Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,863 – Crucible

Posted by Uncle Yap on February 5th, 2013

Uncle Yap.

This is a very foxy puzzle with a mini-theme that I almost missed. The clues are varied and employ many devices to bemuse and amuse. Very entertaining.

1 DECOCT It takes months to boil off (6)
DECember + OCTober
4 ISOPOD Shuffle, say, round well to find creeper (6)
Ins of SO (well as in Well/So, what have we got here?) in iPOD (The iPod Shuffle is a digital audio player designed and marketed by Apple Inc.)
9 FOXY Spotted old Whig close to Tory (4)
Charles James FOX (1749–1806) was a prominent British Whig statesman + Y, last letter of Tory
10 ONCOLOGIST Doctor saw one overhead, circling (10)
PeterO@1 wins this week’s mystery prize for :Ins of LOG I (‘saw one’) in ONCOST (‘overhead’).
11 MIX-UPS Muddles ahead in M6 shambles (3-3)
Ins of UP (ahead) in M *(SIX, 6)
12 OCCASION Firm retired watchmaker? About time (8)
OC (rev of CO, company, firm) + CASIO (Japanese manufacturer of calculators, mobile phones, cameras, musical instruments and watches) + ON (about) which would give OCCASIOON. p/s Crucible@13 has apologised for the mistake
13 REPOSSESS What bailiffs do with bias? Scratch head (9)
PREPOSSESS (bias) minus P
15 RIOT Dazzling display in Port Talbot at the front (4)
RIO (de Janeiro, port in Brazil) + T (first letter of Talbot)
16 BOSS Smell ship’s captain (4)
BO (body odour, smell) SS (a maritime abbreviation for ship)
17 CHEROKEES Native Americans caught lion — hunt’s over (9)
Cha of C (notation for caught in cricket scoring) LION (hero) KEES (rev of SEEK, hunt)
21 SPORTIER I fill small beer with more punch (8)
Ins of I in S (small) PORTER (beer)
22 OXALIS Ring teams to corral a large sorrel (6)
Ins of A + L (large) in O (ring) XIS (elevens, teams) for a plant of the wood-sorrel genus
24,3 NOUGHTS AND CROSSES In today’s game make a big hash to start (7,3,7)
Sometimes, the most obvious thing can stare at you in the face and you cannot see it. Today, my good friend, NeilW gave me a gentle hint and then I saw it … every answer in today’s grid has either the letter O or X or both. This popular game starts by drawing the grid #, aka a big hash
25 OXEN Steers by intercepting one mobile (4)
Ins of X (by as in 4 by 4 = 4 x 4) in *(ONE)
26 YONDER Yankee gets on with the German over there (6)
Y (Yankee) + ON + DER (the German definite article)
27 LAXEST Extremely easy-going officer accepts cuts (6)
Ins of AXES (cuts) in LT (lieutenant, officer)
1 DIOXIDE Some say stain leather in compound (7)
Sounds like Dye Ox Hide
2 COYPU Reserved costlier mounts for fur supplier (5)
COY (reserved) PU (rev of UP, costlier) for an aquatic rodent killed for its fur
3 See 24
See 24
5 SHLOCK Bloodhound, I think, ignored trash (6)
SHERLOCK Holmes minus ER (hesitation such as “I think”) for a Yiddish slang for something rubbishy
6 POGO STICK Old shabby togs the best clothes for bouncer (4,5)
Ins of O (old) + *(TOGS) in PICK (best)
7 DISTORT Runs I’d built up in scramble (7)
Rev of TROTS (runs) I’D
8 ACROSS THE ROAD The house opposite has decorators busy (6,3,4)
14 OESTROGEN Uneasy with this hormone, rep produces progesterone (9)
16 BY PROXY Using agent before enlisting expert in axes (2,5)
BY (before) PRO (expert) X & Y, the axes in graphical presentation
18 RHONDDA Royal duke visits car maker in part of Wales (7)
R (royal) + ins of D (duke) in HONDA (Japanese car maker) for a coal-mining valley in Wales
19 EXIGENT Demanding dope during leave (7)
Ins of GEN (dope, information) in EXIT (leave)
20 TIPTOE This pot some occasionally steal (6)
ThIs PoT sOmE (alternate letters) as in walk gently across the room
23 ALONE Sailor abandons mollusc for sole (5)
ABALAONE (mollusc, highly prized by the Chinese epicure) minus AB (able-bodied, seaman)

Key to abbreviations
dd = double definition
dud = duplicate definition
tichy = tongue-in-cheek type
cd = cryptic definition
rev = reversed or reversal
ins = insertion
cha = charade
ha = hidden answer
*(FODDER) = anagram

52 Responses to “Guardian 25,863 – Crucible”

  1. PeterO says:

    10A is LOG I (‘saw one’) in ONCOST (‘overhead’).

    In 12A, could the n be an en – the space after the question mark? I cannot come up with anything better.

  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks, UY. A very clever but tough puzzle: I spotted the theme early on which sped up the solving once I realised that the solutions were likely to contain either Os or Xs. There’s still a few I don’t quite get:

    Why is FOXY “Spotted”? (Initially, I was trying to make poxy work.)

    I’ve a horrid feeling that OCCASION is a mistake: ON at the end would work for “about” but there’s no indication to lose the O at the end of CASIO… Hope I’m wrong, which is quite possible, given that I haven’t a clue as to the parsing of ONCOLOGIST!

  3. NeilW says:

    Ah, thanks, PeterO!

  4. molonglo says:

    Thanks UY. The NW went in at once, the NE was a quagmire, 4, 5 and the three troubling ones mentioned taking far longer than the rest of the puzzle put together. Not very satisfying.

  5. molonglo says:

    The Shorter Oxford, for fox as a verb, 4th entry: to discolour (as leaves of a book). The Free Online Dictionary has it too, “become discolored with, or as if with, mildew spots.” Harrumph.

  6. ToniL says:

    9a – A stained or ‘spotted’ old document/paper as a
    result of ‘Foxing’ possibly caused by Fe2O3 (FerricOXide)

    Superior crossword today I thought,
    Thank-you Crucible and UY for the prompt blog.

  7. NeilW says:

    Hi, molongo. Yes, you’re right: it’s hidden away in Chambers too, although it would have been fairer if it were defining FOXed!

  8. michelle says:

    Thanks Uncle Yap.

    I only managed to complete this puzzle with lots of help. There were ten answers that I could not parse so this blog is very helpful and informative.

    Favourite was 17a.

    I also do not understand where the extra “n” comes from for the answer to 12a.

    PerterO @1, thanks for the parsing of ONCOLOGIST. (‘oncost’ is a new word for me).

    Other new words for me were DECOCT, OXALIS, ISOPOD and ‘porter’ = ‘beer’ (in parsing of 21a).

  9. AndrewC says:

    Thanks Uncle Yap.

    This was one of those crosswords that started off looking impossible, gradually revealed its charms but ended up leaving a sense of disquiet at a few less then sporting clues.

    I’ll stand in line with those in search of the curious n in 12a. I’ve looked at it from all directions and the only vaguely satisfying answer I can offer is that it refers to the ‘about’ (which otherwise seems superfluous). Chambers proposes ‘of an indefinite or large number’ as one of the meanings of ‘n’ – so, I guess, ‘n of anything’ is ‘about some actual number of something’.

  10. ACP says:

    Sorry. I didn’t like this puzzle at all.
    Even when I read the explanations here, I felt more duped than delighted.

    I think Crucible has tried to be too clever by half.

  11. muffin says:

    Thanks UY.
    I didn’t like this at all (obviously my complete failure on the RHS had some bearing on this opinion!) There were several Trade Names, which I think should be rare, if present at all. The parsing of several is Byzantine – the types of clue that are “top-down”, in that you need to guess the answer before you have any chance of working out the structure.
    A couple of the definitions were “iffy” as well. “Foxy” for spotted is not in my Chambers, though “Foxed” is, of course. 14dn is a very odd clue. I see how it works, but how is “Uneasy with this hormone” a definition? Oestrogen is a hormone, but an importantly different one from progesterone, so the latter cannot be its definition.

  12. Steve says:


    Basic English Grammar – Comparatives and Superlatives:

    Extremely easy going is LAX
    More easy going is LAXER


    MOST easy going is LAXEST

  13. Crucible says:

    Confession: There IS an extra O in 12A. Damn, blast and apologies.

  14. Chris says:

    muffin@11 – I believe the parsing on 14d is “Uneasy with this hormone, rep produces progesteron” – “this hormone” is the definition, and we have *(+REP) == PROGESTERONE, with “uneasy” being the anagrind.

  15. muffin says:

    Thanks Chris@14
    Breaks the Ximenean rule that the definition should be either first or last though, doesn’t it?

  16. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Crucible, for dropping by and putting my mind at rest.

    muffin, I have to confess I liked 14dn! 😉

  17. John Appleton says:

    I felt this puzzle fell a little too much into the trap of using more obscure words to allow the theme (which was a nice idea) to work. I had parsed 12a with the mistake; kudos to Crucible for coming by and ‘fessing up. Some defintions quite obscure; I think most have already been mentioned.

  18. Thomas99 says:

    Muffin @15
    I don’t think there is a rule that the definition should come first or last. If there is, I’d definitely say it is more honoured in the breach. Azed, Ximenes’ successor at the Observer and probably his most famous admirer, often manages to move the definition to the middle in his comp. anag. clues (and sometimes in others too). I think it is fairly uncontroversial to observe that always having the definition at the start or end is a bit of a problem as it can so easily give away the answer and make the wordplay redundant (just look up the first or last words/phrases…). Setters managing to construct clues that don’t do so should surely be commended. 14d is a good example, a very nice clue that wouldn’t look out of place in an Azed (except I think Azed would want “might produce”, but that’s a separate issue).

    We really should lay this canard to rest now. I see no justification for it and no-one has ever offered one. Definitions don’t have to be at the start or end.

  19. rhotician says:

    Thomas99 @15
    Your dead duck metaphor is amusing, except that the idea that definitions must come first or last is not a canard but a misconception. It is however a practice that is definitely NOT more honoured in the breach than the observance. Azed, in his clue-writing competitions as well as his puzzles, rightly favours ‘comp. anag. &lit’, but this is rarified stuff.

  20. rhotician says:

    Sorry @18 re #15.

  21. Robi says:

    Clever puzzle, which was difficult for me to solve.

    Thanks UY and Crucible for dropping by with his mea culpa. I, too, wondered about FOXY=spotted, but the Online Dictionary gives: ‘3. Discolored, as by age or decay; foxed.’ I guess it is allowable then, although a bit obscure. I thought OESTROGEN was a fine clue – a write-in for me, but then I’m used to seeing these words. I think the ‘this’ in the clue points to the definition immediately, although it is a bit unusual to put the anagrind before the definition, but I agree with Thomas99 as long as the clue is sufficiently precise [I thought it was in this case.]

    I didn’t know ‘oncost,’ so couldn’t parse ONCOLOGIST. I (wrongly) thought RHONDDA was R/HON/D with DA(f) as part of carmaker, and ‘of Wales’ being the definition – I was about to complain that DAF no longer made cars. :( I groaned a bit about iPOD, but it was fair enough.

    When I got the FOXY, DIOXIDE and MIX-UPS, it gave 3 linked “x’s,” which I thought might lead to a pre-Valentine’s theme. 😉

  22. Rowland says:

    14d isn’t great really, as it can be taken to have two anagrinds!! It doesn’t make much sense either, but I liked the puzzle which sits well with his other one today.


  23. coltrane says:

    Thanks Uncle and Crucible, I thought this was an excellent Crossword, well explained by the blog. I had trouble with 5a and 27a but they are perfectly fair. I did not notice the extra O; so, Crucible, you could have got away with it as far as I was concerned. The theme dawned on me late so was not a help for solving but was cute. COD for me was 5d, brilliant. Let us have more Crucible as soon as possible!!

  24. Robi says:

    Rowly @22; not sure I understand your problem. Surely, the clue says: [make an anagram; ‘uneasy’] of the answer plus rep, which produces ‘progesterone.’ The fact that ‘produces’ can also be used as an anagrind does not really distract, in my opinion. Leaving it out would produce a nonsensical surface.

  25. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, UY and Crucible.

    AndrewC @9 sums up my experience: “This was one of those crosswords that started off looking impossible, gradually revealed its charms but ended up leaving a sense of disquiet at a few less then sporting clues.”

    First one in was 26a YONDER. I completed the bottom half with the exception of 24a (I believed it was an anagram). I had to go out and on return spotted it and the theme, but couldn’t see why – I had UY’s hashing in mind, until my wife gave the explanation.

    I quite liked 14d

  26. yogdaws says:

    Apologies for dimness…

    Re 10a: How is ‘LOG’ ‘SAW’?

    A tough one. Equal parts Aha and Groan.

    But gratitude as ever to Crucible and Uncle Yap.

  27. Uncle Yap says:

    Crucible@13 said:
    Confession: There IS an extra O in 12A. Damn, blast and apologies.

    Firm retired watchmaker? About time (8)
    OC (rev of CO, company, firm) + CASIO (Japanese manufacturer of calculators, mobile phones, cameras, musical instruments and watches) + N (?)

    Please forgive me; I have just come back from a hash run and have plenty of barley(malted and fermented)in me. Crucible’s confession and my comments do not compute !!!

  28. Giovanna says:

    Thanks Crucible and Uncle Yap.

    This took a bit of getting into immediately after yesterday’s enjoyable romp.It is very clever once the noughts and crosses have been pointed out. I thought there were rather more `x`s than usual!

    Needed Uncle Yap today.Just checked my ancient Chamber’s (sic) but only foxed is listed. Perhaps we have a new word – that’s how our language evolves.

    Enjoyed coypu, which made me think of the coypu in the stream near our house. They are very solicitous parents.

    Giovanna x

  29. Uncle Yap says:

    yogdaws@26 said:
    Re 10a: How is ‘LOG’ =‘SAW’?

    Funnily enough, I had the same question and then Chambers told me log = to fell timber … you have to saw the tree, right?

  30. Rowland says:

    Hi Robi, guess I’d just like to see it done differently, I think it’s a bit unwieldy. ‘Uneasy with ostrogen, rep produces progesterone’. What?

    Cheers, R.

  31. Robi says:

    UY@27; see NeilW @2; the extra ‘O’ would have made ‘on’=about.

  32. Robi says:

    Rowly @30; maybe it could mean in the surface that a medical rep was uneasy with oestrogen as a drug and therefore produces progesterone instead. That sort of makes sense to me. :)

  33. Rowland says:

    I wouldn’t say a rep produces much in the way of pharmaceuticaLs, Robi!!

  34. Robi says:

    Rowly @33; produces from his bag, maybe.

  35. chas says:

    Thanks to UY for the blog. You explained 13a which had had me puzzled.

    On 18d I spent a lot of time trying to force .FORD.. into something useful. Sigh :(

  36. Mitz says:

    Thanks Crucible and Uncle Yap.

    Found the left hand side pretty straightforward (apart from FOXY which I failed on – I’m another that went with “poxy”), and I did spot what Crucible was up to with the theme pretty early on. However, the right hand side, especially the NE corner, was an absolute stinker.

    Stared at ISOPOD and ONCOLOGIST for ages thinking they were probably right but without parsing them, and RIOT simply didn’t occur to me for far too long. Loved SHLOCK when I finally saw it.

    I understand (without really agreeing with) some of the complaints above about OESTROGEN, but I actually thought it one of the easiest solutions of the lot – it seemed pretty obvious that we were looking for (progesterone)* – REP.

    I agree with Steve at #12: 27 would be better if it was “Most…” rather than “Extremely…”

    All in all, a battle, but worth it in the end, and a very clever grid.

  37. Derek Lazenby says:

    As someone who would never have anything to do with that most antisocial and bad mannered of devices, an iPod, I don’t see how I would be aware of the names of the variants thereof. Most people I know of my age hate the things just as much as I do, so I can’t be the only one who wouldn’t have known that. I’ve never tried to influence them, but my grown up kids (the iPod generation) can’t stand the things either!

    A few other clues escaped me too, so it was not a happy experience overall.

    Anyone found the phantom N yet?

  38. Thomas99 says:

    I think we may have been at cross-purposes re “more honoured in the breach than the observance”. I think what Hamlet means is “It would be more honourable to break than observe this custom/rule [i.e. Claudius et al. carousing].” Some people take it to mean “more people break this rule than keep it”, which I don’t think is a possible interpretation of the Shakespeare, but is that what you meant? If so I suppose I agree. My point, like Hamlet’s, was that it’s a ‘rule’ that shouldn’t be followed, which I assume you agree with.

    Also what did you mean about canard? I meant what I wrote, canard – “groundless rumour or belief” (Webster). Misconception is a reasonably close synonym, but so what?

  39. muck says:

    Thanks UY and Crucible
    I found this difficult, several unsolved clues and more unparsed
    But a challenge is said to keep dementia at bay

  40. Mitz says:

    Is it necessary to use or own a product to be aware of it? As I admitted at #36, I failed to parse ISOPOD, but I would definitely put that down to me being dense – I think the clue is completely fair. (By the way, as long as no sound leaks out of the headphones to annoy fellow travellers, I don’t really see how an iPod or any other MP3 player can be described as “bad mannered”. However, during my daily commute I feel no compulsion to be sociable with the strangers who happen to be near me on the train, so anti-social? Guilty as charged.)

    Crucible has admitted and apologised for the error at 12 (see #13 above).

  41. tupu says:

    Thanks UY and Crucible

    Like others I began to enjoy this after a slow start and seeing the noughts and crosses ‘theme’. I got stymied on the NE corner and gave up this morning returning to finish it about half an hour ago.

    I too was confused by ‘occasion’ and initially by Crucible’s confession. The clue requires an extra O but the answer is one short.

    I solved 4a but did not know ‘ipod shuffle’. I spent time looking for something like ‘mix’ in this clue and a reverse of ‘rolex’ in 12a.

    Like NeilW I first tried ‘poxy’ before seeing the answer which is in Collins.

    One learns odd things on the way. It seems that the Earl of Sandwich told John Wilkes, who was popular with American Whigs, that he did not know if he (W) would die on the gallows or of the pox. Wilkes is said to have replied that it would depend on whether he embraced the Earl’s principles or his mistress.

    I could not parse ‘oncologist’ and am not surprised when I see PeterO’s brilliant offering.

  42. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I’m usually pretty theme-blind, but I started off in the SE and got several of the words with X in, then with a few more solved had a look at 24,3 and twigged the ‘hash’ reference. Then knowing that all solutions would have a O or X in was a help in completing the puzzle, which I enjoyed.

    I thought RHONDDA was an excellent clue, although ‘ex-mining valley’ might be more of an accurate description these days.

    Thanks to UY and Crucible.

  43. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    This was a toughie for me so extra thanks.
    I failed to get ‘isopod’ and ‘shlock’.
    I agree with Mitz @ 40 that the fact that I do not own a mobile anything hardly makes it unfair to use one in a clue.
    Last in apart from failures was ‘tiptoe’, a clever clue
    I was in the ranks of those who found ‘foxy’ hard to accept.

  44. Derek Lazenby says:

    Where I was brought up, it was always considered antisocial not to talk to strangers. Only mean minded, self centered people didn’t. But regardless of that, those infernal devices don’t just get used in the company of strangers, and then their use is precisely as I stated, regardless of how you regard strangers.

  45. Mitz says:

    Totally agree Derek – if you are in friendly company then to shut yourself off by plugging in your iPod or somesuch would be very rude. But it is the person being rude, not the device.

    If a machine that can store thousands of pieces of music, any of which can be accessed and enjoyed within seconds, is infernal, then I hope The Devil sorted out his patent application properly – if you ask me such things are a miracle of technology.

  46. Brendan (not that one) says:

    I finally managed to finish this. Like a lot of others a big struggle with the NE corner.

    It probably was a little to “clever” but I enjoyed the struggle. Too hard rather than too easy for me any day!

    However I’m more and more puzzled by the fact that Saturday standard puzzles are being published on weekdays and that more and more crosswords are appearing with unchecked errors!

    With regard to the iPod debate, I assume that the “refusers” of such devices also forgo radios and record players. The only difference after all is size and and added functonality.

    I rejoiced the day Walkmans etc appeared as a lot of them replaced the awful ghetto blaster! Most of the annoying people with iPods are equally obnoxious without them so don’t blame the device. They truly are a boon!

  47. Paul B says:

    Devil, best tunes etc?

  48. Derek Lazenby says:

    Re @45 & @46: Isn’t that the argument promulgated by the National Rifle Association?

    RE @47: that’s what I heard when I went down to the crossroads!

  49. rhotician says:

    Thomas99 @38.

    I should have known better than to assume that you were using ‘more honoured’ in the now more usual way than Hamlet’s. Even so I can’t agree that the “‘rule’ shouldn’t be followed”. I can agree that some clues diverge from the customary placement of the definition and are often the better for it.

    As for ‘canard’ neither Chambers nor Collins support mere ‘belief’.

    I also agree with you that muffin @15 is wrong, but you could perhaps have expressed yourself in a less highfalutin way.

  50. Ian SW3 says:

    Lovely puzzle. More like this, please.

  51. rhotician says:

    I have no objection to iPods, nor to the appearance of IPOD in a crossword. But ‘Shuffle,say’?

  52. Brendan (not that one) says:

    Re DL @48 “Isn’t that the argument promulgated by the National Rifle Association?”

    No :-)

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