Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize Puzzle No 25,993 by Crucible

Posted by bridgesong on July 13th, 2013


This is the first outing for Crucible in the prize slot for some while now, although this setter’s puzzles often feature in the Genius series.  The feature of this puzzle was the omission of a three letter word from the wordplay in thirteen of the clues.  The difficulty in such cases is to identify which clues are affected, but it quickly became obvious that the very first across clue was one of them, the letters of SEA being required to complete the anagram.  After that it was just a question of keeping an eye out for answers which looked as though they might include those letters.

There were some very nice surfaces, although I did have some reservations about  a couple of definitions, particularly 18 and 19 down.  10 across defeated me and I had to have reference to the annotated solution before completing the blog.

8 DISEASES Side’s phoney complaints (8)
*(SEA)SIDES. The first of the thirteen answers, and also the first clue which I solved, getting me off to a good start.
9 HYENAS Extremely happy and sensible around animals (6)
H(app)Y, SANE(rev).
10 SEES Eg Newcastle and Liverpool matches (4)
Double def: two English bishoprics, and a reference to matching a bet in poker.  I confess that although this answer did occur to me, I rejected it for something weaker (LEGS).
11 SEAMSTRESS Singer may help her trace of Mancunian accent (10)
(SEA) M(ancunian) STRESS. The definition “Singer may help her” is delightfully misleading, and no false capitalisation required.
12 A SHARP Key for Anglo-Saxon instrument (1,5)
14 LOVE SEAT See surgeon in cosy armchair (4,4)
(SEA) in LO VET.
15 SEA COWS Sirenians frighten divers ultimately (3,4)
(SEA) COW(diver)S.
17 EN MASSE Seamen set out across Spithead together (2,5)
*(SEAMEN S(pithead)). Here the three letter word appears in the clue as part of the anagram fodder. Not everyone will approve the use of Spithead to denote S.
20 CHAINSAW Tea was brought back home inside cutter (8)
CHA IN WAS(rev). In this clue “home” = “in” and “inside” puts it between the other two component parts.
22 TEE OFF Drive enemy back into grass (3,3)
FOE (rev) in TEF (a type of grass). I thought for a while it was going to be SEE OFF (which we had in the previous week’s Prize puzzle), but I eventually saw the correct answer.
23 RED SNAPPER Catch embarrassed paparazzo (3,7)
Double definition.
24 ROSS Not one of 5 2 Mussorgsky carried about (4)
Hidden reversal in Mussorgsky; the Ross Sea is in Antarctica.
25 SEA AIR It braces one during a run (3,3)
(SEA) 1 in A R(un).
26 ROUSSEAU Painter appears in sombrero, usually (8)
(SEA) in the hidden answer: sombreRO USUally. This threw me a bit at first; I wasn’t expecting a hidden answer with letters omitted, although there’s nothing in the preamble to prevent it.
1 LICENSEE Hangers-on seen off by local manager (8)
LICE, *SEEN. “Local manager” is a neat definition.
2 See 5
See 5
3 USES UP Exhausts cause supercharger’s casing to drop off (4,2)
Cleverly hidden in “causesupercharger”.
4 USEABLE Blue liquid ready to be applied (7)
(SEA) in *BLUE. It’s some time since I last saw “liquid” as an anagram indicator.
5,2 THE SEVEN SEAS No match in the ’70s for ancient mariner’s domain? (3,5,4)
THE SEVEN(tie) (SEA)S. Putting it into figures to mislead us – successfully, in my case.
6 HEARTS EASE Bloomer made by Scottish team at bottom of table (6-4)
(SEA) in HEARTS (tabl)E.
7 NAUSEA Naval apprentice upset initially by this? (6)
Initial letters of Naval apprentice upset, (SEA). Reminded me of C S Forester’s eponymous hero Horatio Hornblower, who was sea-sick on his first voyage as a midshipman.
13 ARCTIC SEAL Short item about cold northern swimmer (6,4)
(SEA) in (C in ARTICL(e)).
16 WISEACRE Cable tackles Conservative know-all (8)
(SEA) in (C in WIRE).
18 SAFE SEAT New candidate prefers this group to include a female (4,4)
(SEA) in (F in SET). The definition is “New candidate prefers this”: a little vague, I thought, since there is nothing in the clue to make it clear that it has a political context.
19 TWO-PART Work during conflict in Times shown on successive days? (3-4)
OP in WAR in T,T. But does it mean “shown on successive days”?
21 HEEDED What the Observer did, he did to the Listener (6)
Sounds like “he did”.
22 TORQUE Neckwear that’s almost too risqué is banned (6)
TO(o) R(is)QUE.
24 RASH Spots rook on tree (4)
R(ook), ASH.


26 Responses to “Guardian Prize Puzzle No 25,993 by Crucible”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks bridgesong. SEA emerged quite readily for me too per medium of 15. 10 was also my last and I still don’t like it much; SEE in poker has an element of challenge for me rather than matching. Nobody else need know what you hold if you concede defeat. Perhaps ‘sights’ might have been a better choice than ‘sees’. I had to do some searching to find TEF is a sort of grass.

  2. Biggles A says:

    Sorry, I should have said ‘sights’ might have been better than ‘matches’.

  3. HKColin says:

    Thanks bridgesong. I picked up the missing word immediately from 8ac as well and then had no problems the rest of the way. Over too quickly for a Prize puzzle I thought. My last in was 10ac also, I just needed to check that both were bishoprics. I accept that in the cardplay there is a sense of challenge in “I’ll see you” but in betting terms it means to match the bet so I think it is sound.

  4. rhotician says:

    Biggles A : See ‘see’ #16 in Collins – to match another player’s bet.
    If you want to challenge a bet you raise.
    ‘sights’ loses the misdirection towards football.

    The clue is brilliant in its own right, with the bonus here of sounding like the thematically absent SEAs.

    Perhaps you didn’t like it because you took a long time to “see” it and concluded that it must therefore be unfair. When I take a long time to get an answer it’s usually because, as here, it’s a very good clue.

  5. michelle says:

    Even though I failed to solve 10a, I really loved this puzzle: every clue was a joy to solve. I was lucky to discover the correct 3-letter word SEA via some of the earliest clues I solved (5d, 15a & 14a).

    As well as all 13 of the answers containing SEA, my favourites were 23a, 20a, 12a, 1d & 22d (last in).

    Thanks for the blog, bridgesong. I didn’t know how to parse 22a.

    You have one small typo in 18d which should be (SEA) in (A F in SET).

  6. Afan says:

    In 17a, I think the extra ‘S’ comes from Spit-head i.e. the head (first letter) of the sub-word “Spit”.
    In 19d, I took “shown on successive days” as alluding to the fact that “W(OP)AR” itself was between the two ‘T’s. Anyone got other thoughts on this?

  7. Afan says:

    Further to my previous comment @6 re 17a (“Spithead” for ‘S’) – I recall “Gateshead” being often used to denote the letter ‘G’.

  8. Afan says:

    I have just had another thought about “shown on successive days” in 19d. (see @6 above)
    This is the definition part of the clue, is it not? For example, the two parts of a “two-part” TV show would normally be shown on different days, often on successive days. So, a TV show “shown on successive days” would be, for example, “two-part”.

  9. molonglo says:

    Thanks bridgesong. Another Prize done in a trice, barring the ultra-annoying last two letters, in 10a. Guessed SEES but saw it little better that gels, legs, gets, nets, reds etc. The special instructions actually accelerated the solving process, once the penny dropped early with SAFE SEAT.

  10. NeilW says:

    Thanks, bridgesong.

    A nice idea but, unluckily for me, I found this very easy – DISEASES was immediately apparent and the rest were mostly write-ins as a consequence. My COD was ROUSSEAU – what a clever variation on the theme!

    10ac seemed pretty obvious – as in the typical movie script, “I’ll see your X and raise you Y.” (Isn’t the challenge a “call”?)

    Afan @8 is right: the question mark is in the clue to indicate “often but not necessarily”.

  11. crosser says:

    Afan @8
    That’s exactly how I parsed it, a two-part serial.

  12. Brendan (not that one) says:

    1 across gave the three letter sea theme instantly so fairly straightforward from there!

    Only real hold-ups were “trace of Mancunian” for M and sees for matches?

    I actually think Collins abd SOED misuenterstand the meaning of a Poker “see”. As I understand it “see” means I will see your cards! (Of course you hav to match the opponents stake! Alternatively one can say “Match” that and raise you …. So “see” doesn’t actually mean match!

    However I am most likely wrong!

    Thanks to Bridgesong and Crucible

  13. Recyclotron says:

    I still don’t understand 22d – why “neckwear”?
    I also thought 10 across had so many other potential answers.
    But some enjoyment, though I’ve enjoyed others more.

    ….still an apprentice cruciverbalist …..

  14. Andy B says:

    I agree with NeilW@10 that ROUSSEAU was the best of the themed answers. SEES was my LOI and I thought it was an excellent clue because of the misdirection. I don’t have a problem with see=match in a poker context, nor do I have a problem with the definitions for TWO-PART and SAFE SEAT.

  15. Davy says:

    Thanks bridgesong,

    Yes the missing word was immediately apparent from the first clue but I did not find the rest mainly write-ins. Nor I suspect did the vast majority of people attempting this puzzle.

    There were many clever clues of which my favourites were 11a (SEAMSTRESS -my COD), 26a (ROUSSEAU), 5,2 (THE SEVEN SEAS – I liked the clue construction) and 6d(HEARTS EASE – excellent surface).

    I failed on 10a despite it being seemingly obvious. Shame on anyone who got it wrong.

    Many thanks to Crucible for a very interesting puzzle.

  16. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Recyclotron @13
    Under ‘torque’ Chambers has “a necklace or armband in the form of a twisted metal band (also torc)”.

  17. tupu says:

    Thanks bridgesong and Crucible

    An enjoyable puzzle apart from 10a. I too plumped rather desperately for legs which fitted ‘matches’ but I naturally couldn’t parse it – I saw ‘sees’ for the cities but not for the ‘matches’.

    I ticked 15a, 17a, 23a, 26a, 4d, and 16d.

  18. tykeitfromme says:

    I also had LEGS for 10a. NEDS would have done too, although they’re scallies (scallys?) in Liverpool. REDS at a pinch. And both cities have Walkers!

  19. michelle says:

    Obviously, as one who failed to solve 10a, I did not find the answer “pretty obvious”. I’m not complaining, I just did not SEE it (even if it was “obvious”). Still, I loved this puzzle!

    I agree with you – I don’t have a problem with the definitions for TWO-PART & SAFE SEAT.

  20. Brianjp says:

    I thought that this was an easy puzzle as i got sea straight away from 1 ac.
    Then right at the end i could not get 10ac. I thought it might be seas as I must have miscounted
    the number of them. But of course had no idea how that might be constructed.

  21. rrc says:

    I am afraid I dislike this sort of puzzle intently having got the three letter word I then lost interest in it..

  22. bridgesong says:

    Thanks all for your comments, and I’m glad that I wasn’t the only one to find 10ac troublesome. Four letter words are often more difficult than longer ones, because there are more possibilities, so the setter has to come up with a clue which doesn’t admit for any real doubt once the answer has been deduced. For me, the lightbulb simply didn’t go on, SEES was just one of a number of possible answers that I rejected.

    For those seeking a sterner challenge can I recommend this month’s Genius puzzle (available on the Guardian’s website) which is also by Crucible. 13 across in that puzzle is an absolute cracker and very topical to boot. I’ll be blogging the puzzle at the end of the month,

  23. NeilW says:

    Sorry I seem to have upset a few people by saying 10ac was obvious – what I meant was that it was obvious *to me*. I am surprised, though, that some still feel that it was particularly hard now they know the answer.

    bridgesong, I don’t think “those seeking a sterner challenge” need go so far: happily A is back today and his brief absence from prize setting was just that he was taking a longer run-up than usual to bowl us a real fizzer.

  24. sidey says:

    I feel an opportunity to link 10 as a homophone to the thirteen unclued bits was missed.

  25. Martin P says:

    Like many chaps I never RTFM, so had struggled, but eventually deducing there to be some recurring device, an absence, which I further reckoned to be “sea”.

    I then thought “Ah. Wonder if I’ve missed a special instruction?”…

    Actually, it made for a satisfying challenge and I didn’t regret my earlier haste.

  26. PeeDee says:

    Thank you bridgesong. SEES was my last in and favourite clue. The surface reading was clearly about football but the clue blindsides you by being about bishoprics and gambling. Great misdirection and a straightforward double definition, no liberties taken to get the effect.

    I didn’t fid the puzzle as a whole as easy as of the some commenters here, sort of middling difficulty for the Guardian. The special instructions led me to expect something pretty tough though, so maybe getting something tractable could seem as a let-down.

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