Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,734 – Paul

Posted by Andrew on September 6th, 2012


I was pleased to see Paul’s name, as I always enjoy his puzzles. However the theme is not one of my strong points so I needed a bit of help…

…the theme is the singer Frankie Valli and his group the Four Seasons, and some of their well-known songs. While I recognised the titles, I couldn’t have identified who performed them (I would have been better off with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons!), so this is perhaps one of those puzzles that are very easy if you’re familiar with the theme and a bit of a slog otherwise. However, the cluing was all very fair, and full of Paul’s usual inventive wit.

9. ALTERCATE ALT (key on a computer keyboard) + CREATE*. I’ve never seen this word before, but its meaning of “have an altercation”, or “row”, is clear.
11. RANSACK RAN (published, as in “ran an article”) + SACK (bed – “hit the sack”)
12,22. THE FOUR SEASONS Four seasons make a year, and Frankie Valli was the frontman of The Four Seasons
14. COAL MINER ALM[ond] in COIN (mint) + [h]ER[b], and a coal miner might use a pick
16. BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY BIG (great) + anagram (“new”) of LYRIC TRAD SONG less A.
19. SUBWOOFER SUB[stitute} (reserve) + WOOFER (= dog = setter perhaps)
21. BRAWL RAW in B[ul]L
23,24. FRANKIE VALLI RAN KIEV (managed capital) in FALL (season) + I (setter)
25. OLD SCHOOL SOLD* + H in COOL (aloof)
1. SACRED IBIS [di]C[ky] in (SEABIRD IS)*
2. STUNNING Double definition
3. GREASE Homophone of “Greece”
4,6. WALK LIKE A MAN IKE in L.A. in WALKMAN (stereo)
5. LEFT-HANDER F[if]TH in LEANDER. A nice construction, but the answer is very obvious fronm the definition “southpaw”.
7. HEROIN HERO + IN (popular). Horse is slang for heroin.
8. STAR A novelty clue, I suppose – “Beginnin” lacks its final letter, as does STAR[t]
15. ROYAL JELLY ROY AL (two little boys) + JELLY (setter – a variation on the “flower = river” theme)
17. ISOTONIC I SOT (drunkard) ON IC[e] (on ice = kept for later)
18. CRACKPOT CRACK and POT are a couple of drugs that might warp the brain
20. BEAGLE B[udgie] + EAGLE
21. BRANCH BRAN (breakfast food for some) + CH (cold and hot taps)
22. SUVA UV (ultraviolet) in SA (sex appeal = “it”). Suva is the capital of Fiji
23. FIDO FI[b] + DO[g]

54 Responses to “Guardian 25,734 – Paul”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks UY. Glad to see you back so soon and my condolences once again.

    I had pretty much the same journey as you through this. I needed the few easy downs to give me enough crossers to get 16; even then, it was off to Google, I’m afraid. The other themed clues were then write-ins but the last few required a bit of thinking, including two that you have omitted: 21dn SUVA (UV light in Sex Appeal) and 22dn FIDO (FIb + DOg).

  2. Miche says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    I finished in reasonable time, but then spent a bit longer puzzling over a couple of answers I’d written in without being able to parse them. SA = “it” was the last penny to drop.

    I liked the two setters that had nothing to do with the name Paul or the personal pronoun (the I in 23,24 is clued by “yours truly” , not by “setter”).

    8d must win some kind of prize for shortest definition ever – “*”.

  3. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks for the blog.

    Took me an age to finish this one. Frankie Valli, who he?

  4. NeilW says:

    re @1, Andrew, sorry! I had an email first thing this morning from Uncle Yap so assumed he was blogging this (especially because of the early appearance) and didn’t notice your name at the top. (Actually, he is writing a blog today for the Times elsewhere.)

  5. Sylvia says:

    I enjoyed this, but then I always do appreciate Paul’s handiwork. Thought I had dreamed up a subwoofer and was amazed when it fitted in. Last in was heroin – duh!

  6. Paul says:

    Had no idea how 14a parsed since I thought that the half nut was COAcoa (although I think they are probably called beans more often than nuts). That meant LMIN had to be something to do with MINT (well, 3 letters are but then…)

    Not an expert on the songs of the four seasons but I managed to get them all without aids.

  7. molonglo says:

    Thanks Andrew. Done googlessly, with guesswork for ISOTONIC and SUBWOOFER, last in. Vastly more fun than Monday’s and Tuesday’s. Thanks Paul.

  8. molonglo says:

    And Wednesday’s

  9. Uncle Yap says:

    Andrew, is it just me or have you overlooked 21,22 & 23 down?

    Enjoyed this puzzle tremendously after blogging Times (a real toughie today) more so because the music was familiar and my kind of. Thank you, Paul and Andrew

  10. Rick says:

    Fine puzzle (though I too am somewhat unfamiliar with the works of Mr Valli) by Paul and an excellent blog by Andrew.

    Following NeilW @1 and Uncle Yap @9, the last three down clues seem to have run away from the blog (I’m sure they are around somewhere!) (-;

    I agree with NeilW @1 about 22 down (“Suva”) and 23 down (“Fido”). I had 21 down as “Branch”; “bran” (a breakfast food, though not for me – starting the day with sawdust was never my idea of fun!) followed by “ch” (for C[old] and H[ot] taps).

  11. blaise says:

    Miche @2
    Surely the shortest definition ever is:

  12. blaise says:

    …Can’t remember where I saw it but it became feasible with crossers, which might have been _ L _ E _ E _ S

  13. Andrew says:

    Oops, sorry for the omission of the last three clues (due to a bug in my blog-generating spreadsheet..). They’re there now.

  14. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Andrew. Made an educated guess at FRANKIE VALLI once I’d got the F from FIDO, then it was a question of remembering a few and checking for the others. Plenty of entertaining stuff elsewhere, though – I especially liked SUBWOOFER and ROYAL JELLY.

  15. muffin says:

    I wasted a lot of time looking through titles of Frankie Laine songs!

  16. John Appleton says:

    Bit of struggle until I clicked onto “Walk like a man”, after which the thematic ones went in quickly. Last in was SUVA which I had to google, a shame since it was only the final letter that was eluding me..

  17. KeithW says:

    If anyone made their way to the Wikipedia page for Frankie Valli’s discography they would have found probably the worst organised collection of information on the net.

    As an aside I notice that quite a few contributors refer to “resorting to Google” when stuck for an answer. I find Google worse than useless and usually go straight to Wikipedia. How would one find, for instance, SUVA straight from Google?

  18. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and Paul

    I was surprised to get started with this and even more so to finish without aids as the singer and his songs lie on the very edge of my subconsciousness. The cluing was however really excellent and led one willy-nilly to the answers.

    Quite a lot of amusement as well as a challenge – I ticked 9a,14a,4,6d, and 15d and liked many more. Paul’s best for some time imho.

  19. tupu says:


    One way might be to type in Suva since the answer is pretty clear even if one does not know the place :).

  20. duncan says:

    well, in re 22d, is “s.a.” a common & easily understood abbreviation for “sex-appeal” anyway? & isn’t it a bit of a stretch to get to that from “it”? I don’t often complain about clues or definitions, but that one, in an otherwise enjoyable puzzle, seems a bit “s-something v-something… erm…. ” to me.


  21. KeithW says:


    Yes, even I can understand how to google a word if I know it (smileyface) but a recent crossword had solvers “googling” the works of Robert Browning when all the answers were on his Wikipedia home page. I’m not particularly bothered about it but, knowing crossword solvers’ love for accuracy and clarity, I wondered if “googling” is shorthand for “looking on the web” rather than actual, er, googling.

  22. Andrew says:

    Duncan – IT = SA = Sex Appeal is a piece of somewhat dated slang that is one of the hardy perennials of cryptic crosswords. It’s rather like “con” for “study”, which I’m sure no one ever uses any more outside crossword clues; likewise “gen” for “information” and no doubt others.

  23. John Appleton says:

    KeithW, I tend to use the word “google” for any internet search (or even using my Chambers app). I believe that Google themselves are trying to stifle this generic use of it, lest it become an accepted verb in the language (as hoover has become). I didn’t actually use Google for this, just Wikipedia – I was going to try SUV plus every vowel, and was lucky enough the get the right one first.

  24. tupu says:

    Hi KeithW

    I think you are right about the shorthand. Before answering you, I did literally google Suva and a mass of references came up including wikipedia.

    In general I don’t like ‘either you know it or you don’t’ puzzles but this one was redeemed by the quality of the clues.

    Like yourself I find wikipedia pretty useful, though I try not to use it for crosswords except for checking worked out/guessed answers.

  25. ClaireS says:

    Thanks for the blog Andrew – there were a few I struggled to parse today – and to Paul for an enjoyable, as ever, crossword.

    Unfortunately, I failed completely on SUVA and I’m kicking myself now. Lots of fun today though and I always admire Paul’s cleverness in hiding definitions. COAL MINER was my favourite today.

    KeithW@19 – There’s a difference between using google to check an answer and wikipedia to get all information regarding a theme. The recent Browning crossword is a good example. I am completely unfamiliar with his works but, by and large, managed to solve the clues from the word play and then used google to check my answers. That way I only confirmed that what I had was the correct poem by Browning rather than using wikipedia to give his major poems, which would have spoilt the fun for me.

  26. Robi says:

    Good crossword; I resisted the temptation to search for Frankie Valli songs and was OK until I was looking for a [clue number] 6,4 answer instead of a 4,6 one – note to self, please read the clues properly. :(

    Thanks Andrew; I failed to parse LEFT-HANDER properly, although as you said the answer was fairly obvious. As for SA=sex appeal, to quote: ‘This definition appears very rarely and is found in the following Acronym Finder categories: Slang/chat, popular culture.’ [add:crosswords!] Just in case anyone is interested, you can find 265 other possibilities for ‘SA’ here.

    I particularly liked COAL MINER and SUBWOOFER.

  27. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    I didn’t use it for this one, but I usually google ‘topic’ wiki.
    This gives the wiki entry as top of the list.
    I got ‘fido’ very quickly and then Frankie (or Francis) seemed obvious.
    There aren’t too many (Vaughan, Laine, Lymon) so I rapidly got FV and I am familiar with the FS oeuvre (I haven’t yet been lucky enough to see ‘Jersey Boys’).
    This combined with so many multi-word solutions made this easier than it deserved since it contained some good clues.
    Last in was ‘Royal Jelly’ (great definition). I liked 21d.I guessed ‘coalminer’ quite quickly despite a good definition but took a long time to parse it because of the ‘min’/’mint’ confusion.
    Unusually for me I enjoyed this in spite of it being a quite rapid solve.

  28. crypticsue says:

    No ‘googling’ for me as I sadly am old enough to remember the songs when Frankie first sang them! A very enjoyable, tricky in places puzzle, leaving me singing (in my head, the rest of the office wouldn’t appreciate it) for the rest of the morning. Thanks to Paul and Andrew too.

  29. amulk says:

    I have not commented too much recently as I tend to do the puzzles late in the evening when all the commenting is over and done with. Enjoyed today’s puzzle, but I think I was lucky as I managed to guess Frankie Valli immediately from “managed” = “ran”. However, I can’t help thinking that the puzzle is not entirely fair as 23,24 are defined in terms of 12,22, which in turn refer back to 23,24. So I don’t see how someone who had never heard of FV could have found his or her way into the puzzle. Maybe there are enough crossing letters from the other clues to make it possible, but as I started from these four clues I do not know about that.

  30. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    Fun puzzle. It took me a little while to get into, as the key words (FV and THE 4 S) were cross-referenced. ISOTONIC did it for me: I then saw Mr VALLI immediately, and the rest of the crossword fell out quickly.

    Favourites: SUBWOOFER, SUVA and OLD SCHOOL (was that before or after the cabinet reshuffle?) 8ac was entertaining, though not unprecedented (Miche @2): I have come across several clues for the names of punctuation marks in which the definition is simply the mark itself.

  31. rowland says:

    NB Vivaldi version has been done if I remember right. Some clue about pizza for the Four Seasons!

    Thanks Paul for the other one, nice stuff too.


  32. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Paul and Andrew

    Likewise was able to resist the temptation of ‘Wiki-ing’ when the theme became apparent. Was lucky enough to work through BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY quite early on but couldn’t remember who sang it – the vintage was enough help. Still the last clue in was WALK LIKE A MAN.

    Typically fair and witty clues from Paul and CRACKPOT brought a smile when the brain-warping couple emerged.

  33. beermagnet says:

    Anyone else want to put in CRANKIES for the “Impractical brain-warping couple?”?
    Thought not.

  34. pipeflake says:

    Used the Guinness book of singles.Far quicker than google, wikipedia or whatever

  35. Thomas99 says:

    ClaireS @25
    I think you’re quite right – checking on google after arriving at the solution seems fine to me and I had a very similar experience of the Browning puzzle to you. Getting a lot of information in front of you in advance seems a bit like giving up.

    Duncan, Andrew et al-
    Re SA = it, I now find both references very easy; they come up all the time in crosswords and “SA” is probably my first thought on seeing “it”. But I have to say I don’t really think either still exist in spoken English. SA must have been pretty short-lived (I’ve never heard it) and “it” always seems to mean something less specific, and rather different, than sex appeal. Again, I’ve never encountered the usage outside crosswords and dictionaries. I think con = study (Andrew @22) is different, since it’s been in the language for centuries and it’s in Shakespeare (quite frequently, I think).

  36. Dave Ellison says:

    KeithW: I placed “island capitals” in the google search box, clicked on the proffered “List of Capitals”, scrolled down to S…

    For the recent Browning, I got several of the ones I didn’t know from old technology: Palgrave’s Anthology.

    Frankie Valli popped immediately into mind when I was on my way to cheating whilst looking “Four Seasons” up in a popular music dictionary in my local library. I came across France before Four, and that was enough, so I didn’t cheat on this one. (I am not in the habit of going to the library to solve Xwords – I just happened to be there for another reason!)

    Thanks Andrew, and a good steady Xword today.

  37. KeithW says:


    That would be me.

  38. snigger says:

    beermagnet@33 errr ooops me too. old school sorted that error.

    Wish i had googled “island capitals” – ploughing through all the plces beginning with “s” in an atlas was a slog. Another hardback google.

  39. RCWhiting says:

    Thomas @35
    In the 1920s Clara Bow (Marilyn Monroe of her time) was known as the ‘IT’ girl (some credit Louise Brooks earlier).
    Flappers were often said to have ‘it’ or SA (sex appeal). I suspect that there was much more linguistic coyness in those days which would lead to an avoidance of the word ‘sex’.How times have changed.

  40. nic@60 says:

    Good puzzle from Paul, as ever, and thanks to Andrew for the explanatory blog. However, I still don’t understand how 5d comes to be ‘left-hander’. Can anyone very kindly explain? Thanks.

  41. snigger says:

    leander (rowing club based at henley) fifth without/not if – southpaw is a boxing term for a left handed fighter

  42. Norman L in France says:


  43. Norman L in France says:

    For a millisecond or two I was trying to shoehorn Frankie Vaug(h)n in there, although his work would have been even tougher to find.

  44. nic@60 says:

    Snigger @41: many thanks; now I get it!

  45. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Paul for another fun crossword and Andrew for the parsing.

    I particularly enjoyed SUBWOOFER, which made me smile. Like crypticsue @28, I can’t get the songs out of my head now!

    Sorry to have missed the Browning crossword whilst I was away.Could somebody tell me which one it was please.

    Giovanna x

  46. Bryan says:

    Giovanna @ 45

    Here it is:

    Guardian Prize 25,724 by Araucaria


  47. RCWhiting says:

    You would find it behind the Green Door or in The Garden of Eden – memories- eh?

  48. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Bryan, I’ll look forward to it.

    Giovanna x

  49. rhotician says:

    re ‘it': Wiki is good on Clara Bow and the film It(1927) and everything.

    I have never seen or heard any use of SA, and I can’t imagine any need.

    When I first encountered and, eventually, understood the use of it/SA in crosswords I thought these people (the setters) are living in a long distant past. That was over forty years ago. Still one of my least favourite devices.

  50. rhotician says:

    re IT: Don’t like key=alt. I fear we’re going to get key=del. Or ctrl, in an indirect anagram. Don’t like any of this new-fangled computer jargon. Don’t really like computers.

  51. Paul B says:

    HAL will visit you in your dreams now.

  52. rhotician says:

    My sleep has been untroubled since I retired from IBM in 2001.

  53. PeeDee says:

    Thank you Andrew. I found it quick to guess the answers but took a long time to work out why. Still did not parse a coupe so thatnk you.

    rho @49 – so you don’t like old devices…

    rho @50 …and you don’t like new ones!

  54. vikki28 says:

    beermagnet@33 – me too… :)

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