Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize No 25,778 / Paul

Posted by bridgesong on November 3rd, 2012


A harder than usual prize puzzle this week, I thought.  A theme exploiting two meanings of an old chestnut which often crops up in cryptic crosswords.  Thanks to Paul for a satisfying challenge.  And thanks also to PeeDee for helping me with access to his excellent blogging software program.  I’ve underlined the definitions in the clues.


1 Note down something in bed (6)
F (note), LOWER.  The reference to “bed” is clever, as both flowering plants and rivers can be found in a bed, and both meanings of the word are to be found below.

4 1 across finding fault with bully (7)
COW SLIP.  A straightforward charade, made harder by having the elements reversed.

9 Medium discharge, maximum in obstreperous camels (9)

10 1 across‘s Antarctic expedition? (5)
S(outh) TOUR.  There is more than one River Stour in southern England and the Midlands.  The question mark is perhaps justified by the relative obscurity of the answer.

11 Strongly maintain small 1 across (5)
S(outh) WEAR.  A better-known river in the North of England.

12 1 acrosses border river in places (9)
RIM R(iver) in POSES.

13 A conspirator twisted at first, seeking plant (7)
A BRUTUS, with the first two letters of the name reversed.  Not clued as a 1 across, perhaps because (on this side of the Atlantic at any rate) it’s a tree rather than a flower.

15 1 across having to kiss a redhead (6)
NECK A R(edhead).  The first of two German rivers.

17 The way to have a relative balance (6)
ST(reet) A SIS(ter).

19 1 across experienced UN’s absence at the front (7)
(un)DERWENT.  Another river from the North of England.

22 Tiredness certainly in use of retina? (9)
YES in *RETINA.  Arguably an & lit clue, with the whole of it serving as a definition.

24 1 across more likely to win, leader dropping off (5)

26 Just around the corner, diet? (5)
Sounds like “lo – cal”.  The absence of anything explicit to indicate a homophone certainly justifies the question mark.

27 1 across one’s to discover behind new line (9)
N(ew) ARC I’S SUS.

28 Skill of a tennis player pinches prize on the backhand? (7)
NIPS POT (all rev).  Another question mark clue, perhaps acknowledging the slightly loose definition.  My understanding (and I don’t claim any particular expertise here) is that topspin can be imparted just as well on a serve and a forehand, so the clue is not perhaps an & lit.

29 Open unimaginative starter, prawn cocktail (6)
U(nimaginative) *PRAWN.


1 1 across lets ya out, say (7)
Sounds like “frees ya”.

2 Bizarre off and on (5)

3 1 across risen, there’s a cuckoo circling (9)
UP in *THERES A.  A Middle Eastern river this time.

4 1 across, hero missing rugby posts (7)
C(h)AMPION.  I rather liked “rugby posts” for “H”.

5 1 across gets to stitch up monarch (5)
SEW(rev) ER.  The second German river.

6 Prided hair is on male that’s wild, covering top of neck (5,4)
N(eck) in *(IS ON MALE).  Is “prided” a valid word, I wonder?  I know that “pride” can be a verb, but I can’t recall seeing the participle used in this adjectival sense.

7 Study the country’s economy, primarily (6)
PERU’S E(conomy).

8 Joint where tenor almost swallows piano (6)
P(iano) in CARUS(o).

14 1 across‘s bottom half set on a stool, we hear? (9)
Sounds like “buttock up”!  (I can hear Eileen disagreeing).  A typical Paul clue.

16 1 across for motor race (9)

18 1 across being quiet in the year, forlorn ultimately (7)
SH ANNO (forlor)N.  An Irish river this time.

19 Man with a tough guy image ironed pants (2,4)

20 More than one vessel among sheep arrives (5,2)

21 Drink problem out of season, fate ensuing (6)
(sum)MER LOT.

23 1 across, everyone can see, left in dump (5)
U(as in film certificate) L(eft) in TIP.  The way into the theme for me.

25 Clip from Bardot, a serious stunner (5)
Hidden in “Bardot a serious”.


42 Responses to “Guardian Prize No 25,778 / Paul”

  1. grandpuzzler says:

    Thanks to Paul and bridgesong. Enjoyed this puzzle – ironed pants, indeed! Learned two new rivers: Stour and Neckar.


  2. Fat Al says:

    Thanks Bridesong.

    Whilst I couldn’t make much of a start on yesterday’s Paul in the time I had available, this Paul was the third prize crossword in a row I’ve managed to finish (albeit it took me until Thursday night!).

    I picked up the theme and completed the top half fairly quickly, in the process learning that there are rivers named Stour, Weser, Wear and Neckar. The bottom half remained almost empty for several days however, until I finally remembered the UK film classification system and solved 23d. This provided just enough crossers for the rest to fall out fairly quickly. Couldn’t parse 14d though.

    Good fun. Thanks Paul.

  3. Biggles A says:

    Thanks bridgesong. Having paid insufficient heed to an apostrophe last week (Peppers’s ghost) I gave 14 quite a lot of thought but to no avail. I still can’t see what purpose it serves here.

  4. r_c_a_d says:

    Thanks for the blog – I couldn’t understand BUTTERCUP and now see why!

    I like Paul and did find this quite tough – but groaned on getting FLOWER early on. Old chestnut to some, tired old cliche to others :(

  5. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Paul and bridesong
    Enjoyable prize puzzle – started off in the SE corner with TASER first in which led to ASTER giving me the theme. Thought that it was a clever intertwining of plants and rivers with ARBUTUS and NECKAR the new learnings
    Thought that TOPSPIN was very good. I also struggled on the parsing of 14 – had got stuck with BUTT for bottom and still not hearing how “buttock up” = bottom half set on stool.

  6. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, bridgesong.

    You’d have to go back a long way to find any disagreement from me re homophones like 14dn: I pledged to say nothing more about rhotic accents ages ago. [And I think even my late Scottish husband, on whose behalf I jokingly used to protest, wouldn’t have made too much of the ‘r’ in buttercup. 😉 ]

    Funnily enough, it’s your ‘homophone’ in 26ac that I want to argue about: I don’t pronounce local and lo-cal at all similarly – and they’re spelt the same, so how can they be homophones?

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks bridgesong and Paul

    Lots of clever cluing in this fairly hard but very enjoyable puzzle.

    I ticked 9a, 19a, 22a, 3d, 7d, and 14d.

    Re 14d, I took it that the apostrophe is for ‘is’ as in ‘it’s’ and in ‘the boot’s on the other foot’. I seem to remember some complicated arguments in the past about such usage, but it seems acceptable to me here.

  8. tupu says:

    Re 26a

    Eileen is right I think. They are not homophones but (almost but for the hyphen) homographs if not homonyms (cf Collins – homonym ‘one of a group of words pronounced or spelt in the same way but having different meanings’).

  9. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks Bridgesong and Paul.

    I only finished this this morning, having given up on it a little over half way through, though I think with a little perseverence it would have yielded.

    Regarding “prided”, I think it falls into the category of a false participle, as in “long-haired”, “blue-eyed” etc.

    Once again, Eileen and tupu have beaten me to the post re 26ac.

  10. DuncT says:

    Thanks bridgesong.

    I’ve been waiting all week for the explanation to 14d, having got stuck in the same way as brucew_aus. I still can’t hear the homophone (sorry to disagree Eileen – but there’s a least one rhotic Scot here protesting).

    Apart from that, as others have said, great fun.

  11. Eileen says:

    Sorry, DuncT. :-(

  12. crypticsue says:

    Great puzzle, particularly the theme as I always tend to pick the ‘wrong’ flower in a clue. Thanks to Paul for some fine Saturday entertainment and to Bridgesong for the explanations.

  13. bridgesong says:

    Eileen @6: sorry to pick at an old sore, I should have known that you have renounced that sort of comment on homophones, but I just couldn’t resist making the point! And I think you’re right about LOCAL/LO-CAL, so it’s really a double definition rather than a homophone. Overall, I found it easier than Paul’s puzzle yesterday.

  14. Galeraman says:

    Thanks birdsong and Paul. As I wrote yesterday, for me while being a fine crossword, this was not a patch on yesterday’s offering. I got the theme quickly but then found that the definition part of the themed clues was not very helpful. Either a flower, there are thousands to choose from, or a river, legion. Unlike many, I thought LOCAL was the best clue, and, I took it to be nothing other than a double definition. Also enjoyed EYESTRAIN and BUTTERCUP!!

  15. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Can anyone explain how ‘local’ came to be considered a good or bad homophone? There is no indication in the clue.

  16. rrc says:

    I actually got quite bored with this – looked at the crosswordclues and thought flowers but gave no more thought to until I picked up the paper several hours later, then kicked myself when I read the first clue. Failing to understand a number of the clues I reverted to prepared lists and even then couldnt always see the connection. So for me not one of Paul’s best efforts = maybe it was just the theme that didnt appeal!

  17. tupu says:

    Hi bridgesong and Galeraman

    Re 26a I have been worrying over the use of ‘double definition’. Arguably this should involve two different meanings of the same word. ‘Local’ (relating to place) and lo-cal (low calary) are only superficially the same word since they have quite different origins and are, in fact, neither spelled identically (because of the hyphen) nor pronounced identically (because of the stress).
    A true double definition in the above sense would involve interestingly different meanings of the same words (rather than accidentally similar groupings of letters) so that e.g. leaving and dividing one’s hair would be a double definition of parting. However, I realise that this could uncomfortably disqualify different meanings of, say, ‘scrap’ as recently used by Rufus, if they were found, as may or may not be the case, to have different roots and could lead to a great deal of troublesome argument.

    Yet equally one might argue that homophones are simply definable as dds, and these do lead to a lot of argument as we well know incluidng some in the discussion of this puzzle.

    I suppose that all this boils down to ambiguities in the definition of ‘the same word’ depending upon a focus on sound, spelling, or common roots.

  18. tupu says:

    ps I suppose the double theme of this puzzle is a case in point.

  19. Galeraman says:

    Hi tupu you write a lot of sense at 17. However, most half decent solvers would have got the answer and might have smiled when the penny dropped. The fact that we might not be able to categorize the clue exactly does not, in my humble opinion reduce its authenticity

  20. RCWhiting says:

    Galeraman @19
    I think you are correct. Too much attention to individual clues and not enough to the overall effect.
    My objection to ‘local’ is that it is too obvious. ‘Just around the corner’ immediately led me to think ‘local’, then the ‘diet’ made me smile at a bit of originality; but still obvious.

  21. tupu says:

    Hi Galeraman

    Thanks for your comment. It’s nice to get a response – sometimes one just seems to be spitting into the wind! I agree with your verdict and feel that in some ways the uncertainty of the clue’s definition enhances it. I did not wish to criticise it. It all goes to show what a complicated thing language is, especially with the added element of writing thrown in, and of course a great deal of the fun of cryptic crosswords is the different ways they play around withis complexity.

  22. tupu says:

    Hi RCW

    The overall effect of what? Unless I’m mistaken, Galeraman and I are both talking about the individual clue and we both seem to like it more than you do.

    ps re 21. Sc ‘with this’.

  23. Galeraman says:

    RCW @20
    I concur with what you say. Actually I found the “overall effect” of this puzzle to be a bit tough, so I was happy to get an easy one to help me along.
    tupu @ 21.
    I live in Spain, and as far as I know there are no Cryptic crosswords regularly published in Spanish. The pun is also not often found. I wonder if this is something to do with the Spanish mentality or the language. Can anybody say if cryptic crosswords are found in any other languages?

  24. nametab says:

    At 22ac: Did anyone get diverted/distracted/misled by the fact that ‘certainly’ embeds an anagram of ‘retina’?

  25. tupu says:

    Hi Galeraman

    Tha following may be of interest:

    It seems that they are predominantly ‘English’ in origin and distribution. I imagine that the rather diverse roots of English vocabulary and the apparent irregularity of English spelling might be contributary factors. Certainly other cultures seem just as good at other sorts of puzzles – e.g. the hardest Sudoku comes from Finland. There certain types of wordplay including amusing spoonerisms and forms of backslang seem to be popular but their most popular crosswords seem (as in Sweden) to be a mixture of wordplay, picture clues, and general knowledge issues.

  26. RCWhiting says:

    tupu @22
    Well, the overall effect of the crossword ie does it puzzle,if not it has failed.
    I realise that your comments were restricted to a single clue, which is fine if that is your priority.
    I tend to look at the individual clues only in so far as they add up to the whole and hopefully make a challenging puzzle.

    An interestin thought. I do not know but would guess that the often claimed richness of English makes it very suitable ie lots of synonyms.

  27. tupu says:

    Hi RCW
    There is no contradiction. In my comment @17 I was particularly interested in the logic of the particular clue but I am equally interested in the ‘overall effect’ of a puzzle. Naturally its overall ability to puzzle is part of that, and will usually, though not always, largely depend on the cleverness of the individual clues. But I am also interested in the artistry (elegance, subtlety etc) of the clues and in their wittiness. It is no guarantee that a puzzle will be interesting just because it is very hard. Some hard clues/puzzles can, for instance, be quite unattractiovely ‘clunky’ or merely complicated. But we have been through all this many times before.

  28. Galeraman says:

    tupu and RCWhiting. Thanks for your clarifications. If we are correct, then I am so glad that English is my mother tongue, since the “general knowledge” Crosswords I tackle in El Pais are insipid affairs. Speak to you again after Rufus (perhaps) on Monday.

  29. Paul B says:

    Lovely to see EUPHRATES here today. So many great anagrams to be had from that word.

    Re LOCAL I’m afraid that once again I see absolutely no problem with the clue, though I would probably have labelled it a charade using (the unlisted but well-known) LO-/ CAL, since the enumeration is (5) and not (2-3). Very simple in my opinion, and well-written (since people are always intending, but never actually managing, to go on a diet).

  30. bridgesong says:

    A final thought on LOCAL: I thought I had seen something similar before, and a quick search using the excellent facility on this site produced Guardian Genius No 111 from September where Enigmatist clued the same word in a slightly different (and perhaps easier) way
    : Where you can get Guinness suitable for slimmers (5).

  31. Stella Heath says:

    One last final reflection on “lo-cal” – as I’ve lived in Spain for most of my adult life, and am a bit of a pedant anyway, this was only intelligible for me once the puzzle was complete, and after a bit of thinking.

    To Galeraman, I find the “el País” puzzles fun – the clues are often vaguely cryptic, and those that aren’t are not too obvious. It’s the best the Spanish language can offer as far as crosswords are concerned, but have you read the poetry, for example?

  32. Stella Heath says:

    Nobody’s going to read this, but I’d like to include a link to the Wiki page dedicated to one of my husband’s most admired fellow townsmen and a great influence in Spanish thinking

  33. Stella Heath says:

    Sorry, I for got the link:

  34. Galeraman says:

    Stella Heath@31. Oh yes Federico Garcia Lorca, and Julio Alfredo Egea, to name but two!! And, of course if you are talking about Spanish language poets Pablo Neruda. El Pais is a wonderful newspaper by the way, don’t get me wrong.

  35. rhotician says:

    bridgesong, what’s this excellent facility?

  36. rhotician says:

    And where do you get this Guinness?

  37. Galeraman says:

    Stella heath @32. I read it!! Zamora is wonderful, as is Salamanca. Philology might be the key to crosswords although the Reality might be different.

  38. bridgesong says:

    Rhotician @ 35: it’s the site search facility at the top right hand side under the calendar. Just put in the word and it will find any puzzle in which it appears.

  39. rhotician says:

    Thanks, bridgesong. Now I have even more scope for agreeable procrastination.

    Paul B @29: Our “bickering” over 25781 has been cut off. Before they ban me altogether I should say that my last comment “As you know” ought to have said “As we both know”. I haven’t forgotten your kindness in the matter of my mouth, my foot and church-crawling.

  40. Mary says:

    Could someone explain to me why “(set?) on a stool” means “up in ‘Buttercup’ – I’ve got the rest of that clue.
    I managed to finish. I liked the crossword because it had lots of clever clues but the solutions were words I had heard of. I don’t mind the 2 flowers and especially liked ‘Narcissus’, ‘Arbutus’, ‘Freesia’. ‘Carnation’ and ‘Ectoplasm’.

  41. bridgesong says:

    Mary: I can only suggest you picture someone in a bar perched with one foot on the floor and one buttock resting on the bar stool. I imagine that this is what Paul had in mind.

  42. Mary says:

    Ta, Bridgesong. never thought of that!

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=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

× 2 = fourteen