Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,475 (Bank Holiday special, Sat 23 Aug)/Araucaria – Bird’s Nest

Posted by rightback on August 30th, 2008


Solving time: 75 mins, four wrong before using a dictionary (43ac, Q, X and Y).

I always seem to enjoy Araucaria’s Bank Holiday specials and this was no exception, so Araucaria fans will probably rave over this. The 26 alphabetical clues were all (more or less) wordplay-only clues to birds beginning with the relevant letter. I looked at these clues first so twigged to the theme early on (IBIS, LARK and SWALLOW were all pretty easy) but got in a pickle with the 6-letter birds (F, G, M and Y) and also H, together with a few normal clues, especially in the top right and bottom left corners.

Of the four I got wrong, one was just a misspelling (Q), two I maybe should have done better with (X and Y) and 43ac I have just this minute grasped while posting this. At least I did better than usual at keeping track of the alphabet clues: I circled a clue number when I’d placed it and put a line through it when I’d solved it, so I didn’t end up with clues that I’d solved but not placed and then forgot about, which I normally do. Also, a quick early scan of the enumerations for the alphabet clues helped.

I’ve listed the clues as they were published, and put the location of the alphabetical clues in brackets after the letter.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

13 MOO RAGE – not ‘moo ring’ which I originally put, and which doesn’t make much sense.
14 HE + AVE – classic Araucaria, requiring ‘Pullman’ to be split into ‘Pull’ (= HEAVE) and ‘man’ (= HE). Not really cricket, but at least you learn to expect it after a while. Sorry, did someone mention the cricket?
15 CAMPHOR; (M.P.H. 0) in CAR – ‘0 mph’ seemed more natural than ‘mph 0′ here, so I put in ‘comphar’ before realising that I knew the word after all. Camphor is used as an insect repellant, hence ‘mothball’.
16 RUDDY (double definition) – ‘intensifier’ in the sense of ‘England gave South Africa a ruddy good thrashing’.
17 ARUNDEL; A + RUN (= ‘series’) + rev. of LED (= ‘was first’) – I only knew this because Sussex occasionally play county matches at Arundel, which is supposed to be one of England’s most beautiful grounds. I’m glad I did, too, because without it I might not have finished the top right corner.
23 QUOT(H.H.)E – this is a bit weak, using ‘quote’ in the wordplay for ‘quoth he’. Some people get very upset about ‘quote’ being used as a noun to mean ‘quotation’, but it is listed in Chambers (as an informal usage). H.H. stands for His Holiness.
25 ELK HOUND; (HULK DONE)* – good anagram, passed me by on first reading. I love the surface reading, which suggests the mustachioed Mark Spitz arranging a seeing-to for Michael Phelps for beating his record of gold medals at a single Olympics.
30 ESTATES – couldn’t see this, even with all four crossing letters. The ‘fourth estate’ is slang for the press; Araucaria has used this quite recently, but I’d forgotten it.
33 GERM + ANOPH[eles] + ILIA – using ‘mosquito, largely’ for ‘five of the nine letters of an obscure genus of mosquitos’ is asking a lot! I was held up here by an incorrect ‘Bedford’ at 27dn, and only when ‘-ilia’ occurred to me did I spot the answer and realise that the relevance of the Pope here is just his nationality.
43 FLYTE; “FLIGHT”? – I couldn’t get this and guessed fayre/”fair”. It would help if I’d read Brideshead Revisited, which is about the Flyte family. I spent forever last night trying to understand this clue & couldn’t, then posted this morning and immediately twigged – the alphabet in question is of course the one in this puzzle, which are all birds (hence ‘flight’).  
45 SPELL (double definition) – I wasted a lot of time in this area because I read ‘binding’ as ‘blinding’ and wrote in ‘flash’.
49 LI(FT)MA + N – clever definition for a lift attendant (‘I can give new floor’).
51 K + NOLL – at least I think that’s the wordplay: K for ‘king’ and ‘Noll’ apparently being the Royalists’ nickname for Oliver Cromwell. I didn’t know that when solving, but K?O?L and ‘Bit of a hill’ couldn’t really give anything else.
52 S(HIPPO)N – a cattle shed.
55 IMAGERY; I, + rev. of E.G. in MARY
2 F(LAMB)E – one of the few give-away clues.
4 RETRIEVE; (TR[umps] + I) in REE, + ‘VE (= ‘have’) – the splitting of ‘I have’ into ‘I … VE’ is a bit naughty, but I thought ‘Partner to ruff’ was brilliant for REE, given the bridge-playing surface reading (the ree is the female variety of the bird known as the ruff).
7 NAVY (double definition)
9 THOUGH + T – not sure ‘Introduction to concession’ is quite right for ‘though’.
24 O.C. TO BE + R – brilliant!
27 BELFORD – I think this is: BEDFORD (= ‘County town with duke’, as in the Duke of Bedford), with L for D (= ‘left for dead’), giving BELFORD; apparently Belford Road is a big street in Edinburgh (= ‘Great North Road’). If that is the explanation it’s absolutely ridiculous, but if not (and perhaps the answer is wrong) then please could someone put me straight!
29 CHAD (triple definition) – St Chad is apparently the patron saint of astronomers.
32 SEA BASS; (BASE)* + ASS – the superfluous ‘for’ here in the middle of the wordplay spoils this clue.
35 ESCALLONIA; CALL ON in [rhod]ESIA – this clue and the previous two all seemed unfathomable until I corrected my mistake at 45ac (qv).
39 ESPALIER; PAL in E[a]SIER – a lattice holding tree branches.
40 JURA’S SIC – Scottish islands once again proving their worth. I have no idea how to pronounce this one (Jura), not being a whisky fan.
48 ENNUYE; ([te]NN[is] + U) in EYE – the past tense of ‘ennuyer’, meaning to bore.
50 NO O.K.
A (1dn) AVOCET; [viv]A VOCE + T
B (38ac) BARNACLE (cryptic defn) – a crustacean that sticks to the bottoms of ships, and a goose.
C (41dn) CARDINAL – held up here by thinking ‘Number’ = C, but it’s a double definition, a cardinal in the church being someone who would wear a particularly silly hat.
D (47dn) DIPPER – another double definition. I liked ‘Baptist’! The other one refers to the ‘Big Dipper’, a constellation also known as ‘Ursa Major’ (the Great Bear) or the Plough, which is extremely useful for navigating in the dark as two of its key stars point to the North Star.
E (19ac) [r]EGRET
F (43dn) FA(L)CON – presumably ‘façon’ is French for ‘style’, but I think that’s expecting a bit much.
G (10dn) GANDER; rev. of RED NAG – I struggled with this, it never occurred to me that there might be a definition (‘Look’) lurking amidst the reversal wordplay. I was thinking of death, famine etc for the horses of the Apocalypse, having forgotten they were of different colours.
H (22ac) [perc]HERON – no wonder I couldn’t fathom this, having never heard of a ‘percheron’ (a French breed of horse).
I (26ac) I + BIS
J (40ac) JACKDAW; JACK (= ‘fish’) + rev. of WAD – a ‘wad’ is slang for sandwich, and a ‘jack’ or ‘jackfish’ is a young pike; I suppose ‘collector’ because jackdaws collect things.
K (51dn) KITE (double defn) – both ‘crate’ and ‘kite’ are (or were) slang terms for aircraft; ‘box’ is an allusion to the phrase ‘box kite’.
L (37ac) LARK (double defn)
M (11dn) MERLIN (double defn) – ‘F’ (= ‘falcon’) wasn’t much help if it was unsolved! ‘Enchanting’ should really have been enough here, though, even if it’s the wrong part of speech.
N (3dn) NU + THATCH – more naughtiness, ‘untwisted’ = ‘UN twisted’ = NU, and ‘hair’ = THATCH.
O (53ac) OWLET; LE in (TWO)* (or rev. of TWO) – I have no idea if ‘disclosed’ here is supposed to be an anagram or reversal indicator, but it’s totally unsatisfactory as either. Almost as unsatisfactory, in fact, as ‘associated originally’ as an anagram indicator in yesterday’s Times Crossword, but that’s a different matter.
P (46ac) PART + RIDGE
Q (23dn) QUETZAL – humph, misspelt this as ‘quetzel’. Never mind. It’s the Guatemalan currency, and a Central American bird (one of these) also rather wonderfully known as the ‘resplendent trogon’, which sounds more like something out of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
R (36ac) RED POLL – Ha! I don’t think so, Mr Brown.
S (28dn) S.W. + ALLOW
T (31dn) TEA + L (= ‘plate’, as in L-plate)
U (5dn) UMBRETTE; UM + (BETTER)* – another name for the hammerhead, hence the nail reference.
V (12ac) VULTURE; V (= ‘fifth’) + ULT. (= ‘ultimo’, meaning ‘last month’, i.e. July) + URE (= ‘flower’ as in river)
W (6dn) WOOD + PECKER – ‘wood’ is Shakesperean for ‘mad’ (solvers of barred/thematic puzzles take note!), and ‘pecker’ is slang for ‘spirit’ (as in ‘keep your pecker up’ – honestly, it says so in Chambers!).
X (8dn) XEMA – oh tish pish posh, I got this one wrong as well (I put ‘xesa’, thinking ‘Marshal’ might be an instruction). This answer makes much more sense – it’s included in ‘Saxe Marshal’ (i.e. with the words inverted).
Y (44dn) YAFFLE; rev. of ELF + FAY – gaah, another one wrong! No excuses here, ‘ale’ is not ‘spirit’, ‘fay’ and not ‘fey’ is a fairy (though ‘fey’ does mean ‘fairy-like’) and anyway ‘yefela’ looks daft.
Z (34ac) ZEBRA P(A RAKE)ET – first word easy, second word hard.


Phew! Speaking of birds, I’m ferrying to Dublin for the weekend, so will reply to any comments on my return tomorrow night.

16 Responses to “Guardian 24,475 (Bank Holiday special, Sat 23 Aug)/Araucaria – Bird’s Nest”

  1. Shirley says:

    27D Belford is a beautiful town in Northumberland which used to be on the A1 but now has a bypass.

  2. Jane says:

    Dear Rightback
    I’d like to make a comment about your blogging style and wonder if there are any others out there who feel the same way. First of all let me say that I have huge respect for how quick and clever you are at solving and I appreciate how much effort you and all the other bloggers put in to fifteensquared. I’m fairly new to cryptics but it hasn’t taken me long to understand that people have their preferences for different styles of compiler. Personally I really love Araucaria and Paul, mainly because they make me laugh and give me great pleasure even though they tend to bend the ‘rules’. It always feels a little disappointing to read a blog like todays where you have clearly indicated the several occasions when you didn’t enjoy the clues. Do you think it might be better to try to arrange for people to blog those compilers they enjoy most, so that we can all gain from each others’ pleasure rather than have to put up with one anothers’ irritation. Please understand that I make this comment with a friendly spirit and would like to say again how much I appreciate the effort you all put in.

  3. muck says:

    I didn’t finish this, but got the theme fairly quickly from Z. Unlike most Araubeticals, there wasn’t anywhere else it could go. Some of the birds were pretty obscure, but you have to admire the man’s erudition.

    Disagreeing with Jane, I thought it was an excellent blog from Rightback. Very informative, but also willing to admit that he didn’t solve the whole thing in 10 minutes and even made some mistakes along the way.

  4. Eileen says:

    I wasn’t expecting to make a comment today because, with the Bank Holiday and everything, I didn’t finish this puzzle and, worse, I found I’d sent the paper for recycling and therefore couldn’t go back to it. However, I looked at today’s blog to see what I could remember and was immediately struck by what an excellent, thorough-going and self-effacing blog it was. I was tempted to thank Rightback for it but resisted, because I had no further comment to make.

    However, I can’t let Jane’s comment go without making a response. After yesterday’s blog, which was the most negative I have yet seen, I was surprised that she picked on this one for her observations. Rightback kicks off by saying that he usually enjoys Araucaria’s Bank Holiday offerings and that this was no exception. There are a few queries about some clues but most of the criticism is of himself, for having made mistakes.

    On Jane’s more general point: we all have our favourites – and my preferences exactly match hers! – but it would be a sad thing if that meant we could never venture a mild criticism. I know that I have several times said that I would forgive Araucaria almost anything and Paul gets away with a lot because he, too, is so witty, but that would not stop me questioning the odd clue.

    Jane, this, too, is offered in the friendliest of spirits. I’m not new to cryptic crosswords but I am [relatively] new to this site, which I have found an absolute joy and revel in the diversity of responses. Long may they continue!

    Rightback – I’m even more sorry now that I threw the paper out. Hope you had a good weekend!

  5. beermagnet says:

    4D A REEVE is the female ruff (as well as a REE) so we don’t have to acquire the VE from “‘ve” in the way described above. We had this Ruff/Reeve idea somewhere else recently but I can’t remember where.

  6. neildubya says:

    In response to Jane’s point about arranging for bloggers to post about only those compilers they really like: even if we wanted to do this, it would be almost impossible to organise as we don’t know in advance which compilers will be appearing on a given date. As it is, it’s much easier to assign a blogger to a particular day and let them get on with it.

  7. Dave Ellison says:

    I, too, put Bedford, but couldn’t see the connection with the Great North Road. This was embarassingly ironic; we were actually staying for a few days’ holiday in Belford at the time. Doh!

  8. Dave Ellison says:

    Is ther eanyway of cancelling a postin case youv emad e mistake or two, or checking speling? I did eventually put Belford and finished the crossword when I got home, with the help of one of my cheat books (oops! refernce books)

  9. don says:

    My only criticism of the blog it the unnecessary ya-boo “I did it in thirty seconds” comment, which is discouraging to those of us who spend “forever … trying to understand [a] clue … then … [next] morning … twig”.

  10. Fletch says:

    I can’t see anything wrong with this blog either, the overall impression is that Rightback enjoyed the puzzle.

    On the subject of negative blogs Eileen, I’ve seen a few here that would make Uncle Yap’s yesterday look positively enthusiastic!

  11. muck says:

    Best advice to all the dzlexix out there, whose comments I nevertheless enjoyed, is to read what you have written, B4 hitting the submit button!

  12. don says:

    Could someone please remind me what the clue was for 7D NAVY (double definition)? I remember that ‘service’ was one of the double definitons, but can’t remember the other. Obviously I didn’t get the answer, or ‘ruddy!

  13. Geoff Moss says:


    7d Service in the shade

  14. Comfy Settee says:

    Re 27dn. I think Im right in saying that Bedford in the US is the home of Duke University… which would explain the otherwise unnecessary reference to a Duke in this clue….

  15. don says:

    Thanks Geoff – they’re obvious, except when you’re ‘clueless’ like me!

  16. rightback says:

    Thank you very much to all commenters.

    On specific clues:

    27dn: Comfy Settee, I think Duke University is in Durham, North Carolina rather than Bedford (and I’m not sure even Araucaria could get away with not capitalising ‘Duke’ if that were the intention!), but thanks to Shirley for explaining the ‘Great North Road’ reference, given which I’m happy to downgrade ‘absolutely ridiculous’ to ‘stretching things’!

    4dn: Yes, REEVE makes more sense than REE – thanks Beermagnet.

    Thanks also to Muck for not only ‘dzlexix’ but also the wonderful ‘Araubetical’ which I’ll have to try to remember for next time!

    More generally:

    Comments on and criticism of blog entries are always welcome, so thanks to Jane for her thoughts above and to everyone who replied. I’m happy to admit that Araucaria would not be rank amongst my personal favourite setters (although I do like Paul’s puzzles a lot), but I did enjoy this one – as has been mentioned, there are only a couple of clues I picked out as really not liking. Also, just because I might have quibbles over some clues doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy solving the puzzle – in fact I can only remember one occasion when I have said I didn’t enjoy a Guardian puzzle.

    I think there is a distinction between bending the rules (e.g. ‘Pullman’ in 14ac, an implied ‘somewhere’ before ‘on Great North Road’ in 27dn), which is part of what makes Araucaria so many people’s favourite, and breaking them: e.g. in 32dn, I don’t think ‘formed base for fool’ = (BASE)* + ASS is fair, because ‘for’ misleadingly splits the wordplay and serves no purpose but to make the surface reading make (some) sense while adversely affecting the cryptic ‘grammar’, which I would regard as poor clueing regardless of who the setter is; similarly ‘disclosed’ in alphabetical clue O cannot reasonably be taken to mean what it needs to in the cryptic reading.

    So, Jane, please don’t take any negative comments of mine as ‘irritation'; particularly for relative beginners to cryptics (or to Araucaria), I try to highlight where clues go against normal conventions or take particular liberties, and this doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t like the clue (although of course occasionally it does). As Neildubya points out, scheduling people to blog their favourite setters would be too difficult (and anyway I’m not sure this would achieve the most balanced views of puzzles); perhaps a real Araucarian fan would be more suited to this particular weekly slot as he writes a lot of the prize puzzles, but while I might ideally prefer a broader range of setters I still enjoy writing the blog and am happy to continue unless there’s a revolt, or someone asks to take over.

    On solving times: I include mine because (especially for regular readers) it gives some objective measure of the puzzle’s difficulty (and I try to qualify if I think the time was skewed for any reason, e.g. by a lucky early solve or by a particularly obstinate clue at the end). When reading others’ blogs, it makes no difference to me whether the blogger solved the puzzle in 5 minutes or 5 hours – and often you can learn more about a puzzle from someone who took a long time to solve it – but I wouldn’t want anyone to be discouraged by fast times: if you’re competitive and want to improve then they should help to raise your personal bar, and if not then they shouldn’t matter anyway!

Leave a Reply

Don't forget to scroll down to the Captcha before you click 'Submit Comment'

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

eight × 7 =