Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24544 / Auster

Posted by mhl on November 12th, 2008


A fun puzzle, which wasn’t too difficult because of all but three of the across clues having anagrams. 10 down was much the hardest, I thought, since there was weak checking in the final word and I’d never heard the Australian slang before.

(Although I normally do the weekday crosswords on my own, my partner helped with this one so thanks to her for some of these explanations.)

1. WORD PICTURES WORD = “promise” + (UPSET RIC)*
8. USED CAR Double definition
9. UNCOUTH UN = “Parisian, one” + (TOUCH)*
12. FREEDOM (REF)* + MODE reversed
13. NARKS ARK in NS (the North and South poles). I’m not sure if the definition is supposed to be “bugs” in the verb sense of “to bug” (“to nark”) or that NARKS (police informers) might carry (“contain”) bugs? The consensus in the comments is that the former interpretation (“narks” as in “annoys”) is the right one – my worry with that was that “contains” is a strange link word this way round…
14. DESERT RAT Double definition
19. IMBUE I’M + B[L]UE
21. SKIDDED (LOA)DED after (DISK)*
24. SPANIEL (SPAIN)* + EL (“the” in Spanish)
1. WHETHER WHET (as in “to whet one’s appetite”) + HER
3. PARTRIDGE PART = “to leave” + RIDGE? I’m not sure why the latter is “hog’s back”… Andrew explains that Hog’s Back is a ridge in the North Downs.
4. CHUFF C[hloe] + HUFF. I’d only heard this as “chuffed” before, but Collins lists “to chuff” as “to delight”
5. UNCLEAR Hidden answer
6. EQUADOR T (“night finally”) “gives way to” D (“day”) in EQUATOR. I hadn’t seen this spelling before, but it has about 200 million occurrences on Google (more than “Ecuador”)
7. RUNNING COSTS Cryptic definition
10. HUMP THE BLUEY Double definition, the first of which is rather difficult: Chambers defines “hump the bluey” as “(Aust) to travel on foot, carrying a bundle of possessions”, and Jesus’s instruction in John 5:8 is “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (King James Version)
15. SUSPENDED Double definition
18. OLD-TIME “ancient rhythm” might be OLD TIME, and I’m guessing that the dancing reference is to Old-Time music being played at folk dances? Thanks to smutchin, who explains in the comments that Old Time is a type of ballroom dancing, also known as Classical. In addition, I see that Collins defines “old-time dance” as “Brit a formal or formation dance, such as the lancers”
22. DELTA (ALTE[RE]D)*, “Strange” meaning “foreign”

53 Responses to “Guardian 24544 / Auster”

  1. smutchin says:

    10dn stumped me. But I like the idea of the Australian vernacular edition of the bible having the line: “Strewth, Bruce,” said Jesus, “get up and hump yer bluey, why don’t ya.”

    By the way, Republica del Ecuador, to give the country its full name, is Spanish for “Republic of the Equator”.

  2. Andrew says:

    I wasn’t very impressed by this one – it was mostly very easy, apart from 10dn, which is impossible if you don’t know the phrase (and needs a look-up of John 5:8 for most of us). The semi-hidden 5d is rather weak, as is the anagram in 26, where AND appears in both versions.

    13ac – I took this to be “bugs” as a verb
    3dn – “Hog’s back” is the name of a ridge in the North Downs, and possible others.

  3. Phaedrus says:

    I agree with Andrew, not great… most of the clues were really quite easy (which is fine for a quick puzzle to do on your morning commute), except for 10dn which put the puzzle firmly in the “only solvable with a reference dictionary” category. Left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

    13ac is the verb sense, surely…

  4. Andrew says:

    To expand on my criticism of 10dn: I’d be happier with it if there was some additional wordplay to lead to the answer. As it is, it’s just a slightly cryptic definition of a rather obscure phrase.

    And EQUADOR is unsatisfactory as an answer, Google hits notwithstanding.

  5. Paul B says:

    A certain very respected newspaper – not that others are necessarily disrespected – places a limit on the number of anagrams per puzzle: you may pen six, full or partial. If you do seven, you might get away with it – but you’ll be shunned at the next dinner.

    10dn: for Christ’s sake.

  6. mhl says:

    My doubt about 13 across was because in the verb interpretation “contains” is a rather odd link word, and (as with “in”) this way round (S contains D) is the less sound. I’ll update the post to reflect the consensus here anyway.

  7. smutchin says:

    mhl, re your comment on 18dn – Old Time is a form of ballroom dancing, otherwise known as Classical

  8. mhl says:

    Thanks smutchin, I’ve updated that. Also I’ve added Andrew’s explanation of “hog’s back” – apologies for forgetting to do that earlier.

  9. smutchin says:

    I should add that you won’t see old-time on Strictly Come Dancing, but you might see it in a TV adaptation of Jane Austen.

  10. JamieC says:

    I agree with all the comments that this was rather unsatisfactory. 99% of the clues were too easy (and far too many anagrams) and 10d was impossible, despite looking up swagman on Wikipedia and ending up reading all of the words to Waltzing Matilda (neither about waltzing nor someone called Matilda it turns out…)

  11. Dawn says:

    I really like anagrams so I was pleased to get so much of the puzzle done without having to look things up for a change – until 10d was all that was left. I don’t think we should have to know Australian slang. I stuck in “hump the sleep” as the nearest I could think of!

  12. David R says:

    Agree with most responses – easy apart from 10 down.
    Knew the quotaion from the Bible, but never heard and couldn’t find the Australian slang. (ashamed to say had to cheat!)

  13. Testy says:

    I’ve heard of Ecuador but where the hell is Equador? I’d not heard of the Hog’s Back either and shouldn’t it have been capitalised?

    5d was badly hidden and 10d was just ridiculous. It would only have been a fair clue if the majority of people knew the bible chapter and verse and the phrase was a household one. Otherwise it requires access to reference book/internet and then calling your distant Australian relatives to find out if there are any quaint Ozzie sayings for carrying a bed!!!!!

    I agree that there seemed too many anagrams too.

    I don’t often do the Guardian and I think I remember why now so it’s back to the Indy for me.

  14. JimboNWUK says:

    An overabundance of ridiculously easy anagrams accompanied by the virtually unsolvable 10D unless you habitially carry around a bible… if you are an “on the train” solver you’d have had no chance at that horrible clue.

    C- Must try harder.

  15. Tom Hutton says:

    Well, I often complain about wilful obscurities in crosswords (twenties playwrights, Oxbridge references etc) but I can’t believe that you well educated people couldn’t get hump the bluey! Everyone knows that!

    Or perhaps it just goes to prove that you know the things you know and you don’t know the things you don’t know.

  16. Dave Ellison says:

    What are the … between 4d and 5d – I can’t see any connection between the two clues nor between their answers

    Couldn’t get 10d either

  17. Colin Blackburn says:

    Ellipses are sometimes used to simply provide a single surface reading between two clues. There doesn’t need to be any connection between the clues beyond that.

  18. Phaedrus says:

    Perhaps most baffling is that the Grauniad xword editor let 10dn through, even though it was such a howler….. surely it should have been sent back to Auster for revision?

    Auster – C-. Must try harder.
    Editor – F. See me after school.

  19. muck says:

    There seems to be general agreement that 6dn (Ecuador/Equador) and 10dn (even with all crossing letters) weren’t soluble without some research. I gave up and waited for 15sqd!

  20. John says:

    I’ve queried ellipses before and am still baffled. Colin’s explanation doesn’t cut the mustard either since I can’t make any sense out of a continuous surface reading of the two clues here.
    I’ve heard “tried and trusted” but have never used, or heard used, the phrase “tried and true”.
    19 dn is also unsatisfactory; the “al” doesn’t break “in”, it breaks “her”.
    And as for 10 down, it’s a real copout. Perhaps Auster could join the blog and explain this obscurantist nonsense?

  21. Colin Blackburn says:

    I’m not overly defending this particular use of the ellipses but,

    4 Annoyance follows Chloe’s initial delight … (5)
    5 … rather dim, in Uncle Arthur’s view (7)

    could be read as Uncle Arthur viewing Chloe’s reactions. It does make a little sense, certainly more than is often made by some by the Guardian’s more lauded setters.

  22. Colin Blackburn says:

    Sorry, that should have read,

    could be read as Uncle Arthur viewing Chloe’s reactions as dim.

  23. Benthebiscuit says:

    As someone on the steep learning curve, in the middle of training himself to do crosswords I found I got further with this one then any other I’ve tried in the last few weeks…perhaps it is too easy after all.

    Completely baffled by 19dn though…the breaking of “in her” I can see, but where does the “al” come from? Is it some way of rendering “student”?

    Similarly 22dn. I can see it’s a play around “altered” but how is one steered to remove “er” by the clue?

    Surprisingly the first one I got was 10dn – my Grandad was an old Aussie who used to say that whenever he was travelling anywhere!!!

  24. Andrew says:

    Ben – “L” is a common crosswordism for “student”, from L=learner (driver). In this case it’s “A student” = “A L”

    In 22dn it’s actually RE that’s removed – another thing you just have to know: re = “about” (short for the Latin “in re”)

  25. mhl says:


    The first is classic crossword abbreviation: “student” or “learner” is often “L”, as in “L-plates” when learning to drive. So “A student” is AL.

    In 22 down, “about” is RE (the Latin for “with reference to”, mostly seen in email Subject: lines) so “about to be removed from altered” is “RE to be removed from ‘altered'” with “design” as the anagram indicator.

  26. mhl says:

    Oops, sorry, I knew I was taking too long to type that…

  27. Andrew says:

    I was half-expecting a “Dad’s Army” connection in 5dn: perhaps Auster could have used Captain (Mainwaring) instead of Chloe in 4dn to mislead further.

  28. brickman says:

    Here is a recording of “Im gonna hump my bluey” warning it is as bad as the clue.
    I thought this was a terrible clue, containing two obscurities,considering the simplicity of the rest of the grid.
    6dn apart from the misspelling how is the equator a line drawn between poles? Surely that is a meridian? Or the def suits any line of latitude.

    Auster must try harder.
    Is that a 3 letter nina starting in the middle of 1dn?

  29. muck says:

    Brickman: “6dn apart from the misspelling how is the equator a line drawn between poles? Surely that is a meridian? Or the def suits any line of latitude.” Absolutely!

  30. Andrew says:

    I was going to nitpick on the “between poles” point, but the equator _is_ a line, and it does lie between the poles on the surface on the Earth. What I dislike more about the clue is that EQUATOR, ECUADOR and (if it exists) EQUADOR are all essentially the same word.

  31. Paul B says:

    But, if you were to look down upon, or somehow through the poles, would an equatorial line be between them in any real sense? Now THAT’s nit-picking.

    The speller – for that is what it is – is all the more irritating as it lies in an unch, and could have been adjusted without ado.

  32. Paul B says:

    … by an Argus-eyed editor that is, or one that is occasionally awake.

  33. Eileen says:

    I’m realy glad that others have now questioned ‘equator’, rather than Equador’, which I just took to be an alternative spelling, without looking it up. Both Collins and SOED define equator as a [the] great circle of the earth, equidistant from the poles, which initially seemed wrong but I finally decided to interpret as Andrew did, with reservations.

    Sorry to be negative but I do agree with most of the negative comments on this puzzle. I thought 1ac was quite good but it rather went downhill after that.

    10dn could have been a brilliant clue [ I loved Smutchin’s comment 1] – Take up thy bed and walk = walk with a blanket roll on your back – if only we could have been expected to have heard of that expression. I don’t think we could.

  34. mhl says:

    Although this is a reasonable forum to make constructive criticisms of crosswords, some of the remarks here would be considered rather rude in real life – please could commenters bear in mind that setters do read the blog, and that a pleasant tone in the conversations makes it a more welcoming place for people in general.

    For those who didn’t know this already, Auster grew up in Australia and her crosswords fairly frequently have bits of slang or themes relating to that part of the world. Although the clue for 10d could certainly be improved I’m glad I know the expression now. :)

  35. Colin Blackburn says:

    I suspect Hugh Stephenson will be explaining ECUADOR/EQUADOR as he had to explain SAN PAOLO/SAN PAULO—is the SA connection important considering his recent sailing trip?—in his next newsletter.

    These mistakes do creep in. I once set a puzzle with FOURTY instead of FORTY, the grid had had FOURTH in it and I tweaked things. They are annoyingly easy mistakes to make. At the time I didn’t have the defence of an editor.

  36. Eddie Nabook says:

    As a relative newcomer to cryptics, this was the first one I ever completed. The FIRST!! Imagine my euphoria…

    …and my deflation when you all said that it was too easy :-(

  37. Fletch says:

    But the bloggers and regular commenters are, for the most part, very experienced solvers. You shouldn’t let their experiences detract from your achievement!

  38. Eileen says:

    Eddie: congratulations! Don’t let the cynical comments put you off and please continue to contribute.

    Having put in my two penn’orth rather later than usual, I confess I was rather swayed by previous comments and rather regretted it, after mhl’s fair comment. Certainly, there were rather a lot of anagrams – I’m not sure about the rules as to the permissible number, and then again, others complain about the number of cryptic clues, so what are the compilers of cryptic crosswords supposed to do? – but, on reflection, there were some good ones: 9ac, 21ac, 23ac, 24ac, 2dn, and, grudgingly, as I’m not a 16ac, 16ac! I did like 22dn but didn’t see the need for ‘strange’ but then I’m a Classicist – but then again it is a letter in the NATO alphabet.

    I do think 10 dn was a terrific clue, if I’d known the expression, but I easily googled [sic, Geoff] it and anyone could have looked up the biblical reference. We all have different areas of expertise and it’s often, supposedly, those of us with a pedantic Classical background that have the advantage.

    So – apologies, Auster, for an initially rather negative response and, if you have made one new solver feel good,that’s good news.

  39. tuck says:

    All I can say is wow!! So many people knock the Grauniad crossword, but 38 comments, who said the art of conversation was dead?

  40. mark says:

    Well done to Eddie!

    Totally disagree with Mhl – I thought everyone was relatively mild in their criticism. The setters should take feedback good and bad – they are pros supposedly.

  41. Dave Ellison says:

    Can anyone think of another expression (or word?) that would fit:

    H_M_T_E_L_E_ ?

  42. don says:

    Whinging Poms!

  43. Toby says:

    Reply to Dave Ellison – Chambers Word Wizard gives ‘Hump The Bluey’ as the only thing that fits!

  44. Paul B says:

    I (literally) don’t know about Tuck’s Art of Conversation, but 44 comments is a fair indicator (so to speak) that, for most people, a puzzle’s not quite up to the mark. The better puzzles tend not to exercise 15/2 folks quite as much, presumably as there’s so much less to quibble or simply chat about.

    But the Guardian puzzle irritates me no end as a matter of fact, and not necessarily because it seems occasionally to lack so much lustre. I’m sure I’m not the only one to be thinking that, with only a small amount of extra attention, this most venerable institution could return to the level of consistency I once recall it had.

    Rose tinted specs and all that, but I’m pretty sure it used to be somewhat better nurtured.

  45. Gary Howe says:

    I wonder if Auster is some reference to the setter being ‘Auster-alian’?

    It might explain that indulgent (and completely unsolveable unless you know it)answer to 10D

  46. smutchin says:

    I assumed Auster was some kind of reference to the New York author or the plane of the same name, but the antipodean connection seems more likely, if slightly tenuous. But in any case, Auster being Australian means she can be forgiven for using Aussie terms – it’s the crossword editor who should have picked up on it being too obscure for British solvers.

    Is there any definitive source on where setters get their soubriquets? Was Bunthorne a Gilbert & Sulllivan enthusiast? Was Rufus a red-headed youth? Is Cyclops one short in the eye department?

  47. Frances says:

    Well, as a relative novice, I really enjoyed this one. To be able to solve clue after clue, as I imagine you experts do every day, made me feel very ‘chuffed’. There are days when I only get 2 or 3 overall!
    The only one I couldn’t do was 10d. I enjoyed listening to the song, Brickman

  48. Colin Blackburn says:

    Auster is Australian (I think that was stated way up thread.)

    There is no single definitive source of pseudonyms but Jonathan Crowther’s A-Z of Crosswords has biographies of a number of setters including, for some, explanations of their soubriquets. Auster is listed in Azed’s book. Her entry states that the name Auster, the south wind, was suggested by the late Alec Robins (Custos, Zander,…) who mentored her for a number of years.

    Azed’s book is now available at a reduced price from Postscript Books for those who want o know more about Auster and many other setters.

  49. smutchin says:

    Colin – yes, comment #34 by Mhl, got that, it’s just that Gary’s “Auster-alian” sounded a bit tenuous to me, but I wasn’t thinking it through – Auster [the South Wind, of course!] and Australia share an etymological root [Latin:Australis, meaning south] so yes, it all makes perfect sense really.

    I’ll have to get the Azed book – thanks for the tip-off.

  50. Paul B says:

    According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (crossword ed. D. Manley), Rufus was ‘hated by nearly all his people’ for ruling over a ‘dissolute court’ and for his questionable sexuality – they were more Ximenean than Libertarian in those days – and the Rufus tag apparently had more to do with rosacea than a flaming mane, unfortunately.

    Bunthorne was indeed a G&S enthusiast (‘Patience or Bunthorne’s Bride’ ‘n’ all that), and Cyclops’ real name, as Smutchin guesses, is Eddie Polyphemus. Dumpynose is probably my favourite, being an anagram of ‘pseudonym’.

  51. Duncan says:

    I’ve only now got round to looking up the last few days’ blogs.

    #13 a hogsback or hog’s back is a generic term for a particular shape of ridge – or at least it was when I was taught geography.

    Bluey is given in Chambers as a synonym for swag – which didn’t stop that being my last clue; shortly preceded by 6dn, for which I shared the disquiet on both counts (spelling and geography).

  52. petero says:

    I’ve only just got round to solving this one, from a printout made near the time the puzzle came out. In this version, the clue for 6D reads:
    Place where Queen is replaced by Charlie and night finally gives way to day in a line between the poles (7)
    which leads to ECUADOR. What’s all the business with EQUADOR?

  53. mhl says:

    Petero: interesting – I didn’t realise that there was a revised version of that clue. The one I (and everyone else here, it seems) did at the time was the same but without the “Queen is replaced by Charlie and” bit, so leading to EQUADOR rather than ECUADOR. The PDF version still has the original clue, although the Java applet and normal printable version has been updated.

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=""> <strike> <strong>

3 × = twenty four