Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Genius 116 – Qaos

Posted by Andrew on March 3rd, 2013


After a worryingly poor showing in my first session on this one, things went much better in the second and I managed to work my way bit by bit though it, with the various extra hurdles adding both to the difficulty and to the enjoyment and satisfaction.

There were several such hurdles to overcome. First “the definition element in each clue refers to the solution to a different clue“, meaning that the initial strategy had to be to try to solve clues from the wordplay, and hope to find a suitable definition elsewhere (I nearly got myself into trouble at one point by thinking “maybe pink” was the definition of MAGENTA. Also MASTERMIND and CHIEF are rather similar, but I think I’ve got them the right way round). To complicate this process “each clue contains a superfluous word”. Finally “ the first letters of these extra words spell out a further instruction for filling in the grid”. I had my suspicions that this might involve something like entering words backwards, and so it appeared to be when I found that 11a and 3d clashed if entered normally but not if reversed; on the other hand 10a and 8d fitted normally. So maybe it was odd numbers entered backwards? Finally the penny dropped when it turned out that 1d was normal and 2d reversed, and by that time I had most of the “further instruction”: PRIME NUMBER ANSWERS ARE REVERSED, meaning that 11, 13, 19 and 23 across, and 2, 3, 5, 7, 17, 23 down were entered backwards (1 is conventionally not counted as a prime number). About this time I also remembered Qaos has a mathematical background – see his interview with Alan Connor here.

In the clues below, the superfluous words are shown in red, and the definitions to be used in other clues in green. I’ve put the actual definitions and their source clues in brackets after the answers.

9 Examine British plants suitable for garden… (9)
10 … until tangled rose was set apart (5)
UNLIT (11a: Dark) UNTIL*
11 Dark shadows intimidate sailor (3,4)
DOG STAR (24a: Sirius) DOGS TAR
12 Massive monster has tough little beak (7)
ORCHARD (9a: garden) ORC + HARD
13 Gambles with electric circuit (5)
WRING (14d: Twist) W + RING
14 Pickled sot, half unwell, found nirvana in drink barrel (9)
ROSTELLUM (12a: little beak) (SOT ELL)* in RUM
16 Colour and curious tint mixed by small urchin (5,10)
19 It’s a tragedy how foul Macbeth butchered new duke (9)
WOLFHOUND (3d: Large canine) (HOW FOUL)* + N D
21 University of Cambridge boasts about class (5)
MITRE (23d: a headdress) MIT (Massachusets Institute of Technonology, located in Cambridge, Mass.) + RE
22 Zappa’s gutted after instrument produces evil notes (7)
ORGANZA (18d: Thin material) ORGAN + Z[app]A
23 Wizard books by Rowling, a poet (7)
MAGENTA (16a: Colour) MAGE + NT + A
24 Giant asteroid orbiting Sirius (5)
TANGI (21d: funeral) GIANT*
25 News chief hacks phone over mere trifle (9)
EPHEMERON (4d: Mayfly) MERE* in PHONE*
1 Perhaps pink eggs with red tea? Romantic supper (10)
SEGREGATED (10a: set apart) (EGGS RED TEA)*
2 Mature women and their struggles to wear X? (8)
THIRTEEN (7d: Number) THEIR* in TEN
3 Large canine was excitedly biting good heels of shoe and slipper (6)
WAGERS (13a: Gambles) G [sho]E [slippe]R in WAS
4 Mayfly remembers a grand day following end of life (4)
AGED (2d: Mature) (A + G) + (D after [lif]E)
5 Pressing swordplay gains soldier merit (10)
6 Herb Alpert, blow one out! (8)
PUNCHEON (14a: barrel) PUNCH + ONE*
7 Number 51 ran and qualified (6)
LIABLE (22d: Responsible) LI + ABLE
8 Pledge beats dust easily (4)
STUD (17d: a hunk) DUST*
14 Twist metal into phone receiver, perhaps (10)
15 Feed, earth and a bit of rain essentially care for tree (10)
MASTERMIND (20d: architect) MAST + E + R + MIND
17 Vera and I dance like this for a hunk (8)
DIANTHUS (1d: Perhaps pink) (AND I)* + THUS
18 Thin material fashions elegant grey coat (8)
CATEGORY (21a: class) (GREY COAT)*
20 Old city fellow is Roman architect (6)
URGENT (5d: Pressing) UR + GENT
21 Game over soon? I’m beginning to sense funeral (6)
MINIMS (22a: notes) Reverse of NIM (game) + I’M + S[ense]
22 Responsible for eating a hot stew (4)
OATH (8d: Pledge) (A HOT)*
23 Woman designs a headdress (4)
SHEA (15d: tree) SHE + A

6 Responses to “Guardian Genius 116 – Qaos”

  1. Ellis B says:

    Thanks Andrew for an excellent summary of an excellent & enjoyable Genius crossword – for which of course many thanks to Qaos. I always look forward to the first Monday of the month for these specials – this was one of my favourites for some time.

  2. Mr Beaver says:

    Thanks – very concisely blogged :) – our printed copy of this was covered with underlines, square brackets and arrows, so I wondered how you would present the solution!

    The instructions were intimidating at first, but most of the wordplay wasn’t too complex, so we were able to make fair progress, fortunately on the non-prime numbered clues as it took a fair while to click that some went in backwards. When Mrs Beaver had a flash inspiration about prime numbers, it felt like it was downhill from then on – but by no means a giveaway.

  3. NormanLinFrance says:

    Thanks for the blog. I made very heavy weather of this for quite some time, with few answers revealing themselves. Having solved 11a and little else I decided to try to work backwards and look for the first word in the phrase, building around the “i”. SWITCH leapt out at me, so I started trying to put answers in the lights diagonally opposite each other (eg 9a to 25a). That worked for a while, until things started not to fit, when I started to switch AND reverse (I’d worked that last word out by then). It took me a while to realise that was the same as writing stuff in the right way round, and the prime numbers only came late in the day. What a work-out!

  4. Gordon says:

    Thanks for the blog. I am ashamed to say that I was stuck on my last clue, which was 2d, for almost 2 days. Despite my background in maths and science I had not marked 2 as being a prime number. I could not believe my stupidity when I finally remembered it.
    I loved the crossword and found this the most enjoyable Genius for many months; I think a lot depends on whether you are on the same wavelength as the compiler – which I have not been for a while.
    I have two queries about the clues though, as I feel there is one word in two different clues that does not play a role either as part of a definition, part of the wordplay for the solution, or even the superfluous word to be eliminated. These are PRODUCES in 22a and ROMANTIC in 1d. I see that Andrew you think the definition is ‘Perhaps Pink’ and Romantic is an anagrind. I have never come across romantic used like that before and also another name for Dianthus is Pink – so I don’t see how the word PERHAPS is needed as part of that clue. The word Pink here is surely not a colour but a plant type. I can see no other way to use PRODUCES in 22a either.
    Thank you QAOS

  5. Matthew says:

    I thought this was a bit tough, but I managed to solve DOG STAR and SEGREGATED early on, which suggested that some answers needed to be reversed and I was able to guess much of the further instruction from this.

    In a normal clue the word ‘produces’ in 22a would be a linking word between the wordplay and the definition. There are those (including me and presumably Gordon) who argue that if the definition and the wordplay refer to different things, then there shouldn’t be any linking words, or at least not any that imply that the two are the same. Unfortunately, not every crossword editor agrees and so in order to solve these puzzles I have come to accept that the Guardian crossword editor is one who doesn’t.

    I don’t remember ever seeing ‘romantic’ used as an anagrind before, but it can mean wild or fantastic.

    I think the ‘dianthus’ situation is at best confused. All of my dictionaries say ‘dianthus’ can refer to any plant or flower of the genus Dianthus to which pinks and carnations belong, which would lead me to believe that a carnation is a dianthus but not a pink, but then define ‘carnation’ as (a variety of) clove pink. Since I only looked up ‘dianthus’ when I was solving, I didn’t have any problem with the ‘perhaps’.

  6. Qaos says:

    Many thanks Andrew for the blog and to everyone else for their comments.

    For DIANTHUS I ummed and ahhed for a while as to whether it should be “pink” or “perhaps pink” (the usual definition by example problem), but thought “perhaps pink” was fairer given the dictionary definition. It made for a good extra bit of misdirection with MAGENTA being in the grid too.

    I agree about the “produces” comment, which also applies for clues with extra letters in the definition etc. The benefit of The Guardian’s liberal crossword style is being able to bend the rules a little to make for a nicer surface reading. Bend, but hopefully not break.

    Best wishes,


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