Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,548/Arachne

Posted by Andrew on November 17th, 2008


Rufus gets a Monday off to make way for a reasonably easy offering from Arachne. There are a couple of clues where I’m not sure I’ve got the explanation right, and one (27ac) that I don’t get at all. I’m hoping commenters will set me straight.

dd = double definition
* = anagram
< = reverse

5. IBIDEM I BID ‘EM. Latin for “in the same place”, often shortened to “ibid.” in footnotes and references.
10. WEIGHT dd – the talent was an ancient unit of weight, and weights are added to racehorses’ saddles as a handicap
12. INSIDE TRACK IN (=within) SIDE(=regional) TRACK(=bar). I think I’ve got the wordplay right here but it somehow seems unsatisfactory. (See Eileen’s better explanation in the comments.)
15. FAUNA Sounds like “fawner”
17. LILY-WHITE dd – the “lily-white boys” appear in the song “Green Grow the Rushes, O”
18. NORTHEAST Hidden.
19. YACHT (CHAY + blyTh)*. Chay Blyth was a yachtsman who sailed the “wrong way” round the word in 1971.
24. PLIANT First letters of “Publicly Listed Industries All Need To”
25. SCHEDULE (SHED CLUE)* – very easy, but it’s always nice to see the setters using each others’ pseudonyms in clues.
26. STIGMA Last letter of “scarleT” in SIGMA
27. CROMWELL An enemy of King Charles, obviously, but I don’t get the rest.(See Mhl’s explanation in the comments)
1. DEBRIEFING (FINGERED+B+I)* . Not sure about B=bomber – is that a standard abbreviation?
2. FOURSQUARE U in FOR + SQUARE – the enumeration is given as (10), though I would have thought this should be hyphenated.
3. APHID (DIAPH(anous))*
7. DIGS dd – “dig” is rather dated slang for “get” in the sense of “understand”, and “digs” is also rather a dated expression for accommodation.
8. MUTE Alternate letters of aMoUnT hE.
11. BALLET DANCER LET D in BALANCER. Terpsichore is the muse of dance.
16. AD HOMINEM AD + (IN HOME) + M. An ad hominem argument is one that attacks one’s opponent rather than the argument he is making, so is “personal”.
21. BREAM B ARE* M. The porgy is a bream-like fish – nice misdirection to get the Gershwin opera in there.
22. OPUS (oct)OPUS – I think calling the first three letters of a 7-letter word “heads” is pushing it a bit..
23. HI-FI A very nicely hidden answer

41 Responses to “Guardian 24,548/Arachne”

  1. mhl says:

    Andrew, Chambers lists “B-” as a prefix meaning “bomber” presumably as in B-2, B-52, etc. I hadn’t come across that in a crossword before…

    Some nice wordplay here – I was completely fooled by “intended” and “try to meet”.

  2. mhl says:

    Is CROMWELL just CR = “Charles Rex” + O = “no” + M = “master” + WELL = “clearly”?

  3. Eileen says:

    Well, Andrew, you avoided contentiousness on Friday, as you predicted, but I should batten down the hatches today!

    I think there might be a few objections here to two Latin phrases and one or two rather dodgy clues.

    I wondered if 12 ac could be INSIDE [within] T’ [the regional!] RACK [Collins has "rack: a toothed bar designed to engage a pinion to form a mechanism that will adjust the position of something."]

    I share your reservations about 22dn and I can’t make head or tail of 27ac either.

  4. mhl says:

    Eileen: your explanation of 12 across sounds good – I was rather puzzled by that one as well…

  5. Eileen says:

    Mhl: and yours for 27ac, which I missed while typing my comment!

  6. Andrew says:

    Thanks Mhl and Eileen for your convincing explanations of CROMWELL and INSIDE TRACK respectively.

    It didn’t occur to me that IBIDEM and AD HOMINEM might be contentious – what do others think?

  7. mhl says:

    I found IBIDEM difficult due to being convinced that the Latin abbreviation for “in the same place” was “passim”, which I can hardly complain about. :)

    On the whole I thought these were all good clues, apart perhaps from (OCT)OPUS: I didn’t mind “heads” referring to three letters as much as “involves” acting as a link word.

  8. smutchin says:

    Eileen, I think both Latin phrases are common enough to avoid charges of obscurity though I’m not convinced by the clue for 16dn. And “pushing it a bit” is fair comment on 22dn.

    Otherwise, I enjoyed this one – a gentle start to the week, and very gratifying to know that I did better than more-experienced solvers on some clues! (viz Mhl’s comments on 1ac and 5ac)

    Re 17ac: I didn’t know the poetical reference but I did know that the “lily-white boys” are also the players of Tottenham Hotspur FC.

  9. Eileen says:

    Andrew, I really meant having two Latinisms in one puzzle, along with a Greek letter and an ancient weight. I remember last time IBID was part of the answer to a clue it raised some questions and to see the word in full is even rarer. I think I’m perhaps just sensitive about Classical clues because they’re the ones I do know [unlike a lot of the scientific ones!]and there often are objections to a surfeit of them. I also thought ‘em’ was rather suspect – but it was that that made me think of T’ in 12ac!

    I liked 1ac, 19ac and 21dn but, although I agree with mhl’s interpretation of 27ac, I don’t much like WELL for ‘clearly’ and I’m not too sure about BREAK for ‘work out’.

    [mhl: when I was at school, we used to remember 'vicissim in turn and passim in all directions.']

  10. smutchin says:

    Almost forgot – Eileen, I think your explanation for 12ac is spot on and likewise Mhl for 27ac (see, you’re still better than me at this crossword lark really).

  11. Eileen says:

    Then again, I suppose to break a code is to work it out.

  12. don says:

    5. IBIDEM I BID ‘EM. Latin for “in the same place”, often shortened to “ibid.” in footnotes and references.


    Any decent journal has abandoned such medieval practices for the Harvard System donkeys’ years ago. And how many “add homing ‘ems” do you hear down the pub last night or on the tube this morning – ‘common enough’? Of course, the Greek alphabet is as simple as A,B,C,Ch.

    “It’s about the English language” Tim Moorlet, Crossword Doctor, ‘How to Solve a Cryptic Crossword’, BBC 4, 10 November 2008.

    See also D.Manley (idib)

  13. Mort says:


    I’m fairly sure ‘often’ in Andrew’s comment referred to the frequency with which ‘ibidem’ is shortened to ‘ibid.’ when used in footnotes and references.

    I’m finding it hard to understand why ‘ibidem’ and ‘ad hominem’ merit such vitriol, while ‘fauna’ and ‘opus’ are spared your wrath.

    It is indeed about the English language, and we borrow a heck of a lot from other languages. I don’t think crosswords would be much fun without using the borrowed ones.

  14. Eileen says:

    Oops, Mort – I didn’t count FAUNA and OPUS because they surely are part of the English language.

    My Scottish husband would have objected to FAUNA, though – but only because he hated those countless ‘so-called homophones’ where one word has an ‘r’ and the other doesn’t!

  15. smutchin says:

    Mort, good point about fauna and opus. Use of terpsichorean in a clue has so far gone unmentioned too.

    Ancient units of weight and antiquated folk songs are arguably the most obscure reference points in today’s puzzle.

  16. Paul says:

    AD HOMINEM appeared in the preliminary round of the Times Championship this year.

  17. Mort says:

    Eileen – I’d personally say that ibidem and ad hominem can be counted as part of the English language, but my point was really that I don’t think the distinction between English and not-English, allowed to be set and not is black and white.

  18. Andrew says:

    I didn’t know that the talent was specifically a weight, but I knew of it as an amount of money from the Parable of the Talents, and possibly elsewhere, so it was easy for me to guess. Maybe “Green Grow the Rushes-O” isn’t sung in schools any more, but I’m sure everyone of, ahem, maturer years would know it.

    I agree with Mort that it’s hard to say whether some foreign phrases have become part of the English language – I would say FAUNA and OPUS are definitely “naturalised”, AD HOMINEM is close, and IBIDEM is still definitely Latin, but I suppose different people see things differently. I have a not-very-old edition of Elizbeth David’s book “Italian Food” which consistently italicises the exotic foreign word “pasta”..

  19. John says:

    Ok, Eileen and mhl have managed to wrestle a possible explanation out of 12 and 27 ac, but once again I make the point that we shouldn’t have to be twisting ourselves into knots to find solutions. They are both poor in my opinion.
    Plus I don’t get 4 dn at all. How does “capital” = “cardinal”?
    In 13 dn, unless we stretch the meaning of “revealing” to embrace “a revealing”, and I challenge anyone to show me a sensible example, the definition is adjectival, whereas the solution is a noun. Not acceptable in my view.
    Call this pedantic if you will, but I don’t care. Someone has to safeguard the accurate use of language.
    For me, these things spoiled what otherwise was a satisfying puzzle.
    What is it about Mondays?

  20. Geoff Moss says:

    “Plus I don’t get 4 dn at all. How does “capital” = “cardinal”?”

    Capital (adj) – main, principal, most important
    Cardinal (adj) – of fundamental importance, chief
    Chief (adj) – principal, important

    All from Chambers.

  21. mhl says:

    Thanks for the mnemonic, Eileen. Unfortunately, due to switching from a school that started teaching classics late to one that started them relatively early I missed out on Latin and Greek completely, so the odd words I know are exactly of this type…

    The only usage I could think of where “well” and “clearly” were exchangeable is “to see well”, but I guess there are many others.

    John: “cardinal” and “capital” can both mean “chief” or “of great importance”. I was thinking of DISCLOSURE as “a revealing”, but now that I think about it, was a bit dubious about that… With regard to 12a and 27a, in every crossword I do there are several words where you know what the answer must be, but it takes a while to figure out why – isn’t that part of the fun?

  22. Eileen says:

    Funnily enough, we were reminded that the talent was a weight in a sermon on the parable of the talents yesterday.

  23. Eileen says:

    mhl: just missed you again. Yes, that was the one instance that occurred to me, too, of WELL = clearly.

  24. Tom Hutton says:

    I thought for 6dn that when work’s out, it’s a break i.e a tea break.

    Pound – weight talent – weight. How much money have you got? Weight it.

    Brush ups is ugly as a plural noun

  25. JimboNWUK says:

    No specialised knowledge of names, places, arty-farty nonentities or numpties needed anywhere so I thought it was ok. Latin abbreviations have been, and no doubt will continue to be, deeply embedded in our language for many decades and as someone else has already said our language is very much a mongrel. What price cul-de-sac, kagoule, blitzkrieg, khaki and lord knows how many other borrowed words?

    I didn’t complete it (didn’t get IBIDEM for one) but have no complaint for once.

  26. Andrew says:

    As a child I was always mystified by the service called a “Wash and Brush-up” that used to be advertised (at 3d or 6d or some such price) in Public Conveniences. I’m not sure I’m any wiser now as to what it entailed..

  27. John says:

    Thanks to Geoff and Mhl for the cardinal/capital explanation, which I had assumed to be the wordplay; but it doen’t convince me. Are they really synonmyms? Is a cardinal sin punishable by death? Is a capital letter a cardinal one?
    And even if I accept this, what’s the ‘s for?

  28. mhl says:

    John: the apostrophe-S is “has” in the cryptic reading (as opposed to “is” in the surface) joining up CAPITAL with GAINS.

  29. Judy Bentley says:

    Probably best not to ask, Andrew. Great crossword.

  30. John says:

    I’m feeling in a real nitpicky mood today, so I ask, can anyone give me some common phrases in which ‘s means “has”?

  31. JamieC says:

    Overall I thought this was a good puzzle, but I can see why people would have complained about IBIDEM. I think IBID. is a perfectly acceptable English abbreviation which continues to be much used, but it’s an interesting question whether the full word is really English. I expect people would be entitled to complain at EXEMPLI GRATIA or ID EST as answers, even though the abbreviations are commonplace.

  32. Andrew says:

    John, how about:

    “He’s had his dinner”

    and (get your tambourines ready) “He’s got the whole world in his hand”

  33. JamieC says:

    John: Arachne’s gone to a lot of effort to put this puzzle together and all you can do is be rude about it ;)

  34. John says:

    One more go at this and then I’ll shut up.
    It’s fine as an auxiliary verb, but doesn’t work as a transitive one.
    You wouldn’t say “He’s his dinner” or ” He’s the whole world in his hands”. Nor would James Brown be making any sense with “Papa’s a brand new bag”.

    Lighten up JamieC. Arachne’s (sic) been paid to provide a test for crossword solvers. I buy the Guardian with my hard earned cash. I, and you, are entitled to criticise if we believe conventions or rules are transgressed or credibility stretched. Where’s the rudeness?
    The reverential tone often adopted by some bloggers is irritating.

  35. Ian Hinds says:

    I thought it was pretty challenging today. Particularly so were 5a and 24d. A lack of hyphens in clueing is now an ongoing concern.

  36. George Foot says:

    I am totally amazed at all the nit picks and grumbles in today’s comments. If you all had your way crosswords would become nothing like so much fun. Much of the fun of solving crosswords is the way our language is twisted. Inevitably when our language is twisted some will find it acceptable and others won’t but there will never be agreement about the acceptability.

    Ad hominem and ibidem appear in Chambers dictionary so as far as I am concerned they are part of the English language. The one recent clue I really had a complaint about was ‘Hump the bluey’, which I was much surprised to also find in Chambers. My complaint was not that it was used in the crossword, I love coming across new words and phrases, I have been using ‘Hump the bluey’ all week, it’s a wonderful phrase. My complaint was that where one part of the clue is unlikely to be known by the vast majority of solvers then the other part should be comparatively easy so we have a chance of working it out. I very much doubt if even the majority of clergymen can automatically quote John 5:8, let alone us more ordinary mortals, and then even when you looked it up it got you no nearer getting the answer.

  37. mhl says:

    John: I see what you’re saying, but I think the idea is that once you can accept that “he’s” can mean “he has” in some context you can use that to unpack that part of the clue independent of the rest.

    I think the case of that type that causes comment most often is the number of different expansions that “setter’s” can have, even ignoring those that use the setter’s name:

    * MY and IAM: everyone, I’d guess, is happy with these.

    * IVE and IHAVE: I think most people are happy with these in any situation, but this is the case where you’d be worried about what the succeeding word is.

    * IHAS, IIS, MEIS, MES, MEHAS, etc.: I still think these are fair on the basis that you can decode the “setter” and “‘s” separately, but I suppose many would object. (They’re not so useful in clueing, so less to come up anyway.)

  38. John says:

    Yes Mhl, I accept all you say. It’s a question of regarding each element of the clue as a separate cryptic entity. My comments arise from my particular liking for elegant clues in which both surface and cryptic meanings make sense individually, and, even better, where there is a connection between the two, but I accept that this is not always easy to do. Some setters, though, manage to achieve it most of the time. Some don’t.
    Anyway, it makes for an interesting and stimulating discussion, which is what I trust we are striving for when we comment.

  39. mhl says:

    John: indeed :)

    Incidentally, in reference to JamieC’s comment #31, these have been such examples in fairly recent Guardian crosswords. None provoked any comment here, but I suspect there were many fewer people who were posting in general then…

  40. Eddie Nabook says:

    I don’t do the crossword until the evening, so I’m late to the party here. But for what it’s worth, I thought 12 and 27 were very fair clues (in that I solved them!) and I didn’t get 5 and 16, but that’s because I didn’t pay enough attention to Latin at school. But I will know them for next time – which for me, at least, is part of the pleasure.

  41. Barnaby says:

    Like Eddie, I’m an evening solver, so late to comment here. With the lowest possible grade in O-level Latin under my belt (was it a grade U?), I didn’t find it terribly difficult, though it took me a while to remember the full form of ibid. – like Mhl I became fixated on passim while knowing it wasn’t right.

    I couldn’t justify 12ac or 27ac at all, though, before coming here.

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