Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Cryptic N° 25,908 by Gordius

Posted by PeterO on March 29th, 2013


The crossword may be found at

The conclusion of a week of mostly easy Guardian Cryptics. This one is notable for several rather loose definitions, and one clanger.

1. Artist, not a playwright (7)
PAINTER The reverse of what might be expected – the answer, without an ‘a’, gives PINTER (‘a playwright’) – but the clue can indeed be read this way.
5. The Guardian’s into rejecting obscenity — which may be malignant (7)
TUMOURS An envelope (‘into’) of OUR (‘the Guardian’s’) in TUMS, a reversal (‘rejecting’) of SMUT (‘obscenity’).
9. Second tea or coffee (5)
MOCHA A charade of MO (‘second’) plus CHA (‘tea’).
10. Wickedness ends daily activity (6,3)
DEADLY SIN An anagram (‘activity’) of ‘ends daily’.
11. Small bankers in a big way? (6,2,6)
GNOMES OF ZURICH Cryptic definition.
13. Colours show poet losing heart (4)
HUES Poet Ted HU[gh]ES ‘losing heart’ – his second mention in two days (and for that matter Paul yesterday invoked CHA as well).
14. Friends’ hearty gesture (4-4)
BACK-SLAP A reverse reverse clue: PALS (‘friends’) is SLAP BACK.
17. Diet in uncivilised times? (8)
ROUGHAGE A charade of ROUGH (‘uncivilised’) plus AGE (‘times’), with a rather loose definition (pun intended, now I notice it).
18. Tool increases sound (4)
ADZE A homophone (‘sound’) of ADDS (‘increases’).
21. Wrought iron, hot with reason like study of 19s, say (14)
ORNITHOLOGICAL Acharade of ORNITHO, an anagram (‘wrought’) of ‘iron hot’ plus LOGICAL (‘with reason’). The answer to 19A 19D is MOTMOT, a bird.
23. Blairist many construed as concerned with race (9)
TRIBALISM An anagram (‘construed’) of ‘Blairist’ plus M (‘many’).
24. Esau, without hesitation from him, got pottage (5)
BROTH In Genesis, Esau sold his birthright to his BROTH[er] Jacob (‘without hesitation’) for a mess of pottage.
25. Writer lost plot with trifle (7)
TOLSTOY A charade of TOLS, an anagram (‘plot’) of ‘lost’, plus TOY (‘trifle’).
26. It’s more the difficult matter to be proved (7)
THEOREM An anagram (‘difficult’) of ‘more the’.
1. Pander to sanctimonious politician (4)
PIMP A charade of PI (‘sanctimonious’) plus MP (‘politician’).
2. One quits in clean fashion, which is futile (15)
INCONSEQUENTIAL An anagram (‘fashion’) of ‘one quits in clean’.
3. Wound up a character with skill (6)
TRAUMA A reversal (‘up’ in a down light) of ‘a’ plus MU (Greek ‘character’) plus ART (‘skill’).
4. Vegetable is hard to cultivate (6)
RADISH An anagram (‘to cultivate’) of ‘is hard’.
5. Linaria, a reptile strong and flabby (8)
TOADFLAX A charade of TOAD (‘a reptile’, except that a toad is an amphibian, not a reptile) plus F (forte, ‘strong’ musically) plus LAX (‘flabby’).
6. Creatures lacking backbone — hoods’ women catch American king (8)
MOLLUSKS An envelope (‘catch’) of US (‘American’) plus K (‘king’) in MOLLS (‘hoods’ women’). I would spell it with a C, but a K is an alternative version.
7. Party lacking compet­ence? (9,6)
UNSKILLED LABOUR Cryptic definition, with reference to the Labour Party.
8. Seaside jumper spender also wears (10)
SANDHOPPER An envelope (‘wears’) of AND (‘also’) in SHOPPER (‘spender’).

A sandhopper, or sand flea

12. The pest keeps the greatest number to a marked degree (10)
THERMOSTAT An envelope (‘keeps’) of MOST (‘the greatest number’) in ‘the’ plus RAT (‘pest’).
15. Oddly, I want the termite (5,3)
WHITE ANT An anagram (‘oddly’) of ‘I want the’.
16. No gin — my one failing, a disgrace (8)
IGNOMINY An anagram (‘failing’) of ‘no gin my’ plus I (‘one’). At first glance I tried to misspell MISOGYNY into this.
19. Repeated annual check gets the bird (6)
MOTMOT Twice over (‘repeated’) MOT (Ministry of Transport ‘annual test’

A motmot

20. Sound wood of sound quality (6)
TIMBRE A homophone (‘sound’ the first one) of TIMBER.
22. Pretence of British-American relationship? (4)
SHAM An anaswer hidden in ‘BritiSH AMerican relationship’. ‘Relationship’ hardly serves to indicate the hidden answer.

33 Responses to “Guardian Cryptic N° 25,908 by Gordius”

  1. JollySwagman says:

    Thanks PO and G – easy for a Friday but a nice puzzle with some nifty clues which didn’t yield too quickly – and – as you say – an easy week overall. 11a might not be so well known to those who didn’t live through the Wilson/Brown years.

    Was 22d the “clanger”?

    I read it the way you described it – “hidden in ‘BritiSH AMerican relationship’” – so “relationship” is just a spare word in the embed-fodder – a sin on planet xim, but not elsewhere, even though it tends not to happen very often – which leaves “of” to indicate the embed, which isn’t great I admit – it doesn’t work half as well as “from” – but a small price to pay for the surface and its little message.

  2. JollySwagman says:

    Alternatively “relationship” is the thing that binds them together – hence the hyphenated middle bit.

  3. michelle says:

    Thanks for the blog, PeterO.

    This was mostly a fun puzzle by Gordius with MOCHA, UNSKILLED LABOUR, TOLSTOY, THERMOSTAT & BACK-SLAP making me smile.

    I learnt a few new words today: TOADFLAX, ‘linaria’, MOTMOT and ‘pi’ = pious, sanctimonious.

    In the blog above, in the notes for 21a, it should read as “The answer to 19D is MOTMOT, a bird.”

  4. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Gordius and PeterO

    Pretty straightforward for a Friday and I didn’t think that there were any issues with the clues – agree with JS@1 in regard to 22d and wouldn’t have written it off as a ‘clanger’.

    Didn’t twig to the back PALS until coming here and hadn’t seen PANDER as a noun for pimp either.

  5. Miche says:

    Thanks, PeterO.

    JollySwagman @1 – the clanger is “reptile” for TOAD at 5d.

    Isn’t there something missing from the definition for 12d? “To a marked degree” would suggest the adjective thermostatic rather than the noun THERMOSTAT.

    I’ve never heard TIMBRE pronounced like timber.

  6. JollySwagman says:

    @miche – yes toad – fine line but you’re absolutely correct.

    The normal US pronunciation of timbre seems to be like our timber. The UK pronunciation which I am most familiar with is the frenchified one, which I’ve never thought to be pretentious – OTOH even though we hang on to crotchets and quavers we seem to be gradually adopting or at least accepting American usage in musical terms, maybe because music is so international.

  7. Muffyword says:

    A horned toad is a reptile, but that is probably not what Gordius meant.

  8. rhotician says:

    Toad and reptile are very similar insulting metaphors.

  9. izzythedram says:

    No amount of special pleading makes a toad a reptile.

  10. muffin says:

    Thanks PeterO and Gordius.
    I was looking forward to pointing out the weaknesses in this, but they have all been mentioned – though I would more strongly argue that “Artist, not a playwright” clues PINTER rather than PAINTER. TOAD for “reptile” reminds me of one last year when some sort of molluscs (I also would prefer the C) were described as “crustaceans” – perhaps someone else might remember the exact reference? In passing, I thought “Creatures lacking backbone” didn’t point all that precisely towards MOLLUSKS – the vast majority of creatures lack backbones.
    On the other hand I really did like BACK-SLAPS and BROTH, which I thought was very clever.

  11. muffin says:

    Re me @10
    Or was it the other way round? Were barnacles described as molluscs? I can’t remember.

  12. Colin says:

    Thanks to Gordius and PeterO.

    It’s nice to know that at least this setter is human after all! I must admit I didn’t pick up on the howler.

    Some very nice clues, I particularly liked 12 at the time of solving but Miche@5 is right I think.

    Much as I hate to criticise the Guardian crossword editor who does a fine job in pleasing most of the people most of the time, perhaps we could have been offered something a little meatier for a Good Friday?

  13. muffin says:

    This is it – the solution is CLAMMY

  14. PeterO says:

    Muffin @10 and 11

    I think you were right the first time. In Guardian Cryptic 25613 ( Paul shoehorned mussels and clams into the crustaceans, along with crabs. The version on the Guardian site,, has been corrected to call them all seafood.

    Michelle @3

    Correction made. Thanks for pointing it out.

  15. PeterO says:

    Muffin @13

    You got there first.

  16. tupu says:

    Thanks PeterO and Gordius

    I felt a bit disappointed to get one like this on Good Friday but there were some clever clues and some smiles too along the way. I liked 11a, 21a and 8d.

    The toad issue went past me as I struggled to think what linaria might be, but I solved it from the erroneous wordplay.!

    I am not used to ‘mollusks’ and had to check it as an alternative.

  17. Blaise says:

    I agree with rhotician @8. I’m not trying to toady to Gordius and Hugh, but Chambers gives as the third definition for reptile “a base, malignant, or treacherous person.”
    And as the third definition for toad “a hateful or contemptible person or animal.”

  18. Trailman says:

    I had the grid completed quickly enough, save for 5d. The easy way is to google Linaria, but that’s acheat, so I took a 5 min break and saw that TOADFLAX fits if you assume that Gordius thinks a toad is a reptile.

    At 23a, Blairite is more common for followers of the permatanned one. Not sure I’ve come across Blairist before.

    Still, some nice stuff, eg 14a, 24a, 22d. And there should be something special tomorrow, I wager.

  19. muffin says:

    Incidentally Linaria doesn’t have its own entry in my Chambers – it’s only found under “Toadflax” (luckily I knew it). Is this standard practice for Generic names in Chambers? I know some do appear under their own headings.

  20. Robi says:

    Good puzzle (despite the froggy reptile) that I didn’t find particularly easy.

    Thanks PeterO for a good blog – I like to see the clues and underlined definitions. I particularly liked BACK-SLAP; nice ‘reverse’ clue.

    Trailman @18; Wiki does have Blairist, which is, I think, a favoured form in the USA.

  21. coltrane says:

    Thanks both. My problem with 5d was not whether a toad is a reptile or amphibian (I imagine the toad couldn’t care less either), but rather that I didn’t see flabby = lax. No wow factor here for me, but it was an enjoyable quickish solve which gave me time to go on the traditional Good Friday procession in my charismatic Andalucian village.

  22. chas says:

    Thanks to PeterO for the blog. I had not spotted the toad/reptile howler although I felt a little bit uneasy there. Now I know why I felt uneasy.

    On 25 I took ‘lost’ to be the anagrind and tried to make something of (plot)* but got nowhere. Eventually I saw the light.

  23. Robi says:

    In 23, is the ‘M’ for ‘many’ just a reference to m=million?

  24. enitharmon says:

    Am I alone in being thrown yesterday by thinking that Ted was too easy an interpretation of “poet Hughes” and trying to work something around Langston Hughes, the black American poet best-known (to me) for the Nina Simone song Backlash Blues?

  25. chas says:

    Robi @23 I took M as the latin numeral for a thousand

  26. Robi says:

    chas@23; thanks, same difference though whether M=thousand or million. My question was really is either equal to ‘many’ or is ‘M’ supposed to be an abbreviation for many (I didn’t think it could be.)

  27. jeceris says:

    I have never heard anyone pronounce “timbre” as “timber”.
    Not even Americans.
    Neither have any of the several on line American pronunciation dictionsries I have consulted.
    The nearest would sound something like “tamber”, but never “timber”.

  28. Drofle says:

    I agree about TIMBRE pronunciation, but the answer was pretty clear. Wrestled with GNOMES OF ZURICH for some time as the last one to go in. But very enjoyable – thanks to PeterO and Gordius.

  29. Colin says:

    Robi @23, I’m fairly certain that “m” can’t stand for “many” as it’s not a recognised abbreviation so I think it must be a thousand (which is its normal crossword value) or possibly a million.

  30. PeterO says:

    Blaise @17

    Perhaps I was too quick to dismiss TOAD as just a clanger. The correspondence you point out passes a test which is used quite often, that one can construct a sentence using one or the other interchangeably, and it is very possible that this is what Gordius had in mind.It is essentially a two-step process to get from ‘reptile’ to TOAD via “contemptible person”, rather than the straight definition which I would prefer, but it is a technique that some setters use to good misleading effect.

    Coltrane @21

    Chambers gives for LAX “slack: loose: soft, flabby ….”

    Jeceris @27 et al.

    On the subject of Chambers, it does give ‘timber’ as a possible pronunciation of TIMBRE.

    Robi @23 etc

    I agree with Colin @29 – either thousand or million, tale your pick.

  31. slipstream says:

    When I came to the clue “Creatures lacking backbone” I started to write in POLITICIANS.

  32. coltrane says:

    PeterO @ 30. Thanks, I never doubted it was correct, it was only that I couldn’t see it!!

  33. Paul B says:

    Problem with that hidden is that there’s in fact nothing sham about the British-American relationship, with both countries having collaborated to be up to their necks in it militarily and economically, for example. The redundant word is therefore well and truly so, in my view, but at least the part of speech for the definition is right.

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