what Boatman essentially wants
‘BoATMan essentially’ is ATM, which wants a PIN, which, with a change of heart, becomes PUN: I often complain about ambiguity in these reversal clues but I think the ‘change of heart from’ makes it clear that the answer is PUN rather than PIN

20 Flower found in wine, including a little rosé
R [a little rosé] in TENT [Spanish wine] for the river into which my local Soar flows

22 A red top’s spread about Madonna?
anagram of A RED TOP: as indicated by the question mark, Madonna, who has famously adopted two children from Malawi,  is a definition by example

24 Soft rock group are not starting out on tour too early
P [soft] R.E.M. [rock group]   + anagram [on tour] of ARE + UT [‘not starting oUT’]

26 Our home in Ireland finally escaping famine
dEARTH [famine] minus d – last letter – finally – of Ireland

28 Component of fast racing car
hidden in fAST RAcing

29 Potentially revealing bits of material in kiss and tell stories about card player and partner
NECK [kiss] + N [North – bridge player] in LIE [tell stories] + S [South – North’s partner]


1,21 Fish on top of each wave for 25 23?
COD [fish] + E [first letter – top – of Each] BREAKER [wave]: Alan Turing [answer to 25 23], of course, broke the Enigma code

Unnatural condition of dictionary with letter M before A
OED [Oxford English Dictionary] + EM [letter M]  before A

Male nearly killed mate mixing drink
I read this as M [male] + anagram [mixing] of ‘nearly KILLED MAT[e]’ rather than ‘nearly KILL[e]D MATE’

Type of cipher Peanuts character found in US animal home
triple definition: this cipher  as well as this character  and the animal home

Rare sort of noun, shortened in the middle
this one had me stumped the longest of all: I stared at it for ages, off and on, seeing COMM[on] [a sort of noun] in an anagram [sort of] of NOUN but couldn’t make that work. Then a kind friend I made at the Derby S and B gave me a broad hint to look really carefully at the clue [again!] and there it is, shortened, in the very middle of the clue, as well as the solution, in an anagram of NOUN – exactly as it says on the tin! How brilliant is that? [It’s rather reminiscent of the armadillo, cutely curled up in the middle of Puck’s last puzzle, which I failed to spot in my blog. :-( ]

Drunkard turns up drug in rubbish
reversal [turns up] of SOT [drunkard] + H [heroin]

Ultimately airplane disaster almost ruined part of New York
E [last letter – ultimately – of airplanE + anagram [ruined] of DISASTE[r] [almost]

Topline pair of states
Reduced Instruction Set Computer
RI [Rhode Island] + SC [South Carolina]

13 First pieces of April crop – early rhubarb, but bitter and sour
initial letters [first pieces] of April Crop Early Rhubarb But

15 Source of oil? Suspect artic, one carrying L-plates
anagram [suspect] of ARTIC ONE round [carrying] LL [L-plates]

16 Topline key hospital departments in UK and US
ENT [UK Ear Nose and Throat dept] + ER [US Emergency Room]

18 Noted drama as half-cut alternative to 16, used in 9 by terrorists
RET [half-cut RETurn – alternative to ENTRY key [16] – inside [used in] OP [operation  – answer to 9ac] ETA [Basque terrorists]

19 Following football team that’s regretting missing headers
sPURS [football team] + rUING [regretting] both minus initial letters [missing headers] – great surface!

22 Outline contents of paper cup
hidden in pAPER CUp

23,14 Imagined topline city church in good state
TURIN city] + CH [church] in G [good] MAINE [state]

24 A series of loud sounds from European breaking china
E [European] in PAL [china – Cockney rhyming slang: china plate = mate]

25,23 A topline network university put in place in Herts for 1,21
ALAN TURINGthe genius hero of the theme
I could see the second part: U [university] in TRING [place in Herts] but needed to guess and consult the dictionaries to find that A LAN is A Local Area Network

27 Backless shoes bad for socks?
anagram [bad] of SHOEs, minus the last letter [backless]

27 Responses to “Guardian Prize 25,670 / Puck”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Eileen. Being aware of the Turing centenary I managed to fill in all the squares without undue delay but then, like you, spent a lot more time than that staring at it and trying to come to terms with the explanations. It didn’t help that I failed to grasp the significance of ‘topline’ for quite a while.

    I agree it was very cleverly done and a real test. It may be unworthy but my only quibble is with ‘neck’ = ‘kiss’. I was much happier with ‘buss’ last week.

  2. drago says:

    Thanks Puck for a very testing puzzle and Eileen for the relief of parsing a few I couldn’t!
    Oh COMM[a]!
    What’s an S&B?

  3. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    I only saw the “topline” and its partner after solving the whole puzzle, with a lot of “well it must be thats” along the way for the “topline” clues. I sat back at the end, contemplating what had been a bit of a struggle and, suddenly, the light dawned… quite amazing. Thanks, Puck for a work that I think Turing himself would have admired.

    The cleverest aspect of the whole puzzle, for me at least, was how akin the solving process was to code breaking. Brilliant.

  4. NeilW says:

    drago, “Sloggers and Betters” – jamborees for those living in the UK. To my mind, just about the only advantage nowadays of living there, sadly.

  5. matt says:

    Thanks Eileen, and thanks Puck

    Expertly handled puzzle, novel features, fitting tribute.

    This was the only puzzle I’ve ever done where I felt glad to be doing it online: it felt even more appropriate.

    (and so, I suppose, thank you Mr Turing).

  6. Monkeypuzzler says:

    Thanks to Eileen & Puck for a good ‘un.

    Got the Turing theme, but missed the NINA, which made the “topline” references baffling. I thought 19a just a bit too Byzantine.

    A tiny nit-pick: 1,21d’s clue was “Fish on top of each wave”, not “breaker”

    (Well done again for saving the day (late) on Thursday!)

  7. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen for a brilliant blog. I’d missed a lot of Puck’s brilliance until then. The answers went in readily enough, except for 8d’s -I-C where I played with the Carolinas and could only fruitlessly come up with cinc/zinc/disc. I’d guessed, late, the significance of ‘topline’ but that didn’t help. The UNCOMMON penny dropped soon enough, but its excellence still lingers.

  8. Eileen says:

    Thank you, Monkeypuzzler @6. I usually copy and paste the clues for the prize crossword but this one was available only as a pdf and so I had to type them out. I guessed that, however many times I checked, there would be a mistake somewhere. It’s fixed now.

  9. Phil says:

    I knew the theme immediately because Radio 4’s Today had broadcast a Turing item. Otherwise I would probably still be staring at a half filled grid. I finished it fairly quickly for me but never understood topline. So thanks to Eileen for taking the time to reconcile all the intricacies. Your patience, clarity and tenacity are a great complement to Puck’s brilliance.

  10. chas says:

    Thanks to Eileen for the blog.

    I made a guess at the person whose centenary was being marked – then searched the clues for him!

    I am another who never saw the significance of topline – and also failed to see LANGUAGE at the bottom :(

  11. Taco_Belly says:

    Thanks Eileen – and Puck for an excellent workout. This one took several visits and some research. Even after getting Turing and the significance of the centenary and eventually seeing the nina and referencing it to “topline”, I still missed LANGUAGE at the bottom. Is there medication for nina-blindness?

    The word chain was excellent and while I too have reservations about the slight abiguity of 19a, I will readily trade this for the lovely ironic anagram in 22a.

  12. PeeDee says:

    Thanks Eileen. I couln’t figure out the significance of ‘topline’ until I had only one answer left to put in. Great stuff, thanks Puck.

    I have exactly the opposite feeling to you when I see a theme I know nothing about, its a great opportunity, not something to be dreaded! I would know almost nothing about the classics if it were not for cryptic crosswords.

    I am a little sceptical about the current Turing coverage in the British media. One would believe that Turing single-handedly invented computing.

  13. bridgesong says:

    I didn’t manage to get very far with this over the weekend, but a letter published in Monday’s Guardian referring to the Turing centenary rather gave the game away. I suppose the letters editor wouldn’t necessarily have realised that it was a prize crossword to which the letter-writer was referring.

  14. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Puck

    A very good puzzle. It took me a long time to see the nina, and I had unfortunately cheated on pigpen by then by searching Snoopy characters. I knew neither the character nor the cipher. I see I had also written in ‘pin’ for 19a despite having solved it properly in my head. Its a bit like working out that a chess move won’t do and then making it!

    I thought 19a was a fine clue and so too were many others as Eileen et al have noted. I particularly liked 13a, 15a, 29a, 2d and 19d.

    PeeDee @12 Of course there were others as you suggest. What is less well known is AT’s enormously important contribution to modern research interests in biology especially re what he called morphogenesis.

  15. Robi says:

    Great puzzle; I managed to start with ALAN TURING. I’m glad that I was not the only one to find it difficult.

    Thanks Eileen; you certainly have been busy recently. I didn’t see the NINA until the puzzle was finished.
    I don’t think I parsed ABANDON; is vacation a usual ends selector? I did have a RISC computer in the 80’s or 90’s, although I didn’t get the full significance of ‘topline’ for a while.

    As well as the themed answers, I particularly liked PURSUING.

  16. Robi says:

    P.S. In 25,23 I think it’s 1,21 which is the definition (underlining.)

  17. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Robi – yes, of course! I’ll amend it now.

  18. aztobesed says:

    I thought I might have made a dog’s dinner out of 19a.

    With the absence of any ‘topline’ reference I had ‘Pan’ – Pun with a change of heart, ‘what boatman essentially wants’ being a full version of ‘sampan’ – Sam being the missing man. That ‘essentially’ should have given me more pause but I reasoned it would otherwise surely have been flagged with a ‘topline’. Tough. Very tough.

  19. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Nothing to add, it was great fun, challenging and clever.

  20. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. This was really challenging and great fun. Last Saturday’s Google doodle rather gave the game away re the centenary, but there was plenty to get your teeth into in this puzzle.

    Taco_Belly @11 If there is medication for nina-blindness, I need a double dose. Completely missed the topline/bottom line thing :-( which left me unable to decide between MISC or RISC at 8dn.

    [Shameless self-promotion follows — please don’t send me to the naughty step, Gaufrid — my novel Ashenden got a lovely review in the Guardian today. There are crossword clues in it…]

  21. Eileen says:

    Liz – you dark horse!

    I read the review and never made the ‘Elizabeth’ connection – a bit like ‘nina-blindness’. I’m about to log on to Amazon! :-)

  22. Jan says:

    [Hi, Liz, – it also got a very nice review in the (don’t all scream at once!) Daily Mail. It sounds like a fascinating book. Well done.]

    Thanks for the excellent blog, Eileen. And thanks to Puck for a super, very enjoyable puzzle.

    I was watching the ‘topline’ from quite early on so with a few letters in I guessed computer and that helped enormously.

  23. liz says:

    [Thanks Eileen and Jan!]

  24. nametab says:

    Many thanks to Puck for a delightful puzzle – a lovely follow-up to the previous ‘armadillo’. I, too, never saw LANGUAGE on the bottom line, and was slow to discern COMPUTER, but saw it when I realised that that was what ‘topline’ was referring to.
    And thank you too Eileen for an excellent blog

  25. Mary says:

    What does ‘nina’ mean?

    Took me ages but loved every minute.

  26. Eileen says:

    Hi Mary

    Welcome to the site if you’re new, as I suspect. Your question comes up practically every week and is answered under FAQ at the top of this page, better than I could do it!

  27. Tramp says:

    Excellent puzzle. Smashing blog, Eileen.

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