Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25732 / Bonxie

Posted by duncanshiell on September 4th, 2012


Uncle Yap regrets that he is unable to blog today due to a family bereavement.

It’s a while since I did a daily Guardian blog, so it’s good to get the opportunity to blog one today.



Well, let’s get the error out of the way first – The mismatch at the intersection at 14 across and 8 down shouldn’t have got past the compiling and editing stages. However, the crossword editor has apologised for the error on the Guardian crossword blog site – posting at 08:52 – so we can concentrate on the rest of the puzzle.

Having said that, the more I struggled with this puzzle, the more I came to enjoy the clue construction and the misdirection.  I’ll admit though, I enjoyed it more as I wrote the blog than I did when I was solving it.  The varied use and interpretation of the word  BAND was very clever.

I spent quite a lot of time thumbing through dictionaries for this puzzle and found I was using Collins more than Chambers for a number of the entries.  Even the Shorter Oxford came into play with BURNSIDE

A wide range of general knowledge was required to solve this puzzle.  I’m okay with most science so ÅNGSTROM was fine, as were references to hard DISKS and ROM, but plants (TAMARISK, SAND SEDGE) and wildlife (BONOBO) would not be my specialist subjects in any quiz.

The rock bands and singers (ABBA, BONO, BLUR, THE WHO and the SEX PISTOLS) were all known to me, but I needed a dictionary for generic figures of speech (TROPE) and religious days (SEPTUAGESIMA)

Overall I felt this was at the difficult end of any national daily crossword spectrum.

No. Clue Wordplay Entry

Humiliated band half-heartedly backing O’Connor (6)


ABBA (band [pop singers of a few years ago]) excluding one of the two middle letters [half-heartedly] B + DES (reference DES O’Connor, singer and comedian) reversed (backing)


ABASED (humiliated)



Plant flower, heading off to record store (8)


TAMAR (reference River [flower] TAMAR,  forming the border between Devon and Cornwall for much of its length) + DISK (reference hard DISK [computer storage; record store]) excluding the first letter [heading off] D


TAMARISK (a plant with pink and white flowers)



Poet gets fish by a whisker (8)


BURNS (reference Robert BURNS, Scottish poet) + IDE (a fish of the same family as the carp)


BURNSIDE (moustache and whiskers with no beard on the chin, named after General Ambrose BURNSIDE [1824 – 1881]. The Shorter Oxford gives BURNSIDE in the singular but defines it as ‘moustache and whiskers’, not ‘a whisker’.,  Collins only gives the plural, perhaps implying that the singular is only one whisker? Chambers doesn’t give it all, preferring the alternative construction SIDEBURNS)



Queen has note about wrong extension (6)


(ANNE [reference Queen ANNE {1665 – 1714}] + E [musical note]) containing (about) X (error; wrong)


ANNEXE (supplementary building as an extension to an existing building)



Quiet record gathers support shortly after meal (9,3)


SH (hush; quiet) + EP (extended play [record]) + HERDS (drives together; gathers) + PIER (support) excluding the final letter (shortly) R


SHEPHERD’S PIE (a dish [meal] of meat, presumably lamb for a shepherd, cooked with mashed potatoes on the top.  Cooked with beef, I think it is a COTTAGE pie)  



Singer banned from listening (4)


BARD (sounds like [from listening] BARRED [banned])


BARD (one of the ancient Celtic order of formal poets and singers; a strolling misntrel)



Desperate to survive, head stuck in hole (4,4)


LAST (survive) + (S [first letter of [head] either STUCK or SURVIVE contained in [‘stuck in’ if taking the S from SURVIVE, or ‘in’ taking the S from STUCK)] GAP [hole] )


LAST GASP (made, etc when almost at the point of death, defeat, etc.; done in desperation at the last moment)



Helps mount suspect images (8)


BEN (mountain peak) + E-FITS (likenesses [images] of people sought by the police [suspects]; suspect images)


BENEFITS (does good to; helps)



Bandleader – the type to cheat (4)


B (first letter of [leader] BAND) + ILK (type, kind)


BILK (cheat)

Afternote: See also comments at 3 and 4 below where this clue is shown to have another layer involving the bandleader Acker BILK


A holy day one month before writer returns with, say, gold (12)


SEPT (September; month) + (AMIS [reference Kingsley AMIS [1922 – 1995] or Martin AMIS [1949 – ] [writers] + EG (for example, say) + AU [chemical symbol for gold]) reversed (returns).  The word ‘before’ puts the month at the front of the entry, in front of the reversal of (AMIS with EG and AU)


SEPTUAGESIMA (third Sunday before Lent; holy day)

Band member brought over a close relative of his (6)


BONO (lead singer [band member] of  the Irish rock band U2) + B/O (brought over, a bookkeeping or accountancy term [in Collins])


BONOBO (a species of chimpanzee found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, considered to be Man’s closest animal relative)



Physicist has dreadful feeling in fron of record store (8)


ANGST (general feeling of anxiety; dreadful feeling) + ROM (read only memory; computer storage; record store)


ÅNGSTROM (reference Anders Jonas ÅNGSTROM [1814 – 1874], Swedish physicist, founder of spectroscopy)



Becoming attached to band after getting head turned (8)


Anagram of (turned) HEAD + RING (band)


ADHERING (becoming attached to)



Right to include one in cultural curio (6)


R (right) + (I [one] contained in [in) ARTY [cultural])


RARITY (something valued for its scarcity; curio)


No. Clue Wordplay Entry
2 22

Let slip that solicitor follows a band (5,3)


BLUR (English alternative rock band including Damon Albarn and Alex James) + TOUT (solicitor)


BLURT OUT (utter suddenly and involuntarily; let slip) – entered as BLUR at 2 down and TOUT at 22 down



Planes move slowly by plant (4,5)


SANDS (to smooth or polish with abrasive material; plane is defined as to smooth) + EDGE (move slowly)


SAND SEDGE (common perennial; plant)



Ambitious band finally split (6)


D (last letter of [finally] BAND) + RIVEN (split)


DRIVEN (ambitious)



Everything depends on band member harbouring female outlaw (3,5,7)


THE WHO (English rock band dating back to 1964, Daltrey, Townshend, Entwhistle and Moon]) + (LEG [limb; member] containing [harbouring] [SHE {female} + BAN {outlaw}])


THE WHOLE SHEBANG (everything available)



Most inadequate jockey agrees to board mount (8)


Anagram of (jockey) AGREES contained in (to board) MT (mountain; mount)


MEAGREST (most inadequate)



River animal mounting small steps (5)


R (river) + (GNU [large African antelope; animal] reversed [mounting; down clue]) + S (small)


RUNGS (steps on a ladder)



Band of 6 topless models (3,7)


Anagram of (models) SIX (6) and TOPLESS


SEX PISTOLS (English punk rock band formed in 1975 including Sid Vicious and John Lydon)



Band given minutes to produce music thus (4,6)


TAPE (a flexible band that guides sheets in printing; material woven in long narrow bands) + RECORD (minutes [of meetings])


TAPE RECORD (produce music by TAPE RECORDING the band or orchestra)



Gold-coloured underwear stuffed inside a red rock?


(BRA [underwear] contained in [stuffed inside] GILT [gold-coloured]) + A + R (red as in RGB [Red Green blue colour model which is used to define all colours in the spectrum])


GIBRALTAR (reference Rock of GIBRALTAR)



Equipment given to one into cooking Italian food (8)


RIG (equipment) + A (one) + an anagram of (cooking) INTO


RIGATONI (pasta in the form of large, fluted tubes.; Italian food)



Shop where a band may be seen (6)


FINGER (indicate or identify a guilty person; shop, in the sense to betray or inform against)


FINGER (a RING or BAND may be seen on a FINGER)



A metaphor, perhaps: "A band not suitable for all" (5)


TROUPE (company [band] of theatrical performers) excluding (not) U (film certificate designating that the material in the film is suitable for all to see)


TROPE (figure of speech, properly one in which a word or expression is used in other than its literal sense, eg metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche or irony)



See 2


See wordplay at 2 down above




31 Responses to “Guardian 25732 / Bonxie”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Duncan. I really struggled with this – especially on the right with 14ac until, in desperation, I hit the check button and discovered that I had “incorrectly entered” PISTOLS!

    As you say, this was tough and not much fun to do but then, afterwards, there is much to admire.

    Condolences to Uncle Yap.

  2. ToniL says:

    Hear hear Duncan.

    The mistake aside, a really tough but entertaining puzzle.

    I haven’t read the blog in full just yet, but 10/10 for clarity and presentation at first glance.

    A early post to express a hope that we don’t get too bogged down over ‘SexPistolsgate’

    Thanks to Bonxie and duncanshiell.

  3. Rick says:

    First of all, condolences and deepest sympathy to Uncle Yap.

    With regards to the puzzle I found it hard and I needed the blog to explain some of the clues; so the clear and helpful explanations were very much appreciated duncanshiell! I too am puzzled by the intersection at 14 across and 8 down and am similarly bewlidered that this got past both the compiling and editing stage.

    With regards to 18 across, I had it as a double definition; Bilk coming from the bandleader “Acker Bilk” and a “bilk” being the type of person who would cheat; however I prefer your parsing of the clue.

  4. duncanshiell says:

    Rick @ 3

    Thanks – I think you are right that Acker BILK is also involved in the clue and entry at 18 across, making it even better with two uses of BANDLEADER

  5. tyro says:

    very hard, but very lucid blog, great for newbies (like me) struggling to make a dent in the grid – thank you

  6. blaise says:

    If you look on it as cheating* to use the more recent sense (“type”) of “ilk” rather than the purist’s original meaning of “same name” (as in “the Duncan of that ilk”) then the whole of 18 is wordplay and the first and last words are both definitions: a s&wichlit?

    * …which I don’t

  7. muffin says:

    Hi duncanshiell

    I agree about BILK – best clue in the crossword!

    I think you are a bit generous about “planes” for “sands” – a plane is an instrument with a metal cutting edge; it might have (approximately) the same function as sandpaper, but achieves it quite differently

  8. duncanshiell says:

    Muffin @ 7

    I agree that sanding and planing are two distinct methods of achieving a broadly similar result.

    Chambers defines ‘plane’ as a noun ‘a carpenter’s tool for producing a smooth surface’, and as a transitive verb ‘to smooth’. ‘sand’ is defined as ‘to smooth’. In the crossword world of misdirection and nuance, I reckon that’s enough to make them synonymous.

  9. blaise says:

    And there’s no problem if you take the verbal form of planes meaning “makes plane”. By a strange coincidence, I’ll be making some wood plane with a belt sander today… Well, trying to.

  10. John Appleton says:

    This mostly had me stumped. Even if I’d known about the error, I doubt it would have helped.

  11. Long-time cruciverbalist says:

    I think you all should get out more! I despair of the themed crossword. It produces poorly constructed grids, an appalling standard of clueing and causes anoraks to speak of surfaces! Ye gods! Bring back the days of Lavengro, Janus et al. Who will rid us of this turbulent themer.

  12. John Appleton says:

    LTC @11, I did the Times crossword for years before discovering the Guardian, and the fact that it occasionally allows themes. You don’t get that sort of fun in the Times. Each to their own, of course.

  13. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Duncan.

    Very difficult puzzle for a weekday – it took me most of the morning, on and off. I was completely stuck after about half of the crossword was completed and had to recourse to wordsearch to get some movement. Failed to get 14ac – even having been alerted to the online comment (it seems unlikely that Bonxie would have made this mistake; it probably crept in during the ‘editing’).

    Nevertheless, a fine puzzle with some very clever clueing (including some rather wayward definitions: ‘planes’ in 3dn, ‘meal’ in 11ac, ‘becoming attached’ in 25ac) . I had B(and) + ILK for 18ac – the alternative ‘Mr Acker’ way in makes this a most ingenious clue. 23ac made me smile, never having been a fan of Paul Hewson.

  14. NeilW says:

    Gervase @13, what’s wrong with “meal” for SHEPHERD’S PIE? Isn’t it a bit like the Cornish pastie – intended to be a meal-in-one? Meat and two (or more)veg? 😉

  15. Miche says:

    Thanks, Duncan.

    (Aside from that, Mrs Lincoln), a tough puzzle that yielded slowly but satisfyingly. I particularly liked BONOBO and, when the penny finally dropped, BENEFITS.

    I’m old enough to remember when using ILK to mean “type” was regarded as a solecism, but I think the dust has long settled on that one.

    I’m still not convinced re plane/sand, but it’s a minor niggle.

    Uncle Yap – should you happen to read this – sincere condolences to you and your family.

  16. Uncle Yap says:

    Thank you, Duncan for standing in for me at such short notice. I am back from the funeral of my eldest brother (75) who passed away quietly and peacefully after an illness. Thank you all for the kind and thoughtful sentiments expressed. This community is like an extended family.

  17. rowland says:

    A tough solve with much to admire afterwards?! I just found it a struggle to be honest, and the style very difficult to warm to.

    Pity about the mistake of course, which spoilt the picture a bit, and I do appreciate the effort that’s obviously gone into setting this one. CoD SEX PISTOLS, where I think just ‘six’ would have been better.

    Thanks all,

  18. Gervase says:

    Uncle Yap: Forgive me for not adding my own condolences earlier – thanks for dropping by.

    NeilW @14: The definition for SHEPHERD’S PIE is certainly not wrong, but is a bit off-centre, as it is a ‘dish’ not a ‘meal’ (would ‘meal’ be a sufficient def for ‘sandwich’ or ‘packet of crisps’?). Personally, I would always have it with some accompanying vegetable, relish or whatever. And what about the other four courses….

  19. sidey says:

    If plane and sand are to be regarded as synonyms why not plaster and file? They too can mean to smooth, synonyms they ain’t.

  20. martin says:

    Ages since I have been so utterly defeated; barely got over halfway. Not helped by having “Smiths” in for shop/band at 19d. Try again tomorrow!

  21. duncan says:

    y’s’ve got y’r man edge, also out of U2, in there as well, so y’have, in 3d.


  22. Rikky says:

    I loved this; so ta Bonxie; & I love themed xwords. Being smug I got it all – tho took quite a while, & with dictionary of biography for General Burnside check. Only came here to confirm “last gasp” cock up. Fascinated at all contributors’comments!

  23. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Bonxie and duncanshiell for the terrific blog!

    Uncle Yap, now you can enjoy the memories of your brother without any suffering. Looking forward to your next blog.xx

    Just back from 40 degrees and a clear blue sky thinking it was Monday – rude awakening all round!

    Favourite clue was 20ac Septuagesima, which always fascinated me as a child.Apparently it was a prelude to Lent with the Alleluia being said for the last time at the first Vespers of the preceding Saturday during the Middle Ages.

    11ac Shepherds Pie was fun and last in was Benefits with a groan when I got it>

    Giovanna x

  24. rhotician says:

    14ac should be (4-4) not (4,4). Completely threw me.

  25. grandpuzzler says:

    Thanks to Bonxie and duncanshiell and condolences to Uncle Yap. This took a long time and there was much for me to learn. Didn’t know the alternative meaning for SHOP and was unaware of E-FITS so thanks for the education. Nevertheless, I enjoyed completing the puzzle.


  26. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Duncan

    This puzzle beat me all ends up.

  27. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    If we must have themes (and we mustn’t) this is the way to use one.
    Endless variations, no googling required. This kept me thinking most of today although I did unfortunately waste some time trying to find an alternative to ‘last gasp’ since I was so certain about ‘sex pistols’.
    Some great vague definitions and loved ‘jockey (6d) and 21d.
    I was happy to accept sand = plane but was reluctant to enter it since Chambers does not give ‘sand sedge’.
    blaise @6 raises the use of ‘cheat’ It is a term I see often on this MB. Is there an accepted definition of it.

  28. Dave Ellison says:

    I’m in the hard and didn’t enjoy it camp. I didn’t have access to any cheats, as I was finishing off the last 17 miles of the Fife Coastal Path; however, on return, even with the cheats, I made little further progress. I failed to get 16d despite having it for tea! I put it down to tiredness.

    I sympathise with Bonxie; I once made a similar error in compiling a Xword, but I capitalised on it by deliberately using it in several clues in my next crossword (first prompting the solvers to look out for it, of course).

    I wasn’t keen on ROM as “record store” as ROM doesn’t usually store records: RAM might have been acceptable.

    Thanks for the blog.

  29. PeeDee says:

    Thanks Duncan. This was very hard, a great effort on the blog.

    I normally like the hard ones best, but for I didn’t enjoy this one very much, too much guessing going on. I discounted a couple of entires that turned out to be right after all. For example I considered TAPE RECORD, but to me this meant copy music rather than produce music. I guessed at BURNSIDE but rejected that since it was not in Chambers. Similarly, I rejected DISK as a record store. SAND SEDGE not in Chambers neither is B/O. Like RCW I thought SAND=PLANE was not direct enough to enter a word not in the dictionary (another guess). And it had a blatant typo. Not all bad by any means, but just too many rough edges for me. One expects AZED etc to be full of words not in Chambers, but this has too many for a weekly Guardian puzzle with no specific instructions/warnings.

    No problems with the theme, very well done, and BILK was clever.

  30. harhop says:

    Had a horrible time with this, but one of the few that camE fairly esasily was 14ac, whicH as both a noun and an adjective can be both 4,4 and 4-4.

  31. PDFSolver says:

    Hi Fifteensquared,

    Just reading your comments on this puzzle, which I felt was a little too difficult for a daily; shouldn’t they be solvable on the proverbial train to work…I agree that without some indication a dictionary trawl ought to be left for the weekend. This puzzle I found alot harder than Bonxie’s Prize crossword from 11 Aug. A tricky puzzle, tough and clever but maybe lacking that vital spark…

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