Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 23912/Araucaria

Posted by ilancaron on November 2nd, 2006


Solving time: 1h+

Ah, Araucaria. The most Ximenean of the crowd in terms of wordplay but absolutely a horror when it comes to meaningful surfaces.

Today’s theme is putting out fires. As per usual, there are new words and phrases to learn and lookup (not in that order!): 9A, 24A (spelling), 21D, 22A…


1 CUS+TOM+ER – charade with three familiar cryptic idioms: abbrev for copper (the metal not the policeman or money), tomcat and the current queen. The definition is a bit indirect since there are lots of other things in the market.
9 AN(ALEC)TS – Alec is a boy’s name inside our hard-working crossword workers. A classic case of wordplay being solvable given the crossing letters leading to learning a new word meaning a collection of phrases.
10 GOS+SIP – apparently a charade of GOS (from goshawk: “hawk a little” thanks to r.pc.) + SIP (drink). And it’s what many of us do to get through the day. GOS isn’t in any dictionary that I consulted (don’t have Chambers): interestingly GOSS means “to spit” which is a synonym of a meaning of “hawk”, but this would create overlap in the wordplay.
12 P(RE+EMIN)ENCE – Tracy Emin has cropped up elsewhere in a recent puzzle – a sign of the times when Tracy refers to her and not Spencer nor Dick. Again not my favorite surface reading.
19 K+R+ON+A – charade starting with the classic crossword abbrevs for kings. Not so sure what “standard” adds to the clue: other than KRONA is a standard coin in Sweden.
27 DRY RISER – anag(“derry is r”): need to solve 4D and 8D beforehand (related to putting out fires). Another case of the wordplay being tractable and resulting in a new phrase (for me). A DRY RISER is a kind of fire extinguishing installation in tall buildings.


4 EX+TIN+GU(I)SHER – Good example of clean wordplay and contrived surface reading. But helped establish the theme. Note that the definition anthropomorphizes the extinguisher: “I put out”.
7, 8 HO(SE PI)PE – theme related: wordplay is clean and refers to the “fire alarm” in 16D. HOPE contains anag(“pies”).
11 ENGINE DRIVER – theme-related cryptic definition.
14 BREAKS+PEAR – Now this was esoteric – turns out that Nicholas Breakspear was the only English pope as Adrian IV in the 12th century. Not sure about the Hadrian spelling – but then again being pedantic about spelling wasn’t a mediaeval forte: perhaps the setter felt he needed to mislead in the direction of the emperor to make it even harder.
16 FI(RE AL+A)RM – The key to the theme (I needed to solve this first to get going). Yet another instance of clean wordplay with a rough surface.
21, 18 CIDER WITH ROSIE – Never read nor heard of it. Oh well. Wordplay is OK and I struggled to the answer through inspired guesswork and finally checking here. . Definition is “Lee’s volume”, “drink” is cider and the tea is “rosie”: cockney rhyming slang derived from “Gypsy Rosie Lee” (thanks to PeterB for edifying me).

4 Responses to “Guardian 23912/Araucaria”

  1. says:

    I suspect some would dispute the bit about Ximenean wordplay – A is regarded as the arch-non-Ximenean setter by many, though this is rather a caricature.

    BTW, new format and link-list organisation looks nice to me, though I quite liked the pic of the biro as a thing associated with xwd-solving.

  2. says:

    I suppose it’s a bit like the curate’s egg — you’re either Xean or you’re not.

    My thought is that A is very precise about the wordplay part of his clues (a la X) but completely unfair when it comes to the surface.

  3. says:

    Unfairness in puzzles usually results when setters try to force a ‘nicer’ surface reading without consideration for the grammatical structure at the cryptic level.

    In Araucaria and other so-called Araucarians such as Enigmatist (RIP) or Shed, you’re far more likely to see a strained or difficult – as opposed to unfair – surface reading accommodating the clue workings.

  4. says:

    Off topic:
    Why does Fifteensquared (a good title, congrats) figure in “Other crossword sites” on its own site?

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