Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 23,957 / Araucaria – a Midwinter Day’s Puzzle

Posted by petebiddlecombe on December 30th, 2006


Solving time 33:50

It’s good to be writing our first posting about a kind of puzzle I’ve looked forward to ever since I started solving cryptic crosswords. Back in the late 1970s, when there was no Independent magazine or Enigmatic Variations as an alternative to the Listener (which I wasn’t ready for anyway), Guardian Bank Holiday puzzles were a big event. One of my oldest solving memories is of a weekend with some family friends. The father, a maths lecturer at Brunel, had the puzzle on a clipboard which was passed around, and we chipped away at one of those double-grid puzzles. I miss those, and would rather see their return than the jigsaw/perimeter quote gimmick that’s been the norm recently.

This was a fairly easy example, maybe too easy – I spotted the exact theme (characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) when MOTH and COBWEB looked like possible answers at 41 and 42, and “stage set” in the preamble made it fairly transparent. (Always assuming you had a preamble – the paper version did, but yet again the Guardian’s crossword website left it out until they patched it up. You would think by now that they’d be able to get this stuff right.) There are arguably more characters in MND, but these are the ones in Pyramus and Thisbe, the play within a play, who are played by other characters. And if you’re wondering about Philostrate at 16, he (or maybe she?) appears in the “additional passages” at the end of the play in my complete Shakespeare, though not in the Dramatis Personae.

There are various things I could quibble about in the clues, but I’m not going to mention them in detail. And I’m keeping my Shakespeare handy just in case he does the same with Twelfth Night for the New Year puzzle.

15 THE S.E. U.S.
17 Hippoly,T.A. Outrageous fun like Large beastly = Hippoly is the good side of Araucarian unorthodoxy.
18 (p)ORGY
21 (pyr)AMID
25 (F)LUTE – flute and lute both being instruments. I’m sure others pondered PIANO.
29 STAR(VE(nom))LING
34 GRIDIRON – on which St Lawrence was famously(?) martyred.
37 C.(ORG(y))I.
41 MOT,H Mot =Fr. for word, as in “bon mot”.
42 COB,WEB – Cob nut = hazelnut
47 DEMETRIUS – anag.
49 TH(REES)EATER – Martin Rees is the current Astronomer Royal, it turns out.
51 TIT,(m)ANIA
4 GO TO THE WALL – ref. the play within a play, where Pyramus and Thisbe are on opposite sides of a wall, which is played by one of the mechanicals. That’s what I remember, anyway.
6 EX-UBER-ANT – I’m sure another Guardian setter has used this one
8 BATH PLUG – ref. the expression about the baby and the bathwater, though as it involves throwing, I don’t think a plug was involved.
22 MONS (WW1 battle),TER(ror) ref. “My mistress with a monster is in love” – said by Puck about Titania and Bottom
23 SER(VAN)T – as Puck was to Oberon
24 B(UL(t))LOCK
35 DE(C)ATH,LON(don)
36 RO,BOR,ANT = a strengthener, presumably from same ultimate root as “robust”
38 INKER(man),ASER=ears* – Inkerman was a Crimean war battle
39 DO(MI=I’m<=)NATE
46 HELENA (Montana)
48 MITRE – 2 mngs – at least the second clue I’ve seen recently where the Bishop of Southwark might be grateful for the longish “lead times” for crosswords.

6 Responses to “Guardian 23,957 / Araucaria – a Midwinter Day’s Puzzle”

  1. says:

    I managed to complete this without the preamble, although I quickly suspected it should have one, especially as I didn’t look at it until Sunday and was kind of getting used to that! Once I’d cottoned on to the theme it was quite easy to spot the MND characters, and look out for where the others would fit.

  2. says:

    Not being a regular Araucaria solver, I normally struggle to fuly appreciate all the cluing. The one that really baffled me was 49ac Three-seater. OK with wordplay – Astronomer in US playhouse = Rees in theater, but “has car with dickey”??? I’m probably missing the obvious but can someone explain this definition.
    Cheers, Mark

  3. says:

    Collins in has “a folding outside seat at the rear of some early cars US and Canadian name: rumble seat” which I admit is obscure.

    So presumably early cars had two front seats and if you had a “dickey” you had a third seat. To be honest, when I solved this I was happy with THREE-SEATER being a kind of car and didn’t do the extra leg work.

  4. says:

    I should have mentioned “dickey”. Chambers extends this meaning to include carriages as well as cars. Of all the “dickey” meanings in Collins, I only knew the bird, the male false shirt front, as in “dickey and cuffs”, and the bow tie one.

  5. says:

    Just found this really useful blog – thank you. Missed yesterday’s Guardian so was able to fill in clues I’d missed – impressed with your time. Can’t find 52 across???

  6. says:

    52A: You can’t be cheating enough – if you’re happy to resort to books, you can get EGEUS from the Dramatis Personae list as he’s the only character left. If not (I managed without and checked Philostrate afterwards), choose between kicking yourself as it’s a hidden word (collEGE USed), or moaning a bit about the redundant word “drugs” in the “hiding place”.

    My time: I do have a reputation to maintain – see “Contributors”.

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