Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Cryptic N° 25,918, by Brendan

Posted by PeterO on April 10th, 2013


The puzzle may be found at

This started off as a stroll in the park – the first half dozen clues that I read yielded answers directly – but it got somewhat more tricky towards the end; I wonder if the surface of 27D is a statement of intent.  A good part of the time I took was spent wondering about 21A, which would seem to be a directive to an all-encompassing theme. If so, I have missed it (which is all too possible). That I am left thus up in the air makes the puzzle less satisfying for me than others from Brendan. Yet there is a wealth of excellent clues – perhaps I am just asking too much.

9. As dueller, perhaps, withdraw from sun’s heat here (9)
UNSHEATHE A hidden answer in ‘sUNS HEAT HEre’.
10. One of the relative gains acquired through union negotiations (2-3)
IN-LAW Cryptic definition.
11. Son was visibly moved, did some housework (5)
SWEPT A charade of S (‘son’) plus WEPT (‘was visibly moved’).
12. Deals with crowds holding pacifist back (9)
PROCESSES An envelope (‘holding’) of OC, a reversal (‘back’) of CO (conscientious objector, ‘pacifist’) in PRESSES (‘crowds’).
13. Everything we hear is ideal, but endlessly complicated (7)
AUDIBLE An anagram (‘complicated’) of ‘ideal bu[t]’ without the final letter (‘endlessly).
14. Detachment of soldiers holding clubs in card game (7)
PICQUET An envelope (‘holding’) of C (‘clubs’) in PIQUET (‘card game’), for a variant of PICKET, more familiar from industrial action, but in military terms a small detachment for some particular duty, such as a patrol or watch. Just to confuse matters, another variant is PIQUET.
17. Role in Shakespearean comedy that’s played by musician (5)
VIOLA Double definition, for the character in Twelfth Night, and the butt of many musicians’ jokes.
19. What are the odds of Ulster creating employment? (3)
USE The odd letters of ‘UlStEr’.
20. Rib other leading player with no end of humour (5)
COSTA A subtraction – CO-STA[r] (‘other leading player’) without the R (‘no end of humouR‘).
21. Parts of all answers, some 13 across in some answers singularly found in 14 and 22 across (7)
LETTERS The clue led me to suspect some overarching cryptic theme, but if so, it has passed under my radar. Certainly there are many answers which are the audible plural of letters (USE, PEASE, SEIZE, CUES, BISE, OWES, TEASE, WISE, EYES, EASE. Thanks to Richard et al who pointed out that these letters make up PICQUET and BIOTYPE.), and several clues include a letter, spelled or pronounced, as a syllable (ENTANGLES starts with N, DECOUPLE with D; in 22A, the O is a separate syllable; in 14A the card game is pronounced PK, but, as far as I can tell, it is not the clue’s definition). That leaves the all too obvious, that all answers are made up of letters.
22. Group of similar creatures silly boy and I pet (7)
BIOTYPE An anagram (‘silly’) of ‘boy’ plus ‘I pet’.
24. Declining to have the electrical connexions put outside (9)
WITHERING An envelope (‘put inside’) of ‘the’ in WIRING (‘electrical connexions’).
26. Pressure moderate in old person’s pulse (5)
PEASE A charade of P (‘pressure’) plus EASE (‘moderate’ as a verb).
28. Measure covering energy capture (5)
SEIZE An envelope (‘covering’) of E (‘energy’) in SIZE (‘measure’).
29. Snares fish in cod nets (9)
ENTANGLES An envelope (‘in’) of ANGLE (‘fish’) in ENTS, an anagram (‘cod’ in the old sense of sham, fake) of ‘nets’.
1. Signals left out of things like this (4)
CUES A subtraction: C[l]UES (‘things like this’) without the L (‘Left out’).
2. Be upwardly mobile, since Conservative, on purpose (6)
ASCEND A charade of AS (‘since’) plus C (‘Conservative’) plus END (‘purpose’).
3. Extremely short child in part of course, like some classes in biology (10)
VERTEBRATE A charade of VER[y] (‘extremely’) cut off (‘short’) plus an envelope (‘in’) of BRAT (‘child’, with some slant) in TEE (golf, ‘part of course’).
4. Main way to keep leaves from getting scattered (6)
STAPLE Double definition.
5. Disengage from seizure of power, with external order to get out (8)
DECOUPLE An envelope (‘external’) of COUP (‘seizure of power’) in DELE (in proofreading, a direction to delete, ‘order to get out’).
6. Members of colony, we hear, wind up in the Alps (4)
BISE A homophone (‘we hear’) of BEES (‘members of colony’), for a cold northerly wind in Alpine France and Switzerland.
7. Shots from short distance fail in sporting competitions (5-3)
CLOSE-UPS An envelope (‘in’) of LOSE (‘fail’) in CUPS (‘sporting competitions’).
8. Old hand mostly has an outstanding score (4)
OWES A charade of O (‘old’) plus WES[t] (‘hand’ at bridge) cut off (‘mostly’).
13. Forging equipment villain dismantled after disposing of duplicates (5)
ANVIL An anagram (‘dismantled’) of ‘vil[l]a[i]n’, with the repeat L and I removed (‘after disposing of duplicates’).
15. Plant producing insane amount of beer (10)
CUCKOOPINT A charade of CUCKOO (‘insane’) plus PINT (‘amount of beer’).
16. Guy taking drug after drinks (5)
TEASE A charade of TEAS (‘drinks’) plus E (‘drug’).
18. Excel in running, having ways to escape stumble (8)
OUTSTRIP A charade of OUTS (‘ways to escape’) plus TRIP (‘stumble’).
19. One’s holding us up — that’s inappropriate (8)
UNSUITED An envelope (‘holding’) of SU, a reversal (‘up’ in a down light) of ‘us’ in UNITED (‘one’).
22. Capital got constricted? (6)
BOGOTA An envelope of ‘got’ in BOA (‘constricted?’), for the capital of Colombia.
23. Birthday’s ending soon, as it happens (6)
YEARLY A charade of Y (‘birthdaY‘s ending’) plus EARLY (‘soon’), with an &lit-ish definition.
24. Royal I spotted around is showing good judgment (4)
WISE An envelope (‘spotted around’) of ‘is’ in WE (‘royal I’).
25. Keeps watch on stern of frigate? That’s right (4)
EYES A charade of E (‘stern of frigatE‘) plus YES (‘that’s right’).
27. No difficulty completing puzzle, kinda obvious and simple (4)
EASE Final letters (‘completing’) of ”puzzlE, kindA obviouS‘ and ‘simplE‘.

35 Responses to “Guardian Cryptic N° 25,918, by Brendan”

  1. michelle says:

    I was absolutely not on Brendan’s wavelength today and I found this puzzle way too difficult to complete. Unfortunately, I had more hope of solving clues in the right-hand half but after solving seven clues there with words that were new to me (BISE, BIOTYPE, COSTA, CUCKOOPINT, PEASE, PICQUET & ‘guy’ = TEASE) I decided to give up and get on with my day as I feared the left hand side would also be full of words I do not know. I might have persevered if this was a Saturday puzzle.

    After reading the blog, I think I should have started with the left-hand side.

    Of the cues I solved, I liked BOGOTA.

    Thanks for the blog, PeterO.

  2. Richard Heald says:

    The theme suggested by 21Ac is that all the letters in PICQUET and BIOTYPE are represented audibly in plural form by ‘pease’, ‘eyes’, ‘seize’, ‘cues’ etc etc. Very clever!

  3. michelle says:

    Thanks for explaining 21ac. Yes, that is very clever!

  4. ToniL says:

    Thank-you Brendan and PeterO.

    We thought this one was very clever, and were surprised that you appear to be underwhelmed Peter.

    Lots of fun, and did you mention the S’s in 12?

  5. NormanLinFrance says:

    Thanks for the blog on a fine crossword. On first pass I had Flute for 17, until the down crossers revealed the right answer.

  6. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks Peter and Brendan, and to Richard at 3.

    I had LETTERS reasonably early on, but struggled with AUDIBLE, so it was only near the end I managed PEASE, BISE, CUES and OWES. However I failed to see completely the significance of PICQUET and BIOTYPE.

    Very clever: how did B put this together? Choose PICQUET and BIOTYPE and then fit the clues for their individual letters? Or fit some letters and then see that PICQUET and BIOTYPE would fit in? Or a combination of both? And how and at what stage to choose the grid?

  7. John Appleton says:

    27a, one of the few I got, appeared to be mocking me this morning. Very much a struggle that shouldn’t have been – bad day at the office (before I even got into the office).

    I suspected that 21 was LETTERS but that seemed a bit weak and obvious; looking at the solution now and the theme, I have to admire Brendan for it, even if there were a few unorthodox words to help it along.

    9ac’s anagram misdirection was cunning, especially as I had U-S—— in at one point.

  8. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, PeterO. I found this really quite hard — needed the check button far too often.

    But it was redeemed by the fact that for once I got the theme, which I spotted when I was about halfway through the themed answers.

    The letters are Q, O, E, Y, U, C, T, P, I and B.

    (ToniL @4 I’m not sure the ESSES at 12ac really count as S doesn’t appear in 14ac or 22ac.)

    I was held up by putting FLUTE in straight away at 17ac.

    Thanks, Brendan. How on earth did you manage this :-)

  9. Bob says:

    Should 15 be (6,4) or (6-4) instead of (10)?

  10. michelle says:


    I found ‘cuckoopint’ in Collins (so, 10), and ‘cuckoo pint’ (6, 4) in Oxford Dictionaries online. I could not find it in Chambers online dictionary but maybe I am looking in the wrong place?

  11. crypticsue says:

    What a lovely clever themed puzzle – lots to mutter at but I think I smiled more than I muttered so that’s OK. Thanks to Brendan and PeterO

  12. chas says:

    Thanks to PeterO for the blog.

    I am another who found FLUTE first :(

  13. Gervase says:

    Thanks, PeterO

    Quite a bit trickier than most recent Brendan puzzles (which I feel have got easier lately – but perhaps I’ve just got more of the hang of this excellent setter). A nice mix of straightforward and more complex clues, with some rather recondite vocab (BISE, DELE and PICQUET, but fortunately not ‘piquet’, were new to me). I failed to understand the very clever theme, naturally.

    CUCKOOPINT was a write-in for me with just the second C. BTW, the original pronunciation has ‘pint’ with a short i, rather than a long i as in the liquid measure. ‘Pint’ in this context means ‘penis': a folk reference to the phallic spadix of Arum maculatum.

    I was also decoyed into trying for an anagram at 9a: one of the best ‘hidden’ clues I have seen.

  14. Robi says:

    Extremely clever setting, although I struggled to solve.

    Thanks PeterO; for what it’s worth AUDIBLE, PICQUET and BIOTYPE all have single letters.

    It would be interesting to hear from Brendan how he went about this. I assume that he started with AUDIBLE LETTERS, fitted in a number of short ones around the perimeter and then found the PICQUET and BIOTYPE keys. Must have taken an age to compile – a great achievement.

  15. Robi says:

    P.S. CUCKOOPINT is 6,4 in Chambers, although as above, it is 10 in Collins.

  16. Trailman says:

    Very tough. Failed on BISE, knowing however that HIVE was wrong.

  17. Brendan (that one) says:

    Since some people asked, I thought first of the audible letters theme, found the 10 letters, and aimed to fit in AUDIBLE and LETTERS. I use certain grids a lot, especially this one, because they make it easier for themed puzzles — it would be good to get away from fixed sets of grids, and surely possible with technology. Finally I looked for two 7-letter words with no repeated letters that together would include each of the 10 audible letters at least once. Crossword Compiler made that search easy.
    The grid fell into place reasonably easy, at the cost of more obscurish words than I would normally use. In considering an obscure word, I take into account several factors, including (a) does the theme help (e.g. BISE, if you guess the pronunciation), (b) if the word’s structure makes its meaning clear (BIOTYPE). And I try to help with straightforward clues (I should have spent more time on PICQUET perhaps).

    I was happy that John Appleton and Gervase noticed that, in 9 across, I delibertately chose a word with seven letters for someone who would use a sword.

  18. drofle says:

    I learned some new words (BISE and PIQUET). I thought 28a was SEINE (= capture in net, E in SINE which is a kind of measure – maybe), but SEIZE is better. Good fun all round.

  19. PeterO says:

    Thanks to Brendan for dropping in to explain his modus operandi, and for the puzzle. Thanks to Richard Heald for pointing out the theme; looking back, it is astonishing how close I got to it without actually nailing it down.

  20. tupu says:

    Thanks PeterO and Brendan and also Richard Heald. I failed on ‘bise’ and did not properly understand the theme I’m afraid, even though it stares one in the face once one knows. I ticked 22d and 23d and liked several others. A cleverly inventive puzzle.

  21. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Got going with this one, and enjoyed the bits I did manage, but beyond me today. Having had it explained, it’s clever though. Thanks to Peter for the blog and the real Brendan for dropping in to comment. Just remains for Brendan (not that one) to give his tuppenceworth, I guess.

  22. Tom Hutton says:

    Perhaps this was another of the occasions where the setter would have had more fun than many of the solvers. There were some lovely clues here (24d my favourite) but it was extremely hard for me to solve and took ages. I fear that the advent of the computer has made setters think that clues should be harder than they used to be and more abstruse words and proper nouns can also be used. This is tough on those of us who try to do it unaided and who are not very bright.

  23. Andy B says:

    I got through half of it pretty quickly but then ground to a halt for 5 mins before I had more inspiration. Thanks to those of you who explained why 21 across referred to Picquet and Biotype. Clever. The only clue I had to use aids to complete was 6 down where I didn’t know if the wind was spelled Bise or Bize. There are quite a few online dictionaries that allow the latter, although far more that only allow the former so that’s the one I went with. Thanks to Peter for the blog and Brendan for dropping in and explaining his thought process for this one.

  24. flashling says:

    Loved this, only really penny dropped near the end when BISE went in, very clever from Brendan (that one) and must have been real hard work to fill the grid. Impressed.

  25. nametab says:

    A really good struggle with the penny dropping about half-way through. Last one was 6d, except didn’t get BISE because carelessly thought AISE,and didn’t think any further.
    CoD 13d; surface is so neat (also solved it before VIOLA so didn’t get misled by FLUTE).
    Went through all sorts of anagrams for 9d before seeing it peeping from the shade.
    Thanks to Brendan (that one) for insight & PeterO

  26. Callipygean says:

    Some have said it’s ‘clever’ of the compiler. But really, deliberately constructing a red herring anagram with which 4 of the 5 crossing letters fit, in an already very difficult puzzle, is more of a pain in the arse that needn’t be there in my view.

  27. newmarketsausage says:

    Callipygean @ 26

    Too bloody right, mate.

    Underhand deception of that kind has no place in a cryptic crossword.

  28. muck says:

    Thanks PeterO and Brendan
    I solved it all without seeing the clever theme

  29. rhotician says:

    A rare and welcome contribution from a stalwart of the other place, @27.

  30. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Brendan and PeterO

    It is crosswords like this that keeps you coming back for more – quite a bit harder than normal Brendans and although one always expects a theme from him, this one got completely under by guard with big ??? about what was going on with 21! All too obvious when it’s pointed out.

    My original last one in was HIVE and despite seeing a French winter – could not ‘force’ it into an Alps wind – after resisting the urge to check last night went looking for homonymic bees this morning and discovered BISE which I had not heard of. Oh … to have twigged to the theme!

    A lot of deception, a good overall challenge, witty surfaces and the cleverly constructed and understated theme – thank you again Brendan.

  31. Callipygean says:

    newmarketsausage @27 – I’m glad we agree. I’ve tried to contribute here before but I’m really bad at maths.

  32. newmarketsausage says:


    Thank you, kind sir. I often look in here but seldom feel I have much to add.

    What has happened to your own stalwart, RCW? I always enjoyed his contributions.

  33. Rowland says:

    He is funny @ 27. I enjoyed this yesterday, which was very good even in an aiurpoert lounge (Heathrow). Really good clues, which I found surprising, until I did some research on the compiler1!! Oh dear.


  34. Huw Powell says:

    I smiled the whole way through the three days it took me to finish this. Somewhere along the line I notices the letters being pronounced.

    For a long time I was also looking for one of those “uses all the letters” things. But I can’t find an M or a J or an F. A tour de force as it is, what a bizarre theme and challenge. Isn’t this why we love these things?

    Thanks for the blog, PeterO, although did anyone actually explain why “guy” = “tease”? And thanks to Brendan for a wonderful entertainment!

  35. brucew_aus says:

    Hi Huw

    I looked up and found that to GUY someone is to hold them up to ridicule or to mock them. Hadn’t heard of it in that context either before.

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