Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,879 / Paul

Posted by mhl on March 2nd, 2013


A very entertaining prize crossword from Paul, including a hilarious homonym (sort of :)) for a famous nonsense word.

We actually met Paul (John Halpern) a couple of weeks ago at the London stop of his Crossword Centenary tour. This was a remarkable couple of hours, where a group of complete strangers set a London-themed crossword together, including thinking of thematic words, filling the grid and writing cryptic clues for about half of the clues. (The final puzzle was intended as a friendly puzzle for newcomers to cryptics, so it was a mixture of quick and cryptic clues.) In the end, he didn’t use either of my or Jenny’s clues, but nonetheless it’s great to see the finished group effort: all the different puzzles from his tour are online now.

1. ELASTIC E LAST = “Positionally, the word ‘flexible’ has ___” + I C = “I see?”; Definition: “That’s what it [flexible] is!”
9. STEAK STEAK sounds like “stake” = “Reported pale” – a less common sense of the word “pale” is “a stake of wood driving into the ground”, as in “paling fence” or “to impale”; Definition “food”
10. OPERA-GOER (E OR OR PAGE)* – the fodder is [onc]E = “finally once” + OR OR = “or twice” + PAGE and the anagram indicator is “turning”; Definition: “Cosi Fan fan?” (referring to Mozart’s opera, Così Fan Tutte)
11. LASSA FEVER Hidden in “A dose of EboLA’S SAFE? VERy” – rather remarkably, since Lassa Fever is apparently similar to Ebola; Definition: “contagious disease!”
12,5. MARY POPPINS “[SOUP] a [COLLIE] [FRIDGE] [ELASTIC] [EGGS] [PEAS] [HALITOSIS]” sounds like (!) Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious; Definition: “from this?”
14. ART HISTORIAN THIS TOR = “This peak” in ARIAN = “old heretic”; Definition: “the master of the works?”
18. TALK AT LENGTH (THE GALLANT K[nigh]T)*; Definition: “Discuss in some detail”
21. EGGS [l]ES[s] = “Less peeled” around (“skin for”) GG = “horse”; Definition: “food?”
22. AT ONE’S DOOR (AND SORE TOO)*; Definition: “Knockers are”
25. DUBIOUSLY DUB = “call” + IOU = “promissory note” + SLY = “deceitful”; Definition: “In a questionable manner”
26. AILED DELIA = “Smith” reversed; Definiton: “was sick”
27. OEDIPUS OED (Oxford English Dictionary) = “Solver’s companion” follwed by IS around (“seizing”) UP reversed (“coming across”); Definition: “complex character” (as in “The Oedipus Complex”)
28. SO THERE OTHER = “different” in SE = “the Home Counties!”; Definition: “That’ll teach you”
1. EASILY “At all centres” means take the centres of [sw]EA[ty] [bras]SI[eres] [ana]LY[sed]; Definition: “just like that!”
2. AVERSE A VERSE comes after “a chorus”; Defintion: “opposed?”
3. TAKE A BREAK TEAK = “wood” around A K = “a king” + (bear)*; Definition: “have a cuppa, perhaps?”
4. CLOVE C = “surface of C[ompost]” + LOVE = “dig deeply” (as in “to dig something”); Definition: “aromatic bud”
5. PRE-SEASON PRE-SEAS = “when there was no water” follwed by ON; Definition: “Footballers’ July”
6. PEAS “content of an alphabet [SOUP], say?” – there are probably lots of Ps in a alphabet soup, which sounds like PEAS; Definition: “Food”
7. ISOBARIC IS followed by OBA[ma] = “the president” without MA = “degree” followed by RIC[h] = “affluent? That’s not entirely”; Definition: “suggesting consistent pressure” – as in “relating to isobars”, the contours on a weather map that indicate equal pressure
8. STRAYING SING = “grass” around TRAY = “something flat”; Definition: “getting lost”
13. CONTESTANT CONTENT = “essence” in STA[r] = “brilliant player”; Definition: “Player”
15. HALITOSIS SIS = “Relative” under HALO = “headlight” around IT; Definition: “not a breath of fresh air”
16. ATTEND TO A followed by END = “foot” (as in “the foot of the bed” perhaps?) in TTT = “three times” + O = “old”; Definition: “Treat”
17. SLUGABED Not a word I’ve heard of before: (D[o]UBLE GAS)*; Definition: “bum” – as in “a lazy bum”; a slug-a-bed is someone who oversleeps or won’t get out of bed – a new word for me
19. COLLIE COLLIE[ry] = “mine”; without RY (railway) = “untracked?”; Definition: “Dog”
20. FRIDGE F[eel] = “Beginning to feel” + RIDGE = “edge”; Definition: “cooler” (in the noun sense)
23. NOYES NO and YES together might be “Vacillating”; Definition: “poet?”
24. SOUP SO UP = “not taken down then?”; Definition: “Food”

21 Responses to “Guardian 25,879 / Paul”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks mhl. I had mentally sidelined 12,5 as too hard to bother about until I had most of the seven related answers. Having come to an impasse I was surprised to find I did indeed have 24,19,20 and 1a so after some initial bafflement realisation dawned and the rest followed reasonably soon. You just have to be impressed with the ingenuity of it; what an imagination.

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks mhl. 12,5 snookered me completely, and I was doing so well up till then. I missed out on 6D as a result: that was a weird clue though, as was 5D which I got but couldn’t make sense of. SLUGABED, by contrast, was pure Paul and sprang to mind. Ah well.

  3. vinyl1 says:

    I misread the clue, probably due to poor eyesight, and thought it was “[SOUP] a [COLLIE] [FRIDGE] [ELASTIC] [EGGS] [PRESEASON] [HALITOSIS]”, and still got the answer! So it’s not as outrageous as I thought.

    ‘Opera goer’ gave me a lot of trouble because there are so many things that might be part of the anagram, it’s hard to pick the right ones.

    Interestingly, the football clue also works for American football, although just barely – training camp usually opens the last week of July.

    Thanks to Paul for an outrageous and amusing puzzle!

  4. michelle says:

    I found the NE corner the most difficult and I failed to solve 12/5a, 14, 5d, 6, 7, 8.

    For 10a I inserted OPERA-BUFF although I couldn’t parse it.

    For 11a I had wrongly inserted LYSSA VIRUS but could not parse it. (This led me to insert ‘croci’ for 5a as they produce saffron = ‘aromatic bud’)

    Of the clues I solved correctly, I liked ELASTIC, OEDIPUS, DUBIOUSLY, HALITOSIS.

    Re 12/5 – very clever. Disappointing that I did not see this as I had actually solved SOUP (a) COLLIE FRIDGE ELASTIC EGGS (….) HALITOSIS.

    Thanks for the blog, mhl.

  5. Lennie says:

    The play on the word supercallifragelisticxpalodocious comes originally from the BBC radio program “My Word” – an episode when either Frank Muir or Dennis Norden (I forget which) was asked to explain the origin of the word and strung together a shaggy dog story about soup, a cauli (flower, not a dog), fridge, elastic, eggs pea and halitosis. See I also had an undergrad Indian friend at uni in Bristol in the 60s who was besotted with the word and simply would not accept that it is a nonsensical confection from the film industry.

  6. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl and Paul

    A very imaginative and enjoyable puzzle punctuated by the sound of falling pennies along the way.

    I ticked 1a, 18a, 27a, 3d, 15d and 19d and lastly 12,5.

  7. muffin says:

    I was concerned about the S in PEAS – doesn’t it spoil the “homonym”? I considered PEAL instead, but that obviously works even worse.

  8. Robi says:

    Well done, Paul; outrageously funny!

    I rather lazily put ‘isotonic’ in for 7 and then, because of the COLLIE at 19 thought that 5 must have been ‘puppies.’ :( When I finally got 12,5 and found the “homonym” I laughed at both the ingenuity and the naff connection between the answers. I’m sure that a more precise homonym could have been clued but that would perhaps not have had the same humourous result.

    I’m afraid I got totally misled at the beginning by SLUGABED. I was trying to ‘double deoxygenate’ a gas.

    Thanks mhl for the nice blog. Would it possible for you to use the software that some others have where the clue is also given?

  9. Paul B says:

    Super Caley go ballistic Celtic are atrocious as well, of course.

    I’m a ‘please also show the clues’ fetishist as well, Robi, after Duncan Shiell, I think it was, started doing it.

  10. cholecyst says:

    Thanks mhl and Paul. Thanks also to Lennie for pointing out Paul’s gentle plagiarism. Reminds me of the famous Sun headline, when Celtic were beaten by the then lowly Inverness Caledonian Thistle:

  11. Thomas99 says:

    muffin @7.
    The homonym is of “Ps” (plural), as mhl says in the blog, not “P”. The “s” doesn’t spoil things – it’s part of the homonym!

  12. muffin says:

    Thomas @11
    Sorry, I didn’t make myself clear. I meant that there isn’t an S between the “pea” and the “halitosis” in
    or, to put it the other way, the word would have had to be

  13. Thomas99 says:


    Sorry – yes, I see what you mean; it does “spoil the homophone” – but that homophone is hardly unspoilt otherwise, is it? Collie for “calli”, fridge for “frag-” etc. It’s very approximate. That’s the joke, isn’t it? (The s isn’t even the only wrong consonant – halitosis is wrong too (tosis for “docious”.)) I think it’s very hard to legislate for something that’s obviously deliberately wrong.

  14. muffin says:

    Thomas @13
    You are quite right, though I did give some thought to alternatives. It made me – I was going to say “chuckle”, but “groan” is closer – though!

  15. mhl says:

    Robi, Paul B: On the matter of including the clues as well, I don’t do that because it’s a lot like reproducing the work of the setter without permission – the copyright of the clues remains with them, and I think it’s good to respect that. (I thought that it used to be site policy not to include the clues, but it seems as if that’s evolved without any real discussion of it.)

  16. Aztobesed says:

    Thanks mhl.

    I thought it was a little too easy for a Prize – the key words could have been better protected. I had SOUP, COLLIE, FRIDGE and ELASTIC and twigged it immediately. There was still fun to chase what exactly he had entered but the whole puzzle fell really quickly. I suppose in the spirit of the silliness, he didn’t want to make it too tough but soup, collie and fridge elastic were over-loud alarm bells. If I was trying to solve it with EGGS, PEAS and HALITOSIS I might have had more of a struggle.

  17. Paul B says:

    Re that homophone, and as others have already said, it’s a straight lift from BBC’s My Word, which ran from around 1956 I think. Not that it’s a copyright issue.

    Re same vis-a-vis setters, I’m not too sure: we sell our work to the paper, so I imagine the paper owns the copyright to the clues. I believe Don Manley is, erm, how shall I say, quite knowledgeable on this topic, especially where puzzles are re-used (esp in the i) or syndicated, whilst I know sod-all.

    I’d rather see the clues up again, since (a) whilst having more than a passing interest for obvious reasons, I may not have solved the puzzle that’s being blogged, and (b) even when I have solved it, being bloody lazy, I prefer not to dart between web pages, or drag towards myself from a distance of several inches dead-tree versions to remind myself of the exact wording, et cetera.

  18. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Paul and mhl

    Enjoyable Prize puzzle that produced an actual LOL moment for me (thankfully at home) when it clicked what 12,5 was about. Was then able to fix my very tenuous LADY ORCHIDS there and hence mop up the last bits.

    Last in was SLUGABED which I thought was new to me, but have vague recollections of seeing it in another Guardian puzzle a while ago.

    Smiled at 22 and thought 23 quite clever.

  19. Huw Powell says:

    This one was lots of fun, of course. I had SOUP, COLLIE, and FRIDGE early on which were just enough for me to get the “solution” but still struggled mightily in places. EGGS, which was so obvious, took 20 minutes on its own! I was reluctant with PEAS due to the “s”, but I’m not complaining. It took me quite some time to remember the name of the film! Pity Paul couldn’t figure out a way to add the wonderful Julie Andrews to the grid.

    Which makes me think… what if this had been a Bank Holiday puzzle at 25 x 25 and referenced several other delightful films?

    Thanks for the blog, mhl, I don’t usually check the prizes because I did them a week ago and probably already used the back side of the printout to doodle or sketch or design something, and also I have usually forgotten what they were. This one was a bit “unforgettable” though.

    As far as providing the clues, I think with the prizes it even more important than the dailies, due to their being far less chance of the hoi polloi having our solved (or not) copies on hand. But a link to the print/pdf versions would suffice, I think, if the added complexity is too much.

    Oh, and Paul, thanks for the delightful puzzle. I am also enjoying his “tour of Britain with homemade puzzles” blog immensely!

  20. KennyTheBee says:

    Like several others I rarely check on the prize solutions as they usually have faded from the moment. I was keen, however, to see what others had made of this wonderful, imaginative crossword.
    I was privileged to host the Poole leg of Paul’s recent tour. A fantastic night with a really genuine word loving bloke. If he does another tour I would encourage everyone to go along if they can.

  21. nickinoz says:

    This is a great laugh-out-loud crossword. Soupacollie… has the same stresses as the original and is still ringing in my mind more than a week later. Thank you Paul.

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