Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,930 – Enigmatist

Posted by Andrew on April 24th, 2013


It’s been quite a while since we saw Enigmatist on a weekday — not since 5 July last year in fact — and as always I was a little apprehensive when I saw his name. I got a few answers quickly and thought this might be one of his gentler efforts, but slowed down rather towards the end. There are a couple of clues I can’t fully parse, and I have a query about the answer given in the online version for 24a. In the interests of getting the blog published I will now hand over to m’learned friends in the comments.

1. G-STRING GUST (sudden wind) less U (“you” said) + RING (call)
5. BELL-JAR ELL J[ohnson] in BAR (rod). Bell jars are used in chemical experiments; Wikipedia says “to contain vacuums”, but Chambers also has “to confine gases etc”, justifying the definition “I’ll contain the fumes”
9. MAPLE My first parsing failure: Maple is the tree, and there’s M and P there, but I can’t explain the rest (MP squeezed inside tree) Thanks to Rick: it’s P in MALE (=M)
10. SQUARE LEG SQUARE (boringly traditional) + LEG (supporter), for a fielding position in cricket
11. HERO-WORSHIPPER Another one I can’t fully explain; there’s SORROW* in EH (what), or EH< + SORROW*, and the definition is “a fan who's OTT”, but that leaves HIPPER, which only seams to mean “more hip” (What about feigned sorrow in a fan who’s OTT?) Ah, I got it just after hitting “publish” – HIP = “in” (fashionable), PER = “a”, as in twice a year/twice per year.
13. IOWA [b]I[g] [t]OW[n] [s]A[y]
17. HERACLES H[ard] + reverse of SEL[f]-CARE. Heracles or Hercules is famed for his twelve labours
18. OPPO OP plus its reverse – op = operation = a job done in an operating theatre. Oppo, probably short for “opposite number”, can be either a partner or an opponent
21. CAPE OF GOOD HOPE Looks like a cryptic defintion, but I think I must be missing something
23. IMRAN KHAN I’M RANK (I smell foul) + HAN (Chinese). Imran Khan is a former all-round cricketer, now a politician
24. ELECT (or ERECT) ERECT with R changed to L (“the other hand”) (or vice versa). The online version gives ERECT as the answer, but that doesn’t seem justifiable to me without a rather contorted reading of the clue, and in the absence of evidence from crossing letters I’d be inclined to go with the more obvious version (Choose to build, employing the other hand)
25. KEY GRIP KEY (opener) + GRIP[e]. The Key Grip is a familiar title from film credits
26. DEMI-SEC DEMISE + C. Of wine, medium-dry, so I suppose “not to everyone’s taste”
1. GIMP Double definition – weak or submissive person (often in a sexual sense), and a kind of wire-centered yarn
2. TUPPERWARE PARTY UPPER W A REP (salesman) in TARTY (vulgar)
3. ICEBOX ICE (kill, e.g. in gangster slang) + BOX (fight)
4. GO-SLOW G (grand, $1000) + OSLO + W[on]
6. LARRIKIN A R R in LIKIN[g]. An Australian word for a hooligan, hence “Tough Victorian”
7. JALAPENO PEPPERS LA PE (physical education, games) + NO PEP in JAPERS
8. ROGER BACON ROGER (understood, in radio communication) + BA + CON. Roger Bacon was a 13th-century friar and scholar.
12. RIGHT CLICK Spoonerism of “light crick”. A right-click on a mouse often brings up a context-dependent menu of options
15. SCHOONER CH[eck] in SOONER (rather)
16. HEDGEHOP DG (Tony Hall is the new Director-General of the BBC) in HE + EH (“opposite” of HE) + OP (work). To hedgehop is to fly a plane very low, so “get quite down to earth”
19. GOUNOD UN (French “a”) in GOOD (great)
20. PHLEGM P[ublic] H[ouse] + LEG (= on – cricket again) + MAP less A P (quiet)
22. OTIC NOTICE (review, e.g. of a play or book) with its outer letters “trimmed”. Otic is “of the ear”

57 Responses to “Guardian 25,930 – Enigmatist”

  1. Rick says:

    Excellent blog as always Andrew – many thanks! A few quick comments.

    9 Across, I parsed this as first “M” and then “P squeezed inside”. “M” stands for “Male”; if you squeeze “P” inside “Male” you get “Maple” (hence the tree).

    I too struggled on 11 across.

    I thought that 21 across was probably a cryptic definition but I also wondered if I was missing something.

    I completely agree with you about 24 across; it seems to me that the answer should be “Elect”.

    In 6 down does the “A” (from the “A R R” part) come from accepted?

  2. Daniel says:


    I made 11a

    What about eh reversed anagram of sorrow and hipper for “in”

  3. Daniel says:

    Sorry Andrew just read your excellent blog properly to see 11a explanation

  4. michelle says:

    There was more pain than pleasure for me in this puzzle. My enjoyment of a puzzle always seems to diminish in proportion to the number of clues I cannot parse: in this puzzle I solved but was unable to fully parse 5a, 9a, 11a, 17a, 18a, 16d, 20d.

    New words for me were ‘otic’ and the US slang ‘ice’ = ‘kill’. I also doubted that the word OPPO existed but I found it in Oxford Dictionaries Online: 1/ British informal: a colleague or friend; 2/ 1930s: abbreviation of opposite number

    I did not understand why the word ‘sherry’ was in the clue for 15d if a ‘schooner’ is a tall beer glass.

    My first impression for 24a was ELECT as the answer.

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew.

  5. Gaufrid says:

    Hi michelle
    “I did not understand why the word ‘sherry’ was in the clue for 15d if a ‘schooner’ is a tall beer glass.”

    From Chambers: “A large beer glass (esp N American and Aust); A large sherry glass”.

  6. michelle says:

    I just looked at the Guardian blog. Quite a few people there agree that the answer to 24a should be ELECT rather than ERECT.

  7. michelle says:

    Thanks. I think I only looked it up in the dictionary that comes with my Mac, and that is probably an American dictionary. I now see that Collins also defines it as : “(British) – a large glass for sherry”.

  8. ToniL says:

    We hadn’t even realised we had ‘elect’ wrong until we read comments on the Guardian website.

    Also not happy with the Spooner. Surely ‘light crick’ could give ‘clight rick’ or ‘cright lick’. ‘Right click’ is not really a Spoonerism is it?

    Anyway, that aside, really liked it, lots of lovely stuff.

    Thank-you Enigmatist and Andrew.

  9. molonglo says:

    Thanks Andrew. This was a slog, but it was good to finish – with help only once, from TEAS for HEDGEHOP. I couldn’t parse 9a or 11a either: but the suggestions above may be right. Enigmatist has a tough style where, when the answer emerges, it’s more often with a heck than an aha.

  10. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    Like you, I thought this was going to be easy at first glance, seeing the friendly grid and entering the first two across clues immediately but then slowed to a crawl, almost giving up entirely on 12dn, which is a “spoonerism” of lightc rick, so doesn’t seem correct.

  11. Ian SW3 says:

    I don’t believe Spoonerism refers exclusively to the transposition of the first letters, but I would be Crong.

  12. NeilW says:

    Ian @11, Chambers says “a transposition of initial sounds of spoken words” which seems pretty clear…

  13. ToniL says:

    It seems it it not necessarily the transposition of the start of the words which make it a Spoonerism (though all examples I’ve previously seen were). Apologies to Enigmatist. As I said, fine puzzle. Manny Thenks

  14. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew. I also thought this was going to be one of Enigmatist’s easier puzzles until I discovered otherwise! By the end, I’d used the check button far more often that I like to. Even so, I failed on LARRIKIN – the word rings a distant bell, but too distant for me this morning.

    I couldn’t parse quite a few (or sort of semi-parsed them and gave up). Quite a few of the long ones I guessed from the checking letters.

    Lots of devious tricky clueing, which is why I was surprised by the (barely) cd at 21ac, if that’s what it is. Also raised an eyebrow at the Spoonerism.

    Thanks Enigmatist!

    And I’m another one to vote for ELECT.

  15. Ian SW3 says:

    NeilW @12, Wikipedia describes it as transposition of “corresponding” letters or sounds, which seems more accurate — and would cover “Someone is occupewing my pie,” which most would describe as a Spoonerism.

  16. liz says:

    NeilW @12 I stand corrected!

  17. SteveM says:

    Like Andrew, I was full of trepidation when I saw Enigmatist’s name. 45 minutes later, I was a happy bunny and now I have got to work and checked my solution am almost ecstatic. Thanks to Andrew and Enigmatist respectively for the blog and a great puzzle.

  18. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    Very characteristic Enigmatist puzzle, with its many tortuous constructions – quite a few of which I failed to parse. My first idea for 1a was Y FRONTS but, as I couldn’t see why, I (fortunately) didn’t put it in. Later on, I was just putting in words that fitted, regardless of being able to parse them…

    Some cracking clues: I particularly liked 2d, 7d, 8d.

    I’m also an ELECTor.

  19. aztobesed says:

    Lovely puzzle – and well-blogged, Andrew – you must have blenched at this one.

    Imran Khan’s party is the PTI – which is an all-inclusive non-family based organisation which might be described as an ‘all-rounder’ political party – one of many little twinkles. My only reservations were GIMP (hard-core yarn seems a touch obscure) and great = good. I’m pleased to say that I finally ‘saw’ MAPLE. Favourite was Coke = Charlie after DEMISE. I thought it was an excellent challenging puzzle with many hidden delights.

  20. Robi says:

    Very clever puzzle which was a bit above my pay-grade, which I and my computer solved.

    Thanks Andrew; some cracking clues here. I particularly liked LARRIKIN, HEDGEHOP, G-STRING, PHLEGM and DEMI-SEC. I seem to remember we had a similar discussion before about Spoonerisms; as Ian SW3 @15 says, the definition may be broader than the Dambers chefinition.

    Seems that ELECT must be the right answer, whatever the online solution says. I don’t know whether this started life as a pangram because I think only ‘v’ and ‘z’ are missing. [Getz and VTEC might have been bridges too far!]

  21. SeanDimly says:

    The south-west corner was too tough for me. I hadn’t been able to parse MAPLE, but had stuck it in anyway; and I was equally lax when writing in HERCULES. That didn’t help.
    Didn’t help either that I was sure we had a pangram, lacking only Z, V and K.
    Was at first a little vexed by the Spoonerism – but wasn’t the original Spoonerism when he apparently said ‘Kinkering Kongs’ instead of ‘Conquering Kings’? Setters must have their fun.
    Learned a lot from this crossword – thanks Enigmatist.
    And thank you Andrew for a terrific blog.

  22. crypticsue says:

    A lovely treat and not as difficult as Enigmatist can sometimes be. Thanks to Andrew for the blog and Enigmatist for a nice diversion from what I was supposed to be doing (luckily a job where you can hide a crossword under the paperwork).

    I too think 24a has to have an L rather than an R for the wordplay to work correctly

  23. Rowland says:

    Yes difficult, hellishly, but very goiod. This man can write clues, and so the quality is assured. I would rather see more of this than a lot of tortuous garbage from the less talented peoiple they have, and this Enigmatist puzzle has been a long tiome coming.


  24. Eileen says:

    Thanks Andrew – and bravo!

    I had to be out early this morning and just managed to finish [ie fill in all the squares] before I went, and before the blog came out, so I took it with me to nibble away at those not yet parsed [several!].

    Like crypticsue, my mind was not entirely on the meeting I was at but I still didn’t manage to parse MAPLE, so special thanks for that.

    It would be good if Enigmatist dropped in to confirm 24ac – I’m an ELECTor, too.

    I’m afraid that, despite muttering all the possibilities under my breath on the bus, I still wasn’t happy with the Spoonerism. It didn’t help that, initially, I didn’t know whether CRICK or RICK was the neck spasm – I would use either.

    Anyway, it was a great crossword – favourite clues: 23ac and 2 and 7dn. Many thanks, Enigmatist!

  25. coltrane says:

    Cracking puzzle Enigmatist, for which I needed you, Andrew to explain a number of parse points. Many thanks to you both.

    I seem to remember a discussion in these pages, where it was pointed out that there is no rule about the definition having to be at the start or finish. With that in mind, in 24a the definition might be “to build” from choose employing the other hand. Probably not, but perhaps E might call in and give us the inside version!! Oh I really liked 10a and 8d by the way.

  26. Trailman says:

    That’s three out of three Enigmatists for me now. Not that I’m keeping a log or anything. Presupposes ELECT, like almost everyone else.

    There’s been quite a lot of clues like 23a recently, where part of the answer (here, I’M RANK) is the setter’s presumed comment. Perhaps this style should have a name. Personalisation?

    LARRIKIN was new to me. It must be nice for Michelle to have a head start with the vernacular for once!

  27. Robi says:

    SeanDimly @21…….Khan……

  28. John Appleton says:

    I went with ELECT, too.

    CAPE OF GOOD HOPE is probably a “high point” due to its mountains, most famously Table Mountain, though I don’t think it’s South Africa’s highest. Came quite easy to me, though much of the rest didn’t.

    No problems with the Spoonerism, regardless of “official” definition(s).

  29. Paul says:

    Even after reading all your comments I still don’t like the spoonerism. From light crick I can see cright lick from a transposition of initial sounds, but not right click.
    Have never thought of a grip (key grip) as a cameraman either. More someone who mounts and plans movement of cameras rather than operates them, which is what I would think of as a cameraman.
    Like several others I managed to write in several solutions without really knowing why, so it’s nice to come here and have those irritations soothed.
    Thanks for the blog.

  30. aztobesed says:

    Paul @ 29

    That slightly narrow demarkation is probably American. In Britain the key grip is another borrowed term and would tend to be less precise. The people who take care of all the tracking, dollies, cranes and what have you are variously parts of the camera team, which would probably have someone calling themself the key grip. Unless, of course, they are female, when they are usually the ‘dolly-bird’ (particularly at the BBC.)

  31. michelle says:

    Correct, I had no problem solving LARRIKIN. It’s a very familiar word in Oz. I guess they were all sent over from England in the 18th & 19th centuries, and maybe you don’t have any in the UK any more!

  32. Mitz says:

    Thanks Andrew and Enigmatist.

    A real work out, as always from E. It’s the tiny, easily missed parts of his clues that make him so tough – every last syllable of every clue has a bearing. 11 is a perfect example. “What”, “in” and “a” between them lead to 8 out of the 14 letters in the solution. 20, similarly: “on” to give LEG rather than just meaning “on top of in the sense of a down clue”. You have to be really on your toes from start to finish.

    Having said that, I hesitated over putting in CAPE OF GOOD HOPE because it felt a bit loose, and I was held up by the Spoonerism because I thought we were talking about a “slight rick”, which certainly wouldn’t work. No problem with the real solution, though – I think the people complaining about “light crick” not being a direct first letter transposition, as most Spoonerisms are, should be aware that Spooner has been accused of many other types of word manglement.

    A little while back, I made up this in response to some limericks that were flying about on the Guardian crossword message board – I hope people don’t mind me repeating it here, particularly as so many have stated that just seeing Enigmatist’s name fills them with dread:

    The Rev, AKA Araucaria
    Often makes cruciverbalists warier
    But when all’s said and done
    His clues are good fun
    And Enigmatist’s always much scarier

  33. michelle says:

    I just looked up ‘larrikin’ in Oxford Dictionaries online and it seems that all of you in England should have had the head start on the vernacular –
    “LARRIKIN – Origin: mid 19th century: from English dialect, perhaps from the given name Larry (pet form of Lawrence) + -kin, or from a pronunciation of larking”.

  34. Mitz says:

    I certainly thought “Victorian” meant “19th Century” – it hadn’t occurred to me that it could be referring to the Australian state, although in retrospect I recall certain Aussie cricketers having the adjective applied to them.

  35. michelle says:

    My favourites of today’s posts on Guardian blog:

    1/ “Probably the day to phone in sick if you’re a 225 blogger and value your reputation ( no I haven’t looked in yet).”

    2/ “Who’d be a 225 blogger on a day like this?”

  36. Trailman says:

    Michelle @33

    Not many Larrys around these days over here. The late Laurence Olivier, still a useful name to remember if ‘actor’ is signalled, was fondly known as Larry and he’s been dead since 1989. And there are two Larry Lambs: a TV actor, happily still with us, and the notorious Sun editor, responsible for degrading British good taste in more ways than I care to count.

  37. AF says:

    As a US solver, these daily Guardians that have too many Britishisms tend to destroy me, as this one did. Still, I found some of the constructions really painful and the definition bits trying a bit too hard to be clever (“one who’s down to earth”, “high point for South Africans”, etc.).

  38. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks Andrew.

    As others, I needed several explanations.

    After his recent prize crossword (4/5 clues solved) this was much better for me, finishing just about all of them (does it count as finished if you put the answer in but can’t explain it, such as MAPLE?)

    Initially, I went for BETTERWARE POINT for 2d, which fits the cryptic part of the clue (VULGAR FORM of INTO at the end), but not the definition. What a strange coincidence.

  39. Derek Lazenby says:

    Definitely hard work for us less talented people.

    Re comments on Key Grip, looking at some English on-line dictionaries, the definition is the same as that given in the American ones, so the objection to such being called a cameraman seems fair. Added to which, if you went down the pub and asked people what they understood a cameraman to be, they would probably all say “a bloke that uses a camera”, which plainly, the Key Grip doesn’t.

  40. michelle says:

    Quite right, I agree with you – and I don’t think that ‘Larry’ was ever a popular name in Australia!

  41. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew for an unenviable task well done and Enigmatist

    Finished eventually after being in and out of it over the day. I would much have preferred this as a weekender.

    I had to hunt out ‘gimp’ and ‘larrikin’ (I failed to parse it too, as also ‘hero-worshipper’).

    I too went for ‘elect’.

    I ticked 1a (I thought it might be ‘a-tishoo’ at first!), 9a, 17a,26a, 2d, 16d and 20d.

  42. Andy B says:

    I always solve the Guardian online while I’m eating my dinner so I tend not to comment too often as anything of value has usually already been said. However, in this instance I’ll chime in and say that I agree with all of you who have commented on 24a. From the wordplay I don’t see how the answer can be anything other than ELECT. I found this puzzle more accessible than a lot of Enigmatist’s offerings. Michelle, I sympathise with you. When I started solving I found Enigmatist harder to get on to the same wavelength as than any other setter. I know you do the Indie puzzles so watch out for his alter ego Nimrod. He doesn’t produce puzzles on a regular enough basis for his style to become overly familiar. He also sets for the Times but those are easier to solve because he has to adhere to stricter Ximenean principles.

  43. Trebor says:

    Good stuff as ever from Enigmatist. I appreciate the problem with using “Spoonerism” which has (traditionally) a very specific definition, but I don’t mind it here as the solution is clear.

    Enjoyed the 15 letter downs in particular.


  44. nametab says:

    Bit of a struggle. Never doubted it was ‘elect’ at 24a. Many thanks Andrew for blog – needed parsing help on some (e.g. ‘maple’). 21a an easy starter, but barely cryptic. Some others fiendish. 12d a clunky Spoonerism at best.
    For me, Enigmatist feels more like an oppo’2′ rather than an oppo’1′ in the setter / solver tussle (see 18a).

  45. Martin P says:

    To be frank, I found this a poor crossword, the elect/erect vagueness being typical of my disappointment.

    It’s not often I have negatives to post, and I trust Enigmatist will return to form anon.

  46. Sil van den Hoek says:

    We – my PinC and I – gave this puzzle a go at our local Waitrose long after comment No 41.

    Some of you found this an ‘easier’ Enigmatist, but as always we found it hard to find a way in.
    That said, in the end we came very far.
    Unfortunately, completing the puzzle was a step too far (going wrong at 6d and 22d and failing on four others).
    But we were extremely proud to get as far as we got.

    Yes, this was intelligent stuff.
    As a blogger of Dante’s puzzles (known at this place as Rufus) I am used to ignore articles, but Enigmatist made once more clear that I shouldn’t (in 11ac).

    Today two clues are the talk of the town.
    The Spoonerism at 12d is fine by me as such.
    Only a pity that ‘light’ has a lot in common with ‘slight’.
    24ac is undoubtedly ELECT.
    But we had some trouble with ‘employing the other hand’. Does the clue really say that we have to change R into L?

    One more question.
    Why is L = ELL in 5ac?
    I know, they sound alike, but phonetically they are both ‘el’ according to my dictionaries.

    CoD perhaps DEMI-SEC (26ac). Great surface, dubious definition.

    Thanks Andrew, and The Man Himself!

    ps, Rowland, could you please stop writing things like “I would rather see more of this than a lot of tortuous garbage from the less talented people they have”? So insulting.

  47. Callipygean says:

    Offensive remark removed, by request. Admin

    Lucky him/her!

  48. stiofain says:

    Outrageous Callipygean !!!
    As usual all has been said by the time I get here but I found this puzzle a midweek treat.

  49. Uncle Yap says:

    “Mardon me padam, this pie is occupewed. Can I sew you to another sheet?” (Pardon me, madam, this pew is occupied. Can I show you to another seat?) attributed to William Archibald Spooner ; thus vindicating Iansw3 and Enigmatist – the latter more so as it raised a huge guffaw from me and this from a setter that I have often accused for a lack of humour in his clues :-)

  50. michelle says:

    thanks for your sympathy. It’s true that I find it near impossible to get on Enigmatist’s wavelength and solving each clue is a slog. And then not being able to parse what I think is the correct answer simply makes it more frustrating! That’s why I described it as more pain than pleasure.

  51. John says:

    Hi everyone, just catching up on yesterday’s comments, for which feedback many thanks.

    I agree totally with comments about 21ac and 24ac. My submitted clues were, for the record,

    21 Beat opponent back, getting try over low-down, clipping posts – S Africa’s high point (4,2,4,4); and
    24 Choose to employ one hand, but raise the other here (5)

    Again, many thanks. Hope you’ll enjoy this Saturday’s Indy.


  52. Andrew says:

    Thanks John, glad to see I wasn’t going crazy yesterday.

    The wordplay in the original clue for 21 is a bit tortuous, so for completeness the explanation is:

    CAP (beat) + FOE rev + GO (try) + O (over) + H (rugby posts) in DOPE (low-down, information)

  53. AdamH says:

    Took me until this morning’s cuppa to finish, but at least it gets the brain going first thing. Re 18ac, Andrew, the ‘theatre job’ in question might not be in an operating theatre, but ‘Opposite Prompt’ in yer actual stage production.


  54. ClaireS says:

    I must admit that I’m a little surprised that comment 47 has been allowed to stand. Unless I’m missing some kind of joke it just looks like abuse/offensive language directed at the setter via an easily solvable clue.

    For what it’s worth, I really enjoyed this crossword – Mitz @42 encapsulating what I found so good about it. Good blog from Andrew too.

  55. David Mop says:

    Thanks for the explanations of all the answers I missed!

    I have to agree with AF @37 about Enigmatist’s painful constructions and trying to hard to be clever. If only Enigmatist – and Picaroon – could resist the temptation to over-polish their clues, I might find their work just as difficult but more rewarding.

  56. flashling says:

    Did a mental tut at Callipygean, well it was tough as old boots this one, having been at the blogging end of a few Nimrods I can sympathise Andrew.

    And now we have Nimrod on Saturday, oh gods…

  57. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Enigmatist and Andrew

    An extremely late post, but had carried this around for months without solving 1d / 9a. Knew that 9a was either maple or ample and for some reason the gimp / cord meaning wasn’t connecting with dictionary look ups. Finally last weekend the M = MALE definition light went on and so MAPLE / GIMP was finally solved!!

    Had a little trouble parsing KINGSHIP in my final run – having started with the throne pretender Tony Hall and down to earth = hip – only to find that in finally checking that my HERACLID should’ve been HERACLES. Would’ve been interesting to see whether I would have found HEDGEHOP afterwards anyway – but it unfortunately E wins the overall battle.

    The Spoonerism clue was interesting and presented no problems – I wonder however if it had of been clued “Slight neck spasm for broken Chinese …” would have worked better with the swapping L for R and vice versa! :)

    Finally as in Andrew’s initial blog – I too did not see the correct parsing of HIP PER.

    What a cracking puzzle full of many challenges – and finally finished with mixed feelings of success (9a) and failure (17a / 16d).

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