Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,571 (Sat 13 Dec)/Araucaria – Jingle Bells

Posted by rightback on December 20th, 2008


Solving time: 16 mins, one missing (6dn)

If I’d been well schooled in Brontë, this would have been one of my fastest solves of an Araucaria crossword – surprising, considering the grid, which is one of the most disconnected used by broadsheets (I’ve seen this one in the Independent too). As it was, I was pleased to escape with just one missing, at least until I looked up ‘Balt’ and realised how stupid I’d been: straight to bed and no supper.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

5 AVALON; rev. of NO LAVA – Avalon is a place in Arthurian legend.
9 PROP + O + SAL
10 PLATEN; P + LATEN[t] – the rolloer of a typewriter.
12 RE + PORT – not sure why a question mark is needed here.
14 ILLUSTRATE – which rhymes with Philostrate, Master of Revels in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I didn’t know the name, but it’s a lovely clue.
18 A + NIM + ALF + ARM – excellent charade (“A “Game Boy” weapon”). “Napoleon” should have rung immediate Orwell bells, but I was too caught up with the possibility of ‘weapon’ = ARM being something to do with Napoleon having one arm.
22 L + ADDER – ladders take you up in the game of Snakes and Ladders; cf 19dn.
23 BRANWELL; BRAN (= ‘refuse’) + WELL (= ‘spring’) – I managed to dredge up this name eventually. Branwell Brontë was the brother of the three sisters.
25 BERKELEY – I think this is a triple definition: George, the bishop and philosopher, Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire and the campus of Berkeley, the University of California. I had a speculative Helmsley in here for a while.
26 DU(LC)ET – LC for ‘lower case’.
27 FLASH + MAN – a bit of Googling tells me that the bully Flashman, from Tom Brown’s Schooldays, was resurrected by George MacDonald Fraser.
1 RAP + TO + R – a merlin is a kind of falcon.
2 BRONTE; BRO + (TEN)* – cunning misdirection to 10ac. I thought I’d got wise to this trick, but Araucaria had me again with this one.
3 I + CONIC – very nice. “Conic section” is a mathematical term which describes certain curves, such as parabolas, formed by the intersection of a cone with a plane.
4 HEATH + CLIFF – a character in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.
6 VIL(LETT)E – my downfall on this puzzle. I just couldn’t think of having come across the word ‘balt’ before, and after considering a connection with ‘cobalt’ I eventually gave up as I knew I didn’t know the Brontë connection. As soon I looked up ‘balt’ I kicked myself, hard – not ‘balt’ but ‘Balt’, i.e. someone from the Baltic states, hence ‘Lett’ (which I did know). Villette is a novel by Charlotte Brontë.
7 LITTORAL – I think ‘viva’ is ORAL but I’m not sure about LITT; possibly some Oxford abbreviation?
8 NINETEEN; NINETE + E,N – Ninette de Valois was a ballerina.
13 CUR(R)ER + BELL – Charlotte’s pseudonym (Anne and Emily used Acton and Ellis Bell respectively).
15 RA + I + L(HE)AD
16 WILD[e] + FELL – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was by Anne…
17 JAN + E + EYR[i]E – …and this one’s another by Charlotte, to complete a quartet of novels referenced in the down clues.
19 SNAKES – cf 22ac.
20 BEDLAM; BED (= ‘flowers’) + LAM (= ‘strike’)
21 PLAY ON – as in ‘play on words’.

15 Responses to “Guardian 24,571 (Sat 13 Dec)/Araucaria – Jingle Bells”

  1. owenjonesuk says:

    The top right hand corner stumped us till we used google. I’m still confused about exactly how 2 and 4 work. Is ‘relation’ doing double duty in 2? And where’s the definition for 4? Or is it somehow &lit?

  2. Ian Stark says:

    Aha! 19d almost caused me to report dissatisfaction, in that snakes are not raptors (as in 1d). Initially I had put in vipers, thinking there may have been a tenuous US warplane link (F22 Raptor, F16 Viper). I am terribly embarrassed to confess that I even considered a Battlestar Galactica reference (the names of two spacecraft types that appear in the series), albeit not an obvious Araucaria subject area! Although I hit upon snakes eventually it wasn’t until reading the blog that I fully understood why! It’s been a while since I played any board games, clearly . . .

    Not being well versed in (what I understand are) the classics, I was forced to revert to the reference books with this one, although I got 2 and 4 quite quickly. Classics, cricket and flower clues all leave me a little in the dark!

    For Owenjonesuk, I think it’s a case of relation = bro + nte (anagram of ten).

    Anyone else not able to get to the online Prize Crossword today? Does this mean I actually have to dress to go and buy the paper?

  3. beermagnet says:

    7D There is a degree B.Litt, “Bachelor of Letters”, which I suppose you get if you read Greats. Not sure if this is a peculiarly OxBridge thing though.
    It looks like the online crossword has not been loaded. I’ll be on m’bike soon too, Ian. Hope this means it’s a special monster.

  4. rightback says:

    On looking again, I’m not quite sure how 4dn is intended to work. It seems to be “2 (Two) features of a … landscape” = HEATH and CLIFF, with another “2” (Brontë) shoved in the middle as a rather unsatisfactory ‘definition’.

  5. Chunter says:

    Beermagnet: BLitt is (or rather was) a postgraduate degree. It’s now called MLitt ( As far as I know Greats leads to a mere BA. As a BSc (London) I don’t feel qualified to take this any further.

  6. Eileen says:

    7dn: the clue reads ‘Greats starting': Greats = LITTerae humaniores, the study of Greek and Roman History, Literature and Philosophy at Oxford University.

    Beermagnet, yes it is an Aruaucaria holiday special!

  7. smutchin says:

    Rightback, I thought 4d was lovely – the second “2” connects to “landscape”, to give “a Bronte landscape”, Bronte novels typically being set in their native North Yorkshire Moors, which feature many heaths and cliffs. And of course Heathcliff is the bloke out of Wuthering Heights.

    Thanks for the explanation of 6d – I realised Balt referred to a native of the Baltic states but I’m not familiar with the term Lett.

    Also thanks to Eileen, for the explanation of Greats=Litt. I knew a “viva” was a kind of oral examination, so got the solution, but that first bit had me foxed.

    I was quite pleased to be able to finish this one – a rare occurrence for me with Araucaria – and thought some of the clues were wonderfully clever. I especially enjoyed the snakes and ladders clues.

    However, there were a couple of stinkers, 15d being the worst offender – it works OK as a cryptic clue but the surface is complete and utter nonsense. “End of the line for painter, one man concealed in boy”???? It’s barely even English. 17d is almost as bad. “A [Bronte’s] month on drug, one dropped from nest.”

    It’s a shame because some of the clues have really elegant surfaces – 1a “Worthless stone keeps prelate out of work” and 21d “Continue with music: words may follow” being my favourites because they are complete little stories in themselves. That, to my mind, is how the surface of a cryptic clue should function. Araucaria is probably the best there is at it, so it’s all the more disappointing when he slips up.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to tackling the big one over Christmas. Should keep me busy for quite a while. Beermagnet – you won’t be able to do it online, but there is a print version on the Guardian website.

  8. smutchin says:

    re 14a – is it common to refer to Shakespeare plays by their initials? It’s not something I’m familiar with and I would never have picked up on however long I stared at it – surely the clue would still have been cryptic enough if the title had been spelt out?

    Once again thanks for the explanation, rightback. And in any case, I got the solution easily enough from the checking letters.

  9. Chunter says:


    7dn: Doesn’t Greats stand for Literae Humaniores, often abbreviated to Lit Hum?

  10. Eileen says:

    Hi Chunter: my dictionaries give either spelling. I personally would always spell ‘littera’ like that. [The word gives us ‘literal’ and literature’ but also ‘letter’!]

  11. Chunter says:

    Eileen, I wasn’t doubting your word, but couldn’t remember seeing the ‘tt’ version.

  12. Eileen says:

    Hi again, Chunter: you made me rather doubt my own word. I was, earlier, quoting my English dictionaries but now that I consult my huge Lewis and Short Latin dictionary I find ‘littera [less accurately litera] a letter’.

    If you’ll indulge me a little, I find more interesting the spelling of LITTORAL, which comes from Latin ‘litus [and here Lewis and Short says *not* ‘littus’] litoris’ – shore, coast

  13. Phaedrus says:

    Interestingly, Araucaria set a prize puzzle about 6 months ago, with this same theme (the Brontes). I guess he’s a fan! Some of the answers were the same (e.g. HEATHCLIFF)and were clued similarly. So whilst I solved this puzzle in record time (for me), it was probably due to it being a case of deja vu…

  14. rightback says:

    So he did (24,451 on 26th July). I missed that one as I was out of the country – a shame as it would have helped me a lot here!

  15. Epee says:

    I’m not sure about 14Ac being a lovely clue. I could see ‘illustrate’ from the crossing letters, but it doesn’t make sense either from definition (Is ‘illustrate’ (vt) really an exact synonym for ‘picture’ (vt) ?) and as for the subsidiary part with MC in MND …..

    I agree with Smutchin above – some very neat clues and some less so.

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=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

7 − four =