Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Cryptic N° 25,799 by Orlando

Posted by PeterO on November 21st, 2012


A pleasing crossword; I had to hunt about for an entry point (or, rather, entry points; I solved three or four clues before getting any that intersected), but it all came out in the end, after several “How did I not see that in the first pass?”es.

7 SKIN-DEEP Superficial variety in ooze (4-4)
An envelope (‘in’) of KIND (‘variety’) in SEEP (‘ooze’).
9 ARABLE Horse associated with the French farmland (6)
A charade of ARAB (‘horse’) plus LE (‘the French’).
10 FLOW Current reversal for Don Juan? (4)
A ‘reversal’ of WOLF (‘Don Juan’).
11 GOATSUCKER Bird changing tack? Grouse! (10)
An anagram (‘changing’) of ‘tack grouse’. I learn of a relative of the yeti, the goatsucker – Spanish chupacabra – which is supposed to feed on livestock blood in Puerto Rico and points north; but the clue refers to the bird, the nightjars, which get the name in the belief that they drink goats’ milk.

Pennant-wing Nightjar

12 STRAIT Music centre with characteristic sound (6)
A charade of S (‘muSic centre’) plus TRAIT (‘characteristic’).

Strait of Gibraltar from space

14 NOBODIES Ciphers in All Souls? (8)
A charade of NO BODIES (‘all souls’).
15 NETTLE Nark gets clear before legal eagle starts (6)
A charade of NETT (‘clear’) plus LE (‘Legal Eagle starts’).
17 RECENT Centrefold fresh in the memory? (6)
An anagram (‘fold’) of ‘centre’.
20 BRUCKNER Composer putting king in check, brought back knight alongside queen (8)
A charade of BRUC, a reversal (‘brought back’) of CURB (‘check’) plus K (‘king’) plus N (‘knight’, chess notation again) plus ER (‘queen’).
22 ASSIGN Delegate like Leo, for example (6)
A charade of AS (‘like’) plus SIGN (Zodiacal ‘sign, perhaps’).
23 BILL AND COO Fagin’s associates love to be lovey-dovey (4,3,3)
A charade of BILL AND CO (Bill Sikes, the Artful Dodger etc. in Dickens’ Oliver Twist, ‘Fagin’s associates’) plus O (‘love’).
24 BUTT Save time in the end (4)
A charade of BUT (‘save’) plus T (‘time’).
25 CERTES Secret arrangement is archaic, I assure you (6)
An anagram (‘arrangement’) of ‘secret’.
26 WALKOVER Use a footbridge in a breeze? (8)
Definition and literal interpretation: WALK OVER (‘use a footbridge’).
1 SKELETON Bones not cooked with leeks (8)
An anagram (‘cooked’) of ‘not’ plus ‘leeks’.
2 KNOW Ken and Kelvin got up (4)
A charade of K (‘Kelvin’, unit of temperature) plus NOW, a reversal (‘up’) of WON (‘got’).
3 WEIGHT Importance of delay for an auditor (6)
A homophone (‘for the auditor’) of WAIT (‘delay’).
4 PASSABLE Nancy’s not dark — fair (8)
A charade of PAS (French ‘Nancy’s not’) plus SABLE (‘dark’), with perhaps another nod to Oliver Twist.
5 FANCY DRESS Like groom’s requirement for party, perhaps (5,5)
A charade of FANCY (‘like’) plus DRESS (‘groom’).
6 FLEECE Rip off warm garment (6)
Double definition.
8 PLAINT Simple Tory leader making statement in court (6)
A charade of PLAIN (‘simple’) plus T (‘Tory leader’).
13 ARTICULATE A tacit rule that’s broken, say (10)
An anagram (‘broken’) of ‘a tacit rule’.
16 LENINIST Red border covering number up (8)
An envelope (‘covering’) of ENIN, a reversal (‘up’) of NINE (‘number’) in LIST (‘border’).
18 TOGETHER Good books taken up by good number in concert (8)
A charade of TOG, a reversal (‘taken up’) of G OT (‘good books’) plus ETHER (anaesthetic, ‘good number’).
19 CRACOW Leaders in Czech Republic with a lower place in Poland (6)
A charade of C R (‘leaders of Check Republic’) plus ‘a’ plus COW (‘lower’, either sense). The Polish city is more commonly rendered with Ks rather than Cs.
21 RAILED Rex Smith, when upset, was vituperative (6)
A charade of R (‘Rex’) plus AILED, a reversal (‘when upset’) of DELIA (‘Smith’, cook and television personality).
22 APOLLO Olympian first in London in a game (6)
An envelope (‘in’, the second one) of L (‘first in London’) in ‘a’ plus POLO (‘game’).
24 BLOC United Nations bar deposed king (4)
A subtraction: BLOC[k] (‘bar’) with K (‘king’) remover (‘deposed’). The uppercase of ‘Nations’ is misleading.

34 Responses to “Guardian Cryptic N° 25,799 by Orlando”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, PeterO. As you say, Orlando always seems so easy when you’ve finished!

    I’ve seen the Nancy trick before but I can imagine it will have caused some problems for those that hadn’t. I had a slight quibble about the use of the apostrophe S in “Fagin’s associates” defining BILL AND CO: surely that’s just the AND CO? (Although I can see why Orlando did it.)

    Not sure I agree with you about the second “good” in TOGETHER: I thought the “Good books taken up” were TO and the second “good” provided the G before ETHER, since “good number” seems a little nonsensical (especially since it’s not very good!)

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks Peter. I quite enjoyed this, despite failing on 2d, and daftly not being able to parse the Nancy’s not/PAS connection in 4d. The NW corner was the trickiest, resolved first with the bird anagram and then cracking the excellent 14a. Thanks Orlando.

  3. molonglo says:

    NE corner I mean

  4. muffin says:

    Thanks Orlando and PeterO
    SW went in easily; the rest was more of a struggle. Favourite was 14ac NOBODIES
    In 16d, could someone please explain why “list” = “border”?

  5. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Peter, for the blog.

    I agree with Neil about Orlando’s puzzles – when you’ve finished you always think ‘what was hard about that?’ It’s all there; you just have to go looking for it. In this one, I specially liked BILL AND COO (I think the apostrophe is okay), CRACOW and RECENT. And I thought I knew my birds, but GOATSUCKER is a new one for me.

    I too am struggling to see ‘list’ and ‘border’.

    Fine crossword from Orlando – thank you to him as well.

  6. Eileen says:

    Thanks. Peter, for the blog, and Orlando for another great puzzle/

    I was puzzled by list = border, too, and was surprised to find, in Chambers: list²- the selvage on woven textile fabric; a border; a stripe; a strip, especially one cut from an edge… vt to border [and then one of those lovely idiosyncrasies of English: ‘to put a list on; to remove the edge from’.

  7. muffin says:

    Thanks Eileen – I was so puzzled I didn’t even bother to check Chambers!

  8. Gervase says:

    Thanks Peter.

    Typically fine crossword from Orlando, with a good variety of well-crafted, succinct clues.

    I can’t see the problem with ‘Fagin’s associates’ = BILL (Sykes) AND CO, but I agree with NeilW @1 about the parsing of 18d; this was one of my favourite clues, TOGETHER with 17a (have I seen this particular ‘lift-and-separate’ before?) and 4d.

  9. Thomas99 says:

    Thanks for the blog. A bit easier than O’s been recently but some very elegant constructions, especially in some of the surprisingly difficult short clues

    15a has “legal eagle starts” for LE and 8d has “Tory leader” for T. Last week there were rather strongly worded criticisms of “Abba finish” for A. I can’t see what the rationale might be. Is anyone going to complain today, or explain why Alchemi broke some “rule” and Orlando didn’t?

    Did NeilW @1 think Fagin was called Bill? If not I don’t follow.

  10. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Gervase @8 for pointing out my moment of madness, thinking it was Bill Fagin!

  11. NeilW says:

    Crossed with you there, Thomas99.

  12. Robi says:

    Very enjoyable crossword with largely super clues.

    Thanks PeterO for the pictorial blog. To K’s Dad @5’s list, I would add WALKOVER, LENINEST, PASSABLE and STRAIT as favourites. I thought 10a was ambiguous and put in ‘wolf [for Don Juan]’ at first, although I won’t start the discussion again about ambiguity; it didn’t cause any problems because of the ‘cross words.’ ;)

    I didn’t much like the clue for FANCY DRESS as it was a simple charade for both words. I was thinking it could have just been a cd if ‘groom’s’ was substituted by ‘bride’s’ [maybe?] For once, I actually spotted the common number=ether in 18. I also managed to spot the French Nancy’s, so it must be a good morning.

  13. bdg says:

    For 2d, I’m glad there’s a parsing that doesn’t suggest Lord Kelvin was a wonk.

  14. aztobesed says:

    Thanks for the blog PeterO.

    Nancy’s having to work overtime these days – couldn’t Lorraine put in a shift now and then?

  15. Rorschach says:

    aztobesed @14

    But then you lose the little Oliver Twist mini-theme…

    Good fun! Thanks both!

    Either it’s been an easier week in the Guardian or I’m getting better at this solving malarkey…

  16. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, PeterO. V enjoyable puzzle, though I did struggle quite a bit in the NE corner and needed help for the unfamiliar bird. Lots of nice surfaces.

  17. Mitz says:

    Thanks Orlando and PeterO.

    I had a bit of a wavelength problem today – entirely my fault, not Orlando’s. Far to many had to go in without me properly understanding why: PASSABLE (didn’t twig that we were looking for the French for “not”), LENINIST (“border” = “list” was new on me as well), TOGETHER (NeilW surely has it right, but although I am certainly no novice I was too much of a klutz today to think of the other kind of “number”).

    But once again, it was those bleedin’ four letter words at 24 that were the last to fall!

    Got there in the end, and having now understood everything that I missed, I am another that can find no fault anywhere at all. Bravo, Orlando.

  18. grandpuzzler says:

    Thanks Orlando and PeterO. Loved this puzzle. Too many good clues to list all. CERTES was a new word for me and I probably won’t see it again outside of AZED. The duo at 24 were last in for me also.


  19. rowland says:

    Good puzzle from Orland. Some annoying things, like ‘Tory leader’ for T (again? I can’t remember when we last had this one, but it wasn’t long ago) and I think 10across is one of those irritating ones that can be read either way. So easy to fix too!! But so what, I suppose, as it’s mostly much better than a lot of the stuff we get in The G (my view).


  20. Mitz says:


    I keep meaning to ask you: what exactly is your objection to clues like 10 that could be read either way? In my book instances like this are just another level of the puzzle to be solved, in this case by confirming the crossing letters. As it happens 1 and 2 today were two of the easier clues, so there was very little ambiguity (in fact I think I solved both before getting 10, so ?l?w left very little room for doubt), but I would feel just the same if 1 and 2 had been tough.

    If you simply feel that each and every crossword clue should be solvable in its own right without any reference to anything else, even crossing solutions, then fair enough, but IMHO that is a fairly narrow view. You might just as well have a straightforward list of clues to solve, rather than a grid.

    In other news: earlier I forgot to put in my two penn’orth regarding “Nancy” – what with the Twist reference at 23, I reckon this was a nice bit of misdirection from Orlando. I was certainly thinking of the Dickens character and so (as I mentioned) completely failed to spot the truth and ended up just writing in “passable” because it had to be right. But yes, I’m sure there are other French women who would occasionally like to get in on the act!

  21. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    An enjoyable puzzle with enough to keep me thinking for a while.
    I did not suffer the ‘flow/wolf’ conundrum since ‘know’ was my first in.
    Last in was 4d which was COD,that’s in spite of considering that ‘Nancy’ was just French.
    I liked also 14ac (contemplated November for some time) and 17ac (very clever).
    Well done compiler.

  22. SeanDimly says:

    Agree with all who have praised Orlando. When I find a clue tricky at first but straightforward in retrospect, there’s usually been a pleasing combination of setter’s deftness and solver’s daftness.
    Thanks to PeterO for the blog. s

  23. cholecyst says:

    Thanks PeterO and Orlando. Seemed a tad more tricky than usual but perfectly fair. Grandpuzzler: some of us will remember (some of) the Shakespearean uses of CERTES –

  24. rowland says:

    Hi Mitz

    The crossing letters are always a help to me, regardless of the ‘styling’ in the clues! I see where you are coming from and as I always say in these things I don’t dictate, but to me a clue is wrong unless it sends me clearly to the answer. Do you know I actually think it’s clumsy too?

    Just to draw a line I am only commenting again on this because you asked me too, it’s no big thing for me, and I did ‘strongly agree’ with the puzzle!!


  25. Mitz says:

    Hi Rowly,

    Thanks for responding, and as I have said before: each to his or her own! Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if we all liked the same things? Just one final thought from me on the subject: perhaps “clumsy” is an apt description if the ambiguity is unintentional, but what if the setter has constructed the clue that way on purpose? They could be clearly indicating that the answer is one of two things, making it up to you to sort out which is required by filling in some crossing letters.

  26. jim says:

    I agree with Rowly.
    I had wolf for 10A on a first run through the clues, before finding that it didn’t work. If a clue leads to two equally sound solutions then it’s not a good clue. Of course it’s possible to cope with the ambiguity using crossing letters, and some might say that’s why we have crossing letters, but for me it’s too much like a quick crossword.
    I just think that it’s a pity that a bit of inelegance spoils an otherwise fine puzzle.

  27. RCWhiting says:

    I think some posters are seriously underestimating the importance of crossing letters in the solution of cryptic crosswords. This goes much further than deciding between homophones or reversals.
    Time after time I will have (with some but not entire certainty) solved part of a clue. Maybe one of several words but more often a prefix or suffix. Say I am fairly sure that a solution ends in -ing, that ‘g’ might well enableme to solve the crossing clue. These little wrinkles are what makes cryptics so much fun.
    This also reinforces my view that no puzzle should be considered or judged by individual clues but as a whole.

  28. tupu says:

    Thanks PeterO and orlando

    An excellent puzzle. I ticked 12a, 14a, 24a and d, 5d, and 18d but could easily add more.

    I had to check goatsucker and certes to confirm vague memories of both.

    4d had to be ‘passable’ but I missed the Nancy idea despite having come across it before. :) I eventually googled Nancy Pa, and there she was of course, the latest thing in Nigerian music! I have no self esteem re my knowledge/ignorance of modern music fashion, and assumed she must be better known than I realised.

    Thanks for the parsing of that one and also 4d and the final O in 23 which I forgot to reckon with.

    I recently sparred a little with RCW re ambiguous reversals. As a firm believer in the importance of crossing letters I have nothing much against these clues. But I’m not convinced, a la RCW, that their ambiguity actually enhances them, though it is an interesting idea.

  29. rrc says:

    I am afraid I got bored doing this anIt and eventually gave up it seemed to lack the bite of a few recent crosswords , i wasnt struck on the grid, and I found some of glues were difficult to understand. It is rare that I get to this stage but I did today

  30. Paul B says:

    I hope you’re not being rude about Guardian Grid 30!

  31. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thomas 99 @another9, you’re right about ‘XXX leader’.
    Alchemi was criticised for it, but not by me and certainly not for that reason.
    Paul used it recently, and he’s not the only one of the top setters.
    As I said ‘not for that reason’.
    For me, ‘Abba finish’ was poor because of its surface.
    But there we are.
    Surface vs cryptic grammar.
    While I didn’t like it because of the surface, others objected because of the cryptic grammar.
    But then there was someone who tried to justify it by saying “it’s just like ‘photo finish’ for O”.
    Unlike some others in some towers, I have no problem with ‘photo finish’ for O from a cryptic PoV, but I have when one uses the surface as an argument. ‘Photo finish’ is not the finish of a photo, but the photo of a finish.

    Yes, Thomas99, in my opinion Alchemi shouldn’t have been nailed down for this from a cryptic PoV.
    But I didn’t like the clue because of its poor surface.
    In an otherwise excellent crossword!

    This one was too, with the NE clearly the most tricky.
    Many thanks Peter O.

  32. Thomas99 says:

    Sil van den Hoek @31 – Glad you agreed about that device. In fact rowland @19 has objected to “Tory leader” for T – and he was one of the 2 objectors to Alchemi – but once again has not explained why. Ironically, he seemed to think Alchemi’s surface was good (as I did in fact) and that this might somehow be what made the clue bad: “Youm have to be careful how you think about them in grammar, esp. when they [surfaces] sound really good!” (and yes, his own grammar is rather creative here).

    I think it’s now safe to assume nobody’s ever going to explain what the grounds for the objection are. I did have a theory that Latinists might not like it because constructions that turn nouns into adjectives by juxtaposition are probably, like half of our language, Germanic in origin – e.g. Germans, like us, can say “Hausfrau” etc., where the French would have to say “Femme DE maison” etc. (not actually what they say for housewife but you get the picture).

  33. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thomas99, I do see why people like Rowland and Paul B object against “Tory leader” or “Abba finish”, say.

    They consider crossword clues to be a set of building stones in which the surface is of no importance, perhaps even non-existent.
    For them “Tory leader” does not mean “leader of Tories”, but the leader (first letter) of the building stone “Tory” (which could have been any other word starting with a T). While I am generally on the same wavelength (meaning: cryptic grammar comes first and the surface is an (albeit substantial) bonus), they go one step further and say that it eventually should be “Tory’s leader”. The leader of the building stone called “Tory”. See what I mean?
    They would prefer to see “Abba’s finish” instead of “Abba finish” (which wouldn’t make sense within the surface – bad luck then)

    I belong to those who find “Tory leader” and “Abba finish” acceptable, even within the limits of cryptic grammar. And I am not alone, given the fact that a lot of renowned crossword setters are doing it, day in day out.

    Therefore, I am also happy with “photo finish” for O – even if I am not sure whether I would use it myself. Although I am not against it, I am also someone who would like to avoid it if possible. Ambiguous, isn’t it?
    However, I am not happy with people who accept “photo finish” on the basis of its surface, ie like they accept “Tory leader” because of being a “leader of Tories”, as in real life it does not mean the finish of a photo.

    BTW, within the context of the above, the fact that I did not like the Abba clue is completely irrelevant. What is my personal taste should not be confused with cryptic correctness.

  34. rhotician says:


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