Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24568 / Arachne

Posted by mhl on December 10th, 2008


Good clues with some excellent surface readings; there are a couple I’m not quite convinced by, but maybe people can clarify them.

9. ABSORBENT ABS = “Sailors” + OR = “soldiers” + BENT = “tendency”. I’m not sure the definition quite works – which bit could be substituted for “absorbent” in a sentence”, even if “tendency” is doing double duty?
10. SCHWA Hidden answer
13. EXIT EXIST without S (son, or “issue”)
16. TRESTLE Homophone of Robert Tressell, author of “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists”. The linked Wikipedia article suggests that he chose this pen name because it sounded like TRESTLE
17. LOBELIA LOB = “shy” + ELI = “priest” + A
22. EDIT ED = “boy” + IT = “sex”
24. VARNISH R = “run” in VANISH = “Peter out”. One of the definitions of “japan” in Chambers is “a glossy black varnish or lacquer”
25. INCISOR IN = “cool” + CIS = “little girl” (“cissy” shortened?) + OR = “gold”; Thanks to Geoff Moss, who points out in the comments that “‘Cis’ is listed in Chambers as the diminutive of Cecelia, Cecily or Cicely.”
26. REIGN R + alternate letters from bE kInG aNd
1. BACK SEAT DRIVERS Cryptic definition: to “give advice and help” might be to BACK, and Spanish motorists might be SEAT drivers
2. ASTATINE A STATIN [D]E[N] A tricky clue: “At” is the definition (the chemical symbol for Astatine)
3. BRUIN B (“baiting’s leading one”) + RUIN = “perdition”
5. STATES STATE = “official” + S = “end to hostilities” (?)
6. ASTROLABE (BOATS ARE L[OOK])*; an astrolabe is device used for navigating by the stars
7. CHEERS Double definition
15. STAR SIGNS (RATINGS)* in SS (“on board”); “Archer” and “Fish” are Saggitarius and Pisces
17. LOLLIPOP LOLL = “lie about” + I “one” + POP = “dad”
18. LADYSHIP LADY’S HIP = “woman’s joint”
20. MORRIS MO = “medical officer” + RR = “Rolls Royce” + IS; one of several Morris cars
21. ASHRAM (HAS)* + RAM to give Ashram
23. SCRAP Hidden answer

32 Responses to “Guardian 24568 / Arachne”

  1. Geoff Moss says:

    No wonder I was unable to parse 21d. The non-pdf on-line versions do not have the ‘has’ in this clue. Also, ‘one’ is missing from the end of the clue for 20d.

  2. Geoff Moss says:

    25a ‘Cis’ is listed in Chambers as the diminutive of Cecelia, Cecily or Cicely.

  3. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, Mhl, especially the explanation of 1dn, which I got but couldn’t fully explain. [2dn I didn’t even get.]

    I found this quite hard – or perhaps I’m just tired, after yesterday’s Marathon! There were some very clever anagrams, eg 14ac, 19ac and 8dn and I loved the misdirection of the two proper nouns in 24ac. I thought 15dn was good too – I found that there actually is an archer fish.

    Re 1ac: I know what you mean. I finally read the definition as ‘with [a] tendency to drink up’ but, as you say, ‘tendency’ then has to work hard.

  4. mhl says:

    Geoff: thanks for the explanation of “Cis” – I’ve updated the post. Incidentally, I really liked your list from yesterday of things that you consider when evaluating a crossword. That’s certainly how I try to approach them, otherwise this would be a very frustrating exercise for me…

    Eileen: I found it rather tricky as well, the first five down clues in particular. Thanks for pointing out that the Archer Fish exists – I didn’t really get the surface reading of that when I went through it. 24 across is particularly good, I agree.

    As I look at the clues more, I keep noticing nice subtleties in them – always a good sign :)

  5. 13eastie says:

    Particularly since 6 has such an obscure solution, I think the leap from “beginning” to the letter L is somewhat astronomical in itself!

    Where did my astrolabe get to, dammit?!

  6. Tom Hutton says:

    Some really nice clues here (I particularly liked 1dn) but I think 2dn is beyond the pale. Astatine is not an element on everyone’s lips in the first place. I certainly had to look it up. To use ‘e’ as den stripped off is very weak in my view. This is another clue which I would doubt many if any solvers would get without most if not all the cross letters in…and don’t get me started on schwa. The vowel may be unstressed but I was not.

    6dn seemed fair to me but then astrolabe was a word I knew which always helps.

  7. Silver149 says:

    I am still a novice and found this more difficult than the other commentators (eg 10ac which was new as a word and concept).
    I should be grateful if someone could elucidate two clues.
    Why in 9ac is OR = “soldiers” (and I feel sure I will be cross with myself when it is explained) and what is the relevance in 14ac of Dotty?
    Finally may I very ‘umbly suggest an alternative reading to 6dn: Lost is abbreviated to L and an Astrolobe was at the beginning of the development of help with navigation (preceding the sextant). Thus the definition begins at the beginning (so to speak).

  8. Tom Hutton says:

    OR is Other Ranks

  9. mhl says:

    Silver149: OR is “Other Ranks”. In 14 across “when Dotty” is the anagram indicator, with a misleading capital letter.

  10. Tom Hutton says:

    I have just read the last 50 or so of yesterday’s comments (having a lot of time to spare) and following the discussion there, I would like to add that the Guardian crosswords are by far the most entertaining to do on an everyday basis that I have ever found. Any minor gripes should be read in that context. Long live the Guardian setters…and the bloggers and responders, who are good fun to read as well.

  11. mhl says:

    Tom Hutton: 2 down is difficult, certainly, but quite fair IMHO. The misleading “At” at the beginning of the sentence is a really nice trick, I think – it took me a long time to spot even though there had been a recent crossword with similarly hidden element abbreviations as a theme. I knew about schwa sounds before, so 10 across rather jumped out at me from the “unstressed vowel sound” part…

    Unfortunately, I’m now worried that this comment sounds a bit like the conversation from yesterday now, as I think you’re alluding to in comment #10. :)

  12. Geoff says:

    I’m not Geoff Moss, by the way!

    Found this harder than yesterday’s Araucaria, but managed it finally, apart from 2dn – as a chemist I kicked myself when I discovered the answer, but it is a very difficult (though entirely fair) clue. Helps if you are familiar with schwas and astrolabes, as I fortunately was.

    Did anyone else find the clues unusually varied in difficulty – some very straightforward and others decidedly fiendish? Some great ones here, though, albeit with an extraneous ‘s’ here and there (eg 17dn).

  13. Dave Ellison says:

    I found this much easier than yesterday’s and Arachne’s last one. I really enjoyed it, despite not getting 2d.

    I had forgotten OR as Other Ranks, so thanks for that explanation.

    I found lob and shy as synonyms in Encarta, in the sene of throw a ball, say; but shy in online dictionaries does not seem to have this meaning.

    Being an ex (radio) astronomer, astrolabe was already familiar.

  14. Dave Ellison says:

    Yes, Geoff, it started out really quite easy, but then I slowed down

  15. jobseeker says:

    Astatine got me; should have got it but what a crafty place to hide the definition. I was lost considering slang terms for drugs, crack-houses and strip-clubs such was my frustration.
    The other blank was 8d. Threw myself off the scent by entering Fossilised early on in my solution, and that d- mentality scuppered me. Great puzzle though; beats job-seeking (although the puzzle did beat me). I agree with poster Tom Hutton, that the Guardian crossword is always good value for entertainment; much as the paper itself there is a broad church of interest and point of view, and plenty to provoke thought.

  16. smutchin says:

    Dave E – you could argue that “shy” in that sense is a “fossil” word (as discussed recently) since few people would use it outside the phrase “coconut shy” these days, which may explain why some dictionaries don’t list that sense.

    Tom H – quite. If being able to finish the thing was my only goal, I’d do Sudoku.

  17. jobseeker says:

    Shy is current in cricket parlance: a shy at the stumps to run a batsman out (usually KP’s partner)

  18. John says:

    I enjoyed this, but wondered in what sense SEX is IT, except in somewhat vulgar parlance?
    Clara Bow had sex appeal, hence the nickname, and the current label “It Girls” describes young women who receive “intense media coverage unrelated or disproportional to personal achievements”.

  19. Geoff Moss says:

    From Chambers: it – sex appeal, sexual intercourse or activity.

    Labelled as ‘informal’ rather than ‘offensive’ or ‘taboo’.

  20. stiofain_x says:

    No matter how I try I cant make 5dn work with state as an official I had it as stat- making something official by an editor and es- as end to hostilities.
    I love a good surface reading so am always prepared to
    go round the houses a bit and accept small niggles for setters like arachne or paul though.
    I am wondering if Araucaria knows he has another scalp for his collection now having set the record for the most responses on 15sq’ed and will the young turks try to top him on this?

  21. John says:

    Thanks Geoff. I have it!

  22. Eileen says:

    Stiofain: the nearest I can get to equating ‘state’ with ‘official’ is in expressions like ‘state occasion’ or ‘state funeral’ but this is more in line with the meaning of ‘state’ as ‘public; ceremonial’ [Chambers]. I’m not happy with it.

  23. Ian says:

    Pretty hard for me as ever.

    A curate’s egg in respect of the clues, some clever, the odd one clunky.

    1d, 17a, 19a in the former

    24a the latter

  24. mhl says:

    I’m going to assume that John means “I have Italian Vermouth” :)

  25. Agentzero says:

    I thought 22a was brilliant, a new take (for me at least) on an often-clued word.

    Now I am reminded of the song: “Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it…”

  26. Roger Murray says:

    Oh well, I thought I was progressing well and then was stumped by this one, got about 75% of it but just wasn’t seeing the word play very well yesterday, found this harder than than Tuesday’s. I liked shy for lob, thought both of the cricketing term but also the old fete standby, the coconut shy. Kicking myself over some of the ones I missed, maybe I burned out too many brain cells on Araucaria.

  27. Ralph G says:

    5d (20,22 above): this clue defeated me but I was happier with Eileen’s explanation than she was herself Took me a while to find lexical support but Chambers’ Thesaurus (1991) has ‘official’ in the entry for ‘state’.
    OED not available this morning but solvers might like to know that (according to OUP) most public libraries are Oxford Reference subscribers. Library members can access the OED etc from the library online reference page (only) entering some magic letters and their 12-letter library card number. If anybody cracks the setting to enable automatic filling in of this number, please post. There are instructions in the OU Reference FAQs, but they didn’t work for me.

  28. Tyro says:

    Is it cricket though? I don’t mind being beaten by fair clues, but I don’t think I’d succeed in getting a lovely bunch of coconuts or even KP’s wicket with a lob.

  29. Paul B says:

    I should say LOB for ‘shy’ is classic Grauniad – two throws, but not at all the same. If you lob, you throw through a looping or arcing trajectory, whilst your shy is achieved ‘with a sideways motion’. They’re simply not synonymous, and I find that sort of thing quite irritating (surface first, technique a poor second).

    And I would agree that ASTATINE is pretty much insoluble. I don’t mind the definition so much – ‘At’ is very good and misleading – but to clue STATIN merely as ‘drug’ gives us scant chance. Then to add ‘stripped off’ as any kind of crosswording instruction is pushing it to say the least, and for me this clue is another (and classic) example of any-excuse-for-a-good-surface.

    There were some good things too in this puzzle (great anagram for ASTROLABE), but it seems so many ‘Nad setters are similarly sloppy. And I don’t mean that they’re ‘Araucarian’ or ‘Libertarian': I mean that they’re sloppy.

  30. IR says:

    Am I being thick, I’m new around here, but where do we discus today’s?

  31. mhl says:

    IR: Ciaran just posted it (3 minutes before your comment, so I guess you just missed it) – see the “Recent Posts” list on the left…

  32. KG says:

    I agree, more or less word for word, with Paul B about ‘astatine’.

    I didn’t mind ‘shy’ for ‘lob’, but then again I rejoice whenever I get a flower – I’m better at rivers.

    What usually annoys me is ‘boy’ as in 22. Obviously a contraction of a name associated with males – but which one? You can work it out when the clue is solved, but never before. Get it in one from the definition and the rest is redundant. Rufus would have done this in two words – or one – or possibly none.

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