Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,864 / Paul

Posted by Eileen on February 6th, 2013


Not a lot of joy here for me today, with a theme in which I have little interest – but I’m glad to say that I did not resort to Google, except to supply links to themed answers for those who may be interested, having managed to fill in all the answers from my scant knowledge and / or the wordplay [except in a couple of cases, where I need help].

I thought the non-themed clues were rather tame for Paul, so it was a rather disappointing solve all round.

I arrived home yesterday evening just in time to see Araucaria on ‘Newsnight’, for which he had compiled a crossword, available  here  [It’s not exactly a doddle!] If you missed the programme, you can see it here

[Definitions are underlined and links to the Bowie songs supplied.]


1 Plant some borders, no different
SE [first and last letters – borders – of S[om]E + SAME [no different]

4 Cuckoo out to preserve bird
Anagram [cuckoo] of OUT + CAN [preserve]

9 Lady singing, good range
G [good] + AGA [range] for Lady Gaga

10 Not entirely cool, getting bowled in third awkward delivery
CHIL[ly] [not entirely cool] + B [bowled] in anagram [awkward] of THIRD

11 Threaten to pin tail on monkey
END [tail] on IMP [monkey]

12 Happy to accept counter-flowing effluent escapes
GAY [happy] round [to accept] reversal [counter-flowing] of WASTE [effluent]

13 Articles to film for the body expert
AN A [articles] + TO + MIST [film]

15,26 23’s interpretation of self or Iman?
anagram [interpretation] of SELF OR IMAN

16 23’s musical
double definition: the Bowie song and the musical

17 One bleating about pallor, primarily, has need for dark pigment
LAMB [one bleating] round P[allor] + LACK [need]

21 Made shameless by beer and rum, Diaz’s bottom pinched
anagram [rum] of BEER AND round [pinched] Z [last letter – bottom – of diaZ]

22 Out of bed, tired but happy
UP [out of bed] + BEAT [tired]

24 Body of water, fluid Asian 2?
anagram [fluid] of ASIAN + SPACE [answer to 2]

25 Pay freeze finally put on comedian
E [last letter – finally] of freezE on WAG [comedian]

27 Dissenters, two of whom for 23?
reference to song REBEL REBEL


1 23’s leading hand
STAR [leading] + MAN [hand]

2,5 23’s one single, it’s cut see
I’m afraid I can’t see this at all: see comments 1 and 2 – thanks Neil and Duncan

3 The Queen spoken to, having squashed rat that’s driven over
MA’AM [the correct way to address the Queen – the Queen spoken to] round [having squashed] CAD [rat]

6 23’s feature, a fix up ending in brawl
CHIN [feature] + A + reversal [up] of RIG [fix] + last letter [ending in] of brawL

7 Psycho‘s skull
cryptic definition

8 Pop song underlining the ultimate character, 23
This is the other one I can’t parse: see comments 2 and 3 – thanks again, Neil and Duncan

14 Where it’s unclear which way to turn, phosphorus injected into side as sedative
MAZE [where it’s unclear which way to turn] + P [phosphorus] in TEAM [side]

16 Mishmash newspaper found in Portuguese city
RAG [newspaper] in FARO [Portuguese city]

18 Fruit getting mature’s brought down
PLUM [fruit] + AGE [mature]

19 23’s influences
20 Partial brunette, then?
cryptic definition

23 Frontiersman finds the front line at regular intervals
BOW [front] + [l]I[n]E [at regular intervals]
The frontiersman is Jim Bowie but the ’23’ references are all to songs by David Bowie

55 Responses to “Guardian 25,864 / Paul”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen. Sorry you didn’t enjoy this. :(

    I thought the cool in CHILDBIRTH was used as a verb: CHIL(l)

    SPACE ODDITY: 23?s (def as you say) ACE (one) ODD (single,) IT (it’s) inside (cut) SPY (see)

  2. duncanshiell says:

    2 down is (ACE [one] + ODD [single] + IT) contained in (cut) SPY (see)

    8 down is (IGGY [reference IGGY POP [singer] + STARDUST [song]) under Z (ultimate character). David Bowie adopted the persona of ZIGGY STARDUST I think (it’s not really my kind of theme either)

  3. NeilW says:

    ZIGGY STARDUST: IGGY (Iggy Pop, the singer whom I’m surprised you not heard of, 😉 ) STARDUST (song written by Hoagy Carmichael) underlining Z (the ultimate character,) 23 (Def – ZIGGY STARDUST was David Bowie’s stage persona at one time.)

  4. NeilW says:

    Crossed, Duncan!

  5. Eileen says:

    Thanks Neil and Duncan – I should have got SPACE ODDITY. I thought ZIGGY STARDUST was probably something like that [I got as far as ‘ultimate character’ but the rest is well outside my comfort zone! I’ll amend the definition!

  6. Aoxomoxoa says:

    8d – IGGY (Pop) + STARDUST (song) under ‘Z’

    Loved the theme – thanks Paul and Eileen

  7. Blaise says:

    Surely 20’s a double definition involving the two meanings of “fair”: equitable and blonde.

  8. NeilW says:

    I understand why you didn’t enjoy it, Eileen but I was 13 years old when ZIGGY STARDUST first appeared so you can imagine…

  9. Eileen says:

    Blaise @7

    Yes, fair = blonde but UNFAIR does not mean brunette, except as a play on words, so not a double definition, I think.

  10. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen. All over too quickly. ‘Iman’ (not Imam, Eileen) in 15,26 caught my eye and gave the theme instantly; second one in was 8d, even though I couldn’t parse it (thanks Duncan). Didn’t know two songs, but no help needed. Loads of good clues, eg 14d. Thanks, Paul.

  11. michelle says:

    First in were 3d, 13a.

    It took me a while to solve 23d which was the key to the theme. I only got it after I solved 24a through inspired guesswork, then backtracked to solve 2d. After that it was easy to solve the themed cues.

    I’m not sure that I am really a big fan of themed puzzles. I was close to giving up as I thought I would never solve 23d, and that meant I would not be able to solve a lot of the other clues….

    I also found this grid quite ‘user-unfriendly’ with various first letters having no crossing letters to work with.

    New word for me was 17a LAMPBLACK and also 14d TEMAZEPAM which I needed to google to know if it existed although it certainly parsed well.

    Favourites were 10a, 17a, 22a and 18d.

    Thanks for the blog, especially the parsing of 8d, Eileen.

  12. michelle says:

    Neil@1 and Duncan @2 & @3

    thanks for the parsing of 2d/5d (SPACE ODDITY) which was easily solvable once the theme had revealed itself, but I certainly could not parse it.

  13. michelle says:


    Yes, I agree with you. In retrospect IMAN was a great hint in the clue to 15a but at that point I had sort of given up on ever solving 23d. Once I solved 23d, IMAN made perfect sense of course, knowing that she is David Bowie’s wife.

    Anyway, thanks to this puzzle, I know about Jim Bowie (1799–1836), U.S. frontiersman.

  14. Gervase says:

    Thanks Eileen

    I got 23d fairly easily, and with a groan rather than a snigger, never having been a great fan of David Robert Jones. I did manage to parse everything (unlike Crucible yesterday) but found it all a bit flat. Too much artifice and not enough humour – rather like its subject (IMHO).

    I did like 18d.

  15. Eileen says:

    Thanks, molonglo @10 – it really was just a typo, amended now. And thanks, Michelle, for the additional information @13, which enhances the clue. [I suspected there might be things like that, beyond my ken!]

  16. Martin in Beds says:

    I was in the opposite position to Eileen, and able to fill in a lot of this with only retrospective parsing of the answers, which rather took away the enjoyment.

    I was surprised that Paul didn’t make anything out of the “Tom” in 13ac.

  17. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and paul

    I saw the theme early on and my heart sank, but I managed by dredging up old memories of a time when one of my children was an ardent Bowie fan. I failed to parse 2,5 but felt pleased to understand 8d. Last in was 27a by which time I was in a hurry and got it via google.

    I saw the Newsnight programme. Really good and slightly reassuring too!

    Several clever clues as one expects from Paul.

  18. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I’m not sure whether I liked this or not. I got the gateway clue early on, since the crossing clues were not too tricky. Then it was a question of which Bowie songs I could remember and which I couldn’t. A Marmite puzzle, perhaps.

    Thanks to S&B.

  19. PaulW says:

    Did not enjoy this crossword; three unfinished clues, all Bowie references.

  20. george says:

    Well the Bowie theme is obviously (from the comments) not to everyone’s taste, but when my husband found out he actively helped me to complete the crossword today. This happens once in a blue moon and as I prefer to solve with someone else when I can I would like to thank Paul for an enjoyable puzzle!

  21. sitywit says:

    Thought a lot of the clueing was brilliant, and I quite like themed efforts in general. But pop music? (NeilW may have been 13, but I was nearly 40…) I’ve obviously heard of David Bowie (and even Lady Gaga), but not knowingly come across any of their stuff. So what do you do? When I’d got Fame and Life on Mars, just Wiki’ed Bowie, and more or less copied in the answers – not all that satisfying, really… There was one a few months back with (I think) Liverpool footballers. I felt similarly about that (though might not have done if it had been Newcastle United…). Shouldn’t there be some kind of code of practice about the degree of celebrity of “celebrities” (including ephemeral politicians, for example, as well as the above)? But then I gather that Bowie is something like the 29th “Greatest Briton”… Oh dear. Anyway, thanks to Paul, and Eileen, and all other fifteensquaredmates.

  22. Thomas99 says:

    Like Blaise @7, I would parse 20d as a Double Definition, not Cryptic Definition. Some bloggers (not Eileen) almost seem to use the terms interchangeably, especially when blogging Rufus, but I think it is useful to distinguish them. In a CD (classed under “&lits” in Hugh Stephenson’s book) the whole clue has to be capable of being read as a single (unconventional) definition, as well as having a surface reading. E.g. “Amundsen’s forwarding address” – MUSH. 20d isn’t like that. It has “partial”, a straightforward definition, and “brunette, then”, which I would call another (highly elliptical) definition. If you classify it as wordplay then I suppose you can’t call the clue a DD either, but then it’s a conventional definition + wordplay clue, not a CD. I’d definitely say DD though – a punning definition is still a definition.

    I think some bloggers have called DDs like this “Definition + Cryptic Definition”, to distinguish them from DDs which are basically two dictionary definitions.

  23. coltrane says:

    Thanks Eileen and Paul,
    If there is one thing I hate it is themed crosswords where I don’t know anything about the theme and couldn’t really care less. But the compiler doesn’t know this and for others it is a joy. Next time Paul might theme a puzzle on John Coltrane or Chelsea Football Club and I shall be laughing.
    In fact I actually enjoyed this because I had to be more on the ball with the wordplay because the definitions often didn’t help.
    I thought 7d and 17a were great clues, but my COD was 3d. So far it has been a good week.

  24. michelle says:

    I mentioned in my post @11 that I am not a big fan of themed puzzles in general.

    But, I guess that if I must do a themed puzzle, it might as well be about David Bowie who has after all been making music since 1967 or so (45 years!).

    After all, RINGO (Starr) turns up in cryptics very often.

    Pop (or contemprary) music is the “classical music of tomorrow”, even if it does take centuries. (Beethoven and Mozart were “pop stars” in their time).

    And I do think that David Bowie will be remembered as a “cultural icon” a lot longer than any football/soccer players…..

  25. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    There is little in Eileen’s comments with which I can disagree.
    Although I recognise Bowie’s innovation and influencial effects, his music, for a variety of reasons, passed me by.
    I rather wish that this puzzle had done likewise.
    Once I had Bowie I had to use my trusty Guiness Book of…. but the real disppointment was that so many of the non-Bowie clues were write-ins, not something one expects from this compiler.

  26. Robi says:

    Thanks Paul; the usual comments about themes – either write-ins or obscurities.

    Thanks Eileen; I got BOWIE straightaway, but then could only remember ‘Jean Genie,’ however, I eventually prised the remainders out of my defective memory store without having to ask Mrs Google.

    Eileen, you obviously didn’t enjoy this as your ‘Fame’ link is to ‘Life on Mars.’ :( Try this one instead :)

    I couldn’t parse SPACE ODDITY, which was one of the last in. Of the non-themed answers, I liked CHILDBIRTH.

  27. george says:

    I regard themed puzzles on authors, plays, composers etc that I am not familiar with as a chance to learn about them. To be a crossword compiler and solver you have to be a polymath to some extent and I like being extended in whatever direction I am taken. Like Michelle @24 I do think David Bowie is worthy of a puzzle. You will struggle to get younger generations interested in cryptic crosswords if more modern words and themes are never touched on. In 2006 David Bowie came 4th in the Culture Show’s ‘Living Icon’ vote ( ) ahead of Michael Caine and Alan Bennett amongst others. (As a biologist I voted for David Attenborough).

  28. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Robi. I did have the right link once but obviously transposed it wrongly. It’s nice to see somebody follows the links: they do take a while – but I usually find it a more enjoyable exercise!

  29. Mitz says:

    Thanks Paul and Eileen.

    Sorry to hear that many didn’t enjoy this either because they have no interest in the subject of the theme, don’t like themed crosswords generally, or were too familiar with the theme to make the crossword a challenge. For my part I did enjoy much of the puzzle, partly because I am a fan of Mr B (in fact STARMAN would be one of my Desert Island Discs) but also because of some of the word play.

    My way in to the theme was seeing what was going on at 24 – the missing letters of the anagram gave me SPACE and the rest followed. Funnily enough my last in was REBELS – a real forehead slapping moment.

    I don’t really care whether the clue for UNFAIR is DD, CD, DD/CD or even D/tichy D – it’s still neat. GETS AWAY had a nice surface. But COD by a mile was LIFE ON MARS – I first looked at it before I had the theme, and seeing “Iman” rather than “Imam” set off typical Grauniad alarm bells. Was glad to be proven wrong.

  30. RCWhiting says:

    and thanks for link to Newsnight, it would have been better if the examples of ‘fans’ had been wider than luviedom.

  31. Robi says:

    P.S. Thanks Eileen for the [correct :) ] links to the Newsnight item, which I had missed. I guess I better try his crossword also.

  32. Rowland says:

    Yes, an example of a theme which people might noy have any interest in, and so a bit risky. That’s the trouble! Clues were okay.


  33. Mitz says:

    Thanks, Eileen, for the links. I had missed the Newsnight piece when it was broadcast, and even though it has given away a couple of the solutions I’ll give the puzzle a crack too!

  34. Monkeypuzzler says:

    Thanks Eileen et al for some parsing that escaped me (especially 2,5d).

    What? No innuendo from the naughty one? Not even 7d seems to have ruffled anyones pc feathers. In fact I was seeing cheekiness where it was not in (wrongly) parsing 2,5d inasmuch as I thought “It’s cut” must lead to “sod” in the solution. That’ll learn me.

    It also took a little longer than it might after I hared off in the wrong direction with 1a; I thought its was DAMS (could just about mean borders, but admittedly not 100% convincing) + ON ( no ‘different’) to give something you plant, or at least something that comes from a growing thing!

  35. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    No answers on the first run through, and then LIFE ON MARS on the second and the theme followed.

    I am surprised no one has commented the grid is the same as yesterday’s – is there not a dictum about that?

    I find it difficult to see the colour of links that are also answers (such as LAMPBLACK) in your blog, Eileen; is it possible to change them to something more distinctive?

  36. Trailman says:

    Not sure I’d go so far as to go with Michelle @24 re ‘classical music of tomorrow’ but Bowie’s music has been touching, perceptive and adventurous for 40 years or more now, so why not a suitable theme for a cryptic, if themes there are to be – and they are certainly important in a setter’s armoury. As for attracting younger solvers, well I hope so, but if you were young in his early flourish, you’re not young now – except in mind that is!

    REBELS came last, *E*E*S having multiple possibilities and it’s not, of course, a single-word song title.

  37. Mitz says:

    Dave E – regarding the grid, I’m sure it is just a coincidence. There are around 100 different grids that the Guardian employs, so although it is unlikely for two consecutive days to employ the same one it is not impossible.

  38. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Dave E.
    “I find it difficult to see the colour of links that are also answers (such as LAMPBLACK) in your blog, Eileen; is it possible to change them to something more distinctive?”

    I’m not Eileen (as you will have gathered!) but I will answer on her behalf. The colour for links is set by the WordPress theme that the site uses and so cannot be changed by individual bloggers.

    I’m sorry to hear that you are having difficulty seeing the colour difference but if you hover your mouse pointer over an answer it will become underlined if there is a link associated with it. This should be easier to see.

  39. Gaufrid says:

    I’ve just realised that the underlining is more likely to be due to the browser settings rather than the site itself. In IE9 the underlining of links can be toggled on and off (Tools/Internet Options/Advanced). I would imagine that Firefox et al would be similar.

  40. John Appleton says:

    A lovely theme (perhaps becuase of my musical tastes); th eonly downside being that it made it for of a write-in. I’m more familiar with LAMPBLACK being two words as a paint colour (I’d always thought it might have a similar etymology to Pillarbox Red), but a quick check of Chambers taught me otherwise.

  41. muck says:

    Thanks Paul and Eileen

    I had an inkling that Bowie was due for a themed puzzle and most of the titles were in my head

    The BBC Newsnight broadcast was pulled first time and didn’t reach Scotland y’day so thanks for the link

  42. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid. I do use Firefox and I have just “Allow Firefox to choose its own colours”, and the link colour is now a bright distinctive blue, instead of a dark charcoal. There wasn’t and still isn’t any underlining, however

  43. Judygs says:

    Many thanks, Eileen, as always for your enlightening blogs, and in particular for the Newsnight and extra crossword link.

  44. Bertandjoyce says:

    Joyce started this on her own at lunchtime and when she guessed the theme she left it until Bert returned from work – otherwise google would have ended up being used too much. It wasn’t as good as expected given that it was Paul and no smiley moments but Bert enjoyed remembering the various references to Bowie!

    Thanks for the links Eileen – we will follow them up later.

    Thanks also to Paul.

  45. Morpheus says:

    Thank you Eileen. As for me I really enjoyed the theme, which finally balances out the appalling Spongebobs puzzle of now thankfully distant memory. And there were no cricket refereces. Bravo!

  46. ToniL says:

    Morpheus @45

    Except clues for 10a and 2,5d?

  47. Eileen says:

    Definitely a Marmite puzzle – dividing those who like / dislike themes of any kind and then those who liked / disliked this particular one.

    Not only that – I am not at all against themed puzzles per se, even when the theme is alien to me, because I can still appreciate the cleverness of the wordplay without understanding all the allusions, and I positively revel in them when they’re right up my street [although I do prefer it when the cross-references are rather more subtle and the themes are included in the clues as well as the answers – a thing Tramp does so well] and there are always the non-themed clues to maintain interest.

    For me, this one, surprisingly – since it was a Paul puzzle – fell short on both counts. The theme, as I said, was not dear to my heart but, while I appreciated the cleverness of SPACE ODDITY and ZIGGY STARDUST, once explained to me, I thought that FAME, REBELS and CHANGES were barely cryptic and STARMAN was the simplest of charades.

    Of the non-thematic clues, I thought TOUCAN, GAGA, IMPEND, ANATOMIST, UPBEAT, WAGE and NUTCASE would not have been out of place in a Quiptic puzzle.

    All in all, if there had been no name on this puzzle, I think I’d have been hard put to it to guess that it was a Paul. [And that, Paul, is intended as a compliment. 😉 ]

  48. RCWhiting says:

    “Of the non-thematic clues, I thought TOUCAN, GAGA, IMPEND, ANATOMIST, UPBEAT, WAGE and NUTCASE would not have been out of place in a Quiptic puzzle.”

    Agreed,but I think you could comfortably add ‘sesame’ and ‘lampblack’ to that list.
    And that is the real failing of this puzzle; it IS the wrong kind of theme but such puzzles do sometimes work fairly well but only where the non-theme clues are challenging.

  49. Brendan (not that one) says:

    Well I found it quite enjoyable if not too challenging.

    Perhaps Paul made a lot of the non thematic clues so easy in order to help those in their “Golden Years” who were “Under Pressure” recalling Bowie tracks. This could have led to “Sorrow” and perhaps even “Breaking Glass”!

    If you had an iPod Shuffle perhaps you’d be better informed. 😉

    Thanks to Eileen and Paul.

  50. stiofain says:

    im just relieved it didnt have have a 57 lights fill in clue

  51. Gail says:

    Well, this regular solver (although I rarely comment on here – just lurk and enjoy) was in 7th heaven with this puzzle. Having been a fan since 1971, my brain power was spent largely on the un-themed clues. As usual, The Guardian crossword relieved the tedium of my morning bus journey to work.

    Thank you, Paul, from this very appreciative reader.

  52. Huw Powell says:

    I found this puzzle to be perfect, for strange reasons, mostly. I do these things for entertainment and challenge, not a quick thing to do over breakfast. I was definitely not on Paul’s wavelength here, which made the non-themed clues wonderfully difficult. I am just enough of a fan of the theatrical rock star that I knew, once parsed, that my theme answers were correct. But there were enough possibilities for answers that it wasn’t a simple “write in”, due to the man’s long career and many hit singles.

    As far as the grumpies who considered the theme beneath them, pop/rock music is not only becoming “classical” in a sense, but it is one of Britain’s strange accomplishments, far beyond her population, to have dominated it for so long. Were I to try to list the “10 best pop/rock acts ever”, after the obvious Beatles/Rolling Stones/Who/Queen (in whichever order you prefer), David Bowie would surely be one of the other six. Feigning disgust at the triteness of the theme just because it is “pop” music is false bravado. A random “one hit wonder” might be a lame device to use in a clue, but a man with a 40+ year history of making #1 hit singles is surely as valid a theme as, say, plants or colors.

    My COD was 8, which I had to come here to get slapped in the forehead for the parsing. Last in was 16d, after I gave up on finding “ft” or “sun” in it.

    20d is a true cryptic clue – definition plus wordplay. “Partial” is the definition. “brunette, then” is the cryptic wordplay. Nicely inventive. Some of these talented youngsters are giving the Reverend a run for his money with their ability to come up with fresh constructions like this.

    Finally, thanks to Paul, and Eileen – sorry it was such a slog for you – and the rest of you two hundred and twenty fivers who make this place so interesting!

  53. Huw Powell says:

    I forgot to thank Eileen for the extra puzzle and interview link!

  54. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Paul and Eileen

    I did actually finish this on Wednesday, but hadn’t had time to finish parsing and final check before looking in here. As it turns out – I still did not parse 1d and 3d properly – so thanks Eileen for setting me straight there.

    23 was my first one in, but didn’t really help with the theme after refusing to Wiki DB and write them all in – so CHANGES, CHINA GIRL, REBEL REBEL and STARMAN were amongst the last few in. Compared to others, I did find a bit of a challenge with the puzzle. Nice to see Iggy Pop turn up directly in 8d as well as a collaborator in the first release of 6d.

    Thanks Eileen for the extra links – will look at them over the weekend on my laptop rather than the phone.

  55. Anne Paul says:

    Loved it. I also like themed puzzles, especially those which don’t require too much local UK sport knowledge. Thanks Paul and Eileen. CanberraChloe

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