Posted by rightback on January 27th, 2007
Solving time: 20:01. One mistake (2dn) so the last 3 of those minutes were wasted!
I know the Guardian allows its setters much more licence than most publications (and that some setters are allowed more than others), and I know Araucaria is a veteran and has a big fan club and is rather an acquired taste, but I’m afraid I didn’t think much to this puzzle at all. Some of the clues are really poor and there are too few good, or even sound, clues to redress the balance. Bizarre and implausible surface readings are a normal feature of Araucaria’s clues, but several of these were barely English, while a number of the cryptic readings have either completely extraneous words or incorrect grammar. An ambiguity in 23dn didn’t help matters either.
On the other hand, I didn’t not enjoy the puzzle while solving, and I learnt some new words. And I think 1ac/8dn is a pretty good clue: once again the initial capital trick fooled me.
* = anagram.
|1||INTERNATIONAL (= test) + BACCA (“backer”) + LAUREATE (= (Andrew) Motion) – this took me quite a few crossing letters; spotting it straight away from the definition, as I’m sure some solvers would have, might have halved my time, given the position of the answer (first row and first column).|
|10||AU + XI + (L for d)IARY – the first ‘for’ in the clue is superfluous and unjustifiable.|
|11/12||HALF-A-CROWN; (FOR CAL)* in HAWN (= Goldie) – the grammar in this clue is wrong, ‘turn’ can be an instruction to jumble letters but not in the middle of a phrase like this (“…about turn for Cal”). The surface is poor as well, unless I have missed that ‘Cal’ refers to a specific person.|
|13||[apo]THEC[ary] + RUN + CH – the definition is worded accurately but renders the surface reading meaningless.|
|14||LAIR + AGE – a place where cattle are housed in a cattle market. Again, ‘for’ is superfluous in this clue.|
|16||FLIPPER (double definition)|
|18||[nehr]U + PAND[it] + U.P. – Wikipedia confirms that Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister (1947-64) was known as ‘Pandit‘ and that U.P. is a common abbreviation for the Indian state of Utter Pradesh.|
|20||DIES NON; (NOSE)* in DIN (= row) – a day on which judges don’t sit, literally ‘not a day’. I didn’t know the phrase but it was clear from the clue by analogy with (e.g.) sine die or Verdi’s magnificent Dies Irae.|
|21||EASY MONEY – which can mean money borrowed at a low rate of interest, or simply money made easily, i.e. ‘money for old rope’.|
|25||AGONISTES; AGO + rev. of SIN + rev. of SET – an epithet meaning ‘the struggler’. This was a new word to me, but the wordplay was fairly unambiguous, despite the superfluous ‘when’. The clue refers to John Milton’s Samson Agonistes.|
|26/9dn||A ROLLING STONE GATHERS NO MOSS; (SO LONG SINGER AS HORMONAL TEST)* – after a very slow start this was a breakthrough clue for me, solved via Mick (Jagger) and confirmed by Kate (Moss). The surface here is a little better, but the clue lacks a definition and an anagram indicator.|
|2||NUX VOMICA; (MCVXI (= 1116) O)* inside NUA[nced] -I didn’t know this stimulant and spent a few minutes trying to unravel this clue at the end. I thought 1116 might break down into (11 = XI) and (16 = XVI) so went for ‘nux iovixa’. But ‘semi’ can’t sensibly mean ‘the first 3 letters of a 7-letter word’, and what the surface reading means is anyone’s guess.|
|3||[cart]EL LEN[ding] – easy but inelegant, given the superfluous ‘money’.|
|4||N + A + ART + JE – one of the better clues, and a word (meaning a type of small orange) I learnt from a recent Sunday Times Mephisto.|
|5||THYSELF; (FELT SHY)* – Alexander Pope wrote: “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is man”.|
|6||OT (rev. of ‘to’) + HER[b] + WISE (= sage)|
|15||AB (= a seamanship rating) + DOMINA (= Latin for ‘mistress) + L[augh] – ‘Latin’ can mean ‘an inhabitant of ancient Latium’, so this ‘for’ can be considered not superfluous; this is a better clue, I can accept ‘laugh starts’ = ‘L’ as a normal Guardianism.|
|17||PIN + KERTON (“curtain”) – ‘eye’ as in ‘private eye’, after the American detective Allan Pinkerton. The question mark just about excuses the problem with stress in the homophone.|
|19||P + UN(JAB)I|
|20||DAYLONG; [p]YLON in DAG (= ‘gad’ about)|
|22||ST (= saint) AIR – ‘takes’ does not seem to work as a link word and the wordplay (‘sacred melody’) is very stretched.|
|23||SHIFT or SKIRT – unless there is a theme I have missed, which I doubt given the perimeter entries, either answer is perfectly justifiable. ‘Skirt’ can mean ‘move’ as in ‘skirt around the town’, and a ‘shift’ can mean ‘a women’s undergarment, smock, chemise or slip’ or ‘a loose dress’. Poor editing, especially in a prize puzzle. If I had to guess, I’d probably go with ‘shift’, which is slightly better for ‘something to wear’ than ‘skirt’ is for ‘move’.|