Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Cryptic N° 25,924 by Picaroon

Posted by PeterO on April 17th, 2013


The puzzle may be found at

I was quite slow getting under way with this crossword – I did not find many easy entry points. Of course, this made it all the more satisfying when I finally completed it.

1. Make out fabulous stores close to retail chain (8)
NECKLACE An envelope (‘stores’) of L (‘close to retaiL‘) in NECK (‘make out’) plus ACE (‘fabulous’).
5. Hang on! It’s a very subdued finale (6)
APPEND A charade of ‘a’ plus pp (pianissimo, ‘very subdued’) plus END (‘finale’).
9. Grand confession from show-off (8)
IMPOSING A charade of I’M POSING (‘confession from show-off’).
10. Notice skirts twirling in opener from Lady Gaga (6)
SENILE An envelope (‘skirts’) of NI, a reversal (‘twirling’) of ‘in’ plus L (‘opener from Lady’) in SEE (‘notice’).
12. Winning back Liberals, virtuous type calls to exert influence (4,7)
PULL STRINGS A charade of PU, a reversal (‘back’) of UP (‘winning’) plus LL (‘Liberals’) plus ST (saint, ‘virtuous type’) plus RINGS (‘calls’).
15. Free toy? About time! (3,2)
LET GO An envelope (‘about’) of T (‘time’) in LEGO (‘toy’).
17. For this, seek knave? King or queen included, too (5,4)
COURT CARD A charade of COURT (‘seek’) plus CARD (‘knave’), with a semi-&lit definition. But see Thomas99 @5.
18. Anti-capitalist movement thus is ousting North America from Asian country (9)
SOVIETISM A charade of SO (‘thus’) plus VIET[na]M (‘Asian country’) with ‘is’ replacing (‘ousting’) NA (‘North America’)
19. Way of speaking Latin pupil rejected (5)
DRAWL A charade of L (‘Latin’) plus WARD (‘pupil’), all reversed (‘rejected’).
20. Crazy family’s slippers seen on these? (6,5)
BANANA SKINS A charade of BANANAS (‘crazy’) plus KIN’S (‘family’s’).
24. Boozer gaining weight around middle — such a product could help! (3-3)
LOW-CAL An envelope (‘gaining … around middle’) of W (‘weight'; not a common abbreviation by itself) in LOCAL (‘boozer’ i.e. pub), with a semi-&lit definition.
25. One’s tied in second till leader drops out of position (8)
SHOELACE A charade of S (‘second’) plus HOE (’till’) plus [p]LACE (‘position’) without its first letter (‘leader drops out’).
26. Woman‘s rear clad in lingerie (6)
BRENDA An envelope (‘clad in’) of END (‘rear’) in BRA (‘lingerie’).
27. It has a laxative effect in repeat runs (8)
APERIENT An anagram (‘runs’) of ‘in repeat’.
1. Trouble in new language? You should have it at your fingertips (4,6)
NAIL POLISH An envelope (‘in’) of AIL (‘trouble’) in N (‘new’) plus POLISH (language’). Should I?
2. Like a joiner‘s debut in carpentry work — value it poorly (10)
COPULATIVE A charade of C (‘debut in Carpentry’) plus OP (‘work’) plus ULATIVE, an anagram (‘poorly’) of ‘value it’.
3. Throwing up portion of crisps ill-advisedly makes sinner less fat? (5)
LISPS A reverse (‘throwing up’) hidden answer (‘portion of’) in ‘criSPS ILl-advisedly’, with the allusive “definition” that ‘sinner’ with a lisp is thinner (‘less fat’).
4. Sign of Labour and Tory battles about heads of Treasury (12)
CONTRACTIONS An envelope (‘about’) of TR (‘heads of TReasury’) in CON (‘Tory’) plus ACTIONS (‘battles’).
6. Fleet Street heart-throb gets closer (5,4)
PRESS STUD A charade of PRESS (‘Fleet Street’) plus STUD (‘heart-throb’).
7. Pencil case, mirror, pens, ruler(4)
EMIR A hidden answer (‘pens’) in ‘pencil casE MIRror’.
8. Action in 2-D (4)
DEED A charade of DEE plus D (‘2-D’).
11. Reformed human sin with Pope Victor’s tactics (3-9)
ONE-UPMANSHIP An anagram (‘reformed’) of ‘human sin’ plus ‘Pope’.
13. Father becoming “pater” in old German territory? (10)
PALATINATE A charade of PA LATNATE (‘father becoming “pater”‘).
14. Troubled developer requires a financial hand-out to be on track (10)
ADOLESCENT A charade of ‘a’ plus DOLE (‘financial handout’) plus SCENT (‘track’). I think many such would argue that this is a semi-&lit.
16. Nothing’s stopping complete poet getting beyond the limits of his craft? (9)
OVERBOARD An envelope (‘stopping’) of O (‘nothing’) in OVER (‘complete’) plus BARD (‘poet’).
21. Unqualified, drunken fortune-teller (5)
SHEER A slurred (‘drunken’) version of SEER (‘fortune-teller’).
22. Turned up source of light whimper (4)
BLUB A reversal (‘turned up’) of BULB (‘source of light’).
23. Terribly sweet with no end of mawkishness (4)
TWEE An anagram (‘terribly’) of ‘[s]weet’ with the S removed (‘no end of mawkishnesS‘), and this time a definite complete &lit.

43 Responses to “Guardian Cryptic N° 25,924 by Picaroon”

  1. JollySwagman says:

    Thanks PO and P Great puzzle – lovely wordplays – one to remember. It didn’t look all that special on first run-through (which wasn’t very fruitful) but it delivered more and more as the solve progressed.

    Ticked 10a, 20a, 2d. 4d, 11d, 16d – prolly more deserved it.

    Not sure whether to agree with you re various levels of &littishness. 17a (which I stared at the longest) is unconventional but the others I could read as a simple 2-part clue and the &lit element as a bonus – which I always like – like getting a BOGOF deal when you actually have a use for the other one.

  2. JollySwagman says:

    BTW the double entendre in 2d of “join” is a dangerous faux ami for French people speaking English, since joindre is often used to mean reach, contact, meet etc.

    I once received an email from a female colleague advising me that “I can be joined in my office most afternoons”.

  3. michelle says:

    It took me a while to get going but I did enjoy this puzzle by Picaroon. My favourites were CONTRACTIONS, BANANA SKIN & ADOLESCENT and I also liked LISPS, SOVIETISM, ONE-UPMANSHIP, PRESS STUD, BRENDA & NAIL POLISH.

    New word for me today was ‘aperient’.

    Thanks for the blog, PeterO. I appreciated your notes on 25a & 8d which I had solved but could not parse.

  4. molonglo says:

    Thanks Peter. Once into the swing the devices – envelopes galore, and lisping and drunkenness such as we have had recently, helped things along. Had to resort to TEA Evaluation a couple of times where it got tricky (COPULATIVE and PALATINATE). Failed on 10a.

  5. Thomas99 says:

    Slight correction: I think 17a is a complete &lit – seek knave gives COURT CAD, with R (King or Queen) included. A very nice clue.

  6. harhop says:

    I say this in no mean spirit after a most enjoyable solve with a number of parsing puzzles unsolved – I do sometimes wonder whether there is any limit to the number of synonyms for ‘envelope’!

  7. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Peter.

    Goodness me, this was a hard one. My memory of previous Picaroons is that they were fun solves, but accessible – this one took a good bit of getting into. Plenty of mischievous and misleading devices though, with LISPS and CONTRACTIONS among my favourites.

    I took COPULATIVE in its grammatical sense – copulae and copular verbs, although Jolly Swagman may be right that there’s a double entendre in there somewhere. My favourite quote came from a French friend, for whom we’d cooked a lovely three-course meal: ‘That was a fantastic dinner, thank you – I’m really fed up’. English – who’d want to learn it?

  8. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, PeterO.

    Yet another cracking puzzle from Picaroon, with all the wit and inventiveness and misdirection we have come to expect.

    Far too many excellent clues to pick any out for special mention – and, for once, I’m going to leave it at that!

    Huge thanks, Picaroon, as ever – you certainly helped to get my brain in gear today!

  9. Trailman says:

    Thanks Peter. For me it was 25a and especially 10a that were unparseable. The latter a rather unpleasant definition too (not that I want to get into a long discussion about the rights and wrongs of such usage in crosswords).

    APERIENT and COPULATIVE were new for me, but well workable from the clues, and in the second case awareness of similar words. My fave surface was 14a. Can’t complain about the usage here because the ‘troubled developer’ might have been me. A long time ago now …

  10. Gervase says:

    Thanks Peter

    Another pleasingly piratical puzzle. Like other commentators, this took me a little while to get a purchase on, but it finally yielded without too much trouble. Some excellent constructions and surface readings here: 25a stood out for me in both these respects.

    I agree with K’s D @7 about the meaning of 2d – COPULATIVE verbs are not what you might think…

  11. tupu says:

    Thank PeterO and Picaroon

    A very good puzzle with lots of clever, fun clues. I thought I had seen a similar clue for low-cal before – it’s in a Pasquale from 2010 – odd what sticks in one’s mind and what doesn’t!

    As with others, lots of ticks as pennies dropped. I think 2d was probably my favourite.

  12. John Appleton says:

    Footholds certainly weren’t easy, but occasionally one would crack open and a few would fall into place. APERIENT was last in; one of those where you don’t know the word, but you put in the anagram fodder in an order that’s crazy enough to work…and thnakfully, it did.

  13. Robi says:

    Masterful puzzle; difficult to get into as others have said.

    Thanks PeterO; I came here for the parsing of LISPS. I was misled all over the place – convinced that an anagram of stores (and l,n) was needed in 1a for a long time. Got held up by the NE corner; pesky little four-letter words took a long time to see.

    As Eileen, many super clues; I’ll mention OVERBOARD, IMPOSING, COPULATIVE and ADOLESCENT (brilliant definition – again misled about anagrams :( )

  14. Rowland says:

    I dont’ know how you can have a ‘semi&lit defonition’, that’s just nonsense. There are no &lits in this puzzle, which was usual Guardian ‘form over content’ stuff. Quite fun, but like a child’s first tries compatred to e.g. Dac today.


  15. Eccles45 says:


    I’m with you in finding 10a a tad “iffy”. There have been a fair amount of clues poking fun at folk with lisps recently as well.

  16. Robi says:

    Eccles45 @15; gaga is in Chambers as (sl) ‘in senile dotage,’ so I don’t see the harm in using it that way.

  17. Gasman jack says:

    Could someone explain 13d more fully, please. I feeling a little dense to-day.

  18. Rowland says:

    PA LATINATE is the gag. But the adj is not strict.


  19. Trailman says:

    Hi Eccles45 @15
    ‘Lispy’ clues aren’t quite the same I think; they’re in a class of quasi-homophones along with alleged Scots (cf discussion on OUIJAS yesterday) and Cockney. Born and bred in east London, I should be dropping my h’s all the time it seems.

  20. PeterO says:

    Rowland @15

    By semi-&lit I refer to a clue in which the entire text contributes to the definition, while only part forms the wordplay; I believe this is a standard (or at least semi-standard) usage. To dismiss it a nonsense is a misunderstanding on your part. I, in my turn, do not understand what you mean by &lit, since I know of no description of the term which would exclude 23D or, with the correction of Thomas99 @5 (to whom thanks; I missed that one), 17A.

    In the blog I did not elaborate on the definition in 2D, but there does come to mind Touchstone’s reference to “country copulatives” in As you like it.

  21. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Picaroon and PeterO

    Not too much to add – got my start with two of the pesky little ones – 8 and 22 and finished up in the SE with PALATINATE (new to me) as my last in. The grid did seem to get filled in fits and starts and needed to see the parsing here for both the caddish version of 17 and that troublesome 13.

    Nice mix of reverse thinking clues and two cunningly concealed ha’s

  22. Rowland says:

    You answer your own query: clues can be semi & lit, but you had a ‘semi &lir definition’!!! TwEE I will give you, though seems almost to be defined twice?


  23. cholecyst says:

    Thanks PO and P. I found this difficult to get started but struggled through till the end. Can anyone explain why Palatinate = OLD German territory? I’m very familiar with the wines from there (Pfalz) and always thought it it was still entirely part of the modern Germany.

  24. michelle says:

    the Palatinate (noun, historical) = a territory under the jurisdiction of a count palatine, or the territory of the German Empire ruled by the count palatine of the Rhine.

  25. cholecyst says:

    Thanks Michelle, But my point is the Palatinate exists now within Germany. It’s a bit like defining Burgundy as old French territory just because it used to be ruled by the Dukes of Burgundy.

  26. PeterO says:

    Rowland @22

    OK. If it makes you any the happier, replace “semi-&lit definition” with “definition that makes the clue a semi-&lit”.

    Cholecyst @23

    I had considered commenting on that, but since the use of the term dates back to the 11th century, I felt that it qualified as ‘old’, even though it is still in use (but seldom in the English form; and of course it has shifted in significance).

  27. muffin says:

    Thanks to Picaroon and PeterO
    Out of practice after holiday, so gave up with a couple undone, and a wrong answer, it transpired – I had ETUI for 7dn as a case, though the remainder was of course unparsed. Does “pencil” have any function in the clue?

  28. Dave Ellison says:

    Am I the only one to have not liked this crossword?

  29. jeceris says:

    Never mind “senile”. If I were younger I would be more offended by the possible interpretation that adolesecents are “troubled developers”. I know a lot of adolesecents and none of them could be so described.
    If the definition is just “developers” and the “troubled” meant as a misleading anagrind, then why not use something like “poor” instead.

  30. jeceris says:

    I do really know how to spell adolescents.

  31. Paul B says:

    I thought you might have been going for adole-senescents there.

  32. Tramp says:

    I thought this was brilliant. Probably a little on the difficult side for a Wednesday.

    I have to take exception to Rowland’s comments at 14: “usual Guardian ‘form over content’ stuff”? Well, don’t do the Guardian puzzles then — it’s simple. I for one am not going to change my style because of such comments and I don’t see why Picaroon should. “Like a child’s first tries” — some precocious child then; like a Mozart or something?

  33. Otis says:

    Thanks PeterO and Picaroon.

    I thought this was a fabulous puzzle, much enjoyed, especially given that I didn’t feel much guilt devoting time to it when my AS exams are around the corner!

  34. Callipygean says:

    I thought this was a cracker. My favourite was SHOELACE which I thought was a very neat clue.

  35. Dave H says:

    Occasional contributor here again. I thought this was a cracking “3 pint crosword” (I work on the Morse theory)and more of the same please. To me a Guardian crossword should be entertaining, fun and challenge and this one ticked all the boxes. Contrary to some responses to my previous comments ref Rufus, Chifonie and Gordius I am not an expert and failed on Palatinate ( I had Padadinage, (neither word I hvae heard of) but that is not important to me. Whether a semi ad lit is pedantically correct or not, it is a blinking crossword for crying out loud and not an English Language exam and I am with Tramp (whose puzzles I really enjoy).Not wishing to fall out with anyone (and sort of agreeing with Rowley except for his critisim of this puzzle)this is the standard of crossword the Guardian should be producing Monday to Friday( the Independant is already there in my opinion)

  36. David Mop says:

    @28 Dave Ellison

    You are not alone! Perhaps I am just a bad loser, but I got no pleasure from the few clues that I solved in the time I had available today. And looking at PeterO’s blog (for which many thanks) my reactions to all the ones I missed were just “I suppose so” rather than “of course”.

  37. Sil van den Hoek says:

    As one perhaps might know I am a big Picaroon fan.
    And this puzzle didn’t disappoint.
    Just look at 1ac (NECKLACE) and see how perfectly written this clue is.

    And Tramp @32, you said it all.

  38. rhotician says:

    @14: More child Rowland.

  39. Rorschach says:

    Tramp @32


  40. yogdaws says:

    An almost pointlessly late entry, but didn’t get to it till (hoe-hoe) today.

    In short: a work of brilliance.

    All the best…

  41. brucew_aus says:

    Never pointless yogdaws !!!

  42. JollySwagman says:

    Is this still going?

    May I offer my late apologies for smutifying this thread on account of not immediately associating the term COPULATIVE with English grammar.

    I was already aware that the definition of a cultivated person (maybe a bit dated by now) is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger. Perhaps that should be updated to someone who does not automatically associate the word COPULATIVE with sex – a test I have obviously failed.

    I really came in to concur with Dave H at 35. This puzzle seems to me exactly how a contemporary G puzzle should be and the more the better.

  43. drofle says:

    Like Dave Ellison and David Mop I found this really difficult (and gave up eventually), but can see from PeterO’s parsing that there are some very clever clues. Must try harder.

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