Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,855 / Philistine

Posted by mhl on February 2nd, 2013


I make this Philistine’s first prize puzzle, and their twelfth puzzle overall in the Guardian. This was a good fun puzzle to solve – with the odd exception (1a, 17d) I thought this was a fairly easy. (I was away that weekend, and Jenny and I both solved it completely without each other’s help, whereas I suspect with many prize puzzles one or other of us would have struggled.) My favourite clue was 8 down.

1. MODUS OPERANDI “Briefly, with a moment shared” indicates that both “moment” and MODUS OPERANDI share the same abbreviation (mo / MO); Definition: “How do you do?” (your modus operandi is how you do something)
9. DINGIER [avoi]DING = “avoiding half” + IE = “that’s” + R = “right”; Definition: “More dismal”
10. SAFE BET SAT = “posed” around (BEEF)*; Definition: “Winner”
11. EXCELLENT EXCEL sounds like XL, so is “Said to be 40″ + LENT = “fast”; Definition: “of top quality”
12. RIDGE [b]RIDGE = “Game without front”; Definition: “elevation”
13. TEEM MEET = “Suitable” reversed; Definiton: “swarm”
14. THE DEAD SEA (HEADED EAST)*; Definition: “No fishing here!”
16. SERBO CROAT (ROBOTS CARE)*; Definition: “language”
19. FUND FUN = “entertainment” + [lan]D = “Land’s End”; Definition: “Provide resources for”
20. MESSY (SYS[t]EM)* anagram of “system” without T = “the first” – “transport” is the anagrind; Definition: “chaotic”
21. SKEW-WHIFF (WISH)* around KEW = “garden” + [o]FF = “not starting off”; Definition: “wonky”
23. NEITHER (THREE IN)*; Definition: “Not one of two”
24. CLOSE TO CLOSET = “cupboard” + O = “love”; Definition: “By”
25. SLEEPLESSNESS PEELS = “Pares” reversed [hope]LESS [busi]NESS = “hopeless business with 50% cuts”; Definition: “trouble getting off”
1. MANIC-DEPRESSIVE PRESS = “journalists” in (DIVE)* all in (CINEMA)*; Definition: “Up and down”
2. DRILL DR ILL (“doctor ill”) might fit with the question “Should one heal oneself [..]?”; Definition: “exercise”
3. SCREECH SCH = “school” around CREE = “brave”; Definition: “to cry”
4. POSITED I = “one” in POSTED = “sent”; Definition: “Presumed”
5. REFERRAL F[ancy] = “Fancy top” + ERR = “slip” in REAL = “actual”; Definition: “consultation”
6. NOBODY’S BUSINESS Double definition: “Buggery?” (as in “working like buggery / working like nobody’s business”) and “a personal matter”
7. IN THE LAND OF NOD (FIT HANDLE ON)* + NOD = “approval”; Definition: “no [SLEEPLESSNESS] here” – the Land of Nod is mentioned in Genesis, as the land to the east of Eden – there’s a suggestion of the origin of it being used to mean “the land of sleep” here
15. BODY SHOP Cryptic definition: “Where one might find cosmetic treatment for car and driver”
17. RESERVE A tough clue, with you needing to split “Booklet” to get right definition and cryptic part – In tennis, you would “re-serve” after a let, so “let: What to do next”; Definition: “Book” – I don’t mind games like “indeed” meaning “in the word ‘deed'”, but this seems borderline unfair to me
18. APERÇUS Hidden in “[wallp]APER CUS[tomers]”; Definition: “Outlines”
22. WHOLE Sounds like “hole” = “Reported difficulty”; Definition: “in one piece”

26 Responses to “Guardian 25,855 / Philistine”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, mhl and also thanks to Philistine for an entertaining crossword. But no thanks to the editor for misplacing this as a prize!

    2dn, I think, refers specifically to the phrase: “Physician, heal thyself.”

    Contrary to what I said above, there’s nothing unfair about 17dn in a prize-level puzzle.

  2. Jim says:

    One of those puzzles I just didn’t click with. I looked at it most days for a week and got a grand total of two clues, one of which I wasn’t sure about. Maybe I was just having a bad week.
    Felt I should put that in as the two people above me seem to have found it ridiculously easy.

  3. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thanks Mark for your blog of what we thought was the toughest Philistine so far. How people can differ. We weren’t on his wavelength at all this time.

    13ac (TEEM) is once more one of these ambiguous clues that should not have gone past the editor.
    I didn’t like 20ac at all. That said, yes, my parsing was completely wrong.
    I was thinking of an anagram (chaotic) of ‘system’ less its first letter (which is what the clue tells me), giving me something that could be defined as ‘transport’.
    As I say, I was wrong, but being beaten by the crucial ‘the first’ for T here, I find extremely annoying because I hate ‘the first’ for T.
    In 25ac (SLEEPNESSNESS), I was hoping for (PARES BACK)* plus [busi]NESS giving me the solution, but again, no.
    Not sure whether ‘hopeless business with 50% cuts’ cries out for ‘lessness’ – benefit of the (my) doubt.
    I am not a strict Ximenean and I know what a Guardianesque Liberty is, but I think 17d (RESERVE) is unfair.
    No problem to find the solution (for some the main criterion), but I just wouldn’t want to write a clue like that myself. And that’s my criterion.

    To us, a mixed bag, in which perhaps 3d and 8d were the highlights.

  4. Biggles A says:

    Thanks mhl. I had to think about 21, I would have spelt it skew wiff but I find Philistine’s version is preferable.

    I had rationalised 17 by thinking that if a library book was on loan, or let, then it would be necessary to place a reserve for it but your explanation is much better.

  5. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Philistine and mhl

    Agree with mhl and Neil@1 here … found that this was marginally (if any) harder than the recent midweek puzzle by this setter a couple of weeks back.

    Having said that, I thought that RESERVE was the cod for me – with the lateral thinking (and not all that far) to equate reserve to book and from there to determine what needs to happen to booklet that gave the let (and hence the re-serve) – made for a good aha moment !

    I had more difficulty with APERCUS (my last in) which I had not seen in the plural form before.

    Initially thought that 6d may have flown close to the wind for some … but the cryptic part was quite clever.

  6. molonglo says:

    Thanks mhl. I was happy to see it was this setter, sorry to wrap it up within 30 mins. Many fine clues, including for SKEW WHIFF, last in. The trouble, sort of, was that 13, 14 and 16 were gifts, and the C in 11a instantly gave 1d – which led straight to 1a. The parsing of that required some later reflection: neat.

  7. paul8hours says:

    Thanks setter & blogger.
    I had good fun with this although it didn’t provide the challenge I would hope for on a Saturday.
    I had no problem with 17A and ticked it as very clever.
    I also liked 23A although it was a simple write-in.
    Thanks for explaining 1A. It is always good to learn something new from doing a crossword!

  8. muffin says:

    Thanks Philistine and mhl
    I enjoyed this one. For clarification, BODY SHOP is the part of a garage where work is done on car bodywork, and also the name of a chain of shops where unpleasant-smelling beauty products are for sale (I have to hurry past their doors!)

  9. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl and Philistine

    Not too hard to complete but 6d’s parsing left me wondering.

    I quite liked 1a (when the penny eventually droppped), 11a, 21a, 23a, 24a, 3d, 15d and 18d.

  10. chas says:

    Thanks to mhl for the blog. I had RESERVE but was totally unable to say why.

  11. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    For anyone feeling heart-broken this puzzle was a perfect diversion.
    Reasonably challenging for a Saturday and quite enjoyable along the way.
    I did not fully parse 6d so was reluctant to enter it but it is OK.
    My favourite was ‘re(-)serve’ which I thought very clever for a very common word. A lot of posters do not seem to like separations (book-let) but I really admire and enjoy them. They are really just a subset of all punctuation misdirections.
    Although this one was not his best, this compiler has earned a Prize spot by his previous attempts.

  12. Gervase says:

    Thanks, mhl.

    I enjoyed this; I’m on the same page as those that found it less tricky than Philistine’s weekday offerings.

    As far as I am concerned, 17d is the best clue in the puzzle and gave me a great Eureka! moment – unlike Sil @3 I would have been very pleased to have come up with this one myself. On the other hand I couldn’t parse 6d, and I wasn’t sure about the wordplay for 1a. Both of these are rather vague; 17d does (almost!) exactly what it says on the tin – it just has to be read carefully. Chacun à son goût. (And de gustibus non est disputandum, of course – not that this ever stops us……).

  13. coltrane says:

    Thank you mhl and Philistine. I thought this was a fine crossword 1a and 17d were my favourites.
    I am worried that RCW @11 should be heart-broken!!
    I am always glad to get a new Prize setter and I thought this crossword was worthy of the slot!!

  14. RCWhiting says:

    Not to worry, coltrane, it will soon be mended.

  15. mhl says:

    Thanks for everyone’s comments – they present an interesting mix of views on this crossword! Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the cleverness of 17d (RESERVE) – I just think it would be extremely difficult to solve cold, to an extent that tips it into unfairness for me. (My tastes are certainly towards more Ximinean clues generally, though.)

  16. FrankO says:

    Thanks to MHL et al. My first attempt at a guardian cryptic and had a similar experience to Jim above. Look forward to discovering where I went wrong again next week

  17. Sil van den Hoek says:

    After reading all the posts above, I must have been the only one finding this Philistine crossword tougher than his previous ones. As I said @3 probably a wavelength thing, but I wasn’t quite happy with it because usually my opinion on the difficulty of a crossword isn’t very different from what the majority thinks.

    I qualified the much discussed 17d as ‘unfair’. Perhaps, I shouldn’t have gone that far, but it will certainly not be my Clue of the Month [though, I guess, many others will go for it].
    I have no problem with splitting up words in a clue. As a daily Guardian solver I got used to it. But what I do not like is that the definition is part of that split too. I believe Philistine did a similar before, which I then called ‘novel’, but I do not like it. Unlike Gervase – sorry mate – I would not want to write a clue like this. It is crossing borders that I do not want to cross. Others might find this ‘device’ adventurous, I do not.

    I also would rather prefer a setter not to write clues like 13ac (TEEM). Nobody so far has objected (which I find odd given discussions on this topic in the past), but it is once more one of these ambiguous clues that should be avoided. “Suitable for returning swarm” can just as easily lead to MEET as to the actual solution.

    20ac: “Transport system, the first to go chaotic”.
    Two possible anagram indicators (transport, chaotic), that’s OK – makes one think a bit more. But “system, the first to go” leads for me to “ystem”. Apparently, Philistine belongs to the group of setters who find “the first” for T acceptable. As I said before, I hate it and I can easily name setters who would never use it. But it is all the more annoying because the clue actually tells me to delete the first letter of ‘system’.

    Last week there was a puzzle by a new setter in the FT, Wanderer. I praised him for a clue that used “essentially” to indicate precisely the central letters of a combination of words. In Philistine’s puzzle we had [wallp]APERCUS[tomers] – not exactly in the middle. He could have said ‘… to a wallpaper customer’.
    Probably, to most of the solvers and/or the readers of this blog it is not of any interest, but for me it is something that I care about when I (occasionally) write clues.

    For me personally it is more important to be precise, unambiguous and what I think is fair, than to come up with fancy things like 17d. Creating a great surface is more my kind of bonus to a crossword clue. Exactly the reason why I like Tramp’s crosswords and the ones by Donk and Rorschach, the rising stars in Crosswordland – unfortunately only in the Independent so far.
    Let’s face it, “By cupboard love” (24ac): what does it mean?

    So, sorry, Philistine, I admired many of your previous puzzles but this one couldn’t please me ultimately.

  18. coltrane says:

    Sil@ 17. Sorry but I entirely disagree! You have listed a number of clues you don’t like. Of course you have the right to feel that way, but what makes you the arbiter of what is right and what is wrong. Many who have posted here, and I include myself, enjoy the challenge of clues like 17a, and are glad for the extra variety they bring. We get lots of complaints when there are too many of one type of clue, but when a setter expands the possibilities he is castigated; I don’t understand why.

  19. RCWhiting says:

    coltrane @18
    I am largely with you but we are lacking the cathedrae.

  20. coltrane says:

    RDW@19 As I see it you ARE The Bishop that is all we need!! You are always unswerving in you praise for crosswords as a whole which have variety and provide a certain degree of difficulty. I would concur with that,

  21. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Coltrane, I am certainly not “the arbiter of what is right and what is wrong”. I just had a different opinion on some of the clues and after my post @3 didn’t provoke any reaction, I decided to make clear why I found some things unexpectedly iffy.

    I realise that many solvers will disagree, but I cannot else than give an opinion within the limits of my view on crosswords.
    Indeed, at times (not always though) I can be annoyed or excited by individual clues which may affect my overall appreciation of a crossword, either positive or negative.
    Others, like you or RCW, see a crossword as a whole and just want to have fun or a challenge. I have nothing against that, but my approach is slightly different as I am also interested in the technical aspects of clueing.

    My post @17 was not meant to be a castigation of the setter Philistine, even if it may seem so.
    As I said above, I admired many of his previous crosswords.
    But sometimes puzzles just don’t work for me, and this was one of these.
    Can happen.

    BTW, RCW is now promoted to RDW? D of Divine? :)

  22. coltrane says:

    Sil @21 Fair comment. I find that when I get a puzzle that does not work for me I prefer to say nothing, and wait for the next one to come along.

    As for deifying RCW, it was bound to happen!!

  23. RCWhiting says:

    Oh dear! What a fate for an atheist.

  24. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Amen …. :)

  25. Val says:

    I’m surprised nobody else has complained about 6d. I got it from the crossing letters and can see the connection with working hard but surely “a personal matter” is far too vague to be considered as part of a double definition? Many, many things can be considered as personal matters, most of them not even vaguely related to buggery.

  26. mhl says:

    Val: I think it’s fine, personally – “It’s a personal matter” and “It’s nobody’s business” are very close to synonymous, and they don’t have any connection to the other definition. The clue being more general than the answer wouldn’t be a problem in any case, given the usual convention that, for example, “dog” can clue ALSATIAN, but you shouldn’t have “Alsatian” clueing DOG unless it were “Alsatian, for example?”, “Alsatian, perhaps?”, etc.

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