Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,901 – Picaroon

Posted by Andrew on March 21st, 2013


It’s exactly a month since I last blogged a Picaroon puzzle. No technical problems this time, and fewer obscurities (last time we had NGULTRUM and EIGENVECTOR among others), but I still found it quite hard to get into; though as is often the case there didn’t seem to be anything particularly involved when I came to write it up, though there are some definitions and other elements that are nicely misleading.

9. HOUSEKEEP U (“you”) in HOSE (old trousers – Chambers gives “close-fitting breeches or drawers (obsolete)”) + reverse of PEEK (look)
10. OUTDO Hidden in lOUT DOnald. As seems to happens to me increasingly often, I missed this “easy” clue for a long time, even after suspecting a hidden answer but discarding the idea when UTDON didn’t work..
11. TOPER Reverse of RE-POT (plant again)
12. TROCADERO DECORATOR* for this area of Paris
13. NOTABLES You’d be ill-equipped for dinner parties if you had NO TABLES
14. FIASCO CIAS* in FO (Foreign Office). “Omnishambles” is being kept busy – it was an answer in yesterday’s puzzle. Oops, it was, but in Dac’s puzzle in the Independent, not Philistine’s in the Guardian – thanks, rhotician.
17. HOOKER Double definition – prostitute (pro) and rugby player
22. DEFOLIATE TAIL< in DEFOE, definition "[to] strip of greenery"
24. TAP-IN T (model) + A PIN (leg). An easy goal in football, or similar in other games, so a “sitter”
25. REIGN Homophone of “rain” (shower). Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced that she was going to abdicate (as her mother had) in January, but as it doesn’t take effect until 30 April it’s not entirely true to say that reigning is what she “used to” do.
26. CORNCRAKE RN (Royal Navy – service) + CAR* in COKE (crack – not exactly the same, I think). The corncrake is a member of the Rail family of birds
27. PEROXIDE BLONDE (EXPLORED O IN BED)* (O = Love, as in tennis), and a peroxide blonde is not really fair-haired (though I suppose she may be a ordinary blonde underneath ithout chemical help)
1. A SHOT IN THE DARK Double definition: a guess, and reference to a shot of whisky etc
2. TRUMPET [S]TRUMPET – trumpet (and other wind) players often refer to their instruments as “horns”. A very cheeky surface reading that could be straight from Cyclops in Private Eye.
3. EXECRABLE EXEC[utive] (manager) + “half-hearted” RABbLE
4. AWEATHER (WE HEAR AT)*. Nicely misleading to have the familiar “we hear” as part of the anagram fodder.
6. AGORA OR (alternatively) in AGA (oven)
7. BOTHERS BROTHERS minus its first R – I like the precision of this
8. NOLO CONTENDERE (LO CON TENDER) in ONE* – a legal phrase for a plea of “no contest”, literally “I do not wish to contend”
15. IDENTICAL (ICELAND IT)* – definition “like”
16. COME TRUE COMET (space traveller) + RUE (French “street”)
18. OFFSIDE OFF (rank) + SIDE (arrogance) – an offside footballer is “unacceptably forward”
20. CAPTAIN APT in CAIN (killer). Chambers gives “ready to learn” as one of its definitions of “apt”, which I suppose is close to “clever”
21. TAI CHI “Thai” + CHI (supposed “life-energy” in traditional Chinese medicine). The “chi” element of the Chinese martial art is etymologically different, meaning “ultimate” or “extreme”
23. LENTO LENT (time of fast) + O (zip, nothing). Lento is Italian for “slow”, as used in musical notation.

26 Responses to “Guardian 25,901 – Picaroon”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    A strange one, this, in that I wrote in about half of the solutions in the first couple of minutes, principally on the left side and then ground to a crawl for the rest, although it helped that most of the other write-ins gave me crossers. Then, like you, at the end, I sat back and wondered what was so hard… the sign of a really excellent puzzle!

  2. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    Good puzzle, which took me quite a while to get to grips with. A lot of clever definitions and misdirections. 7d was the last in for me, for these reasons: ‘going concerns’ is such a strong expression that it was difficult to see that ‘going’ was a deletion instruction and ‘concerns’ was the def.

    The word ‘English’ in 22a is redundant and confused me for a long time – I was trying to insert E into the solution.

    Many good clues – I liked 11a, 27a, 8d, 23d and especially 15d.

    An excellent week so far, nicht war?

  3. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew.

    Yet another excellent puzzle – we’re being spoiled these days!

    As you say, some very nice misdirection. I did manage to see that in 4dn it wasn’t a homophone we were looking for – I’m always on the look-out for ‘rocks’ as an anagram indicator since I first met it in one of my favourite Cincinnus [Orlando] clues several years ago: ‘A climber of rocks in Devon [10]’ – but it still took a minute or two to dredge AWEATHER up from the back of the mind.

    My other initial blind spot was trying to account for the COM in 16dn! :-(

    Favourite clues:10,13,22 25,27ac and 3,4,8 [super surface]and 15 [likewise] dn.

    Many thanks to Picaroon for a witty and entertaining puzzle.

  4. Colin says:

    Thanks to Picaroon and Andrew.

    This was a real slog for me, I always seem to have trouble tuning in Picaroon’s wavelength.

    NOLO CONTENDRE and AWEATHER defeated me.

  5. PeterJohnN says:

    Great puzzle, with as has already been said, many clever misleading surfaces. Although I am a keen sailor, last in for me was 4d AWEATHER. I was looking for a reef connection. To “reef” a sail is to put folds in it to reduce its area in strong winds. Incidentally, “aweather” means towards the weather, i.e. upwind. I have seen some misleading definitions of this.

  6. PeterJohnN says:

    As a general comment on the blog, I would like to have seen the definitions pointed out in some of the solutions. For example, some people might not know that TOPER = Lush = heavy drinker.

  7. Trailman says:

    My experience was pretty much like NeilW’s @1, the two long clues at top and left coming quickly but then progressing slowing to a crawl at times. Though having STAB for SHOT for a while didn’t help. Liked the misdirections, especially in 4d.

    27a had me for a while too – I was taking LOVE IN BED as fodder and Vamp needing a synonym, hence ending with *E*O*IVE BLONDE. Recourse to the check function needed to sort that one out.

    Loved the 10a surface.

  8. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew. I started well, with the two long ones at 1dn and 22ac almost write-ins. Then slowed up considerably! Needed the cheat button to get the ‘D’ in nolo contendere, as I couldn’t work out the wordplay and 4dn defeated me completely — I was duly misled by the ‘we hear’ into looking for some kind of homophone. Slight consolation: I’ve never heard of ‘aweather’.

    My favourite was 10ac for the great surface!

  9. rhotician says:

    Oh Andrew, you are picky. ‘crack’ is fair enough for COKE. Vice versa would be dodgy. Collins explitly gives ‘clever’ for ‘apt’ as in “an apt pupil”. You’re right about Queen B, though. Me, I don’t like to quibble, but ‘English’ in 22ac is a gratuitious misdirection, unlike the others, which characterise the puzzle.

  10. Mitz says:

    Thanks Picaroon and Andrew.

    I’ll start with the one negative: the professional rugby player line is such a hoary old chestnut that I thought it couldn’t be right, and that there was a clever misdirection going on. I was disappointed to find there wasn’t.

    Anyhow, the linked 2d was, as Andrew says, very Cyclopsian – probably as risqué as anything other than Private Eye would ever try to get away with. As others have found there was definitely a top left / bottom right divide for me with the latter being a good deal less straightforward. I came across NOLO CONTENDERE more or less by accident (having got the crossing Os I was looking for “loco” something – clearly I just had the “see criminal” part in the wrong place). PEROXIDE BLONDE was excellent – I had the blonde part for ages and tried to justify “bleached” for a while.

    Joint CODs for me were two of the tiddlers: TAP-IN and LENTO – both beautifully efficient in their own sweet ways.

  11. rhotician says:

    PS Omnishambles appeared in yesterday’s Indy puzzle.

  12. Mitz says:

    rhotician @9,

    I think “English novelist” is fine to specifically indicate DEFOE, Robinson Crusoe being amongst the first stories of the form that came to be known as the “English Novel”. It does seem to be a fairly well used crossword shorthand: whenever I see the phrase I think of Defoe first, whereas if just “novelist” is given it could mean anyone.

    Perhaps a more modern alternative could be “English forward”, although the Tottenham striker’s international career hasn’t quite lead him to be a household name like the writer.

  13. John Appleton says:

    Like yesterday’s, a good puzzle that unfortunately would have taken longer than the commute to work. A few “d’oh!” moments reading the blog, seeing some devices that I really should have recognised (in 12a, for instance). Some great clues, though, 25 being my favourite.

    Mitz @10: Pro rugby player….hoar-y? Now that’s Cyclopsian!

  14. Giovanna says:

    Thanks Picaroon and Andrew.

    Another super puzzle. It took some getting in to after a flying start with the long clues.

    I particularly liked CORNCRAKE, which was late in because of thinking of railways. Crossers were necessary but once the penny dropped, I smiled. I knew that they are rails and know of old their desperately annoying call in the middle of the night!

    LENTO and OUTDO were good, too.

    Giovanna x

  15. Gervase says:

    Mitz @12:

    There is clearly nothing wrong with clueing DEFOE as ‘English novelist’ but it is, as rhotician (and I @2) said, a gratuitous misdirection as it implies that ‘English’ is significant in the wordplay. If ‘English novelist’ is intended to recognise the pioneering nature of the author in his native language then RICHARDSON might be a more appropriate equivalence, though admittedly Sam doesn’t fit quite so easily into a charade.

    ‘Novelist’, English or otherwise, in a crossword clue points me first to AMIS (père et fils), which pops up far more frequently these days.

  16. Mitz says:

    I don’t agree that it is a gratuitous misdirection, Gervase – as I said, whenever I see the specific phrase “English novelist” I think of Defoe first, for this reason.

  17. Robi says:

    Clever puzzle; I was misled all over the place.

    Thanks Andrew; unlike Eileen I didn’t spot ‘rocks’ as an anagrind for ages. :(

    I vaguely remembered rail=CORNCRAKE, although I needed some crossers first. I particularly liked DEFOLIATE=stip of greenery. A lot of other good surfaces.

  18. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and Picaroon

    A good puzzle, with a good variety of clues, though solving felt a little bit of a chore at times.

    Nolo contendere was my last in – I was tempted by loco nontendere at first. Rather like Eric Morecambe playing all the right notes but not in the right order.

    22a was my favourite clue and I liked 15a among others.

  19. george says:

    Some very misleading clues. I mean that in a good way Picaroon if you read this. I was totally taken in for example by ‘we hear’ in the AWEATHER clue. I could not parse some solutions so must thank Andrew for the blog. Brain is obviously in fuzzy mode today as I assumed CORNCRAKE must be the name of a railway locomotive or something as well as a bird. Doh!

    I had not realised Queen B. is carrying on until her ‘celebration day': Koninginnedag, which is a public holiday in The Netherlands. I remember ‘markets’ everywhere and lots of orange clothes (and hair). 30th April was actually her mother Queen Juliana’s birthday, but Beatrix decided to keep it. (Next year for the very first time there will be a Koningsdag for Willem-Alexander).

  20. muffin says:

    Thanks Andrew and Picaroon
    Very enjoyable, with some excellent clues. I had never heard of AWEATHER but it stood out once the crossers were in.
    I too struggled with OUTDO – it was my last in, and I was looking for a hidden word – it’s very puzzling how some just don’t seem to appear.

  21. MDatta says:

    COD for me was ‘ lento ‘ . Nice puzzle, tho offbeat in places. Could have linked ‘ Tap-in ‘ with Defoe of Spurs if he wasn’t playing so badly at the moment.

  22. MDatta says:

    Sorry, meant that as a response to Mitz @12

  23. Andy B says:

    I didn’t know, or had forgotten, the legal expression in 8 down, and under competition conditions I’d have gone for LOCO NONTENDERE, which fits the wordplay. Nothing wrong with the clue, just my GK.

    Andy B.

  24. Dave Ellison says:

    Was I the only one to tentatively enter CYCLE for 25a at first – though I couldn’t imagine anyone on a unicycle in the shower? Soon disabused by getting 1d on the first run through.

  25. michelle says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew. I needed your help to understand the parsing of 2, 6, 7 & 18d as well as 17 & 26 across.

    My favourites were 1d, 16d, 9a, 27a & 19a.

    I learnt a few new words: TOPER, NOLO CONTENDERE & CORNCRAKE.

  26. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Picaroon and Andrew

    Got to finish this only late last night after a late start. As others have said, a continuation of the good quality of entertainment and challenge for the week. Funnily enough I started out in the NE corner with OUTDO and TROCADERO and finished over in the NW with HOUSEKEEP (after fixing up STAB as well) and AWEATHER which was a new term for me last in.

    Many fine clues and testing devices with 22 and 26 probably my picks. Interesting to see the increase in the risqué clues from more of the setters now with the TRUMPET following on from Philistine’s COITUS earlier in the week.

    Good fun.

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