Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian No 24,582 / Araucaria

Posted by Eileen on December 29th, 2008


What a treat! I have been so looking forward to my first Araucaria blog but didn’t expect to get it on a Monday. [That’s not to say I wouldn’t have been glad to get the usual Rufus!] This was not one to rush: there was so much to savour – both old favourite plays to revisit and elegant clues to delight in. Classic Araucaria. [I initially thought there were no anagrams but there was just one – and a bit.]

[ ]* = anagram


CHEAPEN: CHE [crossword setters’ favourite revolutionary] + A + PEN
ANTONIO: [D]ANTON +10 [TEN]: Danton was a leading figure in the French revolution. Antonio appears as The Merchant of Venice, as a friend of Sebastian in Twelfth Night, Prospero’s brother in The Tempest and also in Much Ado about Nothing and Two Gentlemen of Verona.
10 OLD DOG: O + L +’D + DOG [follow]: ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’
11 ABHORSON: ABHOR + SON: the executioner in Measure for Measure
12 FOOL: double definition: a fruit fool is a dessert and King Lear’s fool was his devoted companion
13 SUPPRESSOR: SUP + PRESS [who else was looking for ‘fe’?] + OR
14 SHAKESPEARE: the key to the theme: film ‘KES’ [another crossword favourite] in SHAPE + ARE [live]
19 STALINGRAD: A LING in STRAD: Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd in 1961
22 SNUG: double definition: Snug was the joiner [!] in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
23 PERICLES: P[age] + ERIC + LES: lovely!
24 SILVIA: S’IL V[ous plait] + I + A: Silvia is the love of Valentine in Two Gentlemen of Verona and appears in a song there, ‘Who is Silvia?’
25 BLUE MAX: 1966 film about a WW1 German fighter pilot and highest German military award: sounds like ‘bloom axe’
26 SLENDER: S + SLENDER: Slender appears in The Merry Wives of Windsor


SHALLOW: S[HALL]OW: Shallow is Slender’s cousin
BARDOLPH: BARD [14] + O[LP]H: Bardolph is a follower of Falstaff in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and Henry V
VERGES: double definition: Verges is an officer in Much Ado
ONE-HORSE: double definition: one-horse race / one-horse town
MORRIS: homophone of Maurice + ref. to Morris dancing
PAMPAS GRASS: PAS GRAS [French ‘not fat’] in PAM’S
15 KING LEAR: K [grand] + L [pupil] inside IN GEAR [ready to move off]
16 ROSALIND: SALINe [most of SALT, which is most of DESALT, in 21] inside ROD [measure]: Rosalind is the heroine of As You Like It
18 LUCIFER: double definition Lucifer = [old] Nick, the Devil, and a lucifer is a match [‘to light your fag’]

31 Responses to “Guardian No 24,582 / Araucaria”

  1. Eileen says:

    Thought I’d checked this so carefully! – of course, 26ac is S + LENDER

  2. teesween says:

    Lost interest having established that this one was strictly for the Shakespeare buffs. Personally I’m agin this type of puzzle as it excludes those who are not familiar with the themed work. We are all supposed to be even Harry Potter experts these days.

  3. JohnR says:

    Thanks for the very helpful blog, Eileen.

    Some excellent clues, but I didn’t find the Shakespeare theme added much to the puzzle overall.

  4. Brian Harris says:

    Some rather obscure Shakespeare characters in here…. quite fun to rack my brains trying to remember where Shallow, Bardolph, Abhorson and Verges come from. Liked 23ac, but to be honest, a lot of the other clues left me a bit annoyed. Is “film” really sufficient for “Kes”, for example? It doesn’t exactly narrow it down, does it?! And “are” for live is rather weak.

  5. mhl says:

    Thanks for the excellent post on this, Eileen.

    It took us a while to get SHAKESPEARE from the first themed answers we got (SHALLOW, SILVIA and VERGES) but after that it wasn’t too bad, since most of the unfamiliar characters were quite guessable from the crossing letters. In fact, I thought the hardest one was unrelated to the theme (BLUE MAX) – that struck me as very obscure…

    Eclipse came up in the context of a “one-horse race” in a recent Everyman. I assume it’s a reference to this horse, but I’d be interested if anyone knows if “Eclipse” is used to mean a one-horse race more generally.

  6. Derek Lazenby says:

    I saw today’s setter’s name and gave up immediately. He seems to care more about showing off his own cleverness than in setting a fair puzzle. Though no doubt the anoraks will love it.

    Out of morbid curiosity, and being on line, I clicked “Cheat” just to see what the key clue was (14 ac). I was immediately glad I wasn’t bothering with this crossword. The only way to solve this clue is by blind guess work. “Film”, unless you are totally myopic, has more than just the meaning “Movie”, so you have to make a blind guess as to which meaning is intended. Having made that blind guess you then have to follow it up with a further blind guess as to which film. There are countless films with short names, coming to the correct one could take ages. Similarly, you have then to guess which meaning of “form” is intended, but this is fair enough as the choice is more limited. And as Brian says, “are” for “live” is pathetic.

    And the whole crossword is based about this obscure garbage? That is not what I call a fair crossword. To be fair the key clue needs to be accurate in the sense of directing you to the solution. This clue does almost nothing to achieve that as the parts have too many possibilities (you have to multiply the number of possibilities for each part to see just how obscure this is).

    Themed crosswords of this nature are ok once every now and then, but as regular fodder they are just irritating.

  7. Eileen says:

    Mhl: many thanks for the link. I’m afraid I didn’t think too deeply on this one, beyond the literal meaning of ‘eclipse’. I certainly hadn’t heard of the horse but I’m sure you must be right.

    SILVIA was the first one I got, too, and because of the ‘who’s she?’ I guessed SHAKESPEARE and worked backwards [as Tom Hutton, I think it is, would hate having to do!]. I thought it was quite straightforward: as I said in the blog, KES is so well-known and -used as clue in crosswords that it’s almost commonplace [unless it’s ET!] and I have no problem at all with ARE = ‘live’.

  8. Rich says:

    Well! This was certainly not a crossword for the relative beginner :)

    Although not being as irate as some of the solvers on this board I could only get half of the clues here and put this down to a learning experience as to how the great Araucaria sets his crosswords.

    I now know to think of Kes and ET for films and “are” for live (yes it is a bit of a stretch) but this is the nature of crosswords they are coded with the setters own personalities and human flaws (at least that is the case for the guardian, the Times would frown on this from it’s polite drawingroom conversation crosswords)

  9. Rich says:

    oh i forgot to ask,

    why do we get OT for books in “books acknowledgement”?

  10. Geoff Moss says:

    Old Testament

  11. mhl says:

    I’m slightly surprised to hear that some people thought this was unfair – it seemed fine throughout to me. In fact, I think the objections that Derek Lazenby articulates for the SHAKESPEARE clue would apply to almost every cryptic crossword – the process of combining blind guesses until something clicks is at the heart of solving these puzzles for me.

    It would be nice to see some other two or three letter film titles used more often in the Guardian, though: “If….”, “Pi”, “AI”, etc., must be useful every now and then. :)

  12. Derek Lazenby says:

    I have nothing against blind guesses per se, they are indeed part of crossword life. My objection is to the use in a key clue. Normally such guesses can be inspired by cross-checked letters. But when it is the “you really need to start here” clue, that is a different matter.

    But the obscurity wasn’t just in the number of possibilities as already discussed. In crossword-ese, the clue could equally be read as “the definition is film and the wordplay follows” that gives many more possibilities to be rejected (and remember you have to multiply those with the other possibilities to get a true measure of obscurity). Tell me what stops me from spending lots of time looking at “film” as being the definition part? (remembering I said I don’t mind doing that for non-key clues).

    Perhaps I should admit to not being a Guardian regular. I am just filling in time while my leg gets back to a single piece. So if the Guardian has decided to specialise on a limited number of film titles, then I would not be aware of that. A crossword should be fair to more than just it’s regulars solvers. Regular solvers should not presume that those who comment on these things are party to “private codes” that may not be in general use elsewhere. Neither should setters. As noted above, there are very many more short film titles than the few regulars also mentioned above.

  13. C & J says:

    Loved it! All a crossword should be, despite the carpers. The only problem was Blue Max – got stuck on Blue Dan which did not seem to be a film title or a flying award.

    Thank goodness for the blog.

  14. mhl says:

    For what it’s worth, we did spend quite a long time thinking of film titles for the answer to 14 across, since all the references to “[character] in 14″ fitted well with “film” being the definition part. I thought this misdirection was rather elegant, though. I often find that one only solves the key clue through the clues that reference it, and I suspect this is often because setters try not to make it the puzzle too easy by making the theme clue obvious. (Of course, in this case unless you know Shakespeare extremely well, it was hardly a giveaway…)

    As Eileen has pointed out, one is often only sure that an answer is correct by guessing the answer and then working out the wordplay – in many cases I’m sure that that is indeed because of the multiplicative nature of combinations that you mention. I don’t think this is considered unfair in any of the UK daily cryptic crosswords, but admittedly my experience is almost entirely with the Guardian and the Independent.

    Although “film” is very often ET (and KES much less frequently) I think any fairly well-known film would be fair and I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that the Guardian has a policy to stick to those two. Also, I think these are much easier for newcomers than other common bits of crosswordese that are used in all the UK papers (e.g. “flower” or “banker” = river, “order” = PO, OBE, OM, CH, etc.)

    I hope you haven’t been put off the Guardian crossword by the frustration today, anyway, since the different setters have very distinct styles.

  15. Eileen says:

    Mhl: yes, reading through the comments again, I realise that it would be very easy – and logical – to take ‘film’ as the definition but, knowing Araucaria as we do, I agree with you that this was a clever piece of misdirection. That possibility had not occurred to me because, as I said, I got to SHAKESPEARE through [Who is] Silvia and also ‘Snug’, as I had the ‘u’ and there aren’t many more synonyms for ‘cosy’.

    As you say, the aim is not to make the theme clue too obvious. I’ve never had aspirations to be a setter and so, simplistically, SHAKESPEARE to me would suggest something along the lines of ‘fish, weapon, in Kent’ – completely unequivocal and boring. The more I get into this – and I’m still on a fairly steep learning curve – the more I realise that there is often a subtler explanation for a lot of the clues that we think we’ve got and this has been borne out by contributions to this site.

    Since this will be my last blog of the year, I think it’s appropriate to reiterate that I bless the day in February when I stumbled upon this site [through a comment of Shirley’s: I too was puzzled by “‘Bramwell’ Bronte”, googled the two words together and came up with fifteensquared’s website – thanks a million, Shirley!!] and to wish everyone a very happy new year [whatever it brings!]

  16. Derek Lazenby says:

    Oh lord no. That doesn’t put me off. But like I said to start with, I’m not that fond of themed crosswords where the theme is one of the answers as part of my regular diet. This setter, in the weeks I’ve been sat here with my leg on the sofa, seems to specialise in them.

    It’s like this. I can do, or mostly do, a fair puzzle, given time. So I’m no expert, but neither am I ignorant of the genre. So, if I am to want to do a puzzle in the first place, I have to feel I am going to be able to achieve most or all of it. If a puzzle is based on a single key answer, then, not being the expert you guys undoubtedly are, I am going to stand little chance of achieving that if I can’t get the key. I am therefore wasting my time even starting. So usually I don’t bother with that style. It was only the online Cheat button and morbid curiosity that made me look at that one clue today in the first place.

    And like it or not kids, a daily newspaper is not a specialist crossword magazine, it has to appeal to a wider audience than just experts. So I take the point that some setters don’t like making key clues too easy, but then they should only be doing that in specialist crosswords, not those aimed at the general public. And if that is boring to an expert, well maybe we should agitate for 2 puzzles per day. Yeah I know,it will never happen.

  17. George Foot says:

    Some interesting controversy about this crossword. I thought I might give my thoughts, somewhere between the extremes of total enthuiasm and total rejection.
    First of all the theme clue. I frequently find that I cannot readily get the theme clue and find this very frustrating. (If I never felt frustated when doing crosswords I wouldn’t get half the pleasure from them that I do). However I plug away elsewhere and if and when I do get it the pleasure tends to be in direct proportion to the previous frustration. In this case I got one or two of the subsiduary clues, e.g. Shallow and Verges neither familiar names to me. But then I realised there were an awful lot of characters, far too many to come from a film so decided it must be a writer. Then thought it’s all one word, not many writers with that long a name. Then a flash of inspiration, could it be Shakespeare. It was the right length and then I could figure out the cryptic bit and thought what a delight to define Shakespeare so.

    I am not a great Shakespeare buff but that doesn’t put me off. I had heard of quite a few of the characters and that got me going, and one or two others I got from the clues. I do not have a problem with themes I do not know much about. It is fun to discover. But I did think in this case there where perhaps rather too many that would be obscure to any but serious Shakespeare buffs.
    My biggest reservation was with Blue Max. I reckon I could have googled all day and used umpteen references and still never come up with the answer. That I do rather object to.

    Anyway the above is written in the hope that one or two might get more fun from Crosswords where they don’t necessarily know about everything in there. I’m sure I get far more fun from crosswords than Derrek does. That’s not to say he ought to get more from crosswords like this, just to say that he could with a different approach. And after all you do have to be in a minority to get a real lot of fun out of crosswords.

  18. tuck says:

    I thought this was all quite fair. I started with “LUcifer” often seen before. Followed by “SnUg” – as Eileen said there aren’t many other 4 letter words for cosy. Then the light went on and it was jump to 14ac and prepare to dig out a load of obscure characters created by the Bard (On Google or in my special little crossword book), as I got the other across and down clues. It made a nice change for a Monday.

  19. George Foot says:

    A further comment as Derek got his 16 in while I was still typing. I am no expert, in fact I use lots of aids, some would call it ‘cheating’, but that doesn’t bother me. I’m not cheating anyone. Crosswords are for fun. I get enormous fun every day. I get more fun through using aids because I finish a bit quicker (though nowhere near the speed of the bloggers), and I like to finish before I look at fifteen squared. I suggest to anyone out there to find a way of maximising there fun, the setters are so creative it’s a joy to get the answer by any means but not by just looking at the blog first. That does spoil it, at any rate for me.

  20. Tom Hutton says:

    I think Derek might get more upset by the really arbitrary uses of obscure abbreviations which seem to appear when I do ‘foreign’ crosswords and for which there is no way of guessing that they are being used. They sometimes appear in the Guardian too.

    I like Aruacaria crosswords but I find some of his cluing rather too vague for my liking. (4ac today for example. I take it that Eclipse, which for most people fairly conversant with racing would suggest the Eclipse Stakes, was just put in as a misdirection. It doesn’t seem to be the best word to convey the meaning the setter wants.)

  21. Eileen says:

    Hi Tom

    Have you noticed Mhl’s comment 5, which seems to make sense to me?

  22. muck says:

    Interesting comments! Despite being a fairly experienced Guardian cryptic solver, and quite familiar with Araucaria, I failed to get 14ac or any other answers and gave up.

  23. Derek Lazenby says:

    I know, I know, George. “Getting it” after head bashing can be fun. Providing you haven’t already been rushed to hospital with a broken skull!

    Tom, sometimes vague you say? They all go vague at times, some more than others as you note. Bugs me too.

    Umm, the Eclipse Stakes was named after Eclipse the horse, but he lived before any of us can remember, trips in the Tardis not withstanding.

  24. Dave Ellison says:

    Thank’s, Muck, I am glad I am not alone. I gave up too, the first time I have failed to get a theme in 42 years. I did guess Shakespeare after my wife got Silvia for me, but couldn’t work out why, still thought I might be looking for a film, didn’t think “writer” described Shakespeare, none of the clues I had solved I knew as S. characters (Shallow, Snug, Slender, Verges) and I had no cross checking letters.

    Araucaria used to be my favourite – perhaps still is?

  25. Eileen says:

    Derek; I think you must hold the record for the longest footage of comments – and highest number of responses – for anyone who, of his own admission, didn’t attempt a single answer and professed no interest whatsoever in the puzzle, first because of the setter and, subsequently, after ‘cheating’, because of the theme clue. With Mhl, I do hope that this has not put you off attempting [and commenting on] Guardian puzzles in the future and that you will find some of the ‘fun’ and ‘pleasure’ that George and the rest of us [or why would we be here?] usually find, in spite of the occasional frustration :-) Happy New Year!

  26. muck says:

    Thanks, Dave E. It is probably the first puzzle I have given up on in many years without solving a single clue. In my defence, I was fast-tracked through Maths & Eng Lang GCEs and missed out on Shakespeare. I still look forward to Araucaria, but on this particular Monday, also for personal reasons which needn’t concern 15sqd, he wasn’t a welcome challenge.

  27. Derek Lazenby says:

    Well, I appologise for breaking said records. It may have something to do with being glued to the sofa. Anything different breaks the monotony and induces enthusiasm, however unlikely.

    Happy wotsits and things too.

  28. Ian says:

    Very difficult today.

    Completely stumped in trying to solve 14a for around 20/25 minutes before starting on, and solving, some of the referenced clues -(via unrefereenced clues).

    Once 14a was solved I have very little to complain about. Apart, that is, from 21d which I originally had down as Salted, then later, Deltas. Doh!!

  29. mark says:

    I’m with the ‘too difficult’ brigade. Gave up and I’m glad I did having seen how complicated some of the clues were.

    I’ve never seen the mechanics of 16D before. I’d got 21D so suspected “salt” as the part….but to then use another word for salt and only take part of that….for goodness sake.

  30. don says:

    Got ‘old doG’ and ‘Suppressor’ and from the crossing G and S guessed ‘verges’, which I vaguely remembered as a Shakespearean character, so I guessed 14 Across. Then saw that 14 out of 26 clues (nearly 60%) were related and gave up. Waste of time Googling obscure characters from Shakespeare that few have heard of and even fewer are likely to hear of again.

    But there were some dreadful clues. If ‘A fish’ = ‘a ling’ and ‘a fiddle’ = ‘strad, how does ‘in a former city’ = ‘Stalingrad’? The ‘in’ is superfluous. If ‘cosy’ = ‘snug’ what purpose has ‘joining’ in 22 Across, other than to be unnecessarily obscure? ‘… that lasted out’? And there are other examples in this excuse for a crossword.

    Pity he doesn’t stick to English as well – ych a fi!

  31. Eileen says:

    Don: re 19ac: ‘in’ is surely a very common linking word in crosswords? cf 26ac in today’s Brendan: ‘old man guarding a venerated object in temple [PAGODA]

    I pointed out in the blog that Snug is a joiner in a Midsummer Night’s Dream, so the ‘joining’ in 22ac, though not strictly necessary, to my mind turns a good clue into a great one.

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