Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24553 (Sat 22 Nov)/Shed – New arrival?

Posted by rightback on November 29th, 2008


Solving time: 20:43, two mistakes (23ac and 5dn)

I found this fairly difficult but enjoyable. A number of the answers, including the two I guessed incorrectly (EPISEMON and ERYSIPELAS), had ambiguous wordplays, which I think is fair enough for a Saturday prize puzzle.

There’s also a “Nina” (meaning something hidden in the grid) in this puzzle, which I’ll leave you to find (there’s a clue below in the blog if you can’t see it). I think it must be a personal reference from the setter, but please enlighten us if you can!

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

8 SEEDCORD; rev. of DEE in SCORN – I tried (Bill) Oddie as the comedian for a while here; the actual comedian is Jack Dee. Seed corn describes ‘assets likely to bring future profit’ (Chambers).
9 PRADA; R[ight] in PA,DA (= ‘Pops’, as in fathers) – ‘infernal outfitters?’ is nice, referring to The Devil Wears Prada, which I believe is “chick lit”. The ‘to’ in this clue is a bit unfair and spoils the cryptic reading…
10 GI + FT – …whereas the ‘to’ in this clue is perfectly ok, because ‘gift’ can be a verb as well as a noun.
11 ALTOSTRATI; (ARTIST A LOT)* – these clouds are pretty dull, so here’s some more interesting altocumulus instead: the classic mackerel sky version and some lenticular stuff.
12 NIPPLE; PP in NILE – I don’t much like ‘peony heads’ for PP.
14 AMMONIAC; AMMO + rev. of CAIN (= ‘first-born’)
15 INQUEST; (N,S + QUITE)* – this is a bit indirect, using ‘Poles’ for NS which then has to be incorporated into an anagram. This sort of treatment is normally reserved for very common abbreviations which rarely indicate anything else, such as ‘old’ for O, ‘good’ for G, ‘very’ for V and so on, but ‘poles’ isn’t as common as these and moreover could legitimately give NN or SS (or even NSN etc). That said, ‘confused’ is a pretty obvious anagram indicator so I didn’t mind this clue.
17 UNHITCH; HIT in [h]UNCH – I lightly wrote in ‘unwinch’ here before seeing the better answer.
20 TAMAR + IN + D – this was one of my last entries – there didn’t seem to be enough words in the clue! Being picky, the cryptic grammar needs a comma after ‘river’ (so the wordplay would be “by river, in Germany”), but I quite liked this one when I finally got it.
22 MIMOSA; MOS in rev. of AIM – one of these.
23 ERYSIPELAS; (REALISE SPY)* – not much chance with this if you didn’t know the word; I guessed ‘erysepalis’. With just a straight anagram and so many vowels, I think the definition could have been much kinder here: if the setter had used ‘skin disease’ then the solver might have had a chance of guessing the ending ‘-pelas’ by analogy with ‘pellagra’, which has the same Greek root (pella, meaning ‘skin’). Also cf 5dn.
24 KNEE (cryptic definition) – rather a good one, I thought.
25 TREEN; RE in TEN – an Araucaria-esque mislead to clue 10, when in fact it’s just 10 = TEN.
26 SPITEFUL; rev. of TIPS; + (FUEL)*
1 DERISION; rev. of NOISED around IR[ish] – cunning use of ‘Spread’ as a past tense.
2 ADIT – an entrance to a mine.
3 NO TATE – as in the art galleries; another clue I liked.
4 INSTEAD; (SENT)* in rev. of DAI – an awkward word to define, neatly done using ‘as substitute’.
5 EPISEMON; (POEMS IN E)* – like 23ac, this is pretty much unguessable unless you know the word; the ‘epi-’ bit (Greek for ‘on’) looked a good bet but it was a 50/50 guess for the other two vowels, and I got it wrong. Again a more helpful definition might helped, in this case by suggesting a link with ‘semaphore’ (the Greek root of both words is sema, meaning ‘sign’).
6 LAWRENCIUM; LAW, + (NICE)* in RUM – this took some deciphering. The definition is ‘Element’, ‘of’ is superfluous, ‘ruling’ gives LAW, then it’s RUM (= ‘booze’) with (NICE)* taken in, i.e. drunk; and (NICE)* is itself ‘nice drunk’.
7 MAN + TU + A – ‘solver in France’ indicates the French for ‘you’.
13 PLUM + ASS + I.E. + R
16 SKIPPING (2 defs)
18 CASHES UP; ASHES (= ‘spoils’) in CUP (= ‘trophy’) – plus an extra hint, in that the real Ashes are contained in a tiny urn.
19 ODALISK; DALI’S in OK – I didn’t know this spelling (only the other one, ‘odalisque’) but ‘passable’ so strongly suggested OK that I got there.
21 AERATE; rev. of (ARE in ETA) – very difficult, my last correct entry (a stab at 23ac followed). The wordplay is ‘terrorists are held up’, and has to be read as ‘terrorists [with] “ARE” held, up’. I spent a good while trying to do something with IRA and ‘irate’, and ‘are’ often indicates A (the abbreviation for the land measure), adding to the difficulty.
22 MY + STIC[k]
24 KLEE; rev. of (E + ELK) – another unfriendly wordplay, in that a solver who hadn’t heard of Paul Klee would be left with a guess of any one from four possibilities (the others being ‘Klen’, ‘Kles’ and ‘Klew’); unless, that is, he’d seen the Nina…

29 Responses to “Guardian 24553 (Sat 22 Nov)/Shed – New arrival?”

  1. Eileen says:

    I found this the hardest crossword for a very long time, even for Shed, whose puzzles I always enjoy. I didn’t finish it even during a four-hour train journey – and now that I see some of the answers, I’m not surprised [although I did know erysipelas - and how to spell it.]

    I really liked KNEE – which should have given me KLEE more quickly, except that I was sure the beast must be ‘yak’. KLEE cropped up in a prize crossword not so very long ago and then it depended on knowing that it rhymed with ‘clay’ rather than spotting a Nina. [I didn't know Guardian setters went in for them, so wouldn't have thought of looking.]

    re 15ac: surely ‘pole’ occurs regularly enough to be standard?

  2. Eileen says:

    PS: I forgot to add the congratulations that are obviously in order somewhere. I initially read your title, Rightback, as a query as to whether Shed was a new setter and I knew that couldn’t be right!

  3. rightback says:

    The eagle-eyed amongst you will note that some of the above doesn’t seem to make sense. This is because the links I originally put in are missing!

    There is a reason for this: currently, for whatever reason, I am unable to post or edit entries on this blog; thanks very much to Geoff who kindly posted this on my behalf this morning after I emailed it to him. Unfortunately the links disappeared in transit, but I’ll put them back in once I can edit again. Sorry to have deprived you of some lovely piccies, particularly the clouds!

  4. rightback says:

    15ac: I agree that ‘pole’ is a standard abbreviation. What I was trying to say was that normally when there is an indirect abbreviation in an anagram, by which I mean that a word in the clue has to be replaced by an abbreviation which then becomes part of the anagrammed letters, the abbreviation is essentially umabiguous.

    In fact, ‘poles’ = SN is probably better used in this way than ‘pole’ (which could be S or N), and the setter probably intended this use to be unambiguous here, but I’ve definitely seen ‘poles’ = SS (or maybe NN) in a crossword recently, and thought it was devious but perfectly fair.

  5. Phaedrus says:

    I agree with you, Eileen – thought this was the toughest puzzle I’ve come across in a while. I got there in the end, but it took a few hours. I didn’t spot the nina though, and have since recycled my paper – can you put me out of my misery please?

  6. Eileen says:

    Phaedrus; [other solvers look away now]

    The Nina was Greetings Daniel Michael Peck

  7. Andrew says:

    Phaedrus, don’t forget (unless you never knew) that the Guardian crosswords are now freely available on their website.

    I’ll just add my agreement that this was a very tough one – thanks to Rightback for explaining a couple that I couldn’t see. And (as almost always happens) I failed to spot the Nina.

  8. Phaedrus says:

    Many thanks Eileen, and Andrew too. Just wish I knew who Daniel Michael Peck is now!

  9. Phaedrus says:

    PS having said that last week’s Shed was the toughest for a while, this week’s Araucaria is proving equally troublesome!

  10. Roger Murray says:

    Glad to hear you all found this difficult, I got about three quarters of it done and that was over the course of the week. I felt a real sense of achievement when I solved each clue though, hard but fair

  11. davidoff says:

    Took me till Tuesday to finish this, but I think Shed would approve of that – a prize crossword is one to ponder, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. One question about 21 down: is the straight clue “upset”? I know if someone’s aerated then they are angry, but is “to aerate” “to upset”?

  12. mhl says:

    Davidoff: Chambers gives “to excite or perturb” as possible definitions for AERATE. Definitely one of the tougher clues, I thought.

    Phaedrus: I certainly thought yesterday’s Araucaria was more difficult than this one, but while I was out yesterday my partner raced through the rest of the clues without any apparent trouble. I do find Araucaria particularly difficult though.

    Eileen: we had KAYE instead of KLEE for a while as well, having found the artist Otis Kaye in Wikipedia…

  13. Eileen says:

    Mhl: yes, on the train I was sure there must be an artist called Kaye.

    I haven’t heard anyone say, ‘Don’t get aeriated’ [sic] for years. I can’t find that meaning in any of my dictionaries [but I have ordered a Chambers now]. That was one of the answers I didn’t get.

    I did manage to finish Araucaria’s excellent offering yesterday. I thought 16ac was brilliant – an absolute laugh-out-loud gem.

  14. Ralph G says:

    21d the wordplay: I read it as ETA (terrorists), ARE held, up. viz.: A ERA TE. This leves ‘if’ as a link word, which seems OK to me.

  15. Ralph G says:

    23a The derivation of ERYSIPELAS is clear or doubtful, depending how far you want to go back. Chambers (10th)and Collins (1994) are helpful but potentially misleading*. The full word does actually occur in classical Greek as a medical term so if you don’t want to go further back than Hippocrates, end of story. For the anterior etymology, the OED may prove more helpful than Liddell & Scott.
    * For general purposes we can take PELT and words with PELL (=skin) as coming from Latin PELLIS, skin (pellagra being a loan-word from Italian) and DERMA as the Greek root for dermatitis etc. There _is_ a Greek word PELLA in common use, [Theocritus 1.26 "she has two kids but yields two pails besides"] but it means wooden bowl or bucket; cognate with Latin PELVIS.

  16. mhl says:

    Eileen: indeed, I thought 16a was brilliant, apart from one aspect which we’d better postpone discussion of until next week :)

  17. Eileen says:

    Mhl: yes, I know I shouldn’t even have mentioned it, re a prize crossword but I was just so taken with it I wanted to share my joy ;-)

  18. rightback says:

    Hurray, I’ve managed to fix the links so the blog should now make a bit more sense. Aren’t clouds brilliant?

    (PS: However good 16ac is, it would probably be politic to avoid any further discussion of next week’s puzzle!)

  19. beermagnet says:

    Eileen, I’m so glad someone else has mentioned the mispronounced version “aer-i-ated”.
    Until this crossword I thought that was the correct word and was surprised to find aerated in Chambers and no sign of aeriated or aereated. “Don’t get so aeriated” was one of my mother’s phrases when I was a lad, and as no-one else seems to use the word (either correctly of mispronounced), I have never questioned it since.
    Until you mentioned it as well I thought it must have been a family quirk.
    So, is this way of mispronouncing it common? Are any other -rated words affected?
    Who knows.

  20. Eileen says:

    Beermagnet: it was actually only my grandmother who used that expression, when I was a child [a long time ago]. Since then, I’ve always thought it was an idiosyncratic word of hers [she had several] or Midland dialect, at least.

    I was really very surprised to see that meaning of ‘aerated’ in the crossword. As I’ve said, it’s not in my Collins or SOED.

  21. beermagnet says:

    Eileen, it seems your experience is similar to mine, my mother (now in her 80s) and my grandmother both said aer-i-ated, but this is in Surrey. Now you mention the Midlands I can imagine Pam Ayers saying it.

  22. Shed says:

    Thanks to rightback and all who commented. In case anyone’s still looking at this blog, Daniel Michael Peck is my partner’s nephew, born earlier this year.

  23. Shed says:

    Incidentally, ‘aerated’ to mean ‘upset, agitated’ is still quite common around here – and generally pronounced ‘aeriated’. But this is South Yorkshire.

  24. Eileen says:

    Thank you, Shed. I was hoping you would let us into the secret. Renewed congratulations. And thanks for a great puzzle. More new words learned.

  25. rightback says:

    Thanks very much, Shed, and congratulations by proxy on the bambino.

    (South Yorkshire-wise, I don’t suppose “Shed” is anything to do with “outskirts of Sheffield”, is it?)

  26. Paul (not Paul) says:

    Frankly, you can keep your self-indulgent Ninas and supply us with a good crossword with words in common usage, as far as I’m concerned.

    I’m happy to have one or two unfamilar words or usages but this crossword was extremely unsatisfactory as it required far too much external referencing (for me). In particular, some of the obscure words were not tightly clued to allow them to be guessed and then looked up.

  27. Shed says:

    Rightback: no, Shed is an old nickname dating back to long before I moved to Sheffield. Thanks for the clouds.

    Paul (not Paul): I guess I’ll have to settle for ‘some of the people some of the time’ – I did try to make the clues for the more obscure words fairly gentle. I accept that (as Rightback pointed out) there was more than one plausible unravelling of a couple of the anagrams – but I felt I’d given enough for people to narrow them down to two or three possibles which could quite easily be verified. I’m more upset to learn of Otis Kaye (whom I had never heard of), as that really is a valid alternative to KLEE for 24dn, and I hate clues with more than one valid solution.

  28. Stephen Saunders says:

    I’m writing belatedly, having only just discovered this site. This was an excellent puzzle, and I completely disagree with the ‘self indulgent’ insult. Those who wish to stick with crosswords which employ ‘words in common usage’ have plenty of choice to go at and can thereby save themselves the expense of a decent dictionary or the doubtless Herculean effort required to use it.

    ‘Aeriated’ in the sense given here for ‘aerated’ should definitely be listed somewhere – my wife and I use the word regularly. We grew up in the West Country and the northern Home Counties respectively.

    Loved the PRADA clue, and sorry about Mr Kaye – I had Klee, as intended.

  29. mhl says:

    Thanks for commenting on this, Shed, and congratulations! We found the puzzle was testing but very enjoyable, and I think most of the commenters and bloggers here appreciate it when setters include a Nina…

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