Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian, 24496/Araucaria

Posted by mhl on September 17th, 2008


An excellent crossword today with a Wagner theme and some great wordplay. (Apologies that this is later than usual; it was slightly more complicated than most to ‘blog about and I got up rather late. Please let me know in the comments if you think I’m overdoing the links, since it does make it take significantly longer to do the post.)

8 BAYREUTH: BAY + E in RUTH (an old word for “compassion”); where Wagner lived for 11 years and established the Bayreuth Festival and opera house
9 AGASSI: ASS in A + G + I; Andre Agassi
10 BLOWPIPE: Cryptic definition; blowpipes are sometimes used to fire poisoned darts
11 PLEASANTLY: L for R in PLEASANTRY = “jest”. (Would the surface not be as good with “How one can be surprised …”?)
12 WAGNER: WAG + N + ER; referring to Richard Wagner. This is the key to much of the rest of the puzzle; not a very difficult clue, but I spent too much time trying to think of jesters in plays, operas, etc. :)
14 INFRARED: “It’s invisible” is the definition; INF (abbreviation of “inferior” for “below”) + RARE + D(INNER)
15 THE RING: The Ring of the Nibelung is Wagner’s great work. The other definition refers to the ring that Portia gives Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice when he picks the right casket.
20 ASSEMBLE: ASS + EMBLE(M); for this to work it has to be the noun sense of silly, as in “You are a silly.”
22 MARBLE: BRAM reversed + EL reversed. (An “el” is an elevated railway, such as that in Chicago.)
24 PAYS: Double definition; “pays” is the French for “country”
25 MERLIN: Cryptic definition
26 ECLIPTIC: CLIP in CITE reversed; the ecliptic is a type of great circle
1 PAUL NASH: ULNA in PASH (“crush”) and the artist. (“pash” came up in another crossword recently, otherwise I wouldn’t have known it.)
3 BUMPER: Double definition; the “a glass filled to the brim” meaning of BUMPER was new to me…
4 CHEERIO: CHE + E + RIO; excellent surface meaning in this clue
5 PARSIFAL: (IS FAR)* in PAL; the definition being just “Wagner’s” was a little tough, I think – I spent some time trying to work out if anything would fit in LISZT as a result. Parsifal is another opera by Wagner.
6 TANNHAUSER: HAUS (German for “residence”) in TANNER (“sixpence”); the reference is to the title character of Tannhäuser. (A brilliant clue, I think.)
7 ISOLDE: IS + OLD + E; referring to Tristan and Isolde
13 NERVE CELLS: These are “conductors in a body” in that they pass electrical impulses. The wordplay here is lovely: (DIN)NER + VECELL(IO)S. (The full name of the wonderful painter mostly known just as “Titian” is Tiziano Vecellio.)
16 NIBELUNG: NI + BE + LUNG; in the ring cycle, the dwarf Alberich is the Nibelung of the title. (Just as an aside, when faced with the question “What are the four elements of Wagner’s ring cycle?” in a pub quiz, a group of my friends of mine answered: “Wash, soak, rinse and spin”.)
18 VALKYRIE: VAL (“boy or girl”) + KYRIE, as in “kyrie eleison” (“lord have mercy upon us”) part of the mass in various Christian denominations
19 MEISTERSINGER: ME + IS + N in (REGISTER)*; the reference is to Die Meistersinger. (I think the “to die?” bit just means “would be beside ‘Die’ in the title”, but maybe there’s more to it?)
22 MIDDLEBROW: A nice clue; the reference is to the poem “There Was A Little Girl” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

17 Responses to “Guardian, 24496/Araucaria”

  1. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the explanation of 13dn – I got it from the cryptic definition but had no idea how the wordplay worked. I was puzzled by the “die” in 19dn too, but your explanation seems reasonable.

    I was amazed to find that the “Little girl” poem was by Longfellow – I’d always assumed it was by our old friend Anon. You learn something every day!

  2. Dave Ellison says:

    Enjoyed this, finished on the bus to work, for a change. I thought at first I was going to have to postpone in order to get my Shakespeare references out, but then got Wagner quite quickly and the rest followed fairly easily.

  3. Octofem says:

    Hi mhl. I was lucky enough to get Wagner quite quickly, which helped a lot, but was grateful for Vecellio, whom I did not know.
    I had the answer but didn’t know quite where it came from, so your efforts were not in vain as far as I was concerned!

  4. Eileen says:

    Thanks, mhl, for a great blog.

    I didn’t know that sense of bumper, either.

    As a child, I was forever having ‘There was a little girl’ recited to me, [but with ‘she was very, very good’ in the penultimate line]. I had no idea it was by Longfellow: I assumed it was a nursery rhyme.

  5. JohnR says:

    A daunting puzzle, as usual from Araucaria. So we’re lucky to have such a full and illuminating commentary! Thanks, mhl.

  6. Andrew says:

    Eileen – I thought you would have known “bumper” from “The Pirates of Penzance”:

    Pour, oh, pour the pirate sherry,
    Fill, O fill the pirate glass!
    And, to make us more than merry,
    Let the pirate bumper pass!

    I also know the “little girl” line as “very, very good” – the version in mhl’s link may be more authentic but it spoils the rhyme scheme.

  7. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Andrew – I knew the line but not what it meant. As you say, we learn something every day, thank goodness!

  8. mhl says:

    Thanks for everyone’s kind comments. :)

    The author of the poem surprised me as well, but there did seem to be a lot of corroboration for it from different sources on the web.

  9. mhl says:

    Incidentally, each time I see the word “Bayreuth” I think there must be a crossword clue to be written about Babe Ruth enjoying Wagner: “Baseball legend’s a bachelor for a year in opera festival (4,4)” or something…

  10. owenjonesuk says:

    I liked all the links! I appreciate it immensely when the blogger goes to the trouble of explaining all the little references I might have missed, and links mean that I can look into the references I didn’t get and skip over the ones I did.

    I had to resort to wikipedia for many of the Wagner references. In fact I got ISOLDE before I got WAGNER and spent a while being confused as to why Tristran didn’t fit in 12ac.

    25ac was basically recycled from Araucaria’s prize crossword on the last bank holiday weekend. Of course he still did it so subtly that despite knowing a merlin was a type of falcon it took me a while to work out why a merlin would be a charmer.

  11. aferick says:

    Paul Nash lived next door to me and I have tennis ulna. And I still didn’t get it. The only Pash I know is Glub A. What’s to become of us?

  12. Ralph G says:

    19D I reckon ‘die’ is the “Die” of “Die Meistersinger”. ‘To’ is commonly used to indicate ‘after’ or ‘before’ and “Meistersinger” as a complete title would be inaccurate.

  13. mhl says:

    Ralph, I agree – that’s what I was trying to suggest in the post :)

  14. Ralph G says:

    Yes, I was just confirming what you had said but I couldn’t get the program to emphasise the the first ‘is’ !

  15. Ralph G says:

    19a NAKED=unarmed. Perhaps what Nye Bevan had in mind at the 1957 Labour Party conference debate on nuclear disarmament when he spoke of a British Foreign Secretary “being sent naked into the conference chamber” if the disarmament resolution were passed. Less recently, more appositely, Daniel Defoe 1727 writes ” I .. scorn to take up arms against a naked man” and J Barbour Bruce 1487 has “He was armyt, The t’othir naked was”.
    For ‘double cognate’ lovers: the same Indo-Eurpoean root nagnaka gives rise to nude via Latin nudus and to naked via nag and nak in the Teutonic langauages; naga is current Hindu for a naked mendicant.
    21a Leafing through the Journal of Petroleum Geology, as one does, I came across REE rare earth element. Any other sightings?

  16. mhl says:

    Ralph G: that’s really interesting, but I think it was intended for Guardian 24558 / Chifonie – could you possibly repost the comment there?

  17. Ralph G says:

    Thankyou. I wondered where it had gone! Vapourised for proloxity and irrelevance, I thought.
    Reposted now.

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