Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize 25,790 / Enigmatist

Posted by Eileen on November 17th, 2012


I’ve been looking forward for a long time to an Enigmatist puzzle, especially in the Prize slot – but I’m not sure I would have chosen to open my paper to find one on my blogging day, as I was preparing to leave for the latest Sloggers and Betters Derby meet. I like to solve and blog a puzzle, as far as possible, all in one go and, as I think many of you will agree, one can’t bank on even solving an Enigmatist puzzle at one sitting, so I didn’t even look at it before leaving home and, as my train journey was only twenty minutes, it wasn’t worth taking it with me.

A Sloggers and Betters meeting is a great opportunity for chewing over the day’s puzzle[s] but this time I had to spend the day struggling to avoid overhearing comments on the puzzle, which many / most friends there had at least started. [It reminded me of the Likely Lads’ day-long attempts to avoid hearing the result of that football match.] I did gather that people had generally finished it, apart from one or two clues, with problems arising mainly in the parsing department.

And so it turned out for me. A handful of anagrams provided a way in to the solving process but, thereafter, there was an impressive variety of clue styles to keep one guessing and a lot of misdirection along the way, together with some intricate constructions and several rather well-disguised definitions, as in 2, 5, 6 and 21dn. It was [of course] hard going but very rewarding, with the last bits of parsing taking almost as long as the puzzle – but that’s what I expect in a Prize puzzle. Huge thanks, Mr H: lovely to see you again – and thanks for a great quiz, too!


9,10 It’s applied in hilarious fashion, so singly formed?
The first clue but one of the last to be entered – and certainly one of the last to be parsed, with something of a clunk as the penny dropped. We need to take [vanishing] ‘cream’ out of ‘screamingly’ [in hilarious fashion] to leave ‘singly’. I haven’t heard of vanishing cream for decades!

11 Bum, near broke, owing money?
anagram [broke] of NEAR in [the] RED [owing money]. Some solvers don’t like this use of ‘in the red’ but I do – and it seems to be pretty standard these days: it’s a lovely surface, anyway

12 Bearded giant maybe sides with the family divided
EG [for example – maybe] divided by RL [sides] + KIN [family] for this bearded giant

13 Fish cause trouble for surfers
double definition
On the same day, the FT prize puzzle by Dogberry [our Shed] had this word clued by ‘Sing of cyber-bully’ and, just two days ago, Morph’s Indy puzzle had ‘Fish who’s stirring on-line': all great clues, using three definitions of the word, but without a hint of the [obvious] first meaning I knew: watch this for a trip down Memory Lane

14 Profane Croat finds new way to get through pass dangerously
anagram [new way] of CROAT in [to get through] CUSS [profane]

16 As distilled from the Weatherfield Gazette’s gossip column?
I think this is just a cryptic definition, referring to Coronation Street’s notional local newspaper, but there may well be more going  on

19 Cocktail of whisky is truly an incendiary
anagram [incendiary] of IS TRULY AN for this whisky cocktail

21 This petrol will make consignment
petrol will make a car go

22 Substantial food item accompanying pea in soup — the writer’s about to scoff a little more than 3
two lots of wordplay here: 1: anagram [soup] of ITEM and PEA and 2: ME [the writer] round EAT [scoff] + PI [at approximately 3.14159, the constant pi is ‘a little more than 3′]

23 Healthy state dresses as German city
GLOW [healthy state] round [dresses] AS G [German]

24,25 Distantly collecting rent, working together to stop mutual slating
I’ve given a lot of thought to this one throughout the week and I’m still not quite sure. The construction is quite clear: AFAR [distantly] round [collecting] LEASE [rent] leaving IN ONE somewhere in the middle. But then, for me, there are two ambiguities: – does IN ONE mean ‘working together’ or ‘mutual’? [It doesn’t really mean either to me.] And ‘to stop’, in crossword language, could mean either ‘contained in’ [stop = plug] or ‘containing’ [stop = hinder] – so it’s either ‘AFAR and LEASE ‘working together’ to stop [contain] ‘mutual’ [IN ONE] or IN ONE [‘working together’] in [stopping] AFAR and LEASE – but then what’s ‘mutual’ doing? Over to you! ;-)


1 Place of retreat from unorthodox Tory view, or one pulling teeth
another clue with two bits of wordplay – Enigmatist is being really kind! 1: anagram of TORY VIEW OR and 2: a lovely cryptic definition: tower [puller] of ivory [tooth]

2 For popular quartet a 5th is admitted
A V [a fifth] in [is admitted]  IN [popular] FOUR [quartet]

3 Lao Tse has new formula from Bones
anagram of LAO TSE

5 Much regaled at a party!
anagram [party?] of REGALED AT A

6 “Long to pursue runner”, said rapper to wit
homophone [said] of SKI [runner] + L [long] + ICE T [rapper]:  I really like this clue but I can only find L = length, not ‘long’. [Edit: as pointed out by r_c_a_d  @9, you might find it in clothes labels]

7 Blind follower‘s taken out in Rome?
anagram [taken out] of IN ROME for this sheep, which could, like all sheep, be said to be a blind follower

8 Sticks up spruce
reversal [up] of GUMS [sticks]
I would never have thought of this as a synonym but [of course] it’s in Chambers

14 A little home cooking?
a lovely cryptic definition – one of those that make you wonder why it hasn’t been done before: perhaps it has but I’ve never seen it

15 Recommend awaiting hospital bed?
SET FOR WARD: ‘put forward’ seemed to fit the definition better but made no sense of the wordplay

17 Great God — preposterous palimony!
anagram [preposterous] of PALIMONY

18 With mounting amount of work getting in in good time for tea
reversal [mounting] of ERG [amount of work] in EARLY [in good time]

20 Keep horses under control
a neat double definition, which I really liked

21 Red mark checker uses to ring what’s not right?
CARET [mark checker uses] round [to ring] L [left – what’s not right]
this has to be, for me, a former teacher, one of the favourite clues, since the wonderfully misleading surface leads to that of which a glassful was often the reward for a prolonged session of the activity referred to in the wordplay :-)

22 Design intermediate base
triple definition

23,4 Bind outside of barrel supporting AOL server
GIRD [bind] round [outside of] B [barrel] + AOL –  Amendment: [thanks NeilW @2]: it’s B following [supporting, in a down clue] AOL
I do hate this expression ‘outside of’ but, of course, I can see it’s necessary here for the surface – but I can’t find B as an abbreviation for barrel! [Edit: I missed it in Chambers: thanks tupu @12]

31 Responses to “Guardian Prize 25,790 / Enigmatist”

  1. Galeraman says:

    Thanks to Eileen for a cracking blog elucidating a really hard (for me) but super crossword, for which thanks and admiration to Enigmatist. I’m glad you found 24,25 ambiguous I struggled with this as well. By a long way 9,10 was my COD. I got a real sense of pride when I solved it, although I am aware that it will not be to everyones taste. I needed to look up the Weatherfield Gazette because I’m not a Cory follower so for me that was a bit of a duff clue. Otherwise I think all will agree we got real value for money this week!!

  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen, especially for the parsing of VANISHING CREAM – I meant to go back and look at it again but forgot: something you have now encouraged me to do with WORD ON THE STREET!

    A FLEA IN ONE’S EAR: defined in Chambers as “a stinging rebuff or rejoinder.” So I thought that “mutual” formed part of the definition: you have to “slate” the other person to receive the rejoinder so the slating will be mutual, which makes the parsing relatively straightforward as you describe. (I thought IN ONE could be understood as “as one.”)

    GAOL BIRD: you have your parsing a little bit the wrong way round as it’s AOL + B. My interpretation was GIRD “out” as the envelope indicator AOL supported by B “side” of barrel.

  3. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen for some great work. The pleasure of completing this was somewhat marred by failure to get the essential (‘singly’)point in 9, 10; 16 (‘Weatherfield’); 24,25 (‘mutual’) and 8d (spruce=smug?). That said, it didn’t take so long, and was good fun while it lasted. Last, for no good reason except that it was one among many fine clues, was CLARET.

  4. togo says:

    Thanks Eileen, for your blog and commentary on what I thought was a good and challenging puzzle. Like you, I find the ‘mutual’ after ‘in one is taken in, questionable… And I couldn’t parse the disappearing cream – so a special thanks for putting me out of my misery!

  5. samui pete says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this. Many thanks all.

  6. Miche says:

    Thanks, Eileen. It was only when I started to read your blog that I realised I had put this crossword aside not quite finished, and forgotten to go back to it. SCILICET defeated me, and I entered VANISHING CREAM without being able to parse it. (I recall a Tom & Jerry cartoon in which vanishing cream bestowed invisibility; as a child I dearly wanted some.)

    NeilW @2: my understanding of the phrase “a flea in the ear” is that it is a scolding response, but not necessarily to an aggressive approach. “Would you believe he asked me to lend him money? I sent him away with a flea in his ear.” I don’t see the mutual slating you speak of.

  7. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Eileen for another very well explained blog. In my innocence I hadn’t come across the meaning of ‘troll’ in the internet context so I’m grateful for that. I share your doubts about 24,25 but had rationalised it to myself in the same way as NeilW.

  8. Eileen says:

    Thanks, NeilW @2 – a careless slip, amended now, but I haven’t altered my original parsing, as I’m not happy with your ‘out’ for ‘outside’ or B for ‘side of barrel’. ;-)

  9. r_c_a_d says:

    Thanks Eileen. I couldn’t parse vanishing cream, nicely misdirected by singly.

    Re the abbreviations. I used to see clothes marked S, R, or L for short, regular or long (sleeve or leg). And I have seen data relating to oil trading which uses B for the unit barrel.

  10. Eileen says:

    Thanks, r_c_a_d. You’ve reminded me that men’s trousers do sometimes have this abbreviation.
    As for B = barrel, googling only unearthed explanations of why the abbreviation for barrel is BBL, eg here:
    [perhaps Neil is right!]

  11. Jim says:

    Stared at this for 90 minutes. Didn’t get a single clue. Gave up. Not sure I like many of them even when they’re explained. It quite spoilt my weekend. Nice, safe Araucaria this weekend though, so everything is OK again.

  12. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Enigmatist

    Very hard but I did manage to solve it in the end.

    I got part way with 9,10’s parsing (I saw the scream/cream connection) but missed the final untying. Also 24, 25 was not wholly clear to me.

    My Chambers has b for barrel as its penultimate entry for ‘b’. I read the clue as Eileen did.

    This sort of puzzle leaves me wondering how one can feel mentally quite dull on one day and mentally quite lively the next!

  13. Eileen says:

    Many thanks tupu – I don’t know how I missed that Chambers entry! [And sincere apologies to Enigmatist.]

  14. Mr Beaver says:

    “the last bits of parsing taking almost as long as the puzzle – but that’s what I expect in a Prize puzzle.”
    – well, I suppose…
    I don’t expect a prize puzzle to be easy, but I am left feeling unsatisfied and grumpy when I write in the answer but can’t for the life of me see why it’s right. There’s cryptic, and there’s wilfully perverse. So I can’t entirely share Eileen’s enthusiasm for Enigmatist.
    Just my opinion, maybe because of my mental dullness!

  15. Davy says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    Really enjoyed this and finally finished it last night after ignoring it all week. I solved a few clues last Saturday
    and then the puzzle sat forlorn (often covered up) by the side of the computer until I was spurred on by the approach
    of today’s blog. As Enigmatist is usually my nemesis, I was really pleased to finish this and not prepared to give in.

    My last clue in was MEAN and the only clue I failed to parse was VANISHING CREAM which uses a technique I complained
    about recently but which I am starting to warm to. Simarly, ‘in the red’ which I suppose is just another level of

    Two clues that I thought were particularly clever were IN FAVOUR and SET FORWARD. Also, MEAT PIE took a bit of working
    out, my first guess being veal pie.

    Thanks very much Mr Henderson, I’ll be ready for you next time.

  16. Andrew T says:

    12 ac. I only know the Erl King from Goethe’s poem, set to music by Schubert, amnong others.

    However, this does not mention him being a giant or bearded. I always thought of him as elf-size.

  17. Jan says:

    Thanks, Eileen. Like NeilW, I meant to get back to VANISHING CREAM to try and sort it out, but forgot.

    I am not a big fan of Enigmatist’s puzzles, but I do persevere. Too often I feel that I’m being deliberately sent around the chaotic ring road when the route through town is clear. Not quite as strong as ‘wilfully perverse’, maybe. :)

    Loved the link, Eileen. I’d never heard it sung. I wasn’t allowed to watch all of it because I’m not accompanied by a child!

  18. Eileen says:

    [Hi Jan – just a daft bit of self-indulgence, since it’s my blog. When the grandchildre were little, we had to act out the story [if there was no one about] at Foxton Locks, with my husband under the bridge as the Troll [Fol-di-rol – hope you got as far as that bit. ;-) ]

  19. crypticsue says:

    A great blog of a great puzzle – my main problem was with the SCILICET. Some truly wonderful d’oh moments, including 21a. I believe this puzzle was also the first appearance of the current word of the month ‘troll’.

    Thanks to Eileen and to Enigmatist – not as difficult as some of your recent offerings and perfect Saturday entertainment.

  20. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Tupu, for B for barrel – happy to concede! :)

  21. sam says:

    Thanks Eileen. Great puzzle – as expected, plenty that my weak skills couldn’t crack, so I was forced to resort to some creative googling yesterday to finish off the top corner (Erl-King and Scilicet were new to me).

    I loved 22A though – there’s an extra surface in there. An Australian Pie Floater is traditionally a meat pie served in a bowl of pea soup. Which I only remembered in a sly reference from Terry Pratchett’s Last Continent… I hadn’t spotted the pea soup anagram – all together my favourite clue for a long time. Thanks Enigmatist!

  22. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    When I completed this (last one 21d had to wait until Sunday morning) I wrote next to it, in capitals, the single word ‘TOUGH’. A real compliment for a real Saturday treat.
    I marked 24,25 with ??,and still do not get it all.
    I agree with Miche on the phrase’s meaning,nothing mutual about it.
    I held myself up by writing in ‘talk on the street’ (also by thinking it was Emmerdale Farm,I am not a soap fan, except TA).
    I liked 14ac, 5d, 23,4 but especially 6d.
    I thought the extraneous addition of ‘one pulling teeth’ was amusing and probably irresistable to the setter.
    Like Eileen I needed convincing that ‘smug’ = ‘spruce’.

  23. Brendan (not that one) says:

    Another toughie.

    Took me three sittings though. The main problem was the NE corner and 15d.

    As Eileen said SET FORWARD matched the word play better while PUT FORWARD better matched the defintion. SO either a weak def or weak word play? I’d plumped for the PUT so naturally struggled with the “CROAT”.

    Once I’d learned to live with SET everything fell into place.


    All Prize puzzles should be like this! Thanks to the two Es.

  24. Liz Geear says:

    RCWhiting@22 – BRB gives smug=spruce quite clearly.
    Jan@17 – ‘Wilfully perverse’ sums up this setter perfectly. A straightforward Enigmatist? I hope this never happens.
    Thanks Eileen. I think most of us were truly flummoxed with the parsing of 9,10ac.
    And thanks Enigmatist for the Saturday treat.

  25. RCWhiting says:

    Liz @24
    “I needed convincing” and, like Eileen, I was convinced by Chambers.
    I am sure I could have been convinced by other sources like BRB (except that I do not know what BRB stands for!).
    Should I check in Chambers?!

  26. Galeraman says:

    Yes RCW what is BRB?? I thought it meant be right back!

  27. sidey says:

    Big Red Book aka Chambers. Smug meaning spruce or neat etc is older than the usual meaning these days says the OED. It’s a verb too.

  28. Galeraman says:

    Thanks sidey @ 27 I did not know that!!

  29. RCWhiting says:

    Ah! I see now. But that makes Liz’s comment even more obscure in view of Eileen’s original answer.

  30. Bodgel says:

    Thanks all. I was able to finish this but it took an awful long time. Some answers I put in without understanding fully how they fit the clue. In the case of 9,10a I have to admit it was fair but hard. Spruce for smug is borderline – when was the last time anyone used it in that sense? But as others have noted:
    12a Erlking is properly one word, not two and not hyphenated. I didn’t find any mention of a beard or a giant.
    24,25a “In one” cannot mean either mutual or working together.
    15d “Set forward” does not mean recommend.
    In my book, that’s three fails out of twenty-six clues, and so I can’t say I thought it was a great crossword. Hard but unsatisfying in the end.

  31. Mary says:

    Good crossword as there were so many clever clues; egs 23ac (so simple but clever), 2d (ditto), 1d (tower not obviously a puller), etc, etc. However, it is very annoying that Google can put the solutions in the headings, ie before opening them. I was looking to see what the Weatherfield Gazette was (not a watcher of Coronation Street) and was greeted with “Word on the Street” in the heading before I could avoid it. This is not a rare occurence. I lost interest after that.

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