Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25781/Crucible

Posted by Pierre on October 31st, 2012


Peter O is down to do the blog today, but since he lives in New York, he no doubt has other things on his mind this morning.  So I have stepped in as a substitute blogger.  Please forgive any errors or typos; there are a few where I need help parsing too, but in the interests of getting a blog out sooner rather than later, I will rely on others to fill in the gaps.

There seemed to be a theme today, with ‘fliers’ and ‘air force’ and celestial bodies scattered around the grid.  Again, I’m sure people will be able to elucidate if necessary.

cd  cryptic definition
dd  double definition
(xxxx)*  anagram
anagrind = anagram indicator
[x]  letter(s) missing


9 After Thailand fly over Kuala Lumpur in a flash
A charade of T for ‘Thailand’ and an insertion of KL for ‘Kuala Lumpur’ and IN in WING for ‘fly’.

10 Outlet is definitely not restricted

11 Fliers and swimmers like rakes
A charade of RAF and FISH.

12 In Cuba a servant nearly sent back starchy food
More country abbreviations: an insertion of VASSA[L] reversed in CA.

13 Casual, physically fit, trains here
I guess the definition is ‘casual’, but I need help with this one.

14 Stalled rate increase beginning to decline
A charade of TEMPO for ‘rate’, RISE and D for the first letter of ‘decline’.

16 Current fliers in Blackburn et al
I think this is DEE for the river or ‘current’ and JAYS for these birds.  Referring to Tony Blackburn and his DJ friends.

17 Visit a boxing gym to see star
An insertion of PE for ‘gym’ in CALL and A.  ‘Boxing’ is the insertion indicator.  A double star in Auriga, 46 light years from 26ac.

19 First-time fliers slept fitfully in shorts, I gathered
An insertion of (SLEPT)* with I inserted (‘gathered’) in TOTS for alcoholic ‘shorts’.  ‘Fitfully’ is the anagrind.

22 Casanova that’s exempt from obligations after retirement
Another one I need help with.

24 Setter’s getting on making pictures
Nice surface reading.  If Crucible were getting on (and I’m sure he’s a spring chicken) he would say ‘I’M AGING’.  Or I’M AGEING, depending on your point of view about ‘clueing’ or ‘cluing’.

25 Star who fancied Helen to bag Oscar left?
The North Star is an insertion of O for OSCAR in the phonetic alphabet and L in PARIS, who was Helen’s admirer in Greek legend.

26 Wear the trousers to avoid shocks
Hidden in wEAR THe; ‘trousers’ is the hidden indicator.

27 Eg Tom Cruise’s no use performing with a large female
To avoid delaying the blog any further, I will ask the audience about this one as well.


1 It flies in US celebs with turbulent priests
An easy one to give us a few starting letters in the west.  STARS with (AND) (PRIESTS)*

2 Song for church service
A charade of AIR, FOR and CE.

3 Film about Spain’s Flight of the Wild Geese
An insertion of E in SKIN for ‘film’.  The formation that geese adopt when they’re doing that V thingy formation.

4 Cargo planes forget about military ones
F[RE]IGHTERS.  Crucible’s asking you to remove (‘forget’) RE for ‘about’.

5 Eg good scrumpy occasionally holds up breakfast
What you’d put your dippy egg into is a charade of EG, G, and CUP for the second, fourth and sixth letters of sCrUmPY.

6 Like flights round Ireland to no-frills destinations?
An insertion of IR for ‘Ireland’ in AS TRIPS for ‘like flights’.  Let’s not mention RyanAir.

7 Stretch limos for 20 event?
I think this is OS for ‘big’ and CARS to give you the film awards referred to in 20dn.

8 At US parade radar displayed what’s on 2 badge
(AT US PARADE RADAR)* with ‘displayed’ as the anagrind.  The motto of the RAF, meaning roughly ‘through hard work to the stars’.

15 Beat pickle — it may produce a 9 23
A charade of LAM for ‘beat’ and PLIGHT for ‘pickle’.  And a TWINKLING GLEAM could indeed be LAMPLIGHT.

17 Odd chap turning up at officer’s fling
A charade of CA for the odd letters of ‘ChAp’, a reversal of UP AT and LT for ‘lieutenant’ or ‘officer’.

18 Read story about three times
My best guess at this is that it’s LIE for ‘story’ about T followed by RATE, but I can’t really see how it works.

20 Freddie Mercury’s last Sky at Night?
A charade of Freddie STARR and the last letter of skY.  Freddie Starr was the one who ate my hamster, although he’s been in the news much more recently for something else.

21 Coach of golf to quit working online

23 Brief appearance by male model after midnight
A charade of G for the middle letter of niGht and (MALE)*  ‘Model’ is the anagrind.

Thanks to Crucible for an enjoyable puzzle and apologies again for any errors in a rushed blog.

50 Responses to “Guardian 25781/Crucible”

  1. Andrew says:

    Thanks for standing in Pierre, and best wishes to Peter O if he can see this..

    13ac is A1 (fit, as in the Army for example)+ RY (railway – where trains are found)

  2. Andrew says:

    Hit Submit too soon –
    27ac is anagram of TOM CRUISE less USE + A L F, and &littish with reference to his small stature.

  3. Andrew says:

    .. and 22d is reverse of DUTIES less I.E. (that is = that’s)

  4. crypticsue says:

    I hope Peter O is OK and has survived the hurricane.

    Thanks to Pierre for standing in.

    22a is a reversal of DUTIES with the IE (that is) removed (exempt).
    27a – no idea!!
    18d is LIE around T (time) ERA (time) and T (time) so three times.

    Thanks to Crucile too. I did enjoy the starry theme.

  5. crypticsue says:

    Sorry Crucible for misspelling your name. Brain worked faster than fingers.

  6. matthew says:

    I had for 27 across: an anagram of TOM CRI (Tom Cruise without “use”) plus A L(arge) F(emale).

  7. Andrew says:

    Finally, and belatedly, thanks to Crucible for an enjoyable puzzle that was more of a challenge than the rather lightweight fare earlier in the week.

  8. chas says:

    Thanks to Pierre for the blog. Best wishes to PeterO and hope he has not been too badly affected by the storm.

    On 22a I suggest that obligations is DUTIES, reversed, then remove IE (“that’s exempt”) leaving STUD.

  9. Gervase says:

    Thanks Pierre and best wishes to Peter O.

    I agree with all of the suggested parsing amendments. One more: STARRY is ‘Freddie’ (STARR) + ‘Mercury’s last’ (Y) – ‘Sky at Night’ is the def.

    I found this a lot easier than most Crucible puzzles, the long down lights proving very straightforward.

    Particular favourites were the clever construction and surface of CAPELLA, FILM ACTOR and LITERATE.

  10. sidey says:

    My father, 25 years in the RAF, always said the motto was actually Per Ardua Asbestos or **** you mate, I’m fireproof.

  11. Chris George says:

    13: A1 for fit plus R[ailwa]y

    22: DUT[IE]S reversed

    27: Anagram of TOM CR[U]I[SE] (Cruise minus the letters of use) plus A L[arge] F[emale]

    18: LIE for story, as Pierre suggests, about T + ERA + T = three times

    Thanks for the blog, Pierre

  12. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Pierre. Really enjoyable fare from Crucible. I think you’ve said all there is to say on the theme – I couldn’t see anything more cunning hidden in the grid.

    Last one in for me was FILM ACTOR as I was trying to find a way to avoid Tom Cruise having to do double duty in the clue.

    Best wishes to PeterO.

  13. NeilW says:

    Having said that, the surface of 27 is excellent since TC’s notoriously short!

  14. rowland says:

    One gripe, with STARRY, that’s an adjective. ‘Sky at Night’ doesn’t work, but a goodish puzzle.

    Cheers all,

  15. NeilW says:

    Rowly, isn’t that the reason for the question mark?

  16. Pierre says:

    Thanks to all for joining the dots. In my rush, I didn’t have the chance to say before, but I thought this was a really good puzzle, with the theme nicely interwoven among the clues. Good stuff from Crucible.

  17. Gervase says:

    Rowly @14: I think Crucible’s addition of a question mark at the end of the clue to STARRY is a concession to the part of speech not being right. There’s no other ambiguity in the clue that would warrant it.

  18. rowland says:

    Yes, I think you’re right Gervase. I don’t buy it as an excuse myself!


  19. Paul S says:

    At the point that I put STUD in for 22ac, I hadn’t seen that it is DUTIES without the IE (and reversed). I settled on it as being defined by Cassanova and also by being ‘exempt from obligations after retirement’ – as in being put out to stud.

  20. Wanderer says:

    Linking Freddie Mercury, from Queen, with The Sky at Night is a delightful touch in 20a. It indirectly references the band’s guitarist, Brian May, who went on to do a PhD in astrophysics (and was very interested in twinkling, starry things) and who appeared at least once on The Sky at Night with Sir Patrick Moore.

    Lovely stuff, thanks to Pierre and Crucible.

  21. Geoff Cusick says:

    Thanks Pierre and Crucible.
    18d – LITERATE, LIE (story) about T, ERA, T (three times)

  22. Kate's Dad says:

    For 6dn i actually had it as Eire’s trip, i.e. flights round Ireland with the like meaning sounds like? Maybe not

  23. tupu says:

    Thanks Pierre and Crucible

    A cleverly constructed and enjoyable puzzle. Literate left me puzzled so thanks to Chris George et al.

    I ticked 19a, 26a, 27a, 2d, 15d, 17d.

  24. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    A very mixed lot here.
    Like others I found the long downs too easy and several over-obvious definitions. For example 11ac, 19ac, 24ac, 3d, 5d, 20d and 21d.
    However, there were also some intriguing hold-ups and a few which I never did fully parse (10ac, 22ac, 27ac).
    With stud I was fixed on ‘obligations’ being ‘IOUS’ and stud = studious – ious. Nonsense of course.
    Last in was ‘deejays’, I had seen the Tony Blackburn link early but assumed that DJ was part of the cryptic rather than the definition.
    Favourite was 17ac, lovely deception with ‘boxing gym’.

  25. MikeC says:

    Thanks Pierre and Crucible. Quite a challenge. I failed to parse 10, so thanks especially for that. My COD was 7d (OSCARS) – not difficult but a wonderfully smooth surface and “&-lit-ish” feel. OS for stretch was neat.

  26. Bertandjoyce says:

    Thanks Pierre.

    We enjoyed tgis and thought the references in RAFfish, airforce, airstrip etc plus star references – twinkling, stars and stripes, polaris etc were neatly incorporated without reference to a theme.

    Thanks Crucible as well.

  27. Trebor says:

    Long anagrams of non English words or phrases are indefensible. Other constructions are fine, but not anagrams.

  28. blaise says:

    @trebor (27)
    I hate people who make up rules to hide their failings…

  29. Sil van den Hoek says:

    The most recent FT crosswords by Redshank (one of Crucible’s alter egos) were so good that I started to prefer them to Radians and Crucibles (still very good – don’t get me wrong).

    But yesterday’s Radian with its clever hidden theme and today’s puzzle with its nicely worked-out not so hidden theme, made me start to have a discussion with myself again :).

    This was very enjoyable stuff.
    Not extremely hard indeed, also because (I agree with RCW) many definitions were straightforward.
    But unlike RCW, I cannot be bothered by that.

    We particularly enjoyed some relatively simple clues.
    Like for example 2d (AIR FORCE) – how smooth can a clue be?
    Or 25ac (POLARIS) in which the starry theme was nicely interwoven – I mean, the solution is a star in the sky, the surface is about the other kind of stars.
    We also liked EARTH (26ac), clued many times before but not always as ‘original’ as it was here.

    Also pluses for 18ac (the three times) and 20ac.
    And it should also be said that Crucible really made an effort to push surfaces for non-thematic solutions into the theme’s direction (eg in 11ac, 16ac, 3d).

    While I may have one or two nitpicking remarks (like the misleading role of ‘a’ in front of ‘servant’ in 12ac), I will keep them to myself – I do not want to spoil the party.

    Fine crossword.

    Oh, and BTW, Trebor @27: why?
    We found the anagram very useful in 8d.
    We knew the term “Per Aspera Ad Astra” which couldn’t be it here, but given the starry theme we went for “Per …. Ad Astra” which led us inevitably to “Ardua”.

  30. Paul B says:

    He likes 17ac best, and he’s certainly right about the nice construction. But does it just possibly miss an opportunity to work a bit harder for 15^2’s toughest critic? I mean, isn’t ‘star’ perhaps is a bit less than, er, allusive for something that is, er, a star? Or is the clue word sufficiently difficult not to require anything extra for solvers to ponder?

    A tricky one, and who can blame today’s compiler for keeping things simple. But in light of certain tiresome remonstrations about ‘write-ins’, with boxing and astronomy on the relevant sides of the cryptic equation here, one is really quite bloody shocked not to see old RCW come flying in to offer ‘shiner’, for example, as the means to marry those concepts in what for him would surely be a satisfyingly allusive way.

    I am bewildered! While Dr Freddie Mercury, of course, was the famous guitarist, astrophysicist and planet. Sir Patrick Moore plays vibes, and both Dastardly and Muttley are adverbs.

  31. Robi says:

    Sil @29; ‘While I may have one or two nitpicking remarks (like the misleading role of ‘a’ in front of ‘servant’ in 12ac),’ I parsed this as ‘C’ for Cuba with ‘A VASSA(l) rev. As far as I know (?), the abbreviations for Cuba are either ‘C’ or ‘Cu.’ I don’t think I have seen ‘Ca,’ but maybe I have missed something.

  32. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Robi, we had exactly the same idea about this as you.
    Didn’t know that Cuba might be C, though.
    But if (y)our parsing is right, I am happy with it.
    That said, then perhaps the word “In” at the start of the clue is not really elegant (but defendable).
    Ah well, indeed nitpicking.

  33. Paul B says:

    Well, you’re right. C is the ICR for Cuba, so it’s C plus A/ VASSA reversed. The ‘in’ is indeed defendable, with the formula being

    In X plus reversal of Y (is found) Z

    where X and Y are SI elements and Z is the answer. There aren’t any nits to pick in that one really, unless you are a single-letter indication Nazi like me.

  34. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Paul, if – like me – one has to analyse Dante puzzles week after week, one gets used to “a” and “the” and “of” and “in” when they ideally shouldn’t be there.
    At the same time, there is something so much right about Rufus/Dante crosswords [I really learned a lot about the English language, solving his puzzles] that I find it hard to be critical, even though I don’t like this kind of ‘padding’.

    As to this particular clue (12ac), if indeed Cuba = just C it’s fine, but I would still have tried other options. Ah well, maybe there aren’t that many.
    It’s the classical dilemma between being a setter and being a solver.
    Sometimes I’m both.

  35. rhotician says:

    In 18 ‘Read’ is not a good definition for LITERATE. ‘Well-read’ would be OK but destroys the surface. ‘Well read’ is less bad as a definition and does less damage to the surface but loses the element of misdirection. I dunno.

  36. john mcc says:

    Per ardua ad astra is not exactly alien to our culture since the founding of the RAF!

  37. Paul B says:

    Re 35 see your Collins.

  38. rhotician says:

    Collins does indeed give ‘read’ as an adjective, as does Chambers. However I cannot construct a sentence where ‘read’, uncombined and unqualified, can be substituted for or by ‘literate’. Can any one help? Maybe there’s an example in the OED.

  39. Trebor says:

    With hindsight I’d change “indefensible” to “unfair”. I think if the device was a construction based on breaking up the phrase (a “charade” in the local parlance) into whole or partial (English!) words then one could be confident of getting the correct answer, without knowing the phrase… and thus has effectively learned the phrase. I don’t think this is true when clued as an anagram.

  40. rhotician says:

    On the other hand I’ve never had any problem with ‘red’ for ‘embarrassed’, but I cannot construct a sentence in which one can be directly substituted for the other. Words can be synonymous without being interchangeable.

  41. rowland says:

    Red-faced is usually the term employed, or something else similar, but Paul B is right about the dictionaries. If they say READ can mean ‘literate’, then the compiler can use it fairly? I would say so.


  42. rhotician says:

    Hmm, hmm, and thrice hmm. But we’re heading into General Discussion, where I do not wish to go.

    Suffice to say that, judging from posts here and in the other place, at least three clues in this puzzle some found difficult to solve or parse. In the specific case of read=literate I do not say that the compiler is being unfair. I can’t really say why I didn’t like it. Is it a definition or a cryptic definition or what?
    I dunno.

  43. Paul B says:

    Straight def, as advertised. If you don’t like it, that’s fine: write in to Collins, rather than the compiler.

  44. rhotician says:

    Read(7) for LITERATE would not be good in a “straight”, non-cryptic crossword.
    I think Collins tends to support my view that this is not a “straight” definition.
    I could quibble with a few other clues in this puzzle. This is actually the one I find difficult to justify. It’s something I can’t put my finger on.
    But I’ve resolved this personal crisis by reflecting that if the puzzle were Araucaria’s I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, beyond admiring the surface and the wordplay.

  45. Paul B says:

    No, Collins supports Crucible, who has, as you may have noticed, set a cryptic puzzle (not that it makes any difference): ‘adjective (2) having knowledge gained from books’. So you are quite wrong to criticise the setter for that definition.

    Re your personal crises vis Araucaria, all the best. I think you would do well to consider each clue on its cryptic merits, regardless of parentage.

  46. rhotician says:

    (esp in the phrases widely read, well-read)
    I think esp should say as. Still can’t find an example of how it might otherwise be used.
    Like I’ve already said I’ve often seen embarrassed for RED in SI. Can’t recall seeing this kind of thing as a definition.
    Parentage has nothing to do with it. I tend to consider single clues in the context of the style of the whole puzzle.
    And I’m not really criticizing the clue, just musing.
    STUD I could have criticized, but I was too pleased with myself for solving it easily when others clearly had difficulty.

  47. Paul B says:

    I guess all I’m saying is, be sure before you shoot your mouth off, as you did at #35, that something really is wrong. Maybe trust that the compiler knows more than you do, and enjoy the fruits of his or her labours before leaping to judgement!

  48. rhotician says:

    I did say @35 that the definition was “not good”. So, yes, I was a bit hasty. I’ll try to be more considerate. Nice expression ‘shoot your mouth off’. It can lead to shooting yourself in the foot. As you know.

  49. Paul B says:

    Well, I think you might be trying to be just a wee bit too clever for your own good there, but since you ask, yes I do know. Which is why I tend not to rush to judgement in crosswording matters any more, unless I am completely certain that I have my ducks in a row.

    Before, though I could always expect to be in the ball park on a fairly regular basis, as I should have realised there was absolutely no chance of my striking the ball all the time. And this is the simple, though magical formula I invite you to look at, young optician me lad.

    Enjoy your Sunday roast.

  50. Pierre says:

    Since this has descended into bickering between the two of you and is just clogging up my inbox with your exchanges, I have asked Gaufrid to close this thread to further comments.