Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize Puzzle 25,867 by Bonxie

Posted by PeeDee on February 16th, 2013


A very fine puzzle indeed from Bonxie, and not easy at all.

The theme is Scottish Islands, each being missed from the subsidiary part of the clue (except for 6ac which would have left no clue at all).  Devious clues thoughout and no liberties taken – great stuff indeed.  Thank you Bonxie.

1 BARRACUDA It’s brought back to eat with a fish (9)
BARRA (Scottish Island) and CUD (something brought back to eat) with A
6 MUCK Soil quietly removed from worm’s head (4)
SHMUCK (worm, unpleasant person) with SH (quietly) removed from the front (head). For no good reason I decided early on that this was going to be SKYE and then spent an unreasoanble amount of time failing to find an explanation.
8 FRITTERS Fried food is wasteful (8)
double definition – as noun and verb
9 YELLOW Tawny owl scratching tail (6)
YELL (Scottish Isle) and OWl (missing the tail)
10 ALARUM In the manner of a loud disturbance (6)
A LA (in the manner of) and RUM (Scottish Island)
11 REMAINED Survived Communist state intervention (8)
MAINE (state) in RED (communist)
12 BUTENE Gas is not entirely fresh (6)
BUTE (Scottish Island) and NEw (fresh) not finished
15 PETUNIAS Kiss Japanese people returning small flowers (8)
PET (kiss) then AINU (Japanese people) reversed and S (small)
16 EPISODIC Irregular code is broken with constant input (8)
(CODE IS)* broken=anagram containing PI (a constant, maths) – definition is ‘irregular’
19 YABBER Talk excitedly with civil war fighter on horseback (6)
REB (rebel, civil war fighter) on BAY (horse) reversed (back)
21 TERMINAL Final eliminator involved 10 being knocked out (8)
ELIMINATOR* (involved=anagram) missing IO (10, ten)
22 MISLAY He directs agents to lose (6)
M (code name for spymaster) and ISLAY (Scottish Island)
24 ON EDGE Nervous individual doesn’t give everyone introductions (2,4)
ONE (individual) Doesn’t Give Everyone (first letters of)
25 ARRANGED Agreed to drop odds, when they’re lined up (8)
ARRAN (Scottish Island) and aGrEeD (odd letters dropped)
26 AHOY Midday hail at sea (4)
dAy (middle of) and HOY (Scottish Island)
27 SPELLBIND Take turns to restrict entrance (9)
SPELL (to take turns at, of a job of work) and BIND (restrict)
1 BERYL Bass instrument over a stone (5)
B (bass) LYRE (instrument) reversed (over)
2 RETIREE Extremely rare — a lady of leisure (7)
RarE (extremes of) and TIREE (Scottish Island)
3 A-TEAM Elite soldiers each punched through a hole in the wall (1-4)
EA (each) in (punched through) ATM (hole in the wall cash machine)
4 UNSTRAP Loosen tie and cuff (7)
UNST (Scottish Island) and RAP (cuff)
5 ASYMMETRY Inequality? Bars for women display this (9)
definition and cryptic definition – the Asymmetric Bars is a gymnastic even for women only
6 MULLION One working in bar with glass on either side (7)
MULL (Scottish Island) with I (one) ON (working) – a glazing bar in a window
7 COOPERATE Entertainment in bed — stroke bottom, then pull together (2-7)
OPERA (entertainment) in COT (bed) then strokE (bottom of)
13 UMPTEENTH The last of many put the men in a spin (9)
(PUT THE MEN)* anagram=in a spin
14 ENDANGERS Threatens to throw grenades around noon (9)
GRENADES* (anagram=to throw) around N (noon)
17 SOMEDAY African boxer to leave later on (7)
SOMali (African) missing boxer then EDAY (Scottish Island)
18 COLLATE Gather and put away (7)
COLL (Scottish Island) and ATE (put away)
20 BASENJI Dog’s foot a state — iodine applied (7)
BASE (foot) NJ (New Jersey, a state) with I (iodine) applied – a type of hunting dog
22 MOREL Half-heartedly bite a fungus (5)
MORsEL (a bite) missing half of its middle (heart) – a mushroom
23 AMEND Student leaving dock collars me for change (5)
ME in (collared by) LAND (dock) missing L=student


45 Responses to “Guardian Prize Puzzle 25,867 by Bonxie”

  1. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Araucaria? Bonxie!

  2. stiofain says:

    Oops it was Bonxie

  3. coltrane says:

    And it was No25,867. Maybe we should start again!!

  4. NeilW says:

    Thanks, PeeDee. Excellent puzzle and really well prepared blog – pity about the headline, as already pointed out.

    My way into the theme was via ALARUM, strangely, closely followed by MISLAY.

    My last entry of all was the “key” solution MUCK! Sh for “quietly” threw me and I still find it a bit odd.

  5. stiofain says:

    I had APARTHEID (no he ID to get in bar)for 5d which totally messed this up for me. I find the “look for a list on wiki then see what fits” style theme very unsatisfying though there were some good clues.

  6. coltrane says:

    Thank you PeeDee and Bonxie. I found this took me a long time, maybe a bit more than I wanted to spend, but I got it all in the end.

    I got the theme via Barracuda because there are not too many 9 lettered fish ending in a. As I know next to nothing about Scottish Islands I was on the back-foot from the start. Anyway a Prize is supposed to be hard so I have no complaints.

    COD for me was 5d, but there were plenty of other good ones.

  7. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Like Stiofain I do not enjoy these type of theme puzzles.
    It’s an unsatisfactory choice between an alphabetical list on a web-site if you don’t know them or even more tedium if you do.

  8. molonglo says:

    Thanks PeeDee. Only about eight left when, wrestling with the two 6 clues, the muck-mull light dawned. It still left the SE corner and help was needed here, for the dog mainly. Quite entertaining to verify the outlandish specks dotted about the North Sea, expecting to come across one called Google.

  9. Jim says:

    Disappointing one. After a week of looking at it, only had about half filled in, including several clues I had the answer to, but just couldn’t figure out why. I think the problem lies with the theme choice being so obscure (and many of them not even looking like words!). UNST. Yes of course. Will expect the next theme to be Slovakian rivers.

  10. Bryan says:

    Many thanks PeeDee and Bonxie.

    This was far too tough for me – knowing little or nowt about Scottish islands.

    Indeed, I now declare that this Puzzle was THE MOST DIFFICULT – ever!

  11. Gaufrid says:

    Blog updated to correct the number/setter errors.

  12. NeilW says:

    RCW @7, I think you have a point about some themed puzzles but I can’t agree with you with regard to this one.

    Once you’ve twigged the theme, there’s really no need to resort to a full list of all the hundreds of Scottish islands. My knowledge of the theme is very limited but, having solved most of the unthemed clues and seeing reasonably obvious solutions like SOMEDAY, for instance, I needed just a quick Google to check that EDAY was, indeed, one of the isles. I worked my way through the rest of the themed clues in this fashion. The sledgehammer approach you suggest would indeed have been a hard day at the office but hardly necessary.

  13. HKColin says:

    I agree with NeilW, this was a pleasure to solve unlike many themed puzzles. Sure I found a list of Scottish islands but didn’t look for places to fit them into the clues. There are just too many. I solved the clues in the normal way and if part of the wordplay was missing I checked if the unclouded letters were indeed one of the islands on the list. A good feeling when you get a hit, since many didn’t look promising.

    My way in was through 2d which also appeared in last weeks Prize with the TIREE portion clued as Hebridean island. A very broad hint which I assume was not intended and I was surprised it was even permitted.

    I assume that Bryan@10 must have tried what NeilW described as the sledgehammer approach because I didn’t find it particularly difficult at all. And I will bet I know less about Scottish islands than most of this group.

  14. HKColin says:

    Damn iPhone auto-correct. Unclued, not unclouded.

  15. bridgesong says:

    I also found this tough, but satisfying. In fact I thought it was hard enough to qualify as a Genius puzzle- some of those have been easier than this one. I don’t agree with HKColin @ 13 about RETIREE: I’ve checked last week’s blog and it doesn’t appear. Perhaps you’re confusing it with another puzzle?

  16. Miche says:

    Thanks, PeeDee.

    HKColin @13 , Bridgesong @15: RETIREE appeared in Araucaria’s puzzle for Friday, February 8.

    I thought this was the best Prize for quite a while. I couldn’t have finished it without reference material (or some wild guessing) but I don’t mind at at all in a Saturday puzzle.

  17. PeeDee says:

    My apologies about the wrong title everybody. I guess I must have picked up the wrong paper when writing the title for the blog or something.

  18. Eileen says:

    What a lovely puzzle!

    I couldn’t agree more with NeilW, HKColin and Bridgesong. Maybe I was lucky in getting MUCK = soil early on, from the C in CO-OPERATE [lovely clue!] and actually guessing the theme from that. I think this was a puzzle waiting to happen [maybe it already has]: I’ve always been fascinated by the often highly unlikely names of the Scottish islands and thought it was just amazing how Bonxie managed to weave them into his wordplay.mISLAY was a particularly good example and reTIREE [which Bonxie couldn’t possibly have seen in the Friday puzzle] was another.

    It isn’t fair to say that it was just a case of trawling through lists of islands, since they were only part of the answer. The delight was in seeing how deftly they’d been incorporated. Again, perhaps I was lucky in that they were all, I think, familiar, except EDAY, and, by the time I got to that one, I had sufficient faith in the integrity of the clues to enter it. [My only qualm about that clue was finding that SOMEDAY is, in fact, according to Collins and Chambers [but not my [elderly] SOED] one word!

    It was by no means easy but there was no point at which I was completely stuck. It unwound at that steady pace which makes a Prize puzzle so satisfying.

    Many thanks, Bonxie, for a real treat – and thanks to PeeDee for the blog.

  19. R_c_a_d says:

    Thanks for the blog.

    Couldn’t make it past half way without some help… Partly because I didn’t understand the special instructions properly.

    When the penny finally dropped I was left quite dismayed at all the time wasted pondering clues which really didn’t make any sense.

    I accept my defeat and put this one down to experience.

  20. Biggles A says:

    I find Bonxie is a Shetland name for the Great Skua which might have given us a lead to the Scottish islands but it didn’t for me. I found this hard even after BARRACUDA and then the theme emerged and needed help in the SE corner. 19 was my last and I couldn’t explain it so thanks for that PeeDee. There’s a typo in 5, one S and two Ms.

  21. rhotician says:

    Sometimes we’re informed that themed clues have their definition omitted. Here part of the subsidiary indications has been omitted. I can’t recall this kind of instruction in a Gaurdian puzzle. We’re dipping a toe in Listener/Azed waters.

  22. tupu says:

    Thanks Peedee and Bonxie

    Hard but satisfying. It took some time to fathom the instructions and then to remember that ‘muck’ was not one of the 12. Like others I was able to work out the answers and then check the island if necessary as in ‘Someday’.

    My favourite clue was 13d but 17d was also very good.

  23. Andrew says:

    Not much to add to what’s already been said – like Eileen I knew all the islands except EDAY, and that was easily guessable. In fact SOMEDAY was my first thematic answer, which led me to guess the theme and hence get MUCK. Overall a very tough puzzle that took me a while to finish.

    And: Happy 92nd Birthday to Araucaria!

  24. Aztobesed says:

    Thanks for the blog.

    Schmuck = worm puzzled me but then I realised there was a naughty Yiddish allusion hiding in there.

  25. DunsScotus says:

    Thanks Bonxie and PeeDee. I agree with Eileen @ 18 and with those with whom she agrees; a delightful puzzle. My most annoying failure was to get hung up on ‘Sallow’ and miss ‘Yellow’! Silly boy.

    I recently took part in a Brahms German requiem and our conductor was talking about a passage in which Brahms states a theme, then works it back in with all the note values scaled up by the same factor. ‘He does it … because he can,’ said the boss, and I feel a bit the same about tricks like Bonxie’s; how clever to be able to make such a ploy not just work, but work with aplomb.

  26. tupu says:

    Hi Aztobesed

    The same kind of thought struck me but I did not realise that the metaphor is reversed – the worm is like the organ rather than vice-versa.

  27. Eileen says:

    DunsScotus @25

    A fascinating connection – a lovely puzzle and my favourite choral work. Thank you.

  28. coltrane says:

    DunsDcotus @ 25. I suppose this is not really the place, sorry Gaufrid, but I’d love to know what other choral works you have sung in. As a poor amateur I’ve sung in the Faure and the Mozart. Its on my Bucket list to sing the Verdi and the Beethoven 9th, but I rather doubt I’m up to it, And whilst loving the Brahms and with all due respect to Eileen those are some pretty stiff competition.

  29. Aztobesed says:

    tupu @ 26


    When I read the clue after the solve I thought Bonxie was being suspiciously coy and humourless with such a word – it took me a while to spot his raised eyebrow. I thought it an amusing way to hide a key clue.

  30. muffin says:

    Thanks to PeeDee and Bonxie
    I enjoyed this, and was very satisfied when I finished. I spotted the theme from reTIREE; MUCK was one of my last, and even then I didn’t parse it.

    [I have visited the RSPB reserve at Handa Island in the breeding season, and been buzzed by bonxies – they are disturbingly large and vicious! I hope that this is not the case of our compiler.]

  31. DunsScotus says:

    Hi Coltrane @ 28 and thanks for your interest, which I’ve followed up in ‘General Discussion’.

  32. PeeDee says:

    atobesed @24 – the more risque interpretation of the metaphor escaped me completely.

    I have seen skuas around the Western and Northern Isles many times but I forgot the Bonxie connection. I checked up to see if Bonxie (the setter) lives in the region but I discover he lives in Taunton, which is just about as far away as you can get.

  33. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Bonxie and Peedee.

    This took some getting in to and I certainly needed the blog to understand the full dexterity of the clues!

    UMPTEENTH is a favourite word and for me is one of the joys of the English language.

    Giovanna x

  34. Mitz says:

    Thanks Bonxie and PeeDee.

    I don’t normally bother to comment on the Saturday crosswords as they seem so far in the past, but as I didn’t manage to complete this one until Monday (having spent most of the weekend staring desperately at an almost blank grid) I thought I would make an exception.

    I’m in NeilW’s camp on the way the theme was presented. Found it very difficult to spot, even though I am familiar with that part of the world (you can see Eigg and Rum from my mother’s house). I had AHOY and SOME DAY but stared at 6a for a stupidly long time before any kind of small coin seemed inclined to succumb to gravity. A few more, such as BARRACUDA and MISLAY did then tumble in quite quickly, but it was by no means a walk in the park.

    Away from the theme, I smirked childishly at CO-OPERATE, groaned at ASSYMETRY, and was educated by BASENJI, which I managed to guess from the clue without ever having heard of the breed, and was pleased to be vindicated when I looked it up. I was foxed by MOREL for a while because for some reason my mind insisted that I was looking for a mushroom with a double letter at its centre.

    All in all an enjoyable tough challenge, and very good value for money. I also suspect that the ridiculously easy triumvirate that we had from Rufus, Gordius and Chifonie during the first part of the week might have been in reaction to one of the toughest puzzles we’ve had for a while. Bravo to the setter.

  35. rrc says:

    I am not keen of puzzles which indicate a number of clues are related but then give no indication of which clues they are. Hence the amount of time spent on solving was rather excessive andnot particularly enjoyable. So this one definitely receives the thumbs down

  36. muck says:

    Thanks PeeDee for the blog and Bonxie for a most entertaining puzzle

    In my philosophy, no man is an island.
    Nevertheless, I was honoured to find my pseudonym the key to this puzzle

  37. nametab says:

    I really enjoyed this one. Tough but fair; slow to reveal its solutions; ideal prize. My inroad was ‘Someday’ and looking up ‘eday’ which revealed the theme. Helped to have climbed in Scotland, and hence some passing familiarity with some isles. My feeling for themed crosswords tends to vacillate according to how readily I find the theme, but they generally leave me admiring the compiler.
    Thanks to Bonxie & PeeDee

  38. g larsen says:

    Thanks to PeeDee, and to Bonxie for one of the most satisfying prize crosswords for a long time.

    It’s a real tour de force in that it is hard to think of any other Scottish islands that could be used in this way – IONA is the only obvious example, and I spent a long time trying to slot Catriona in. It will be a real master who can find a way of incorporating Colonsay or North Ronaldsay.

    I was very slow to get the idea, as I had carelessly read the instructions to mean that it was the solution that wasn’t clued.

    The theme was right up my street, as I have visited all but 3 of the islands. I hope I will be equally enthusiastic when we get Jim’s (@9) suggestion of a puzzle based on Slovakian rivers.

  39. PeeDee says:

    Bebrava, Belá, Biela Orava, Blava, Blh, Bodrog, Bodva, Bystrica, Chlmec, Chvojnica, Cirocha, Cierna voda, Cierna voda, Danube, Dudváh, Dunajec, Duša, Gidra, Gortva, Handlovka, Hnilec, Hornád, Hron… can’t wait to see someone take it on!

  40. Aztobesed says:

    g larsen @ 38

    A good while back someone on the Guardian Comments clued Colonsay –


    (I think it followed one of Paul’s dingbat puzzles.)

  41. Eileen says:

    Hi Azto – many thanks for that.

    So, for a clue in this puzzle, absolutely anything goes – endless possibilities!! I could spend all night coming up with suggestions but I’ll leave it to the experts. It would be great if Bonxie dropped in and offered a possibility. 😉

  42. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Bonxie and PeeDee

    Think that this was one of the best Guardian puzzles for a long time.

    For me the theme didn’t come into play until I was left with five clues that I just couldn’t justify any answer for – in fact I’d forgotten about the instruction and was cursing the ‘error bug’ again. Four others that still had a flag for me to parse at the finish and three more that I had somehow satisfied myself with the answer.

    The penny finally dropped when I realized BUTANE should really be BUTENE that allowed RETIREE (and jogged memories of TIREE) – then saw BUTE, BARRA, ARRAN and ISLAY to complete the grid. Still had work to complete the parsing of the other 7 islands and a sense of real satisfaction to see it completed.

    Thank you Bonxie for the challenge that lasted over an elapsed 2-3 days!

  43. Brendan (not that one) says:

    I really enjoyed this one too.

    I did have to resort to the Googled “list” for some of the islands but I expect to do this sometimes for the Prize puzzles.

    Once I’d cracked the instructions and theme it wasn’t too difficult. (Allowing for the fact that this was a Prize which should in my opinion be a step (or two) up from the weekdays.

    Regarding Dunscotus and Eileen @25 & 27. Bizarrely my PC was playing “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit” when I read your comments. Some coincidence when you consider I was playing from a random playlist of 2925 tracks!

  44. Huw Powell says:

    I’m definitely in the camp that overwhelmingly approves of this puzzle.

    It took a bit of time to decide what the instructions meant, while solving some random “normal” clues – and coming up with, I think, seven of the themed ones, which simply stayed in pencil while I compiled a list of rather strange “words”.

    Then I used OneLook to work out MISLAY from the checked letters and the cash descended at 9.8 m/s^2.

    I seriously think it the repeat answer – RETIREE from the day before – was intentional. The Friday clue had me staring at a map of the Hebrides for a few hours (ok, minutes) looking for islands I could use, and noticing some rather odd ones. So then I started typing in my strange strings of letters into the Wikipedia search box, with increasing glee. ALARUM fell easily then, since I had noticed and tried to use Rum the day before. While drinking Scotch.

    In terms of aids, I take a “tiered” approach – I certainly would love to someday solve a puzzle entirely out of my own knowledge, but I don’t mind various levels of “checking”. For instance, if I work out a likely answer that is a word I don’t know, at some point I will probably look it up to see if it is correct, but usually after leaving it in pencil for a while. It is a testament to the skill Bonxie demonstrated here that the only researches I really had to do was check that these were indeed (Scottish) islands, after coming up with valid solutions.

    One themed puzzle I remember from some time ago revolved around the Battle of Trafalgar and Lord Nelson. After working on it for some time, I was not embarrassed at all to read the entire Wikipedia article or three, fixing typos and grammar along the way, and occasionally noticing words that fit clues I had in the back of my mind.

    I enjoyed this puzzle immensely, which is why I kept it out so I could come back here in a week and read the blog and leave my comments of praise.

    So, thanks for the blog, PeeDee and the rest of you lot, and triple thanks to Bonxie for a delightful few hours!

  45. Robinistanbul says:

    Occasional contributor here. Just wanted to endorse other comments about how delightful this puzzle was. Managed to finish it on various buses here in Istanbul, plus a couple of ferry rides over to the Asian Side. My son has just split up with a long-term birder girlfriend, who has hightailed it to a Scottish island – I forget which one – so the theme had resonance for me. Congrats to Bonxie and thanks to PeeDee and you all.

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