Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,617 / Araucaria

Posted by Eileen on February 14th, 2009


In the absence of the scheduled blogger, I’m offering this as a late substitute, so apologies for any typos, etc.  I didn’t expect to be blogging this puzzle, so made no notes as I solved it but I remember well that it took me longer than usual and was, along the way, extremely frustrating but ultimately very satisfying to have finished. A worthy prize puzzle, I reckon.



7    CHINLESS: IN + L inside CHESS; I couldn’t believe it when I saw this first clue: I’d sent Paul [Cryptica] a clue for ‘chinless wonder’ the day before!
9    AIRGUN: A + IRGUN: [ thanks to Google] IRGUN was a militant Zionist group which operated in Palestine between 1931 and 1948.
10, 24   BRANDISH: BRAN + DISH: this is the third time in a few months that Araucaria has used ‘refuse’ for BRAN. The first time, it caused great controversy!
11, 23  HAD CASSIUS BEEN OBESER, WOULD HE HAVE MURDERED CAESAR? Usually, these long answers are the ones that get you started but this one was one of the last to go in. The [2] at the beginning misled me. Stupidly, I thought it indicated an extra two-letter word to be inserted. Having missed that it referred to 2dn [ANON] I thought the answer must be a quotation from ‘Julius Caesar’ and practically re-read the play trying to find it. I was also convinced for ages that the last word must be ‘abuser’ or ‘abaser’. I’m afraid that I haven’t been able to trace any reference to the quotation [sorry, Mr Beaver – perhaps someone else can help!] and suspect that Anon might be Araucaria himself. It is, of course, a reference to Julius Caesar’s remark:
           ‘Let me have men around me that are fat…
            Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
            He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.’
12   SLICER: LICE inside S[ome] R[espectable]
15   GROUSE: ref to the sign seen on low beams in pubs: ‘Duck or Grouse’
20   MURDERED: [DRUM] < + [REED]*
22   CAESAR: I shall make no comment on this ‘homophone’ of ‘seize a’!
25   ASHTON: ASH + [NOT] <  ‘with stress’ = ‘underline’, homophone of ‘under Lyne’
26   NOSE CONE: SECON[d] inside [ONE]*


1   SHORT LEG: fielding position in cricket
2   ANON: [c]ANON
3   ZEPHYR: the last one to go in – and then only with a word check. Zephyr, of course, is the west wind  but, apparently, it can also be ‘a shawl, coat, shirt, etc of light gauzy material’. Araucaria is stretching it here, even for me!
4   CANAILLE: ‘the mob': homophone of ‘Can I’
5   PROSERPINE: PROSER + PINE: Proserpine [or Proserpina] was the Roman goddess of the Underworld, equivalent to the Greek Persephone
6   AUGUST: I’m not exactly sure how this works – obviously a ref to Caesar Augustus and AUGUST = ‘imposing’
16  SARABAND: ARAB in SAND [his element]: a saraband is a Spanish dance
18  SWANSONG: SWANSON G. : Gloria Swanson was a star of silent films but best known for ‘Sunset Boulevard’ 1950. ‘Byrd’, homophone of ‘bird’, a reference to the ancient belief that the mute swan sang only once, just before it died.
19  EDISON: NO SIDE <: ‘No side’ is the end of a rugby match: painfully topical!
21  UNEASY: [ANY USE]*: ‘Unneasy lies the head that wears a crown': Henry IV Part II
24  DUCK: cd. we seem to have had a few duck / down / feathers clues lately

30 Responses to “Guardian 24,617 / Araucaria”

  1. muck says:

    11,23 had me fooled for a while, and I suspect too that ‘Anon’ was himself. Great clue!

  2. Mr Beaver says:

    Thanks Eileen – very good of you to weigh in with an unsolicited blog !
    We managed to get 11,23 relatively early. Unable to find it in either quotation dictionary, or on ‘tweb, it went in as it seemed so perfect – and fitted the anagram, of course.
    Sounds like something from Ogden Nash, but then it wouldn’t be ‘Anon’.
    Your theory – that it’s Aurucaria’s, and he modestly disclaims it – rings true, though!

  3. BrisBella says:

    I managed a bit over half of this one, not my usual result. My excuse is I started it, then put it aside and forgot about it. I’m afraid I would never have got the 11,23. Thank you for the explanation. I thought some of the clues a bit iffy, celery=sticks and as an alien I have never heard of Ashton which I assume is a town. But then who am I to criticise our beloved crossword god.

  4. Eileen says:

    Hi Brisbella

    Nice to hear from you again. You make me realise I didn’t actually fully explain 11,23:[BUSINESS A CHEESEBOARD]*

    I have no problem with ‘celery’ = ‘sticks’ but no one could have expected you to have heard of Ashton under Lyne [population 43,200]. See David’s comment 13 yesterday. Please stick with us!

  5. Paul B says:

    If you feel some of the clues are ‘iffy’, then quote them and say why. That’d be great, as I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels it could be good to return to a more relevant discussion of puzzles in the 15/2 Guardian threads.

  6. BrisBella says:

    My, you are all late nighters! Well actually, Paul, I did mention one – celery = sticks.

  7. muck says:

    I agree, with Paul B, that it would be better to have 15sqd more focussed on the clues.
    Of course the prize puzzles attract fewer comments, because many of us have recycled the newspaper.
    But I would like to see more discussion of the weekday clues, and less extraneous chit-chat.

  8. steven says:

    Thanks Eileen,I got 9a,but I couldn’t see what the clue was referring to.Hi Brisbella, I think comment 5 is a bit iffy .It doesn’t even mention any of the clues in this puzzle.

  9. smutchin says:

    Did very poorly here. Got 24d straight off (did Araucaria have the old joke about getting down from an elephant in mind?) then stared at it for a while before giving up without any more solutions filled in. I had other things to do last weekend anyway.

    It would have taken me a long time to work out 11,23, but looking at it now, it seems fair enough and I might have got it eventually if I’d continued staring at it all week. The “quote” sounds like a question from an Oxbridge entrance exam.

    5d – “Proser” is an odd word, certainly not one that springs readily to mind.

    6d – Eileen, I presume it’s nothing more complicated than a reference to the month named after himself, hence “Caesar’s time”. (The annotated solution on the Guardian website has it simply as “double definition”.)

    18d – I’m not at all keen on “last work of Byrd, they say”. It’s just too indirect as a definition for my liking. Or maybe it’s just too clever for me. Come to think of it, “That must be Gloria” is also unsatisfactory – “Swanson G.” is a really wonderful bit of wordplay but I feel it could have been worked into a better clue.

    21d – this clue seems nonsensical to me. The first part is fine, but “with crowned head?” strikes me as a bit of a flimsy definition even if you get that it alludes to the Shakespeare quote.

  10. smutchin says:

    PS Paul – that OK for you?

  11. BrisBella says:

    Sorry, Paul B. and Muck but personally, I love some of the extraneous chit-chat. It’s what has had me reading this stuff for the last year & finally decided me to offer a few words of my own, when I can stay up late enough or get up early enough. At my age not so easy!

  12. Mr Beaver says:

    Smutchin – re 5d – if all the answers ‘sprang readily to mind’, it would spoil the fun, wouldn’t it ?
    Having said that, I think this was my last to go in.

    21d seems ok to me, given that it’s a simple anagram. I agree ‘with crowned head’ isn’t a strict definition of UNEASY, but it’s not too hard to look up the quote as confirmation.

  13. chunter says:

    BrisBella: perhaps we should set up a separate mechanism for the chit-chat. Twitter is one possibility.

  14. Eileen says:

    Ey up, Chunter – don’t do that! I see what Paul and Muck mean but I think it’s a question of balance. It does sometimes descend into nonsense but, having found a group of people who share your interest in crosswords, it’s nice to discover that they’re like-minded in other respects, too.

    Thanks for all the comments, Smutchin – couldn’t you sleep?

  15. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the unscheduled blog Eileen. Like others I found this hard going. I managed to get the “quotation” about halfway through, but struggled with the NE corner even after that. I’d never hear of PROSPERPINE, which didn’t help.

  16. mhl says:

    Paul B: you’re not the only one…

    I was slightly irritated by HAD CASSIUS BEEN OBESER, since we considered that answer at a fairly early stage, but didn’t put it in since we couldn’t find any exact use of that phrase via Google (even though the joke made sense). Otherwise I really enjoyed this one, although it was tough in places – there were quite a few clues (“Ashton-under-Lyne” (!), “no side”, “proser”, “canaille”) that I needed to look up to figure out.

  17. Eileen says:


    Re 18dn: this was one of my favourites. I thought it was really clever, since Byrd wrote masses, which would include the Gloria. I’ve discovered today that SWANSONG has occurred several times in puzzles on this site, a couple of them in conjunction with Gloria. The Indy and FT don’t have an archive, so I couldn’t find out what the clues were – I remember one was something to do with an old star in a directory. Rufus’s, in Setember 2007 was ‘A bird’s last lay’ – very Rufus, don’t you think?

    Since I do the puzzle in the paper, I didn’t know until yesterday that there is an annotated solution of the prize puzzle in the Guardian – I needn’t have done the blog! However, it’s nice to hear what others made of the puzzle.

  18. Eileen says:

    I think I should have written ‘Masses’, or it’s rather ambiguous!

  19. Paul B says:

    Neuroanatomists might want to contact surfcake (at) tiscali (dot) co (dot) uk.

  20. smutchin says:

    Mr Beaver/Eileen – thanks. I think the gaps in my education are showing through today.

    I don’t mind 5d really. My only slight problem with “proser” is that it’s etymologically two steps removed from any word I might use – I’ve never used the verb “to prose”, never mind the agent-noun form of the verb. And while I dare say it is there in black and white in Chambers, I doubt it rarely sees the light of day except in crosswords. It wouldn’t be allowed on Countdown, you know!

    But I must add that these minor quibbles don’t detract from what is a hugely enjoyable crossword, even if my enjoyment is only second hand via the blog, given my failure to get anywhere with it myself!

    You’re right, Eileen, couldn’t sleep – kept up all night racking my brain for the last two themed answers to complete this week’s hilarious prize crossword from Paul! But more about that “2d”…

    Re Paul B’s comments – I don’t mind a bit of off-topic banter but blog comments aren’t really the most appropriate place for it. It’s a simple matter of netiquette (hey, now there’s a good word for a crossword! Must make a mental note of it…). This blog posting is apposite. Some kind of bulletin board would be ideal – there is, of course, the message board at the Crossword Centre, but note that the tone is very different to here.

  21. Tilsit says:

    I did wonder about this puzzle, it was more suited to one of those in his Chambers books of crosswords where there are jigsaws with aphorisms and quotes like this one that are not attributable.

    When I got a couple of the words I went off and checked Ogden Nash and suchlike without success.

    Certainly not an easy solve, but no less rewarding when finished. The CANAILLE clue held me up longer than the rest of the puzzle.

  22. muck says:

    Eileen #17. I did look at the Guardian annotated solution, when no blog appeared. But your contribution was much better.
    Re- ‘extraneous chit-chat’. I don’t mind really, but some puzzles are getting 60-80 comments!

  23. Eileen says:

    Smutchin: I’ve been out all day, hence the tardy response.

    I totally agree with you about PROSER. I had to look it up in my primary reference[SOED] which gives ‘one who talks or writes in a prosy, dull or tiresome way 1769′ but that means that it would actually be allowed on Countdown, which I did once admit to watching, I know, but no longer. [A remark you made last week led me to believe that you share my reservations about Chambers being the ‘bible’. I bought one after ‘joining’ this site because it seemed to be the ‘sine qua non’ but I have been disappointed in it on a number of counts.]

    I hope you’ve now resolveed the last two Paul solutions [20ac was the killer for me – but brilliant!]in one of the best puzzles [i.e. I found the hardest but was ‘clever’ enough to finish] for ages – and that’s saying something.

    I’m looking forward to more of your excellent puzzles, especially the one featuring ‘netiqette’.

    Muck: thank you for the nice comment: I have tried to limit mine [more or less ]to this puzzle but I put my hands up to ‘transgressions’ in the past.

  24. mhl says:

    Eileen: I think the annotated solutions have been available for prize and genius crosswords since about October 2008 – Hugh Stephenson mentioned them in his newsletter from December 3rd 2008. It’s still very worthwhile having a post here, of course, not only because we can all comment, but also because the explanations on fifteensquared tend to be rather less terse :)

  25. muck says:

    Risking adding more chit-chat, which I have derided, I do think that 15sqd is wonderful.
    And the chit-chat here is at least friendly, unlike on the crossword threads.

  26. don says:

    >> ‘No side’ is the end of a rugby match: painfully topical!

    Au contraire – wonderfully topical!

  27. Paul B says:

    It *appears* friendly, or at least benign, which is why it’s such clever trolling. And seven IDs deployed, so far.

    What a shame it would be for these threads to be ruined by it.

  28. Derek Lazenby says:

    Muck, Post 22. The number of posts is not the problem, it is the small number of people. More people for the same number of posts might give a wider cross section of the solving community.

    Eileen, glad I’m not the only one with reservations about Chambers, I was begining to feel lonely!

    And just to keep to the thread topic, I looked at the puzzle and went straight to a different puzzle because there was obviously no point in me trying it. Remember though, a few days different and I finished my first Araucaria non-prize xword.

  29. Eileen says:

    Hi again, Smutchin

    I’ve only just got round to following up the link you supplied in comment 20. Excellent! – it should be required reading!

  30. Tom Hutton says:

    I agree with those bemoaning the recent clutter on this site. I thought it was wonderful when I first found it but slightly less so now. It is rare to find a site free from juvenile sarcasm and with such a good focus on an interesting subject. Don’t lose it.

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