Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Cryptic N° 25,876 by Philistine

Posted by PeterO on February 20th, 2013


The crossword may be found at or

I seem to be getting the hang of Philistine’s style – at least, this one came out a little easier than the last one of his that I blogged. There is a wealth of trickery, and uniformly fine surfaces. Nearly the last in was 13A, which I got via 4D; the wordplay was definitely an afterthought.

1. One’s taken in by the modulated pitch of speech (8)
PHONETIC An envelope (‘taken in by’) of ‘one’ in PHTIC, an anagram (‘modulated’) of ‘pitch’.
6. Fleet circling round provided calm (6)
PACIFY An envelope (‘circling round’) of IF (‘providing’) in PACY (‘fleet’ – that is, fast).
9. Left in season to make ends meet (6)
SPLICE An envelope (‘in’) of L (‘left’) in SPICE (‘season’, verb).
10. Researcher is a rogue to experimental mice (8)
ACADEMIC A charade of ‘a’ plus CAD (‘rogue’) plus EMIC, an anagram (‘experimental’) of ‘mice’.
11. Howler monkey or another animal may be heard after slow start (9)
SCREECHER A charade of S (‘Slow start’) plus CREECHER, a homophone (‘may be heard’, perhaps with the stress on ‘may be’) of CREATURE (‘monkey or other animal’).
13. Curtain opening twice, revealing plants (5)
CACTI A charade of C (‘Curtain opening’) plus ACT 1 (‘curtain opening’).
15. Port wine (6)
MUSCAT Double definition; Muscat is a grape varietal, or a wine made from it, and the capital and major port of Oman.
17. Bid what in 21 (6)
BEHEST An envelope (‘in’) of EH? (‘what’) in BEST (21A is ELITE).
18. Bother to return boxes 9 or 11 potion (6)
ELIXIR An envelope (‘boxes’) of IX (‘9′, the Roman numeral this time, not the clue number) in ELIR, a reversal (‘to return’) of RILE (‘bother’); or, if the envelope were taken before the reversal (even if the clue tends to suggest otherwise), the insert would be XI (’11’).
19. Body to proceed after quantity halved (6)
QUANGO A charade of QUAN[tity] (‘quantity halved’) plus GO (‘proceed’). A quango, short for quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation, is primarily UK, and officially defined as:

A body which has a role in the processes of national government, but is not a government department or part of one, and which accordingly operates to a greater or lesser extent at arm’s length from ministers.

21. Travel item’s the best (5)
ELITE A hidden answer (‘indicated by the apostrophe s, for ‘has’) in ‘travEL ITEm’.
22. Upset stomach is fine by him (9)
MASOCHIST An anagram (‘upset’) of ‘stomach is’, with a semi-&lit definition.
25. Strike back with weapon, so to speak (8)
PARLANCE A charade of PAR, a reversal (‘back’) of RAP (‘strike’) plus (‘with’) LANCE (‘weapon’).
26. Lets unhealthy leader slip to the bottom (6)
ALLOWS SALLOW (a pale yellow colour; in appearance ‘unhealthy’) with the first letter (‘leader’) moved to the end (‘slip to the bottom’).
28,2. Tramp cooks joint (9)
STEAMSHIP A charade of STEAMS (‘cooks’) plus HIP (‘joint’). It puts me in mind of Masefield’s poem Cargoes:

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke-stack
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days…

You can find the rest at

29. Injured person starts to demand some answers (8)
RESPONDS A charade of RESPON, an anagram (‘injured’) of ‘person’ plus DS (‘starts to Demand Some’).
2. See 28
See 28
3. Ignorant of spring uprising (5)
NAIVE A reversal (‘uprising’) of EVIAN (‘spring'; the French mineral water comes from several sources around the town of Évian-les-Bains).
4. Like Iran with 13 other amendments (10)
THEOCRATIC An anagram (‘amendmenats’) of CACTI (the answer to the clue ’13’) plus ‘other’.
5. Graves in empty chapel are finally shut (6)
CLARET A charade of CL (’empty ChapeL‘) plus ‘are’ plus T (‘finally shuT‘). Graves is a wine appelation of Bordeaux; if it is red, the wine could be called a claret.
6,24. Provincial folk with no head for heights in game (8)
PEASANTS A subtraction – P[h]EASANTS (‘game’) with the H removed (‘no head for Heights’).
7. Delivery for Julian? (9)
CAESAREAN Cryptic definition; a Caesarean section is so called because Roman law required that if a pregnant woman died, an attempt should be made to deliver the baby by sword. There is a legend that  Julius Caesar (adjectival forms ‘Julian’ and CAESAREAN) was so delivered.
8. Teasing suitor with a lift (11)
FLIRTATIOUS An anagram (‘teasing’) of ‘suitor’ plus ‘a lift’, with a semi-&lit definition.
12. Film came out fuzzy, like it should (5,2,4)
COMME IL FAUT An anagram (‘fuzzy’) of ‘film came out’.
14. Love in jail’s queer after lover’s drink (10)
BEAUJOLAIS A charade of BEAU (‘lover’) plus an envelope (‘in’) of O (‘love’) in JLAIS, an anagram (‘queer’) of ‘jails’.
16. Perhaps I can still sparkle (9)
SCINTILLA An anagram (‘perhaps’) of ‘I can still’.
20. Country heard calling (6)
CAREER An approximate homophone (‘heard’) of KOREA (‘country’).
23,27. Outstanding room first to be blessed (8)
HALLOWED A charade of HALL (‘room’) plus OWED (‘outstanding’ as a balance, for example); ‘first’ indicates the order of the particles.
24. See 6
See 6
27. See 23
See 23

51 Responses to “Guardian Cryptic N° 25,876 by Philistine”

  1. michelle says:

    Plenty to enjoy in this puzzle by Philistine. I especially liked 3, 18, 7 and 20 (last in). Perhaps my favourites were SCREECHER, BEAUJOLAIS & ACADEMIC.

    New word for me was QUANGO which was easily gettable from the wordplay, and SCINTILLA which was also easy to work out from the anagram fodder, as ‘scintillate’ came to mind quickly.

    I was not sure how to parse 6/24 and 17a so thanks for the explanations, PeterO.

    P.S. Thank you MITZ for your great suggestion on how to solve the split word answers such as 23/27 and 28/2. I used your method and found it much easier when I wrote down the spaces and crossing letters on a piece of paper.

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks Peter. I was doing OK until the SE corner. 23,27 was an aha and then last in BEAUJOLAIS indicated the minitheme (with Graves, claret, muscat and perhaps Evian). The 20d homophone just passes muster: I lived in Seoul once and the pun did crop up then.

  3. NeilW says:

    Thanks, PeterO. This is turning into a fine week for the Guardian. Not too hard but really good fun.

    I read “twice” as only applying to “opening” in CACTI but you can argue the case for both readings of the clue I think.

  4. Geoff Wilkins says:

    ‘ELIXIR’ is cleverer than you suggest. It’s not a matter of ‘if the envelope were taken before the reversal’ – you reverse RILE and tehn insert either IX or XI at difference places in ELIR.

  5. William says:

    Thanks PeterO, smashing puzzle, really enjoyed it.

    Can’t spell CAESAREAN so BEHEST was a struggle.

    Geoff @4 – that’s how I read it – very neat.

    More from Phil, please.

  6. William says:

    Michell @1

    What was Mitz’s suggestion? Must have missed it.

  7. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Peter.

    Didn’t get many on the first pass, but it gradually came together as I chipped away at it. I thought it was an excellent puzzle with a good variety of clueing and some cleverness in the surfaces. No particular favourites today; it was all good.

    Like William, I too could handle some more of this setter. Thanks to him for this one.

  8. Miche says:

    Thanks, PeterO.

    My last in were MUSCAT (I hadn’t heard of the city) and BEHEST (I’d misspelled CAESAREAN). COD 5d – a lovely bit of misdirection.

  9. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Philistine and PeterO

    Enjoyed this one across a number of short sittings and starting with CAESAREAN (spelt with an I initially) and working my way clockwise around to the NE where NAIVE was last in after trying in vain to make NOISE work.

    COMME IL FAUT was new to me and enjoyed all of the split clues – especially the visual of yesterday’s setter building the sickly sweet smelling smoke !!!

  10. michelle says:

    In the blog for Guardian 25,871 – Boatman, I had mentioned that I found it harder to visualise the answers when they were to be split up. (In that puzzle they were 12/6 and 21/16).

    In the blog for that puzzle, Mitz@44 wrote: “Michele: I meant to mention before – when a word is split up as in 12d, 6 and I’m struggling to visualise the whole word I find it useful to jot down the spaces and crossing letters on a scrap bit of paper. For BARGEPOLE I had –R-E—E for a while – much easier to see that “elope” could be part of the answer like that.”

    I tried Mitz’s recommendation today with 23/27 and 282 and found that the advice was excellent as I simply cannot visualise the answers on the grid when they are split up like that.

  11. John Appleton says:

    Just enough of a challenge to last most of the morning commute. Enjoyable, but with a few superfluities: “the” in 1a, and I don’t see the need for the monkey in 11a. Some good words, though – and I liked the use of “9 or 11″ in 18a.

  12. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Peter

    I enjoyed this puzzle, which I found tricky to get into. Like others, I misspelt CAESAREAN to start with, so BEHEST was the last entry, and I also got CACTI working back from THEOCRATIC. Nevertheless, 13a was my favourite clue, amongst many ingenious ones.

    John A @11: ‘monkey’ is needed in 11a to go with ‘howler’ for a good surface – the unnecessary part is ‘or another animal’. ‘monkey may be’ = CREATURE; ‘heard’ gives the homophone

  13. Giovanna says:

    Thsnks Philistine and PeterO.

    Plenty of interest in this puzzle.

    Favourites were STEAMSHIP, which reminded me, too, of Cargoes;
    BEHEST, which reminded me of a favourite hymn (The Day Thou Gavest)
    and CAESAREAN, which reminded me of Julius Caesar (and McDuff).

    Please keep them coming.

    Giovanna x

  14. michelle says:

    Regarding 11a, ‘monkey’ is needed as the SCREECHER refers to the ‘howler monkey': (from wikipedia): “Group males generally call at dawn and dusk, as well as interspersed times throughout the day. The main vocals consist of loud, deep guttural growls or “howls”. Howler monkeys are widely considered to be the loudest land animal.”

    I’ve seen footage of howler monkeys on Nat Geo Wild – they do make a HUGE racket!

    Then, “another animal may be heard after slow start” = S + CREECHER.

    That’s the way I understood (and solved) the clue.

  15. NeilW says:

    michelle, see Gervase @12 for the best analysis of the clue (and how it could have been even better!)

  16. tupu says:

    Thanks PeterO and Philistine

    Hard to get into but well worth the effort.

    Behest was also my last in for the same reason as others’.

    Lots of ticks as the pennies dropped – 11a, 13a, 18a, 29a, 4d, 5d, 6,24, 23,27.

  17. michelle says:

    Regarding 11a SCREECHER, here’s a link for anyone who would like to hear the sound of a howler monkey:?
    ?(Actually, I think their sounds are more like growls & howls than screeches)

  18. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    This puzzle was enjoyable and sufficiently challenging but for a reason which I cannot honestly credit to the setter.
    Usually a critical solution in a particular area of the grid (a corner?) makes the other clues in that area much easier and solves the rest.
    This process leads to the whole grid succumbing section by section.
    The beauty of this puzzle was that I found that with 75% solved there were still blanks all over the place. Can such complexity be a deliberate tactic?
    I liked some clever ones which were rather obvious – 20d, 12d (very witty), 28/2, 18ac (good deception).
    Last in was ‘Muscat’.
    Philistine still on good form here, let us hope it continues into the immediate future.

  19. michelle says:


    Okay I see your point. I had parsed it as a dd with def = howler monkey = “animal may be heard after slow start” = SCREECHER.

  20. chas says:

    Thanks to PeterO for the blog.

    I was tickled by your comment at the start where you got 4d first then found 13a. I did it the other way round :)

  21. michelle says:

    I also got CACTI before THEOCRATIC

  22. John Appleton says:

    Thanks for the explanations about howler monkeys – not an animal I’ve come across before.

  23. Rowland says:

    Some good things here, burt also horrible Guardianisms and unnecessary risk-taking. ‘Curtain opening twice, revealing plants’ would be a good illustration, where ‘curtain opening’ does not really mean C, or indeed ACT I! Some of These clues ASK for agreement, rather than truly warranr it, for me anyways.


  24. Robi says:

    Thanks Philistine for an enjoyable puzzle.

    Thanks also to PeterO – I solved CACTI without parsing it (and after 14d.) I liked SCREECHER despite the reservations; the ‘or another animal’ was there, I think, just to make it a bit more obvious to the solver. PACIFY was another favourite where I spent some time in trying to use RN for fleet.

  25. RCWhiting says:

    Surely ‘curtain opening’ can mean either C or Act 1. But if twice then either CC, Act 1 Act 1 or C Act 1. Only the latter gives ‘plants’.
    Most days you manage to include ‘Guardianism’ as a pejorative; this is The Guardian, these are Guardian crosswords and most of us enjoy Guardianisms, whatever they are.

  26. muffin says:

    Thanks PeterO and Philistine
    Mostly enjoyable, though I thought the “rough” homophones of “creecher/creature” and especially “career/Korea” very rough indeed! Also would “slip to the bottom” in 26ac work better in a down clue?
    I had SMITE instead of ELITE for some time (anagram ITEMS, best as in beat?), and only thought to “check” it when I saw COMME IL FAUT – this held me up.

  27. muffin says:

    [By the way, did you hear about the masochist who liked a cold bath every morning . . . . . so he took a hot one.]

  28. george says:

    I have been doing the crosswords most days, coming here for help with parsing, but haven’t contributed for a while.

    I enjoyed this, although it did take me a while and I really struggled in places. I was quite satisfied when I did eventually come up with an answer to a clue that I did have the correct one.

    Over on the Guardian comments section under this puzzle there’s quite a heated discussion concerning the split word answers and the 11a homophone. There’s also, some of you may be interested to know, a comparison of the members of this site and the Diogenes Club!

  29. NeilW says:

    RCW @25, see my comment @3. As usual, I accepted I might be wrong.

  30. Eileen says:

    Thanks, PeterO, for the blog.Late to the party today, so it’s all been said but I did want to add my praise for this puzzle, which I thought was excellent, for all the reasons mentioned.

    I’m another who got 13ac via 4dn – brilliant clue, as was 13ac, once I saw it.

    Many thanks to Philistine for a really intriguing and enjoyable puzzle.

  31. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, PeterO.

    I enjoyed this much more than Tramp’s effort yesterday. I particularly liked the semi-&lit 22a MASOCHIST. There seemed to be several of that ilk yesterday which didn’t work for me; that is ones that were almost &lit, with a definition like “is she” in 26a and “here” in 16a.

    Strange about CAESAREAN – I also had the second A as an E for a while; I would never do that with CAESAR.

  32. Mitz says:

    Thanks Philistine and PeterO.

    William @5: I love you – so glad I wasn’t the only one. BEHEST was my last in (by some distance) for exactly the same reason. Could do with a good glass of 14 now.

    Plenty to enjoy here, all over the grid. Loved CACTI (yah boo Rowly!), ELIXIR, all of the boozy stuff, PEASANTS and HALLOWED. COMME IL FAUT held me up for a good long while – a bit like yesterday’s SALAD DODGER I knew it had to be an anagram but just couldn’t see it.

    Don’t think Philistine has put a foot wrong to date – long may the good form continue.

    PS: Michele – you’re welcome!

  33. Mitz says:

    PPS: Grid watchers – is this a new one for the Grauniad? Don’t remember seeing it before.

  34. NeilW says:

    Mitz, yes, I looked for a significance of 1 + 1!

  35. Rowland says:

    Guardianisms are for me thingss, styles, tropes that only the Guardian will allow RCW. If you enjoy them bully for you!! I think thta here I can say that I find them grammatically wrong, if I like.

    The grid is a true abomination, btw — a big scar right across the diagonal, and unch-heavy to boot!!


  36. rhotician says:

    Your posts would command more respect if you refrained from hyperbolic words, such as “horrible”.

    Four across lights are more unchecked than checked. Six downs are contrariwise.

  37. rhotician says:

    Sorry that should be eight downs.

  38. nametab says:

    Good workout. Being picky, the ‘the’ in 1ac is superfluous.
    Thanks to PeterO for help with parsing 13ac & 26ac

  39. Apple Granny says:

    Thanks for all the contributions. We have dipped in and out all day – busy with other things. Finished – we thought – only to discover that we had 17a wrong. We rejected “behest” and decided that “select” was better. Didn’t anyone else think of this? As everyone has said, there was a great collection of “ah-ha” answers that made us smile. We were a bit slow with 5d because we thought graves was a white wine – but Chambers corrected us! Last in was “career2 20d.

  40. Brendan (not that one) says:

    Great crossword again from Philistine.

    I didn’t think I was going to complete for the first time in many a month as I had very little in place after the first pass. However things gradually fell into place after I saw “PHONETIC”.

    Last two in were BEHEST and CAESAREAN as I had a mental block on that delivery! (Old age!)

    Rowland amuses me yet again with his misconstrued pedantry (IMHO of course and no offense meant). 13a is a cracking clue (Gromit) and definitely has no “grammatical issues” as RCW has already explained. I suspect some people either don’t see or refuse to see this fact.

    Also we have the old homophone fiasco. Where in these clues is the word homophone indicated. Both clues today use the word “heard” and one even qualifies this with “may be”. This certainly indicates that one word could be “heard” as the other. (Naturally in error as they are not true homophones!) Perfectly fair!

    Philistine especially is Ximenean in spirit if not in fact. A lot of years have passed since Mr Macnutt left us and the cryptic crossword has evolved. (For the better in my opinion.) This crossword above all was “fair” which was the watchword of DSM. It was also very enjoyable! Thank you PeterO and especially Philistine!

  41. William says:

    Mitz @32&33 Ha-ha! Great minds, or simple ones?

    Sad person that I am, I’ve recorded 38 grid variants (with a few mild variants) in the last 400 or so and this is the first one of these I’ve seen. No doubt someone will say I missed it!

  42. Paul B says:

    Re not that Brendan, Derek MacNutt sought to make clues more gettable after Torquemada’s nightmarish reign (though for some, this was a jolly good one). The clueing grammar issue is at one remove, in that Mathers, brilliant scholar, poet, translator, and alumnus of Loretto and Trinity, did not, AFAIA, suffer from such problems. Try one of his puzzles here:

    and see what you think.

    The crossword may have evolved, and we have to thank arch-Libertarian Araucaria in large part for that, but not beyond good clueing. Simple grammatical goofs, such as those pointed out by (apparently semi-literate) Rowland today, are not for me excused by recent developments, or by anything at all. And yes, the grid is appalling.

  43. Thomas99 says:

    I agree that Rowland is semi-literate – or rather his slightly trollish online persona is – in some respects. His analysis of “curtain opening” is grammatically wrong. This particular error does seem to have crept into crossword comments via Ximenes and it is annoying. The correct analysis is that “curtain” is adjectival (aka “nound adjunct” or “attributive noun”) and “opening” is a gerund. People point this out from time to time when someone says what Rowland has said and the response is always the same – nobody tries to defend the criticism but it is made again a few weeks later as if nothing happened. It seems to me to be on a par with complaints, which you still sometimes see, that clues “aren’t English sentences” – which obviously they don’t have to be.

    My assumption is that the restriction on gerunds was brought in by X not because he didn’t understand the grammar but because he wanted to make the clues easier in some respects, thus giving himself more liberty in others. The same applies to the number of crossers of course – the fewer there are, the harder the clue, so whether you like that rule or not comes down to how you feel about this extra bit of difficulty being thrown in. You can defend both these rules, but not on grammatical grounds. (Re the gerund issue, I also wondered whether a Latinist bias had affected X – the adjectival use of nouns without further changes is not possible in Latin as it is in German – “hausfrau” etc. – and English – “gerund issue” etc. – and so on.)

  44. Thomas99 says:

    PS. Sorry for the typo – I meant “noun” adjunct, of course

  45. Rowland says:

    Well you wouldn’t like to have a mistake when you’re trying to be so clever!! I don’t agree with your analysis by the way, nor am I a ‘troll’ or ‘trollish’, thanks all the same. Semi-literate too? If you say so, but I will continue to post despite it.


  46. Sea Doc says:

    Good for you Rowland.

    I don’t understand the grammatical issues at stake but I enjoy reading the banter. As for trollishness (neologisms multiply), it is so much worse on other sites where comment is, arguably, too free and that is one of the reasons that I enjoy this site.

    53S 53W headed for South Georgia with an albatross escort.

  47. Rowland says:

    Nor does Thomas ((understand the grammatical issues) I can assure you!!

    I think I knmow the site(s) you mean. Thanks for kindly remarks


  48. Huw Powell says:

    I checked 9 (lovely!), 18 for it’s brilliance (IX or XI in ELIR), and 3 for its simplicity once I got it.

    Never got 17 because I forgot to spellcheck the embarrassing “Caesarian” (which Firefox seems to think is fine).

    The excellent “split whole words” answers were, well, excellent, and helped tie the grid together.

    Speaking of which, this is a great grid – it’s not four corners joined by just four words, it’s a rel crossword grid that holds together. And the two place clues also open it up even more.

    I got 13 from 4 as many did. And delighted in parsing it.

    I like Guardian puzzles, Rowly, with their ambitious use of inventing new ways to clue things. That’s why I like the Guardian puzzles. I used to download the Herald, but it was too easy. I’ve tried Azed, and it/he boggles my mind, mostly.

    I used to solve American puzzles, but when I inked in two NYT Sunday puzzles in a row as fast as I could write I knew I needed a better challenge. Luckily that guy at The Nation had introduced me to the cryptic.

    Thanks for the blog PeterO and the rest of you, and to Philistine for a true gem.

  49. Huw Powell says:

    And when I typed “for it’s brilliance” you all know I know how apostrophes work, right? Oopsie.

  50. Huw Powell says:

    Oh and I forgot to say that I found the “split two words as one” answers the best part of this puzzle.

  51. Paul B says:

    Oh no you didn’t.

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