Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,830 / Boatman

Posted by Eileen on December 28th, 2012


A Christmas cracker from Boatman – a very clever puzzle, which exploits its theme to the full, with some very witty clues, ingenious constructions and excellent surfaces.

I came a bit of a cropper when blogging the last Boatman puzzle, and so I was a little nervous when I saw his name on this one. Again, parsing some of the answers caused a bit of head-scratching, which meant there were several satisfying penny-dropping moments.

Many thanks, Boatman, for a highly entertaining and enjoyable challenge.


9 Arrest pub-crawling wild child
anagram [crawling] of ARREST PUB

10 Part of Apple Computers gets the bird
PIP [part of apple] + IT [computers]

11 An apple a day keeps this, I pray
hidden in apPLE A Day

12 On the rocks? Not in this case, though sadly taken in about doctor
anagram [sadly] of TAKEN IN round DR: a neat drink would be served without ice, so not ‘on the rocks’

13 Apple (Pink Lady) the ultimate for baking etc
COOKER [apple] + last letter of ladY: I think the ‘Pink’ is there only for the surface

14 On the rocks and abandoned, could be Apple follower
[a]GROU[nd] [on the rocks minus ‘and’] + PIE [could be apple]: a clever alternative use of ‘on the rocks’

17 Might have an Apple? I hardly think so!
double / cryptic definition – reference to the phrase ‘apple of one’s eye’

20 Boatman gives away an apple for a lover
[cox]SWAIN [boatman] minus cox [a type of apple] – Boatman usually manages to get himself into his puzzles in other ways than simply using the personal pronoun, as in 13dn: this is a lovely example

21 Popular Apple product: they say dealing with it is wrong
IN [popular] SIDER [sounds like {they say} cider – Apple product]

22 Apple product reported for bugs
sounds like Beatles, whose records were produced by Apple

24 Friends prepared girl on mountain retreat
reversal [retreat] of SET [prepared] + AMY [girl] + ALP [mountain]

28 Excuse for unnatural sex act involving movement of women, perhaps
AI [artificial insemination – unnatural sex act] round LIB [movement of women, perhaps]

29 Runner not deviating from one direction
anagram [deviating] of RUNNER NOT


1 Source of apple juice with high priority
A [source – first letter – of Apple] + SAP [juice]

2 A little gadget, which shows when you’ve stopped
cryptic definition? I don’t quite get this one

3 Advanced position for hide: badger annihilated
anagram [annihilated] of HIDE BADGER

4,26 Old wife’s tale told of Big Apple
GRANNY’S [old wife’s] MITH [sounds like {told} MYTH [tale]

5 Of course, part is in apple-pie order
double definition – the home straight is part of a racecourse

6 Apple product paid off
anagram [off] of PAID

7 Dried food? It’s apple crumble
anagram [crumble] of  IT’S APPLE – great surface!

8 First 11 letters of  “skunk”
A TO K : I’ve seen ATOM clued in a similar way but I’d never heard of this species of skunk

13 Multifunctional tool for haircare by Boatman
COMB [tool for haircare] + I [Boatman]

15 Bilious? So try sweet seafood dish
anagram [bilious] of SO TRY SWEET

16 The Eagles, reformed, endorse absent party
anagram [reformed] of EN[do]RSE minus do [party]

18 In transport in the City and not moving
EC [the City] + STATIC [not moving]

19 Gander with citrus sliced over big apple
anagram [sliced] of CITRUS + NY [New York, the Big Apple]I thought ‘gander’ might be Cockney rhyming slang for a look – but, of course, that’s a butcher’s [hook]

22 “The Graduate” offends in scenes of depression
BA [graduate] + SINS [offends]

23 Clue to dial home — with a bad back?
LAID is a reversal [UP] of DIAL – another excellent surface, which really made me laugh

24,25 Fruit, the first apple
PEAR [fruit] + MAIN [the first] for another type of apple

27,19across … provides clue for confused, hesitant leader of England dropped
anagram [confused] of H[e]SITANT minus first letter of England

45 Responses to “Guardian 25,830 / Boatman”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen. A cracker, as you say!

    When you’ve stopped, the SPEEDO reads speed zero!

  2. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Neil, as ever. 😉

  3. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen. Rather too many question marks against clues I couldn’t quite parse (SPEEDO etc) but it was still enjoyable – solved mainly in a hammock outside at 28 degrees.

  4. muffin says:

    Thanks to Boatman and Eileen
    Very enjoyable and satisfying to finish.
    Pedants’ corner: beetles (Coleoptera) are not bugs (Hemiptera); ALIBI is not an excuse – it is a claim to “have been elsewhere” (I know that one can argue that it is in common usage as an excuse, but I don’t think we should accept common usage when it is incorrect – if we did, for example, “epicentre” would come to mean “exact centre”!)

  5. MH says:

    Isn’t it generally accepted that to provide an alibi is to commonly offer an excuse (SOED seem to think so). They also give a general definition of bug as being “any small insect, esp. a small beetle”. Pedants corner indeed.

  6. muffin says:

    I am using the words correctly, not like some.

  7. muffin says:

    Sorry – I was interrupted. The point I am trying to make is that common usage does not justify incorrect use of a word. We should fight against the blurring of distinctions, or the language becomes poorer. I could (but won’t) list lots of examples of words that are losing subleties of meaning through ignorant misuse.

  8. mcmuffin says:

    … like subleties presumably?

  9. blaise says:

    The fact that some people used to use alibi as a

  10. muffin says:

    …”subtle” as in “calling for fine discrimination”

  11. blaise says:

    The fact that some people used to use alibi as a synonym for excuse is irrelevant here. An alibi is one example of an excuse, just as a pearmain is one example of an apple.

    Mind you, although I was aware of this, I hesitated for ages before inking it in…

  12. mcmuffin says:

    Yes, I know what ‘subtle’ means. Do try and spell the plural correctly.

  13. muffin says:

    mcmuffin@12 – sorry, I missed your point about my typo!

  14. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Boatman

    A very enjoyable puzzle. Arguably rather a lot of anagrams and part-anagrams but I myself like such clues.

    Pink Lady is, it seems, a sort of apple cf

    In 17a I missed the ‘apple of my eye’ refrence and thought it was simply a homophonic ref. to my ‘I’ (pod, pad, etc).

    I took ‘speedo’ to be a little (abridged) speedometer and read the clue as NeilW.

    We had the alibi/excuse argument at length recently and hardly need it all again. I missed the AI ref. until I looked it up to check.

    I especially liked 21a, 24a, 28a (great surface), 4,26, 18d, 22d.

  15. Stella says:

    Actually, muffin, it could be argued that the blurring of distinctions eventually produces more subtleties of meaning :-)

  16. muffin says:

    Stella @ 15
    I was thinking of words like “aggravate”, which, unless we are careful, will lose its meaning of “make worse” and just become synonymous with “irritate”

  17. Boatman says:

    Thanks, all, especially Eileen for having the courage to re-enter my world.

    Muffin – Fight on! I’m all in favour of preserving the richness and subtlety of the language, but I’ll happily make use of popular corruptions if they serve my purpose and are accepted by Chambers as being in common usage – in the case of ALIBI, in particular, the more correct definition wouldn’t have been as funny, and that’s my alibi, er, excuse. There are much, much worse example, in any case – if anyone tries to clue INFER as if it was a synonym for IMPLY, for example, I’ll be screaming with you …

  18. muffin says:

    Thanks for your support (and for dropping in), Boatman. I’m afraid a very minor point I made about your excellent crossword rather escalated!

  19. Thomas99 says:

    muffin – this was done to death a few weeks ago. It’s “excuse” you’re misdefining, not “alibi”. And insisting on using bug only in the rarer scientific sense is not pedantic, just eccentric. That has never been its only sense. And as it’s the newer one shouldn’t you reject it and stick to the old one to avoid the dreaded confusion? See OED for all of this.

  20. muffin says:

    Thomas99 @ 19
    I agree of course that “bug” has far more meanings than simply “Hemipteran”; however Hemipterans and Coleopterans are all too easily confused with each other, so I think that in the case the distinction should be ratined – emphasised, even.

  21. muffin says:

    “retained”, not “ratined” even!

  22. nametab says:

    Thanks to Boatman & Eileen. Thoroughly enjoyed this one. Each clue seemed to slowly unravel with a delightful inevitability belied by its seeming intractability on the surface. Apologies for flowery language, but it was a smashing challenge. Never heard of ‘atok’

  23. chas says:

    Thanks to Eileen for the blog.

    I thought of many Apples but missed the record company :(

  24. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    What a delightful puzzle with some excellent clues (‘atok’and ‘groupie’,wonderful misdirection).
    I liked the subtle definitions in 19d and 22d.
    This usage of a theme, several quite different interpretations, makes it acceptable and even enjoyable.

    I too find it offensive when specific terms like ‘typo’ are used to represent more general terms like ‘error’.

  25. Trailman says:

    No typos today RCW! A reference perhaps to my use of ‘typo’ yesterday? If so, this was not an error; I meant ‘typo’ in the sense of ‘Grauniad’.

    Wonderful puzzle today, completed between visits to various N and E London bed shops with Mrs Trailman. That’s my alibi anyway.

  26. Stella says:

    Hi muffin @16, I think it’s time to put this discussion to bed, but I’d just like to make it clear I was thinking in the broad linguistic sense of the development of language(s) – Latin “testa” = flowerpot > French “tête”; similarly “gamba” went from “ham” to “leg”. Who knows1 what would have become of English by now without the written word?

  27. Stella says:

    That extraneous 1 was supposed to be the captcha :-)

  28. RCWhiting says:

    Trailman, my comment @24 was clearly addressed to muffin!

  29. Trailman says:

    Nice to be in the clear RCW!

  30. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Eileen

    Only just finished this one, at the second go. Fun! Lovely wandering theme, with BEETLES and GRANNY SMITH particular favourites today. Like you, I put in SPEEDO without really understanding why. If the setter were a WATER BOATMAN, he might be a BEETLE too. Or a BUG. Or perhaps we’ve done that to death already. Whatevs, fine puzzle; thank you to him.

  31. C Smith says:

    In the unhappy days when I did criminal law, defendants bridled at having a perfectly good defence labelled”alibi”. In the argot it means an untrue excuse

  32. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Eileen and Boatman.

    17a MY EYE: “All my eye and Betty Martin” sprung to my mind for the “I hardly think so” part.

  33. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Boatman and Eileen for a super puzzle and blog.

    Liked the theme very much and can one still obtain Worcester Pearmain apples, which were a favourite of my father?

    Giovanna x

  34. campbell says:

    Nice was to spend a lazy morning. Guessed cropper for 14across which caused chaos!

  35. Sil van den Hoek says:

    In many senses a typical Boatman crossword, but we thought it was much ‘easier’ than usual. This puzzle, therefore, had a lighter touch which made it all the more delightful.
    We had GROUPIE at 14ac, but couldn’t explain the GROU-bit.
    So, thanks for that, Eileen!

    This was a cracking crossword, but I fear I didn’t like ‘big apple’ for NY. Of course, New York was clear rightaway, but false decapitalisation is not accepted in ‘my’ Crosswordland.
    On the other hand, I liked the little Apple detour in 22ac (BEETLES). That said, The Beatles were not an Apple product (well, in a way they were), but Apple was a product of The Beatles.
    Don’t worry, it didn’t spoil the fun.

    Full marks to Boatman.

  36. rhotician says:

    The suggestion in 13ac that Pink Lady is the ultimate cooking apple takes the theme a little too far.

    However, I was reminded of a puzzle a while ago based on ideas associated with the word swinger and I must say today’s confection is better executed and much more agreeable.

  37. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Rhotician, do not confuse cryptic construction with surface!
    It is just “(Pink Lady) the ultimate” ie the last letter in (Pink Lady) as a whole (Y). For some, ‘Pink’ may be superfluous, but by putting the apple inside brackets, Boatman made his intentions perfectly clear.

  38. Eileen says:

    Hi all – or anyone who’s still there.

    I’ve been out for most of the day since posting the blog and was amazed to see the number of comments in my inbox when I got home – and then disappointed to see so many of them concerned with stuff that, as people have said, has surely been recently done to death.

    Thanks, Sil, for your comment. That’s exactly what I meant by ‘Pink’ being there simply for the surface. I did know that Pink Lady was a variety of apple – but not a cooker!

  39. rhotician says:

    Sil, I’m not confused. I think the clue is confused, without being confusing! The &litish surface does not quite justify the flaws in the cryptic construction, namely that ‘Pink’ is superfluous and the definition is very obvious.

  40. Derek Lazenby says:

    Nice to see objections to the abuses of “common usage”. But when the abuse is a technical term, it’s amazing the way people shut up and keep quiet. See you all at the next technical term mistake discussion guys?

  41. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Rhotician, for me the clue isn’t &litish at all – I do not look at it that way. I agree that “Pink” can be seen as superfluous within the construction, but I think it can be justified too to see “Pink Lady” as a WHOLE – even more after putting this apple in brackets. Looking at it like that, “Pink” is not a superfluous word, and the clue perfectly all right.

  42. Steve Uglow says:

    As a teacher of criminal law and a pedant, an alibi is proferred as a defence to a criminal charge. The accused is saying “I did not do it as I was in another place”. As such, it’s not an excuse or justification as you don’t need to excuse or justify an act that you did not commit. It’s an excuse when you put forward a defence such as self defence, duress or insanity.

    Not that crossword setters should worry about matters…

  43. rhotician says:

    Sil, you’re quite right there’s nothing &lit about it. On reflection what I didn’t like was the fact that to appreciate the surface I needed to know that Pimk Lady is an apple (as well as a cocktail!). I think Bramley would fix the clue. No redundancy, no need for brackets. And the surface is better as Bramley is the best known cooker while Pink Lady is regarded by some as a good eater as well.

  44. Sil van den Hoek says:

    We initially thought of ‘Bramley’ as the answer (which it wasn’t, of course – just a wild guess based on the surface of the clue). But indeed, Boatman should perhaps have taken ‘Bramley’ instead of ‘Pink Lady’ – much better!

  45. Neil White says:

    Sorry to be so late after a long absence. Thanks for the discussion.
    But what about “Christmas Lunch”, which really incenses this pedant?

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