Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,391/Araucaria – Herbal medicine

Posted by rightback on May 24th, 2008


Solving time: 45 mins

This was the hardest Guardian prize puzzle for ages and I thought for a while that I was going to fail it completely, with less than half of the grid filled. Eventually I realised that ‘nick of time’ at 22dn was incorrect, and after that I started to make some slow progress. A few clues I’m not keen on, but probably no more than usual for this setter.

Music of the day would be The Dambusters March by 23ac, but no link again I’m afraid as I can’t seem to fix the sound on my machine.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

1 A NAT[ional] [an]THEM A[re] – at the time I thought this was a hidden clue, but it’s actually ‘Extracts from’ the words in question. This is anathema to me; cf 23ac.
9 BASIL (double definition)
10 HER + B[rother] – I didn’t know herb bennet, so the reference to 3dn was no help for that clue.
11 NEOTERICAL; (NOTE)* + ERIC + AL (as in ‘et al’) – difficult word, too hard for me until I’d cracked 23a. I’m not sure about AL for ‘others'; this seems a bit like cluing (e.g.) K as ‘Kingdom’ because UK stands for United Kingdom. See also 22ac.
12 ROBERT – my last entry, also very tough as I’d not heard of herb Robert.
14 ROSE + MARY, two defs – one of the few relatively easy clues, and even then only once HERB was in place at 10ac.
15 WELCOME; “WHELK UM” – rather under-checked (only 3 in 7) and a difficult homophone; ‘speech to X’ meaning ‘sounds like X’ is questionable, but that wasn’t the reason this took me so long.
20 METEORIC – I guess this is an allusion to the phrase ‘meteoric rise’, and to the fact that meteors tend to come down to earth rather than go up. Not my favourite clue.
22 JACK (= ‘boy’) + ET (= ‘and’) – like ‘others’ for AL in 11ac, I don’t think ‘and’ for ET is really fair. ‘Version of one in 23′ is a reference to COATES (= “COATS”) in the next clue.
23 ERIC COATES; [p]ICCO[lo] in (EASTER)* – if I hadn’t heard of Eric Coates (who composed, amongst other things, the Dambusters March) I very much doubt if I’d have finished this crossword. I finally got this from the definition when I realised my error in 22dn, which was lucky, because the wordplay is terrible (‘piccolo part’ for ICCO?).
24 TIDE; rev. of EDIT[ion] – I actually quite like this clue (ignoring the meaningless surface reading). I had T??? so was expecting the T to be from TIME (24dn) but actually it’s a reference to the phrase ‘Time and tide wait for no man’.
26 TRIM + MING – another hard one. I’d been through several Campbells, including Alastair, Donald, Darren and Soups, before remembering MING.
1 ONCE MORE (double definition) – a good surface reading, but the two definitions are exactly the same which makes this a poor clue.
2 STAB; rev. of BATS – ‘turn crazy’ almost always indicates STAB or STUN.
3 BEN + NET – my penultimate solve. Elizabeth Bennet was the main character in Pride and Prejudice.
4 SAVOURY; “SAVORY” – I thought I knew the herb ‘savory’ but needed all the checking letters to be sure.
5 O + B(S)ESS + ED
6 A (= ‘one’) + STIGMATIC – not just a double definition as I assumed when solving. The story of St Francis receiving the stigmata is here.
7 AL[is]TAIR – one of the brightest stars in the sky.
13 ECCLES + CAKE (=’ soap’) – I got ‘cake’ quite early on but struggled with the first word. I guess ‘piece of church’ refers to ‘ecclesiastical’ or a related word, but this is hardly fair (cf 8ac, 23ac)
16 MARJORAM; MAR[y] + JO + rev. of MAR[y] – solved by enumerating 8-letter herbs. This was about 5th on the list.
18 OVERDONE – I needed all four letters for this, and a post-solve Google search to explain it. Mistress OVerdone runs a brothel in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.
19 ACE + TATE – should maybe have been quicker with this one.
21 EU + ROPE – hard. I needed two definite and one probable crossing letter before seeing this, and still took a while to twig that ‘eu-‘ is a prefix meaning ‘good’ or ‘well’ (from the Greek).
22/24 JUSTIN + TIME (= ‘thyme’) – putting in ‘nick of time’ here really held me up.

8 Responses to “Guardian 24,391/Araucaria – Herbal medicine”

  1. Eileen says:

    Snap! I too was held up for a while by putting in ‘nick of time’ but 22ac had to be JACKET. I read this as ‘and version’, version meaning translation, [French and Latin] so I thought it was fair.

    I share your reservations about the parts of words in 8ac, 23ac and 13dn. but would always forgive Araucaria almost anything and I really enjoyed this puzzle.

    It was pretty easy to get onto the theme. 10ac. had to be herb [confirmed immediately by the very easy 14ac] and 3dn had to be Bennet, though I didn’t know it was a herb. I did know herb Robert. I liked the clue for MARJORAM.

  2. Comfy Settee says:

    Didn’t find this one too tough, having got BENNET straight away, with HERB (and the theme) becoming obvious straght after. Perhaps I was lucky that I got them in this order!

    METEORIC was an interesting one… as well as relating to meteors, it can also relate to weather (as per meteorolgy), and METEORIC WATER is precipitation, thereby, giving another slant to the “coming down” angle.

    ACETATE held me up slightly, because I tend to think of it as sheets of material rather than a fibre – a hangover from the days of OHPs, I suppose.

  3. Andrew says:

    20ac for METEORIC was a strange one – hardly a cryptic clue at all, I thought.

    I knew ERIC COATES, but I agree about “icco” and the other “partial” indications. Very Araucarian, and not too hard to crack, but rather unsatisfactory.

  4. Geoff says:

    Fortunately I was familiar with both Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) and Herb Bennet (aka Wood Avens, Geum urbanum), both of which grow (as wild intruders) in my garden.

    Agree that this was trickier than most other recent offerings by Araucaria, to some extent precisely because it contained more of his trademark liberalisms. As far as I am concerned, he always manages to bend the rules just within the limits of intelligibility – ‘et’, ‘al’, ‘icco’ etc are unorthodox but not too difficult to spot.

  5. Paul Daniel says:

    23 ac Eric Coates, inventor of piccolo toothbrush thingy.

  6. rightback says:

    Thanks to all commenters – looks like I found this more difficult than most people, but then I don’t have a garden! I wonder if Araucaria had heard of the ‘other’ Eric Coates?

  7. Colin Blackburn says:

    Bend the rules? If there are any rules—I consider there are—then I’d say Araucaria breaks them fair and square! What he does though is break them to often great effect. He knows what he’s doing and he does it very well. He breaks the rules because he knows the rules. This contrasts with the sort of setter who does a puzzle for a small society newsletter. They solve the Times puzzle day-in-day-out but then break all the rules when they set because they don’t realise there are any rules. This is often seen in submissions to the Times clue-writing competition, and even the Azed competition from time to time.

  8. Gail says:

    I’m late to this, I know, but I’ve been lurking on Fifteen Squared for some time…

    Strange, I found this one of His Lordship’s easier themed puzzles. I got Overdone as my very first clue (being of a literary bent I realised it was the Bard’s Bawd)with Bennet to follow (again due to my love of Austen). Herb then followed quickly. But like others I had Nick of Time which held me up!

    I can’t agree that Araucaria is unfair. I always find him the most imaginative of setters, and I’ve been enjoying his puzzles for over 30 years now.

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