Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 23,989, Arachne: Nag a ram, perhaps?

Posted by michod on February 1st, 2007


What makes a good anagram indicator? This puzzle combines what, to me, are some excellent anagrinds and some weaker ones, so I thought I’d set out my own personal likes and dislikes.  “At sea”, ”in distress” and “terrible” are obviously fine, though it’s a shame the latter appears twice. I don’t object to nounal indicators per se, but “barge” in 11 Across doesn’t work for me – a barge, as in a shove, might make you wobble a bit, but shouldn’t knock you down unless you play for Chelsea. “Out” is not all that logical when you stop to think, but it’s an established convention. But for some reason I can’t feel the same about “perhaps”. It’s very useful to indicate an example of something, as in 19 Down, but why should 20 Across “Perhaps Cherie” mean “perhaps cherie, or eriche, or c-erihe”? Perhaps it’s just used when no more fitting indicator presents. On the plus side, 15 across’s ‘liquid’, 6 down’s “out of the ordinary” and 16 Down’s “active” were all examples of an anagrind woven into the clue to great effect.


10. BaRmAiDs.

11. LANCASHIRE. HIRES CANAL*. Unsatisfactory anagrind is ‘barge’ – see preamble.

12. DULLES(t).

14. founD ETON A TErrific. Excellent hidden clue full marks.

15. (give)S NOWMA N. WOMAN*, good non-obvious anagrind in ‘liquid’.

17. BESTI AL. BITES* + AL(l).

20. CLERIHEW. CHERIE W L*. Perhaps not – see above.

22. BANNER. Nice double def.

23. IN(C.O.)HERENT. C.O.= consciencious objector, and a nice change from company.

24. PAIR? Can’t see the wordplay though.

25. NESSIE. IS SEEN* (at sea).



1. STAR TURN. Avon = Nova turned around.

3. SMELTS. Double meaning, using fish as plural.

4. GRENADE. DANGER* (terrible) + E.

6. WASHINGTON. WAS NOTHING*. I liked this anagram a lot, very good surface.

7. BE(IR U)T.

13. LOWER HOUSE. Lower as a verb.

16. ATHLETES. THE LEAST* (active).  Ilan’s emailed to suggest this type of clue should have a special name (+non-lit?), but to me it’s just another very good concise anagram clue.

18. AMERICAN. IN CAMERA*. Very loose definition and a pretty long phrasal anagrind – “would allow one to torture” – but it works.

19. SWEETIE. WE SEE IT*. (terrible). Perhaps is used here as part of the definition.

24. P AGE. It looked like SAGE, but I think it’s P for Prince, i.e. King’s son, + age.

3 Responses to “Guardian 23,989, Arachne: Nag a ram, perhaps?”

  1. says:

    24ac – in cricket if you fail to score any runs in either innings of a Test match, you get a pair (of ducks).

  2. says:

    As Mick noted I think 16D is a great example of a new category (for me): “The least active sportsmen” is both a nicely constructed anagram and it defines its opposite. So I’m tempted to called it an “anag &counter-lit” (or for UK solvers: “anag &anti-lit).

    My reasoning is that if say the clue was: “The most active sportsmen” and somehow anag(“The most”) spelt ATHLETES, we’d certainly say “anag &lit”.

    Surprised you didn’t mention the political digs — especially at American politicians (Rumsfeld, who no doubt deserves them and Dulles, who probably does as well) — not to mention the threat of nuclear war (uranium in Iran and bombs about to explode both at Eton and on planet earth!).

  3. says:

    I triggered a discussion about this on rec.puzzles.crosswords (should have kept quiet!) — anyway, based on the comments there, I think this is really a &semi-lit variant: since it has the form: wordplay + definition = enhanced definition (using Manley’s terms). So, this variant could be called &anti-semi-lit — and at the risk of repeating a bad joke, I’m Jewish and take no offense!)

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