Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,634/Arachne

Posted by Andrew on February 27th, 2009


A mostly enjoyable and not-difficult-for-a-Friday puzzle. A couple of strange clues with obscure but irrelevant references (10ac, 7dn) and a couple of weaknesses (18ac,9dn)

* = anagram
< = reverse

(no double or cryptic definitions in this puzzle!)

5. CONCHY CONCH + (injur)Y – slang for conscientious objector
6. GULAGS G(r)U(b) + LAGS – prison camps in the Soviet Union, and described by Solzhenitsyn and others
9. CAVERN CAVE RN. “cave”, pronounced “cayvey”, is Latin for “beware”, typically used by fictional public schoolboys when the “beak” approaches.
10. REHOBOAM R(echabit)E + A in HOBO M. The Rechabites appear in the Old Testament, but that’s irrelevant to the clue, and so does Rehoboam, as a king if Israel, but here it’s the large champagne bottle, equivalent to six standard bottles.
11. GROT Alternate letters in GiRl OuT, and a poetic word for a cave (or cavern, the clue references 9ac).
12. CONTRABAND CONTRA BAND, the Contras being rebels in Nicaragua , controversially funded by the CIA under the Reagan administration.
13. ADDLEHEADED ADD + HEALED* + E,D. “Combination of vitamins” is a bit vague for ED
18. WALL STREET WALL, STREET -on of the weaker clues
21. UNIT Hidden in commUNITy
22. TURGENEV TU (French “you”) + G in NEVER*
25. SEVERE SEVER E. “Partner”=E because East is West’s Partner in the game of bridge.
3. EUPHORIA EUPHOR(b)IA. I’m sure I’ve seen something similar very recently, not counting EUPHOBIA earlier this week.
4. BAOBAB A in BOB + A + B
5. CHAIRS CH AIRS – as in being a chairmanperson.
7. STAINS (SANTS + I)*. Hector Sants is Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Services Authority, though again this is irrelevant to the clue.
8. FRENCH LEAVE FRENCH + L + E(=spain) + AVE, ad the defintion is “farewell, but unannounced”, French leave being leave without permission
16. CANUTE CAN + U(nruly) T(ribes) E(liminated), where CAN = toliet = “heads” (e.g. in the Navy).
17. PILOSE PI (Private Investigator, = bloodhound) + L(ocate) + OS + (tre)E
19. LEGATE LEG (=”on” in cricket)AT E
20. TRADER Hidden in (scaRED ARTisans)<

45 Responses to “Guardian 24,634/Arachne”

  1. Bella says:

    I must agree that this was a nice easy puzzle for Friday but I am ashamed to say the only word that gave me a problem was GROT, as in a small cavern or grotto. I’m not sure how it works – surely there are a number of words that could have been used instead – grit, fret, trot…. etc

    All in all quite nice – especially liked 12a & 13a.

  2. Monica M says:

    G’day Andrew,

    Thanks for you explanations. I for one found this puzzle a bit two faced .. some easy and some completely unsolveable.

    Pilose ???? And I’ve nver heard of your Mr Sant.

    Totally agree with you comments about 13 ac.

    PS. I think you’ve put the solution for 12ac next to 11ac and missed 12ac … I say blame the technology

  3. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew.

    I thought 10ac was quite relevant [and witty] because the Rechabites were forbidden to drink wine or live in houses and therefore would be disheartened in the circumstances!

    I liked 13ac and 8 and 15dn but agree that 18ac is rather weak. [But I did like ‘Hector’ as the anagram indicator in 7dn.]

  4. Monica M says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    I’d never ever ever have though of hector as an anagram indicator … I’ve filed it away in my memory banks… and now the clue makes way more sense. My first D’oh moment I’m sure… because I really did have trouble.

  5. Matt says:

    My first post today but ive been spying on the blog for a while trying to improve my skills :D
    Got all of them today except Pilose, and some of the other words i had to look up (conchy, Turgenev)
    Grot is from the irregular letters of Girl out isnt it?

  6. Matt says:

    oops just spotted that explanation by the contraband answer

  7. Eileen says:

    Monica [it still seems odd to address you thus!] – neither would I, but there didn’t appear to be another one!

  8. Andrew says:

    Oops,I see I’ve mixed up some of my explnations (GROT & CONTRABAND) – I’ll correct this now.

    Monica, I’d never heard of Mr Sants either, nor the Rechabites – Google was my friend for those.

  9. Monica M says:


    It makes perfect sense when pointed out, and I’m glad I’m not the only one for whom it is new.

    If you want to get really familiar all my family and friends call me Mon…. But I’ll still answer to BBG.

    Welcome Matt …. :-) (I’m sure you’ve heard it before)

  10. Monica M says:

    Aaaah Google,

    What would we do without it…

    I thought Hector Sants was a real person … you can all laugh now!!!

    Welcome back Bella

  11. Andrew says:

    Hector Sants is a real person!

  12. Monica M says:

    It would seem that Mr Sants is in fact a “Captain of Industry” …. google him … perhaps he is someone we can blame for our superannuation plummetting

  13. Eileen says:

    I’m getting confused! I thought Hector Sants *wasn’t* a real person and that’s why I thought it was such a clever clue when I found out that he was! Andrew, I don’t understand why you think it’s irrelevant? Where was the anagram indicator, otherwise?

  14. Monica M says:

    Perhaps it’s just clever use of a the first name as both part of the clue and indicator ??

  15. Eileen says:

    That’s what I mean – I think!

  16. Andrew says:

    Sorry to have confused everyone – all I was trying to say was that Hector Sants and the Rechabites have no specific relevance to the definitions or wordplay in the clues, other than in the letters they provide, and the clever use of Hector as an anagrind, though as you’ve pointed out they do add nicely to the surface reading in both cases.

  17. Monica M says:

    Perhaps they (10ac and 7dn) aren’t as irrelevant as first thought. Both (sants and rehobooam) have a lateral relationship to the clue. S Eileen explained in #3 and I referred to in #12

  18. Geoff says:

    Nice crossword, with some fun words and unusual clueing tricks – ‘Hector’ as an anagrind and ‘combination of vitamins’ for E D (makes a change from ‘notes’ and fits the surface reading beautifully).

    I visited the cellars of Taittinger in Reims last week, so REHOBOAM leapt instantly to mind. It’s a strange puzzle when the first clue you solve is TURGENEV (I don’t tackle these things in a very systematic way…)

    I particularly liked 13 and 15, and 5ac is clever, with its First World War resonance.

  19. nick says:

    I thought the Hector Sants clue was funny – after all he’s been in the news all week (do you guys read the paper or just go straight to the inside back page!?) with the FSA being accused of too much ‘light-tough regulation’ (i.e. ‘hanging out with’ the bankers rather than checking what they were doing).

  20. Paul B says:

    And now he’s a transitive verb (discuss?). What a week!

  21. don says:

    Thank you Andrew for what must have been a not too easy blog in some places.

    I’ve got to agree with Monica (Message 2), I found some clues easy, even too easy, but others impossible. Come on, ‘sclice of bread’ = B? (and for a _genus_ of tree, rather than a tree, as defined.) If ‘combination of vitamins’ is a bit vague for ED (what else can you have after ADDLEHEAD_ _?), how about ‘bone’ or ‘bone at’ = OS, or ‘partner’ = E?

    Does ‘THE individual’ = ‘unit’?

    Anyone who’s done time in Her Britanic Majesty’s Service would know that ‘heads’ = ‘toilet’ (as in the expression “I’m going to the heads”) but I don’t think ‘head’ in the singular is used in that sense.

    And yesterday there was a complaint about ‘Nesta’, a well-known diminutive of a perfectly common British name, Agnes, so today we have French language, German abbreviation for an obscure 19th century Russian who probably only Eileen has heard of.

    Add two bits of that dead language beloved of elderly setters and solvers and the obscurities are compounded.

  22. Derek Lazenby says:

    Careful, Don, you’re starting to sound like me!

    My only observation today which hasn’t already been covered is simply I didn’t like the grid. Too much black. Too much isolation of the quarters and halves. But that is always a danger with grids where the underlying checkerboard pattern is based on row 1 column 1, rather than 2, 2.
    I know we need variety, but 2,2 puzzles generally seem more fun to me.

  23. Monica M says:

    Hey BB … You have competition!!!!

    I’ll never be as observant as you about the grid … it is, what it is. I’m much more interested in the use of words.

  24. smutchin says:

    Don – To say that the crossword requires knowledge of French is rather overstating the case. Even my ten-year-old son could tell you that “tu” is French for “you”. And at least one other person (Geoff) seems to have heard of Turgenev.

    Going off track slightly, but since you raised it: my point (not really a “complaint”, fwiw) about Nesta (or indeed Agnes) yesterday was precisely that it’s not a common name. Maybe in Wales, perhaps, but definitely not everywhere else.

  25. smutchin says:

    re grids – I was more bothered by the one the other day that had a couple of 2×2 blocks of black, which I always think looks ugly.

  26. don says:

    Agnes, Nessie not a common name in Scotland? At least it’s British!

    22 across reminds me of that well-known disco ditty about Alice.

    ” … 24 years of living next door to Turgenev.”


    “Who the heck is Turgenev?”

  27. don says:

    Derek (‘Careful, Don, you’re starting to sound like me!) I usually agree with what you say.

  28. Dawn says:

    In my student days I read quite a few Russian books since I was fascinated by their different style of writing and so Turgenev and Gulags went in really quickly for me. I hadn’t heard of addleheaded before but I suppose it is what happens after you have drunk the rehoboam (which I also hadn’t heard of!).

  29. Monica M says:

    Don, I wish I understood …. nonetheless I laughed a lot and out loud.

  30. smutchin says:

    Don – perhaps it’s a sign of the times when we all feel happy to boast publicly of our own ignorance on matters such as girls’ names and 19th century Russian authors, while contestants on University Challenge are vilified for knowing too much.

  31. Monica M says:

    Eileen … Look at Chitcht 22 … LOL

  32. Eileen says:

    Don: you’re mixing me up with someone else! I’m sure I’ve never mentioned Russian literature: my only acquaintance with Turgenev is William Trevor’s lovely novel ‘Reading Turgenev’.

    I’m the one with the penchant for ‘that dead language beloved of elderly setters’ – and solvers!

  33. Monica M says:

    … and teachers …

  34. Derek Lazenby says:

    smutchin,it is indeed a sign of the times, but not I suspect in the sense you meant it. We are merely human, there is only so much each of us can know. Nowadays, there is such an explosion of things to know the whole concept of General Knowledge being the same as Common Knowledge and the more you had the better educated you were just don’t work anymore. They can’t, there is just too much other stuff to learn. At this point of the 21st centuary, who actually cares about 19th centuary Russian authors?

    Let me put it into perspective. I used to work in test equipment for mobile phones. The specs for said phones, the original GSM phones, never mind, the new stuff, takes up about 10 feet of shelf space with A4 folders. I was expected to know the overwhelming majority of it in detail. How many people are capable of memorising an equivalent amount, say the whole of the Encyclopaedia Britanica? In detail? But that is just start of it, that in itself was a tiny fragment of what I was expected to know.

    Where oh where do you think there are spare brain cells for remembering the things that used to be taught an awfully long time ago? By some miracle, some of it is actually in there, otherwise crosswords would be impossible. But please don’t expect any bigger miracle.

  35. Shirley says:

    17D – I’m amazed that everyone including Andrew seems to think we all know that PILOSE means hairy! It’s a new one on me I’m afraid.

  36. chatmeister says:

    Some of the comments, and parts of others, in this post are seriously off-topic. Please read the ‘discussion policy’ (linked to at the top of the page) and comply with it by not including, or responding to, comments that are unrelated to this puzzle and which should therefore have been made elsewhere.

    I do not want to have to start deleting and editing comments, but I will if this situation continues.

  37. Andrew says:

    Shirley, I actually did have to look up PILOSE to check, but it’s from the same root as words such as “depiliatory”, and also “pile”, as in the pile of a carpet.

  38. John says:

    More obscurities (baobab? pilose?) and another example of a pet hate of mine, the indiscriminate use of initial letters ( h = husband?, m = male?) spoiled an otherwise decent puzzle for me.

  39. don says:

    I knew, probably from a previous crossword in the dim distant past, pilose meant hairy, but I didn’t understand the cluing until Andrew’s blog – I don’t think it fair, far too ‘clever’, or that it makes sense when you analyse it.

  40. Paul B says:

    Thanks John, in particular for bringing the conversation around to the matter at hand, if that’s not too controversial a remark. However, I regret to inform you that the two examples you supply are in fact perfectly okay, standard abbreviations. You’ll find them in Collins for sure, and the other dictionaries very probably.

  41. Dave Ellison says:

    I agree with Derek in not loving this particular grid. It always seems to make for a harder Xword for me. I had to chip away at it several times, though all of the words I knew, so that was not a problem. Turgenev was around somewhere recently, Radio 4 or in the Guardian?

  42. Geoff says:

    17dn: PILOSE was the last word I put in, though it is familiar to me. It is used mainly in a botanical sense, to describe plants which are sparsely hairy, as opposed to hirsute (a lot of long hairs), tomentose (thickly downy), hispid (bristly) etc etc. And if your plant has no hairs at all it is ‘glabrous’ – lovely word.

  43. Paul B says:

    Hey Gauldrey Guy! This grid (31) is not the most friendly, but it’s certainly not the worst the Guardian has come up with. Witness 22, the most recently chopped (I think). And if you care to go back beyond current, or near-current Penguin collections, you’ll find some really hostile numbers.

    And for your friend to say that every grid that starts with the first black square proper at 1,1 is ‘as dangerous’ (as grid 31, I think he means) is to ignore the infinite subtleties of Guardian grids 3, 15 and 46 for example (though possibly not 30, the other one that kicks off at 1,1), and countless others, some really brilliant, in use by the other papers.

    Apart from The Times, that is. I’m not sure, but I think their 1 ac light is usually on the top line.

  44. Paul B says:

    (Sorry – 3, 15 and 46 all kick off at 1,1.)

  45. KB Pike says:

    Too much wittering chat for me! But then, what do you expect for a puzzle that’s free online? Action, please, Mr Moderator.

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