Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,877 – Picaroon

Posted by Andrew on February 21st, 2013


A belated and hurried posting, partly due to the Guardian’s failure to publish the puzzle properly on its website (the online version is still not there as I write this), so apologies in advance for any errors or omissions. The key answer at 16d,4d was perhaps a little too easy to guess, but getting it didn’t make the rest of the puzzle a walkover, and there was plenty to tease out – I just wish I’d had a bit more time to savour it. For anyone who’s still looking for the puzzle, the PDF version is here.

1. MUFFLES FF (very loud) in MULES (a mule is a cross between a horse and a donkey)
5. LEGUMES Reverse of EMU in LEGS. Légumes is French for “vegetables”, which might be part of your déjeuner (lunch).
10. RUMINANTS Cryptic definition
11. ESCUTCHEON E + SCUT + CHE + ON (running)
12. ETUI Hidden in expensivE TUItion. A familiar word from “quick” crosswords.
14. NORTHUMBRIA NO R THUMB + reverse of AIR, and the Angles settled in Northumbria (and elsewhere)
18. EIGENVECTOR E[uclid] + (CONVERGE IT)*. This mathematical concept, which I don’t have time to explain, was previously seen here in an Enigmatist puzzle in September 2010
21. ELLE EL + LE – definite articles in (e.g.) Spanish and French, and ELLE is a fashion magazine
22. METHUSELAH U (acceptable, as in “U and non-U”) in METHS + reverse of HALE; a methuselah is a large wine or champagne bottle, usually of 6 litres or 8 standard bottles
26. IMAGE MAG[azine] in I.E. (that is)
27. REMANET RE MANET. Remanet is a legal term for “a case for trial which can not be tried during the term; a postponed case”
1. MANGER French for “to eat”, and ruminants may eat from a manger (basically the same word, of course)
3. LIEUTENANT U (for all to see, as in film classifications) in LIE (deception) + TENANT
5. LIMBO L[ine] + [b]IMBO
6. GENE GEN (low-dow n) + E[avesdropping]
7. MONETARY MONET + A RY (railway = line), with “about capital” as the definition
13,28. IMPRESSION, SUNRISE (INSPIRES SENSORIUM)* A painting by Monet that might be said to be an image of a French dawn
15. HATCHINGS T[time] + CHIN in HAG’S
16,4. DEJEUNER SUR L’HERBE H in (EEL BUNS RUDER JEER)* Manet’s famous painting – nicely appropriate surface reading, but the enumeration rather gives the answer away.
17. NGULTRUM GUN* + LT + RUM – currency of Bhutan
19. ALKALI A[merican] + L + KALI (Hindu goddess). As far as I know, base = alkali, but any chemists in the house may want to dispute it.
20. CHEESE Homophone of QI’S – the Chinese “life force”; and photographers tell their subjects to “say cheese!” to make them smile
23. ELIOT Reverse of TOILE[d], and George Eliot’s real name was Mary Anne Evans

43 Responses to “Guardian 25,877 – Picaroon”

  1. Shirley says:

    Thanks Andrew – 1D I’m sure you meant to say that ruminants eat from a manger, and of course the French for to eat is manger.
    We thought this crossword was very tricky not knowing Ngultrum or eigenvector.

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks Shirley, my explanation of 1d somehow disappeared in to the ether – I’ll put it back.

  3. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Andrew. That was a fast solve and blog! Most impressive.

    The only one you may have missed is the parsing of RUMINANTS, which I think is a cryptic definition, as you say, but also RUMINANT (contemplating) S(econds).

    This took me nearly as long as Bonxie’s recent prize so it was a particularly unfortunate one for the Grauniad site to screw up.

    A very clever theme of FRENCH DAWN but I certainly made heavy weather of it.

  4. Bryan says:

    A recent comment on the Grauniad site now provides a link to the PDF for Cryptic 25,877.

  5. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Many thanks, Andrew. I’m sure blogging’s enough of a commitment without having to faff about with missing puzzles.

    I did finish this eventually, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I have some of Picaroon’s previous offerings. You hint that DEJEUNER SUR L’HERBE is a giveaway, but it wasn’t to this solver: when I finally got it and looked it up the painting was vaguely familiar, but I can’t say I could have named it in a quiz. I was in any case focused on O’CLOCK as being the last element, although I did realise eventually that it must be a foreign phrase.

    EIGENVECTOR, NGULTRUM, SESTINAS and REMANET in a daily cryptic? (Yes, I know, they’re all clearly clued.) Particularly in one where the interlinked clues meant that you were (for which read ‘I was’) chasing your tail around the puzzle once you’d got all the non-themed clues that you could.

    So perhaps better as a weekend prize puzzle, in my opinion, when there is more time to ponder over it.

  6. Ian Payn says:

    Although I enjoyed the puzzle I have some sympathy for Kathryn’s Dad – the four words that he quotes are not in common usage. As for Dejeuner sur L’Herbe, it’s the old question, isn’t it? What constitutes General Knowledge? I think knowing of this painting, and who painted it, does come under the heading, Kathryn’s Dad doesn’t. Neither of is us right, nor either of us wrong.

  7. NeilW says:

    It’s up on the Guardian site now.

  8. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Absolutely, Ian. In the end, General Knowledge is knowledge that you (personally) possess. It’s the old argument that being good at crosswords means that you have to have knowledge that’s five miles wide and one foot deep. Unfortunately for me this particular painting was lodged in the mud about two feet down. But that doesn’t make it a bad clue or a bad crossword, of course.

  9. John Appleton says:

    I found this very enjoyable, but then I’m familiar with the artworks. That said, the Manet work wasn’t at all easy to guess, as it appears to have been for Andrew. I don’t imagine that it would have been an easy crossword for somebody without knowledge of the works, particularly with EIGENVECTOR, REMANET and NGULTRUM being in close proximity to a French word that is key to the puzzle, and not indicated as French in the clue (though the enumeration made me susupect it). As others have commented, it really depends upon a person’s own cache of “general knowledge”.

  10. rrc says:

    The most difficult puzzle I have come across for a long time. Even seeing some of the answers made me none the wiser. I managed Dawn French, etui and sestinas and then gave up losing interest

  11. Robi says:

    Very clever but not a very enjoyable solve, I thought, with too many obscurities.

    Thanks Andrew; unlike you, but like K’s dad @5, the enumeration was not a giveaway. I thought of ‘n as the likely single letter and only got the key towards the end of the solve.

    ‘Bit of eavesdropping’=’e’ was, I thought, very loose [or have I misunderstood?] Why not ‘start’ [of eavesdropping] for example? I’m not very familiar with the Bhutan currency, but maybe the ‘man on the London omnibus’ is equipped these days with a smartphone to look it up.

    I agree with KD @5 that this would have been better as a weekend offering. :(

  12. HB says:

    I think the most challenging element of this puzzle was the crossing of solutions in clues that depended upon one another, removing crucial letters from some of the more difficult words, especially for one unfamiliar with either painting. As ever for a younger solver, general knowledge is the weak link in the chain for me – the George Eliot connection in 23 down passed me by completely. I’m grateful that I had over an hour to spend on it this morning!

  13. Rowland says:

    JusT clogged with obscure stuff, and there’s been some criticism lebelled at far easier themed offerings over the last couple of weeks! Too may Anagarams, some of foreign phrases too, so no chance for people without the CHEAT button. Just kind of thoughtlessly chucked together I feel.

    Did I enjoy anything? Yes, ‘no R thumb’!!


  14. tupu says:

    Thsnks Andrew and Picaroon

    Hard ‘qis’ Andrew getting this one to blog. Solvable from the clues and with faith that almost anything might be a word. Overall a bit of a slog but some good moments nonetheless.

    Much agree with K’sD and others that this was quite difficult enough for a snowed in weekend.

    I was helped by seeing the current Manet exhibition.

  15. Stella says:

    As for others. the key clue wasn’t immediately obvious to me, but I did see that it was an anagram, so played around with the letters until the title came to mind – then was alittle puzzled by the Guardian’s enumeration norms: isn’t it now common practice to cite words with apostrophes as one word, or is that only in English?

  16. Robi says:

    P.S. NGULTRUM is in my Chambers, so I guess it’s legit. I did enjoy MUFFLES if not the lunch.

  17. george says:

    Got there in the end, but only by cheating on 19 and then smiling when I could fill in the last one: CHEESE for 20.

    Not quite base = ALKALI on 19 Andrew. I kicked myself when I saw the answer as I should have known it. I am not a Chemist , but as I understand it all alkalis are bases, but not all bases are alkalis. Bases neutralise acids, but may be solid e.g copper oxide. Alkalis are bases that dissolve in water e.g. sodium hydroxide.

  18. Apple Granny says:

    We really enjoyed this, lots of brain-teasing. Had to check a few things in Wiki and Chambers, but that’s OK when you get clues for what to look for. Learnt several new words (will we remember them? – probably not – no plans to go to Bhutan!) We shamefully failed to get George Eliot, totally forgetting her in our trawl of Evanses. But overall, very satisfying. First in was muffles, and that helped with Dawn French. Got dejeuner sur l’herbe early on too. Lots of great clues,including the Monet/Manet references. My husband knows all about eigenvectors, so that was OK.

  19. Otherstuff says:

    Shiva is the proper destroyer, Kali is his consort. This caused me quite a bit of aggravation trying to solve 19.

  20. chas says:

    Thanks to Andrew for the blog. I am still puzzled by 20d: how does QI’s relate to CHEESE?

  21. Robi says:

    chas @20; qi is an alternative spelling of ‘chi’ [as all good Scrabble players should know]

  22. John Appleton says:

    Stella @15, I too thought it odd that an apostrophe was used in the enumeration, but thought that it might be there to make the clue a little more fair.

    Chas @20: I believe the pronunciation of QI is “CHEE”. Also spelt CHI, both variants are good friends of the Scrabble player.

  23. chas says:

    Thanks to Robi and John Appleton for your explanation.
    It seems to me as though some Chinese person with a very limited knowledge of English invented that spelling by re-defining the letter Q. Very odd.

  24. Mitz says:

    Thanks Picaroon and Andrew.

    Seems I’m in a minority today – I really enjoyed this. Hard, even though I got DEJEUNER SUR L’HERBE immediately (am I the only one that first came across it through Bow Wow Wow’s notorious album cover?) – and I’m surprised that no-one so far has mentioned the topicality – there is currently a Manet exhibition at the Royal Academy.

    A long, drawn out solve came in fits and starts – was impressed that Picaroon hid away both Manet and Monet and one each of their most important works (although I would have clued 13,28 as “26 of 2 24″ just to add a tiny bit more playfulness), as well as such joys as ESCUTCHEON and METHUSELAH. For the third day on the trot I correctly identified an angram but struggled for far too long with it – this time I didn’t feel quite so slow as EIGENVECTOR is a bit rarified, and I’m another that would love to visit Bhutan one day but am yet to get around to it…

    Loved DAWN FRENCH but she was just pipped for COD: CHEESE, because it did exactly what the clue said.

  25. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Mitz,not a minirity of one.I thought this was delightful for so many reasons.
    Although I have not seen the exhibition I did watch,last week I think, on BBC4, Waldemar Janusczak (sp?) giving a thorough analysis of DSL’H.
    Why is the concentration above on qi (20d),it is in Chambers under chi which was a much more obvious place to look if needed?
    So many intriguing and clever clues:amongst others 10ac, 17d. The latter was one of those (they occur regularly in Azed) when you deduce some improbable word and THERE IT IS in Chambers – wow!
    A lovely time all round, for me.

  26. muffin says:

    Thanks Andrew and Picaroon.
    I found this hard work almost throughout – satisfying to finish, but not all that enjoyable. I wrote in dejeuner sur l’herbe and niece immediately, then ground to a halt. Several words I didn’t know – indeed REMANET isn’t in my older Chambers (which was closer at hand so consulted first), though it is in my newer edition.
    I knew the term EIGENVALUE but had never come across EIGENVECTOR before.
    George @17 is correct in his distinction between BASE and ALKALI – all alkalis are bases, but most bases are not alkalis. I was with otherstuff @19 in trying to fit SHIVA into this one.
    I thought Northumbria was more particularly associated with later Viking colonisation, rather than the earlier Angles, who, as Andrew said, colonised much of Eastern England – but I suppose they were there, so the clue is fair enough.
    I did like ESCUTCHEON.

  27. Tom Hutton says:

    I hope the crossword editor comes back from Bhutan or wherever he/she has been and starts pointing out to setters that the weekday crossword should be easier than the prize crosswords and not the other way round. It would be helpful if he/she reminded setters that some people have actually paid for a newspaper and are not sitting at their computer while doing the crossword. I quite enjoyed this one as it had some ingenious clues but it took me far too long for a weekday when there may be better (more necessary, at least) things to do.

    I get the feeling that the setters are aiming at a more and more select band of solvers and ignoring the more mundane oafs like me.

    Do ruminants have lunch?

  28. tupu says:

    Hi Mitz
    Re the exhibition see my comment @14. As several reviews noted the larger version of the picture stayed in France.

  29. Andrew says:

    Welcome to the minority, Mitz! I was rather surprised to find so much criticism and even dislike of this one, but on reflection I think I agree with those who say it would have been more suitable as a prize puzzle. Maybe I was lucky that my random general knowledge just happened to have a good overlap with what was needed. Just so I don’t come across as a total know-all, I recognised the Monet painting but I don’t think I would have known its title before I got it with help from the crossing letters and the anagram.

    I also thought NGULTRUM was new to me, but I see I have come across it before in an Azed puzzle. I’m going to a quiz night on Sunday so am crossing my fingers for an obscure-currencies-of-the-world round.

  30. Mitz says:

    Sorry tupu (#28) – missed that.

    Tom (#27) – you can please some of the people… Last week, Monday to Wednesday were all at the easy end, so I don’t think your accusation that “the setters are aiming at a more and more select band of solvers” quite stands up to scrutiny.

    On your other point, has there ever been a rule that the prize crossword on a Saturday has to be harder than the usual weekly fare? Intuitively that would make sense, but I don’t see that it should always be the case. Besides, there is never a 100% consensus as to which puzzles are hardest (or easiest). Anyway, Bonxie’s Scottish Islands puzzle from the weekend before last was very tough indeed – for me, considerably harder than Picaroon’s today. All subjective, obviously.

  31. rhotician says:

    French, Art, Literature, Law, Maths, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, Medicine, Food and Popular Culture. With escutcheon, etui, methuselah and ngultrum to garnish.

  32. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Picaroon for a mind stretching puzzle and Andrew for an impressive blog in difficult conditions.

    Prize fare today with a good mix of subjects. The Manet painting went in early but as others found, didn’t help too much!

    Cross with myself for not spotting Eliot earlier as I was thinking of `Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?`!!

    Now know a bit more about alkalis thanks to Muffin @ 26!

    Giovanna x

  33. Derek Lazenby says:

    Late to the party so nothing new to add save for the thought that I was going to lump myself in with those who thought this should have been reserved for a Prize Puzzle. Then I remembered the Everyman, which is frequently much easier than the Saturday puzzle despite being for a prize. Hmm. Confusing.

  34. rrc says:

    I am not sure that I would agree that this more be more suitable for the prize. An impossible crossword is an impossible crossword – it matters not which day of the week it comes but please dont make the prize any more difficult that it already is – yes I agree everyman fluctuates weekly as to the difficulty

  35. Mitz says:

    Um, rrc, clearly not impossible. Most people who have come here today seem to have managed in the end.

  36. Martin P says:


    I got Edith, as in Edith Evans for 23d.

    This endlessly- “thi” worked- “work ed” up, giving an anagram and instruction to move up the ed…oh well…

    It satisfied the clue as well as some other solutions, I thought.

    Thanks all.

  37. nametab says:

    A really satisfying solve because I thought I would never get there, but managed it by the time Tottenham H had got through. As with RCW, it is so satisfying when words (e.g. ‘ngultrum’ & ‘remanet’) are divined by the crypticity (a word that ought to exist), and then prove to exist.
    Some very imaginative cross-connections by Picaroon (e.g. the French connection (fine film too). Took ages to get ‘eigenvector’ despite mathematical cum engineering background. Admire the blogging Andrew.

  38. Dave Ellison says:

    Mitz @ 35. How do you know those who visited but left no comment “managed in the end”? I certainly didn’t.

    I was convinced this was all about Dawn French and her associates (such as Rick Mayall), particularly as New Statesman was there; I thought for a while the enumeration 1’5 was B’stard, so it wasn’t a write in, at least not until I had to cheat on EIGENVECTOR – and I a mathematician, too – and on IMPRESSION.

    Perhaps it would have been a little easier and fairer if 13, 28 ended 2, 24 instead of 24, 2.

    Not enjoyable.

  39. Brendan (not that one) says:

    Still not convinced by some of the cluing!

    13,28 in particular!

    Also the use of ellipses between 14 and 18 is “dishonest”.

    A very lazy way to make a very difficult crossword.

    Also absolutely ludicrous for this to appear on a weekday!

    No fun whatsoever.

    We definitely need a crossword editor

  40. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I fear I am in the Mitz minority today.

    We thought this was once more a marvellous puzzle by Picaroon.
    Yes, perhaps some obscurities for some, but all gettable from the wordplay (like our last entry NGULTRUM).

    In the first quarter of an hour we hardly found any solutions, but then my PinC thought 16,4 was about this Manet painting (which, for me, rang a bell because of the Bow Wow Wow sleeve).
    Yes, we needed a bit of 2d today, but as a non-Brit I couldn’t be bothered. In fact, a very nice French flavour by chef Picaroon.

    Our first entry, 9ac, was perhaps the weakest.
    Purely based on construction, silly surface.

    Initially a hard puzzle, but one that opened itself after a few entries. Very satisfying.
    Picaroon’s style of setting is close to my heart.
    Challenging, generally good surfaces and above all very precise.

    Rowland @13: “Just kind of thoughtlessly chucked together I feel”.
    I cannot disagree more.
    For me a really thoughtfully compiled puzzle.

    We are all different, aren’t we?

    Andrew, thanks for the blog.
    Picaroon, even more thanks for a great crossword.

  41. rhotician says:

    Sil, I know you’re a Picaroon fan but this was not a ‘great’ puzzle, not when measured by his usual high standard. “Perhaps some obscurities for some” is very indulgent. Some of the surfaces are quite as weak as 9ac; 8dn and 23dn, for example. 14…18 is positively contorted. And ‘bit of eavesdropping’ is hardly ‘precise’. (Lots of the definitions are imprecise but, with a couple of exceptions, in the best cryptic way.)

    As for Rowland, “Just kind of thoughtlessly chucked together I feel” epitomises, ironically, the style and content of his posts. I’m not sure what you mean by “We are all different”, but in this case the difference between you and Rowland is that you are right and he is wrong.

  42. Sil van den Hoek says:

    “We are all different, aren’t we?” is a catch phrase I sometimes use when opinions on a crossword vary so much that it is no use arguing about it.

    For me, it is not about right or wrong.
    I (in fact, we) enjoyed this puzzle just very much.
    As to the obscurities, only REMANET and NGULTRUM didn’t ring any bells.
    But they were perfectly gettable from the sound wordplay (and so I am happy with them).

    When I talk about very precise cluing it’s not about the definitions. These may be allusive or even a bit vague to conceal the obvious.
    I think of Picaroon’s constructions which are generally accurate.
    There is hardly any padding, no misuse of articles, for example, or unnecessary linkwords.
    For me ‘a bit of eavesdropping’ for E is perfectly alright. In this respect, I find Araucaria’s use of ‘some’ for “take a random number of letters from a word” much more debatable.

    Picaroon’s style appeals very much to me, and although this puzzle was ‘heavier’ (and at places perhaps ‘top heavy’) than his previous puzzles, I (in fact, we) found it still a marvellous solve.
    If others found it a bit of a slog, I do understand that.
    But the amount of criticism came as a bit of a surprise to me.
    I/we liked it, others were less positive.
    That’s life.
    Simple comme ca :)

  43. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Picaroon and Andrew

    Waited till the non-PDF version was uploaded, so didn’t start till Friday and managed to finish the grid just before midnight. A tough slog – but was in the ‘growing minority’ that enjoyed the challenge – even though it put my schedule out for the following puzzles. Finished my final parsing run tonight and was happy to see everything was correct – even though missing the chi reference for some reason.

    Many fine clues, a subtle clever theme and a host of new learning – so thanks again Picaroon – also an excellent effort to get such a good blog started Andrew.

    Well done to both of you

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