Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,769 / Brendan

Posted by Eileen on October 17th, 2012


Apologies for the slight delay in the appearance of this blog: infuriatingly, I managed to delete it at the point of posting – so more apologies in advance for any typos due to haste.

On 16th August, I wrote, ‘This is the third Brendan in a row that I’ve blogged, so I was pleased to have bagged the hat-trick when I saw his name on this one.’  Remarkably, this is the third in a row that I have blogged since then [and I’m still not complaining!] so I’ve scored a double hat-trick – and again I’ll say, ‘And Wow, what a hat-trick!!’

I had entered the ‘easy’ 27, 28 and 30ac on the first run-through and when I went back and entered 19ac, there was a nice ‘aha’ moment when I saw what Brendan had done. Could he have done the same in the symmetrical top right hand corner? Indeed he had – and then I spotted 20ac, another easy one that I’d entered early, and there was a lovely penny-dropping moment as the middle row leapt out at me. So there were just two more sets to complete – and never have ‘write-ins’ been more delightful!

And that’s not all: there’s a fourth anagram in the clues for three of the sets and so, as so often with Brendan, we have both icing on the cake and a cherry on top.

Those who don’t like themes have absolutely nothing to complain about, I think: firstly, it’s a ‘ghost’ theme – none of the answers depend on spotting it – and, more importantly, the wordplay in many of the clues is so good that it would still be an excellent puzzle without it – and there aren’t really any obscure words, either.

I try to ration my use of the phrase ‘tour de force’  – but I’m going to use it here. Brendan, you amaze me – huge thanks, as ever, for the fun.

1 Drama about caretaker, for example, initially powerless in mutual action
[Harold [p]INTER PLAY [‘The Caretaker’, for example]  minus p [initially powerless] – super clue to start off with

9 Prophet avoiding pride through divine intervention
cryptic definition, referring to Daniel’s divine deliverance from the lions’ den

10 Platform section next to end of railway track
PART [section] + Y [end of railway] + LINE [track]

11 Bizarre denial included in introduction
anagram [bizarre] of DENIAL

12 Isn’t commonly included in unusual reply that’s artistic, in a way
AINT [‘isn’t commonly’] in anagram [unusually] of REPLY

13 Caught returning from island in Med
reversal [returning] of NAILED [caught]

17 Foolish person raises,  ignoring the odds
even letters [ignoring the odds] of rAiSeS

19 Opts for post, say, in an Indian city, beginning in March
AN AGRA [an Indian city] + M [beginning of March]

20 Lets rip with changes, complex peals of bells
Anagram [with changes] of LETS RIP – nice use of the campanological ‘changes’

21 Habitually sail over layer of rock
double definition

23 After conversion lets in to join service
anagram [after conversion] of LETS IN

27 Like a thinking man’s raison d’être
superb cryptic definition – &lit – referring to Descartes’ ‘Cogito ergo sum': ‘I think, therefore I am’

28 Use some tact in selecting what’s for show
hidden in tacT IN SELecting

29 Unorthodox stance about a religious teaching can be this
anagram [unorthodox] of STANCE round A RI [Religious Instruction] – another great surface – &lit?

30 Silent treatment that may be said to get someone’s attention
anagram [treatment] of SILENT

31 Discover a canister at sea
anagram [at sea] of A CANISTER


2 African animals in US city, unfortunately
NY [US city] + ALAS [unfortunately] – of course, I looked for an anagram of US city

3 Still being taken out of context, antagonistically
hidden in contEX TANTagonistically

4 Vote on a couple of points that may need to be counted
POLL [vote] + N S [a couple of points]

5 Scratch American ring? Something like that
ANNUL [scratch] + US [American] – I had to check this, as the Latin for ring is anulus but Chambers gives this spelling for ‘any ring-shaped structure’

6 Reckless Democrat on a McCarthyite obsession
D [Democrat] + A RED EVIL
I think this ties with 1ac and 27ac for my favourite clue

7 Leaving instructions about change of mind for green energy sources
WILLS [‘leaving instructions’] round anagram [change] of MIND

8 Gentle quality of light concealed by black cape
LAND [light] in [concealed by] B [black] NESS [cape]

14 Provide drinks in part of plant — it’s said to increase turnover
ALES [drinks] in STALK [part of plant]

15 Courage of new piece of text inserted in service
N [new] LINE [piece of text] in MASS [service]

16 Succeeded in becoming editor: did well
S [succeeded] in PROPER [becoming] ED [editor]

17 Unit that, for example, is central
middle letters of exAMPle

18 Signs contract really finally in pen
last letters [finally] of signS contracT reallY – nice surface

22 Pervasively influences to abandon partnership
LEAVE [abandon] + N S [bridge partnership]

24 Work of art from university in Washington or New York, say
U [university] in STATE

25 Funny priest’s wit
anagram [funny] of PRIEST

26 A wife inhabiting one part of Africa or another
A W [a wife] in [inhabiting] MALI

43 Responses to “Guardian 25,769 / Brendan”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen. I’m normally a theme enthusiast too but this one flagged itself straight away (combination of “This is Brendan”, the “armadillo” grid and that I spotted the NW anagram combination at the beginning) so for me it was all over very fast.

    Clever, though.

    By the way, since you’ve pointed out the fourth anagrams, you might like to add A to canister in the fodder… ;)

  2. NeilW says:

    Just reread that and it seems uncharitable. I’m sure this was a real labour of love on Brendan’s part and should be properly appreciated as such.

  3. Fat Al says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    Obviously still too inexperienced to even look at the grid as a whole, and so I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even notice the anagrams until you pointed them out. Certainly would have made it easier if I had!

    One typo at 6d… D + A RED EVIL.

  4. Eileen says:

    Thank you both – amended now.

  5. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Brendan

    I started off cursing the grid but once the penny dropped I realised what it was for. A quite superb puzzle.

    I agree with Eileen re CODs – each of 1a, 6d and 27a was outstanding.

    I also ticked 10a, 29a, 1d.

    I commonly miss the overall structure of such puzzles so I was particularly pleased to have seen what was going on here.

    I envy NeilW’s super-quick insight inot such things and agree with him that his first comment was a bit harsh. :) Have a heart for us slower solvers!

  6. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen. This was a very nice puzzle. With Brendan famed for themes I got onto this one with ASCERTAIN/CARTESIAN followed by the 20/19 TRIPLE ANAGRAM. Thereafter it was a pleasant and not difficult ride until a wall at the end with 6d – only resort to TEAS got me the answer to a most deft clue.

  7. NeilW says:

    In parsing SECTARIAN, Eileen, you say, “&lit?” Perhaps if Brendan had substituted a question mark instead of “can be this”, to indicate the answer was an adjective rather than a noun, I guess it might have worked…

  8. Miche says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    I spotted the 19a 20a early on, which certainly helped with a number of clues, but didn’t spoil the fun.

    A conceit like this, affecting nearly all the across lights, can sometimes require the use of pretty obscure words to fit the down lights. Brendan did a great job of avoiding that: only NYALAS was entirely new to me – though I’m more familiar with the adjective “annular” (as in eclipse) than the noun ANNULUS.

    A good variety of anagram indicators, plus some – foolish in 17a, unfortunately in 2d, reckless in 6d – that looked like anagrinds but weren’t.

    My last in was 16d, which I failed to parse, forgetting about S for succeeded.

    All in all, a treat. Thank you, the man from Strabane.

  9. Mitz says:

    Thanks Brendan and Eileen.

    ‘Enlist’ and ‘tinsel’ were the way in for me, having had the Brendan-theme-radar on full red alert from the get go. ‘Anagram triples’ soon followed, and it soon became clear exactly what was going on in all four corners. ‘Daredevil’ was one of the last in for me and therefore one of my favourites. I made a mistake at 14, trying ‘sales till’, but I concede that it doesn’t really work. My COD was 1 – lovely conceit and surface.

    Not a difficult puzzle – two 15 minute tube journeys to and from a meeting were more than enough – but no less ingenious and pleasing for that.

  10. yvains says:

    A really nice puzzle, and I particularly enjoyed INTERPLAY and PROSPERED. Thank you to both Brendan and Eileen!

  11. muffin says:

    Thanks very much to Brendan and Eileen
    It certainly was possible to solve enjoyably without using the theme – I only spotted it after I had finished!
    Many favourites, but 1ac was a peach of a clue.

  12. KeithW says:

    Thanks Eileen and Brendan. Very clever and witty but somehow left me cold. It must be me (or the weather).

  13. crypticsue says:

    Superb thank you Brendan – definitely my puzzle of the day or possibly the week. Thanks to lucky Eileen too.

  14. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Much better than recent efforts. In fact a very enjoyable challenge.
    I failed to see any theme until Eileen enlightened me.
    I liked 10ac and 27ac.
    Last in was Daniel, didn’t spot ‘pride’, my biblical awareness is very low-key.
    Chambers says Delos is in the Aegean but I think Brendan is right.
    Perhaps some Greek experts will know.

  15. rowland says:

    Well, I was warmed. Great puzzle, though I think he and others might have done this kind of thing before with double anagrams.

    On SECTARIAN, I like the way it DOESN’T try to be &lit )or AN &lit). It’s a good clue just as it is, I think!

    Many thanks to all,

  16. Eileen says:

    RCW – the Aegean is an arm of the Mediterranean.

    [In my original blog, I added that Delos was the birthplace of Apollo.]

  17. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Brendan and Eileen.

    Well, we are having an enjoyable week.

    Lots of layers to Brendan’s clueing makes it special for me. In 4d there is also pollen count.In 21ac Ply also has several other layers of meaning.

    Cartesian was first in and all the famous cartoons spring to mind.

    Keep them coming, Brendan.

    Giovanna x

  18. Dave Ellison says:

    Excellent stuff from Brendan. You may recall (I didn’t!) he exceeded triplets of anagrams with five (ERNEST) and almost five more (TENORS) in Xword #23839, 8Aug 2006 – the almost was ROSTER.

    Thanks Eileen. I found this much tougher than yourself and others have indicated, taking me 65′. For some reason the anagrams BL and TL refused to yield easily.

    Brendan’s “theme” was less obvious today than they have been recently, but I felt there was something afoot when I spotted TRIPLES, and the light dawned soon after.

  19. Mitz says:

    rowland @15,

    I’m pretty sure that it was Brendan (or maybe it was Bonxie) who once constructed a grid where every across solution had its reverse in the symmetrically opposite light, so that where we have ‘Delian’ at 13 across in this puzzle, 23 across would have been ‘nailed’. I’m sure one of the expert archivists will be able to find it.

  20. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    Far too clever for me, I’m afraid; I enjoyed this puzzle but, as I solved it in my usual fashion of dotting about the grid and forgetting clues once solved, I totally failed to see the pattern. Didn’t take very long, but would have been much quicker with the insight. Pangrams remain, curiously, the only ‘hidden’ feature that I routinely spot.

    Interesting that CARTESIAN should have been an entry to the device for some – it was one of my last to be solved. Very good clue, but allusive rather than &lit: the thinking man’s raison d’être, according to Descartes, is surely ‘thinking’! (According to CARTESIAN logic, I am beginning to doubt my own existence…)

    Many well-crafted clues here; my favourite was the splendid 6d.

  21. RCWhiting says:

    Aha! Thanks Eileen, that explains it.

  22. Mitz says:

    Gervase @20,

    It’s quite possible that I would have missed the ‘theme’ today until much later on, or perhaps even altogether, had it been a different setter (although solving ‘tinsel’ and ‘enlist’ in quick succession would, I think, have set off some alarm bells even so). Brendan, however, is particularly notorious for this kind of thing, and so as I stated earlier on I was looking out for the possibility of some such device, especially as there were no obvious theme words or key solutions amongst the clues. Also, this particular grid is especially well suited, with its four distinct sections, to the construction of a puzzle of this kind. All the ingredients were there, and Brendan did not disappoint!

  23. Dave Ellison says:

    Mitz@19. yes, it was a very early, if not the first, Brendan, I think. I was actually looking for it when I came across the one I cited above. (See crosswords by compiler on the Guardian site)

    It’s easy to forget his original devices. I just came across another (#23,890) where every across answer was double barrelled, such as bora-bora and hot shots; marvellous.

  24. Bertandjoyce says:

    Well we are not the only ones to have missed the amazing triple anagrams. On first sight of the grid we both complained about the degree of seperation – like solving 4 different puzzles. Had we noticed the theme we may have finished it earlier! We needed a second run-through before we thought that Daniel might be a prophet- never have been that ‘up’ on biblical references but we had heard of the lion’s den!

    Cartesian was the last one in – again it would have been quicker had we seen the link!

    Definite tour de force – many thanks to Brendan.

    Thanks to Eileen for opening our eyes – would we have seen it if we were blogging? Not sure! We’re still looking for the fourth anagram.

  25. Bertandjoyce says:

    Sorry Eileen, we have just realised what you meant!

  26. Jezza says:

    Very enjoyable puzzle from one of my favourite setters.

    My first three in were 23a, 30a, and then 28a. At that point I noticed something was going on!
    Many thanks to Brendan, and to Eileen.

  27. rhotician says:

    Dave @23 and Mitz @19: Yes 23890 is very fine, but Mitz is probably thinking of 25544 where BIRDSONG and SONGBIRD, and all the across solutions, are symmetrically arranged.

    Mitz @22; “Brendan is particularly notorious for this kind of thing.” I think you mean Brendan is the undisputed master of the themed puzzle, combining clever construction with impeccable clueing. Compare and contrast the recent ‘swinger’ theme.

  28. Mitz says:

    Yep, you’re right rhotician – that BIRDSONG / SONGBIRD puzzle was exactly what I was thinking of.

    Don’t quite agree with you on your other point though, and I meant exactly what I said. Brendan is certainly one of the best at clever grid construction such as today’s example and the ones that you and Dave have cited – I used the word ‘notorious’ because these days solvers who know him well are on the look out for this sort of thing as soon as his name appears. But as far as themes go (and by that I mean puzzles with several solutions that are linked by subject matter, rather than letter content or specific grid position) I don’t think there is an undisputed leader-of-the-pack. Boatman springs to mind as a contender, and I would assert that Picaroon’s ‘swingers’ offering from last week, in my opinion one of the finest Guardian crosswords of the year so far, puts him right up on the list as well.

  29. rhotician says:

    Mitz @28: Chambers has for ‘notorious’ – “publicly known (now only in a bad sense); infamous.”

    I should not have referred to the ‘swingers’ theme. I should have expressed my misgivings at the time. I was somewhat overwhelmed by what someone else described later as the ‘lovefest’. For the same reason it would be inappropriate to comment on Boatman’s puzzles. Except to say that the last one was not wholeheartedly admired.

  30. Mitz says:

    I think you are too heavily reliant on one source. Just because Chambers says something, doesn’t mean that everybody has to agree. has:

    “Publicly or generally known, as for a particular trait. Synonyms: notable, renowned, celebrated, prominent, conspicuous, famous, widely known.”

    I am tempted to quote Humpty-Dumpty – I’m sure you know the passage that I’m thinking of.

    Happily, the question of “who is the best compiler of themed crosswords” is purely a matter of taste.

  31. Paul B says:

    Duran Duran (pop group) is very clear on this point.

  32. rhotician says:

    No-no. They’re as clear as Mud (band). Hitchcock (film director) is a better reference source. Then there’s B.I.G (hip-hop star?). I’ve no idea how Humpty might shed any light.

  33. Sylvia says:

    Well, I’ve gone to the bottom of the class, having entered ‘water mill’ at 14 and ‘lobbies’ at 22, thereby unable to get either cartesian or sectarian, and thereby missing many of the anagrams! Head clearly not screwed on right today.

  34. Paul B says:

    And Durand-Durand?

    I’m kind, you see. I do disambiguation.

  35. Gervase says:

    Mitz @30: I’ve quoted that comment from Humpty Dumpty on this blog myself. I’m sure he must have been a crossword compiler.

  36. Sil van den Hoek says:

    In a Brendan puzzle, one knows, there’s always something going on. He seems to be No-no-notorious for that [courtesy of Duran Duran, and PB :)]
    Most of the time it is signposted in the clues, today it wasn’t.

    So, we started solving this puzzle in the usual way.
    It was quite easy, but when we spotted ENLIST/TINSEL/LISTEN the penny dropped, raising the Brendan-smile. Having already TRIPLES and ??????M (in 19ac), the penny dropped even more.

    Some down clues were still quite testing (6d, 16d), so it wasn’t what some people call “Monday fare”.

    The good thing about Brendan’s crosswords is the playfulness of his approach of what some call a theme, but which often is just a ‘ghost theme’.
    In that sense, reading the preamble, I am completely with you, Eileen.

    Brendan is not a setter for those who want a stiff challenge, but he is absolutely unique.

    Most enjoyable.

  37. Paul B says:

    Indeed. But why hasn’t the puzzle been slated by an idiot for being ‘self-indulgent’?

    Shurely having a ghosht theme, or shimilar devishe, ish yet another exshample of the pointlesh games that compilersh play to satishfy themshelves and their egos rather than justly cater to the needsh of an absholute jerk or two.

  38. Matt says:

    Mr B,

    I’m not sure who you’re referring to, but I get the impression that you’re biting your tongue on a matter that bothers you. I worry that there’s a risk that any number of people mistakenly think that you’re talking about them.

  39. samui pete says:

    Paul is referring to rcw

  40. Huw Powell says:

    Awful grid, stopped caring. Got the SW. Don’t care about the rest :(

  41. Huw Powell says:

    I suppose there was a theme of sorts here that would have helped – but I didn’t manage to solve enough clues to expose it. Oh well.

  42. Matt says:


    With the ‘sh’-ing I thought it was a reference to Winston Churchill.

    Looking again, are you sure? Mr Whiting had already given his (complimentary) opinion on this puzzle. Is this something to do with the wars of Rufus?

    I’m keen not to fuel the flames, but it seems to me like troll-feeding. I’m just trying to work out who the troll is in this case.

  43. RCWhiting says:

    Not to worry Matt.
    I think it is more juvenile stalking but I am very old and quite unaffected.

Leave a Reply

Don't forget to scroll down to the Captcha before you click 'Submit Comment'

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

1 + nine =