Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize No 25,754 by Qaos

Posted by bridgesong on October 6th, 2012


I think that this is the first puzzle by Qaos to appear in the prize slot on a Saturday,  and certainly the first which I have blogged.  Like Andrew a few months ago (No 25,691) I found it a bit of a mixed bag.  At first blush it looked ridiculously easy, with several obvious anagrams, but some of the other clues presented a sterner challenge.  13 across was particularly inventive, I thought.


9 Economic region’s currency traded for no gas (5)

I assume that the clue is telling us to take Euro (the currency) from Eurozone (the economic region) and replace it with 0 (nothing), but taking one O away only to replace it with another feels a little clunky.

10 The rabble’s hard work turns into double oil spill (3,6)

H(ard) OP(rev) in * OIL(twice). Very easy to guess from the definition.

11 Saucy maid breaks brute’s toe (9)


12 South American comedy series is a hit (5)

S M*A*S*H. Nicely misleading surface.

13 Opening numbers: 500,000,000,000? (7)

NOS (numbers), TRIL(lion). 1,000,000,000,000 is a trillion (in some notations). I don’t recall seeing this device used before.

See 13 down

17 Bearing rubbish and litter (5)

SE *AND. Although a sedan is usually a chair, it can also be a litter, or bed.

18 Say, good clue for O? (3)

e.g. G(ood). O here is an abbreviation for ovum.

20 Silly production of Annie (5)

*ANNIE. A write-in.

22 Orbison returns to cover UK singer, not a US-Swiss singer (7)

(A)DELE in ROY(rev). The fact that this is an American spelling is shown by “US-Swiss”.

25 English composer or hitman? (7)

LAM, BERT. A simple charade, but the last one to go in for me, even though I had heard of Constant Lambert. I was misled into wondering if “hitman” was a reference to Kit Lambert, but decided that this was too obscure.

26 Loveless tabloid hack dismisses boss’s head girl (5)

*TABLOID less o(loveless) and b(boss’s head). I wasn’t particularly keen on “hack” as an anagram indicator.

27 Strong man possesses single talent (9)

I in POTENT AL. We come across Al again in 7 down, in a more familiar guise.

30 Cameron (he vacillates) changing sides like this one? (9)

*(CAMERON HE) with L for R.  If you agree that Cameron vacillates (I express no opinion), then I suppose that this qualifies as an & lit.

31 Foreign film (5)

Double definition.

See 29

2 Concentrated Scouse stew follows fine starter for dinner (8)

F, *SCOUSE, D(inner).

3 Writer of real nonsense (4)

*REAL. Another write-in.

4 Spooner’s fair question leads to polite deception (5,3)

A Spoonerism of “light – why?”.

5 Excite Formula One’s pure racing (4,2)


6 Coalition party finds Greek character’s upset after angry riots (10)

CON(servative Party) *RIOTS, MU(rev).

7 Gangster and murderer reportedly manufacture paraffin (6)

AL (Capone), KANE (sounds like Cain). If you look up paraffin in Chambers, alkane appears in the entry, which is a bit of a give-away.

8,26 Vocal peak? By ’eck, that’s advanced (4,4)

Sounds like “height eck”.

13,15 Might they pry or sneak about to gain small exposé, ultimately? (5,7)

S(mall) (expos)E in *(PRY OR SNEAK). Another & lit clue, well-constructed I thought.

14 Chief lecturer quaffs gin cocktail with student (10)


16 Female 31’s film (5)


19 Member promoted in Tea Party? It might raise the thickness level (8)

LEG(rev), *(IN TEA).

21 Profanities unfold when spoilt son leaves drink (8)

*PROFANITIES less SON. There are two anagram indicators here: “unfold” and “spoilt”; I think that the clue would work with only one.

23 Soap dish upended over top of legs (6)

L in SALAD(rev). The series has recently been revived.

24 Talented man on screen in Surrey village? (6)

The clue refers both to a Surrey village and to the film of the eponymous book by Patricia Highsmith.

See 8

28 Prophet discarding most of the bread (4)

Nathan the Prophet was the one who rebuked King David for adultery.

29,1 Pine shop condemned for bad deliveries (4,4)

LONG, *SHOP. Unless you’re a cricket fan, this clue may have eluded you, although it is in Chambers: ” a short-pitched, high-bouncing ball that is easy to hit”.

24 Responses to “Guardian Prize No 25,754 by Qaos”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks bridgesong. 28 was my last because I had made it hard by convincing myself it had to be NOAH but not being able to explain it. I went through the Old Testament books too without any success.

    I stumbled upon something of a theme when checking the provenance of ALIEN as a film. PARKER, LAMBERT, DALLAS and RIPLEY are characters and there may be others I have missed.

  2. Sil van den Hoek says:

    There are solvers who like a stiff Saturday solve. Unfortunately, for them this puzzle was probably not very satisfying. In fact, it was perhaps the easiest prize puzzle since ages, supported by bridgesong’s frequent use of ‘write-in’ and ‘give-away’.

    There are also solvers who enjoy the sheer elegance of a setter’s clueing irrespectively of the level of difficulty. They must have had a really enjoyable Saturday solve, as Qaos presented them a crossword with great surfaces and a good spread of available devices.

    My PinC and I belong to the second category.
    Even if this crossword was over all too soon, we enjoyed it immensely.

    A pity though that AL appeared twice (in 27ac and 7d).
    On the other hand, we thought that 13ac was rather clever – that said, we had an argument about the number of zeros in a British trillion.
    Also not very British was FOCUSSED (3d) with double S – should perhaps have been signposted.

    Bridgesong, we thought the swapping-device in 9ac was nicely worded (‘traded for’) and we had no problem with O taking EURO’s place (despite the common O).
    Your doubts re ‘hack’ as an anagrind we did not share either. ‘Hack’ can mean ‘cut (with a hacking tool)’, therefore absolutely fine as an anagram indicator.

    The verdict?
    Disappointing puzzle for those who wanted a real challenge.
    Great puzzle for those who put the Art of Crossword Clueing on top of their list of priorities.

    We liked it very much.

    Apart from what one thinks about what is good or bad, it is a good thing that the editor is willing to give new kids on the Guardian block the Saturday spot. Just recently it was the gifted Picaroon, now it was the equally talented Qaos.

  3. rhotician says:

    Thanks bridgesong and Sil.

    I liked 13 (NOS-TRIL), although trillion is only one number.
    In 18 (EGG) O is not an abbreviation of ovum. Egg for O is often used and simply refers to shape.
    In 26 (TILDA) I don’t like ‘hack’ either.
    In 2 FOCUSSED is OK. Chambers gives both one S and two.
    I don’t mind AL appearing twice because he’s clued differently.
    Both &lits are partial. ‘like this one’ and ‘might they’ don’t contribute to the wordplay.

    As to difficulty v clueing, they are not exclusive. Picaroon’s Prize scored on both counts. If I have to choose between puzzles which are good in only one way then it depends on my mood.

  4. r_c_a_d says:

    SEDAN was my only star until I spotted the alien theme late on.

    Also there are KANE, BRETT and EGG (!).

  5. r_c_a_d says:

    … just noticed that ASH is hidden in there too, which makes the whole (human) cast … nice achievement.

    Shame the clues were a bit too easy.

  6. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, Bridgesong.

    I haven’t seen ‘Alien’, so didn’t spot the ghost theme.

    “Although a sedan is usually a chair, it can also be a litter, or bed.”
    I would justify this clue the other way round: Collins has ‘litter: …a light bed or seat held between parallel sticks’.

    [I’m afraid I initially had SCRAP for this, which I was thinking was a poor definition of litter! :-( ]

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks bridgesong and Qaos


    I found it hard to get into Qaos’s cluing style, but managed eventually. Arts (music, film, tv) seemed to form a mini-theme e.g. in12a, 22a, 25a, 31a, 23d, 24d. I did not see the Alien connection.

    I had to hunt out the dd 24d which seems to demand knowledge of both a film and a Surrey village – a bit much perhaps but it is a Saturday puzzle?

    :) 10ac had timely evocations of the Greek for plebs.

    I liked 30a, 21d and 28d especially.

  8. mhl says:

    Aargh, I can’t believe I missed the Alien theme! It’s a film I know backwards. Every member of the crew of the Nostromo being present in the grid is very impressive.

    Anyway, we enjoyed this puzzle very much – no complaints about the difficulty, since it was a fun solve throughout.

    Thanks for the puzzle, Qaos, and the post, bridgesong. (My only comment on your excellent post was the same as rhotician’s – that “clue for O?” just refers to the shape of the letter.)

  9. bridgesong says:

    Well done to those who spotted the Alien theme, which completely eluded me although it is several years since I saw the film.

    Rhotician @ 3, I accept that O can mean egg (or vice versa). Like Biggles @1 I also had NOAH at 28 down for a long time, but knew it had to be wrong. “Nathan” came to me in the early hours when I should have been asleep: as it was part of my mother’s maiden name I should perhaps have thought of him rather sooner.

    I should perhaps add that the annotated solution refers to 3 other English composers by the name of Lambert, although I think Constant is the best known.

  10. Tony says:

    How is 500,000,000,000 a trillion? It could be 500 billion or Five-hundred-thousand-million but for a trillion there should be at least and extra 0. And why 5? Why not 6 or 7?

  11. tupu says:

    Hi Tony

    It’s half a trillion.

  12. Thomas99 says:

    Thanks for the blog. Re 25a – as it happens the red herring “hit man” Kit Lambert (producer/manager of The Who) was Constant Lambert’s son. Interesting bit of trivia.

  13. Fat Al says:

    Tony @10,

    500,000,000,000 is half a trillion…hence TRIL.

  14. Fat Al says:

    Oops! Should refresh the page before posting. What Tupu @ 11 said.

  15. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Qaos and bridesong

    Found this a mix of very simple (29-1, 20, 31, 10, 3) some clunky (26) and very clever (12, 13, 28) clues.

    As with some others, NAAN was my last in after also not making NOAH fit.

    I had missed the ALIEN theme as I have never seen the movie – always appreciate the art of how these can be integrated into the puzzle.

  16. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Much too easy for a Saturday.
    However, I was held up by Ripley, which village I did not know; and hence 27ac and last in ‘naan’ were slow to finish.
    I too tussled with Noah and loaf. I got the th(e) quickly but looked for a word (or name) which ended with th.

  17. Martin P says:

    Ha ha. I thought there must have been a prophet called Namostan…

    Got naan though, I suppose.

  18. Robi says:

    Enjoyable puzzle.

    Thanks bridgesong; another one who missed the Alien theme. NOSTRIL was a classic. I think for billion and trillion scientists now use the original US descriptions as given here.

  19. Brendan (not that one) says:

    Definitely a litte too easy for a prize.

    Rhoticain @3

    “…, although trillion is only one number.”

    I agree but what is your point?

  20. rhotician says:

    It’s just that the surface seems slightly flawed. Opening numbers:500,000,000,000? (I meant to say half a trillion is only one number.)

  21. RCWhiting says:

    But ‘noS’ is the abbreviation for ‘numberS’.

  22. rhotician says:

    Yes, that’s the cryptic parsing. I’m talking about the surface. And I’m not complaining. I did say I liked the clue.

  23. Brendan (not that one) says:

    Rhotician @22

    Sorry I thought I was missing something.

    Now that you mention it, the surface is a bit clunky! (I liked the clue too)

  24. Andy D says:

    Quite enjoyed this, though it wasn’t too difficult. It seems to me that the hardest puzzle of the week is almost never the Saturday Prize.

    Last in was 28, I’ve never heard of the prophet Nathan.

    Completely missed the Alien theme, but I’m not a fan of the film so I don’t know any names other than Ripley.

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