Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,859 / Brummie

Posted by Eileen on January 31st, 2013


An interesting and entertaining puzzle from Brummie, which turned out to be more straightforward than it looked at first sight.  There are some clever and amusing surfaces, some of which may be a little clunky but I have no real niggles. In fact, I found it an enjoyable solve – many thanks to Brummie.

It was only when I came to write up the blog that I remembered, with sinking heart, that Brummie’s puzzles usually have a theme, so I took another look and saw five pieces of furniture, which I’d missed when solving. There may be more …

Definitions are underlined.


9 Marsh ground in Goa?
anagram [ground] of IN GOA for the New Zealand crime writer, Ngaio Marsh

10 Exploitation by commanding officer, one in sizzling casual wear
USE [exploitation] + CO [commanding officer] + A [one] in HOT [sizzling]

11 Close associate‘s bottom sagged — that’s painful!
BED [bottom] + FELL [sagged] + OW [that’s painful!]

12,23 One with an agenda — hacking car phones with iridium implant
anagram [hacking] of CAR PHONES round [with implant of] IR [iridium]

13 Line in mate’s clothing
L [line] in COBBER [Antipodean mate] for a slang word for clothing

15 Died wearing examination supports
D [died] in [wearing] TRIPOS [Cambridge University examination]

17 Stupendous housing tip
hidden in [housed by] stUPENDous

20 Soup from rounded, duck-black vessel
reversal [rounded] of O [duck] + B [black] + MUG [vessel]

22 Keen to go having been needled?
double / cryptic definition, referring to hypodermic needles

25 Act of sleeping produced by bad opera’s length!
anagram [bad] of OPERA’S + L [length]

26 Collective curios mostly outrival returns
hidden reversal [returns] in oUTRIVal

27 Making tiger come out of a pyramid, say
anagram of TIGER COME

30 Admirable features, thorough observations
double definition, although I’ve never seen the second in the plural

31 One seen in rushes of movie, ultimately eaten by plant?
E [last letter – ultimately – of moviE] in [eaten by] MOSS [plant]
this one made me laugh: a clever use of ‘rushes’, referring to Moses being hidden in the bulrushes – and, of course, there have been several movies about Moses.


1,3 Puggish feature of bonuses distributed and reduced internally
anagram [redistributed] of BONUSES round N [‘and reduced’, as in fish ‘n’ chips]

2,21 She would ineptly get players into bad habits
this was almost my last entry: it sprang instantly to mind at first sight, simply from the letter-count and I struggled to find anagrams [ineptly, bad] or other wordplay: it was only when I had all the crossers that light dawned that it’s [just] a cryptic definition: an inept wardrobe mistress would get the actors into the wrong costumes – bad habits. Doh! [I still haven’t decided whether I think it’s very clever or rather weak.]

4 Oh, to be back in New Circle Cross
reversal [back] of OH in anagram [new] of CIRCLE

 5 Be more ingenious than blooming joker
OUT [blooming] + WIT [joker]

6 Coming to a stop,  pretty high on drugs?
FETCHING [pretty] + UP [high on drugs?]

8 How annoying to be turned over for lead
reversal [to be turned over] of RATS [how annoying]: and no annoying ambiguity – hurrah!

13,7 Idle person with set habit needs analyst’s aid: “Doctor too pat”
COUCH [analyst’s aid] + anagram [doctor] of TOO PAT – nice use of ‘set habit’ for Chambers’  ‘a person whose leisure time is spent sitting shiftlessly in front of the television or video’

14 One physically representing an actor needs stiff drink of spirits
BODY [stiff] + DOUBLE [drink of spirits]

16,24 Homer’s after second cutter, say, for grass
PIGEON [homer] after S [second] TOOL [cutter, say]

19 Old, much performed piece? Actually, a modern hit
double definition, referring to the play / film based on Michael Morpurgo’s book

26 Greens commonly associated with top grade star
VEG [greens commonly] + A [top grade]

28 Oscar’s equivalent of a thief’s aid (not jack)
[j]EMMY [thief’s aid] minus J [jack, in cards]: are there any legitimate uses for a jemmy?

29,18 “Nice little earner” from bread and milk supplier
CASH [‘bread’] + COW [milk supplier]

39 Responses to “Guardian 25,859 / Brummie”

  1. muffin says:

    Thanks Eileen and Brummie
    I needed your parsing of GUMBO, and I agree with you about WARDROBE MISTRESS. The def. for GEOMETRIC is also a bit loose, isn’t it? All round though, a very enjoyable puzzle.

  2. John Appleton says:

    2,21 feels somewhat unfair to those wardrobe mistresses who are far from inept, but no problems with it otherwise. FETCHING UP was new to me as an alternative to coming to a stop, and was last in.

  3. Eileen says:

    John Appleton

    I think you’re being rather over-sensitive on behalf of competent wardrobe mistresses! I read the conditional ‘would ineptly’ as ‘if she were inept’.

  4. michelle says:

    The most difficult puzzle I have attempted for quite a while. Almost all of the answers that I did manage to solve were a struggle for me. I found the NW corner the most difficult and I finally gave up on many clues: 1, 3, 5, 9,11,15. Every time I re-read those clues I felt like I was reading a totally unknown foreign language! I guess that I was simply not on Brummie’s wavelength.

    There were some new words for me in the clues I managed to solve: jemmy, virtu, reposal, fetching up.

    And in the clues I didn’t solve ‘Ngaio (Marsh)’ is new to me.

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. I found it very hard to parse many of the answers today, so I appreciate your explanations.

  5. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. I agree (sorry Michelle!) that this was “easier than it looked”. I went through the same sort of thought process as you with 2/21, and ended thinking it was just a rather weak and long-winded CD.

    VIRTU was new to me, but clearly clued.

    The FT has a new(?) setter today called Wanderer – could that be an alias of Tramp?

  6. Eileen says:

    Hi Andrew

    I’ve almost finished the Wanderer and it doesn’t feel like Tramp to me. I wondered if it was our own 15² commenter? [Perhaps he’ll tell us.]

  7. Eileen says:

    Sorry – should have said, ‘Perhaps s/he’ll tell us’!

  8. Stella says:

    Thanks Eileen and Brummie. I agree it turned out to be more accessible than it first seemed, though I started out well, as Ms Marsh sprang quite readily to mind.

    Apart from pieces of furniture, isn’t ther something about clothing going on here?

  9. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen. Brummie at his most benign. Fun though, as always.

    I thought 2,21 was clever in that the wording is so “long-winded”, as Andrew puts it, that it invites you to spend far too long looking for the hidden additional cryptic element – a double bluff, which certainly took me in!

  10. tupu says:

    Thanks Euileen and Brummie

    Missed the theme(s?) again – perhaps I need a free theme pass to go with the bus one – but it does not really aid or hinder the pouzzle which turned out to be much more accessible than I first thought.

    I warmed to it as I got into it and liked several clues incluidng 17a, 31a (very nice), 13,7, 1d, and 16,24 (my favourite along with Moses).

  11. NeilW says:

    By the way, maybe muffin @1 would be happier with GEOMETRIC if you underlined “out of” as well as “a pyramid, say”? Just a thought.

  12. rhotician says:

    NeilW – just “of”.

  13. John Appleton says:

    Eileen @3, I probably am! I agree it’s easy to read it more ways than one…froma cruciverbalist point of view, there’s nothing wrong with such a misdirection.

  14. rhotician says:

    Thanks Eileen.
    I too wondered about 30 but it’s actually GOOD (thorough) + LOOKS(observations).

  15. Gervase says:

    Thanks Eileen

    Another enjoyable one from Brummie. I didn’t find this as tricky as some of his (sorry, michelle @4) but I was held up a bit in the NE quadrant. I vaguely registered the furniture as I was going round, but didn’t take much notice of it; Brummie has incorporated five fairly lengthy furniture-related idiomatic expressions into a crossword without having to resort to recondite vocabulary to fill in the gaps, which is highly creditable.

    ‘Look’ in the sense of ‘glance’ can be pluralised in some expressions: ‘dirty looks’, for example.

    I agree with muffin @1 that the definition in 27a is rather vague, but the clue was so obviously an anagram that I felt it was appropriate. ‘Keen to go’ is a bit off-centre for HYPED UP but, again, the other part of the clue is of more help to the solver.

    I particularly liked 11a, 25a, 4d, 6d and 14d.

  16. Apple Granny says:

    Enjoyed this: the clues needed thought, but were satisfying to get (esp 10, 27 ac and 13-7, 16-24 dn) – afraid we used a wordsearch for several of them. Shared the hesitation about 2,21. Not familiar with body double, but easy to look up.

  17. Robi says:

    Thanks Brummie; good crossword with some very ingenious clues.

    Thanks Eileen; I actually thought that 2,21 was a very good clue. It misdirected me into looking for an anagram of ‘get players’ with ‘habits’ [At least that adds up to 16!] I didn’t know NGAIO and was rather perplexed when I looked in Chambers and found it was a tree. Mrs Google came to the rescue, however. It does seem that ‘jemmy’ as opposed to ‘crowbar’ is usually the term used for illegitimate uses. You might also be interested/amused in the derivation of this and other tools.

    I particularly liked STOOL PIGEON (again, nice misdirection with ‘Homer’) and MOSES in his rushes.

  18. Mitz says:

    Thanks Eileen and Brummie.

    Yep, I enjoyed this as well. WARDROBE MISTRESS was the last but one for me as I wasn’t convinced I had understood it properly – I was toying with the idea that it was intended as a homophone for “miss-dress”, but I’m sure Eileen is right. Last of all was GUMBO – I had it as the answer ages earlier but couldn’t see the parsing, and hate writing things in when I haven’t properly “got” them.

    My favourite by far was HOUSECOAT as it’s a sort of anti-&lit – the surface brings to mind something alluring, whereas the housecoat is probably the most un-sexy garment ever invented!

  19. William says:

    Thank you Eileen, complete blog as usual. Shamefully missed the theme again – I can’t seem to recall which setters have the theme gene.

    I enjoy finding new words and VIRTU is one.

    Just started the Wanderer FT puzzle and I agree with you that it doesn’t feel like a Tramp offering – good struggle, though.

    Thanks Brummie.

  20. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    This puzzle has to struggle to be anything more than mediocre.
    For me, I counted some 14 write-ins.
    There were a few scraps of red meat (well spam, actually) in the NE corner and my last in was ‘tripods’.
    Althouugh 27ac was easy and ‘of a pyramid’ passes muster as the definition, I would agree that ‘geometric’ is an extremely wide term. For once, and reluctantly, I do hesitate over Chambers definition. It says “…….using simple figures such as geometry deals with”. I do not think the word “simple” is appropriate here.

  21. Wanderer (not the setter) says:

    [Hi Eileen @6: this is the very average solver who has occasionally commented here as Wanderer. I am not the setter of today’s FT puzzle! Hence today’s addition of a supplement to my name. I know changing one’s online identity is not allowed under site policy but I hope I may be forgiven in the circumstances. And my apologies to the FT setter for having inadvertently chosen an identity here which s/he has adopted professionally.]

    Thanks for the blog as usual, and to Brummie for the puzzle. I particularly enjoyed COUCH POTATO and CHOLERIC.

  22. michelle says:

    Andrew@5 and Gervase@15, thanks for your kind comments. I’m only a beginner, so it is normal that I will find some setters difficult to follow. This week I had two “setbacks” with Qaos and Brummie: they are the setters I have had most “problems” with so far (not their fault, I’m just not on their wavelengths).

    Anyway, I will keep trying……

  23. Colin says:

    Thanks to Eileen and Brummie.

    I found this tougher than it should have been.

    Michelle, as someone who is also fairly new to solving these puzzles, I think you’ll find that you will naturally be more in tune with some setters than others. My favourite at the moment is Paul along with the universally loved Araucaria.

  24. chas says:

    Thanks to Eileen for the blog. I needed your explanations for several cases where I was sure I had correct answers but did not know why.

    On 27a I thought to myself that pyramid is a noun but geometric is an adjective so that raised a query in my mind. I agree with rhotician@12 that ‘of a pyramid’ is actually the definition.

    When I saw Homer in 16,24 I thought (1) ancient Greek chap and (2) cartoon character. Only after I had spotted STOOL PIGEON did I remember (3)homing pigeon!

  25. William says:

    RCW @20 Have a bash at Wanderer’s FT offering today – it won’t slow you down much but it’s a bit more fun.

  26. William says:

    Michelle @22 I find solving goes in fits & starts. You no sooner think you have the measure of a setter than he/she presents a grid that leaves one baffled. If you keep checking your failures and asking what it was about the clue that foxed you, you will imperceptibly improve. Above all, keep it where it belongs, a pleasant distraction.

    Happy solving.

  27. Trailman says:

    Single solve session for me. Strange isn’t that a puzzle may flow easily for some that doesn’t for others? Heaven knows the boot has been on the other foot for me often enough.

  28. george says:

    Just completed this puzzle and posted for the first time on the Guardian website so thought I would post here too as I have been visiting and reading comments for a while. I was used to helping my Dad (now deceased) with the cryptic crossword, which he did daily until he began to fail in his late eighties. He never mentioned ‘surfaces’ or many of the other terms I have seen here and yet he completed the puzzle nearly every day whatever the setter. I am trying to follow in his footsteps as I have now retired and I am only coping by working online and making wild guesses then using the check function. I am still finding Brummie difficult. Different setters suit different solvers and I am not going to complain about any of them as they certainly keep my brain engaged when I have a go. I feel a cheat not buying the paper (although my husband subscribes to the Guardian on the iPad) as the cryptic crossword can give me, as a relative novice, hours of pleasure (often intermingled with frustration).

  29. rhotician says:

    Michelle, Google cryptic crossword wikipedia, and Bookmark it.

    It won’t help with your difficulties of today, stuff like ‘and reduced’, Ngiao and ‘blooming’ only really comes with experience, but you should find it useful.

  30. RCWhiting says:

    William @25 (and I think Neil yesterday).
    Thanks for your kind thoughts.
    However, I cannot afford more than one quality paper a day and my choice is definitely The G.
    I cannot print off from online versions and just do not like solving online. It is a combination of the actual process which I find very unsatisfying (logical – no?) but also from priciple I like to financially support a paper I enjoy (and help to pay the compilers’ wages). And criticise them when they disappoint me!
    If this all sounds hidebound conservatism – it is- I am old and have been solving the paper version since England won the World Cup.

    Michelle – there are dozens of little tricks which all the compilers use.
    When I read one (eg today Homer, first word in clue,hence upper case =pigeon) I translate it immediately into what the compiler doesn’t want me to think. The only way to get to this state is by lots of practice so good luck (it is good fun along the way).

  31. Eileen says:

    Hi again, everyone

    I’ve been out since mid-morning, then had my son round for his weekly meal, so it’s a late return to the party, so there will perhaps only be the diehards left to look in.

    Stella @8 I’m struggling to find any more clothing, apart from CLOBBER and HOUSECOAT.

    Thanks to NeilW and rhotician re GEOMETRIC: you may have noticed that I funked indicating an anagram indicator! I like rhotician’s version [ a perfect definition] – but it leaves ‘out’ hanging, doesn’t it? It could be an anagram indicator but then what about ‘making’?
    All I can say is that the clue worked for me when solving.

    Hi Wanderer @21
    Many thanks for clearing up that little mystery but don’t do yourself down! [I would bet my house that Wanderer is not our Tramp.]

    Hi george @28

    Welcome! Doubly welcome as you’ve identified yourself as a Famous Five-type George: there are so few of us here – why?!!

  32. Brendan (not that one) says:

    As many others have commented this had all the signs of a difficult solve at first. (I only had 3 across clues in the first pass.) However a combination of an easy grid and some very benign down clues meant that the whole thing just rolled over and gave up without much fight!

    Didn’t like the “inept” WARDROBE MISTRESS although she did introduce herself fairly easily with the “S” from REPOSAL.

    Overall quite enjoyable but a little disappointing for Brummie!

    Thanks to Eileen and Brummie.

  33. Martin P says:

    RCWhiting says:

    “…The only way to get to this state is by lots of practice…”


    RCW: I’m sure a great many of us have got into all manner of states, by exactly that means…

    No particular grumble on the puzzle, though have had more entertainment from Brummie previously.

  34. William says:

    RCW @30 Fair enough, and good for you for standing by your principles. Curiously, I buy the paper but print the on-line version – goodness knows why. I stick it onto a pad and prefer the feel of it to the newsprint. Done for ages but not as long ago as 1966!

    I think we’re all slightly barmy.

  35. michelle says:

    Sorry for late reply due to time zone difference.

    Thanks so much for kind words and advice to a beginner. I truly appreciate it, and yes, I am enjoying the puzzles as well as these blogs which are so useful and informative.

  36. stiofain says:

    Come on Eileen, George didnt say if s/he was an Enid Blyton fan or someone in a civil partnership.

  37. george says:

    Don’t worry Eileen you did correctly identify me. I admit to being a fan of Enid Blyton when younger and have always liked George as an abbreviation of Georgina, but there I am afraid the resemblance ends.

  38. Eileen says:

    Thank you, george. I wasn’t put out by stiofain’s remark, as bloggers get an email of all comments, so I’d seen your address.

    I was simply trying to say it was nice to welcome another woman – we’re rather thin on the ground, as both setters and solvers, and I relly do wonder why. I hope we’ll hear much more from you!

  39. Huw Powell says:

    Michelle and George, you won’t see this since I post so late (print puzzle during day, perhaps solve the next evening and morning and afternoon), but welcome! Especially the “new to crosswords” Michelle. I was new to them myself for 20 years 😉

    I brought home a copy of The Nation from The Elvis Room many years ago – it’s a leftist rag here in the US – and looked in wonder and confusion at the puzzle on the last page, coded by the late Frank Lewis. Years later I subscribed, and the internet let him introduce me to this wonderful style of cluing. Which was excellent, since by then the NYT Sunday “puzzle” had turned into a “write as fast as you can” solve.

    Oh back to this puzzle. I wrote the correct letter in every square, but had to resort to some assistance from OneLook and such. It was a wavelength thing. I wasn’t on it. But it wasn’t painful, just a good puzzle, really, that used some devices and obfuscations that made it harder for me than perhaps it should be. But that’s the fun, really.

    Thanks Brummie for a very interesting adventure, and to Eileen for a great blog – watching you work with the tools and come to your current presentation, including all the clues quoted as well as the parsing, has been one of the nice things about popping in here every few puzzles – and as always also thanks to all of you who post on here and keep it interesting and amusing!

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