Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,647 (Sat 14 Mar)/Araucaria – Twin pity

Posted by rightback on March 21st, 2009


Solving time: A couple of days (10dn and 14dn wrong).

Not in one sitting, I ought to add. In fact two thirds of this came out pretty quickly, but I then hit a complete brick wall on the two multi-word answers and four down clues in the bottom half (14, 15, 16, 19). I came back to it the next day and managed to finish it off – very satisfying (despite a couple of mistakes), but the totally meaningless surface readings of the long clues which took me so long, as well as one or two others (e.g. 11ac), left me lukewarm about this puzzle, despite a couple of excellent clues. As for the nursery rhyme, I eventually found it in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations:

  O’er the rugged mountain’s brow
  Clara threw the twins she nursed,
  And remarked, ‘I wonder now
  Which will reach the bottom first?’
      Calculating Clara, from Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes (1899) by Harry Graham

Music of the day: I could only find Long-distance Clara (of Pigeon Street fame) as an .mp3, so given the nature of her experiment it has to be Gravity Grave by The Verve.

* = anagram.

1 A + MUSED – watch out for ‘first’ = A with Araucaria (but cf 8ac!).
5 ME(R.M.)AN
8 WICHITA; (WITH + CA. + I)* – now ‘first’ = I (and ‘California’ = CA): a very indirect anagram. Is Wichita west-by-north from Memphis? This map (scroll down) seems to suggest it’s more west-north-west.
9 DESCENT (see 25/20/12 & 13/10/16)
13/10/26 CLARA THREW THE TWINS SHE NURSED; (LARA + THREW + THET + WIN + S.S. + HEN) in CURSED – the second line of the rhyme at 25/20/12, with the definition being explained by the full rhyme above. I almost got there, eventually, but being weak on Norfolk rivers I went for swans rather than twins (although in fairness I did know Thetford, and missed ‘get’ = WIN). As for the other wordplay, the batsman is Brian Lara, current holder of the world record for the highest score in a single test match innings (400 not out), and to ‘throw’ means to bowl illegally by straightening the arm during the delivery, much like this.
17 NATIONWIDE; (IDEA IN TOWN)* – excellent clue, possibly my favourite.
18 SPAN (2 defs) – one an old measurement, the other referring to wingspan.
23 HAR[e] + VEST – there are so many possibilities for ‘animal’ that the straightforward definition here was welcome. The surface made more sense once I looked up ‘crop’ and found ‘a complete tanned hide of an animal’.
24 TON(NAG)E – I racked my brains for nautical measures here but came up with the wrong kind (e.g. fathom, league, knot) and only got this when I tried ‘horse’ = NAG.
25/20/12 O’ER THE RUGGED MOUNTAIN’S BROW; (HERETO)* + RUGGED (= ‘protected against cold’) + MOUNT (= ‘horse’) + (AS IN)* + BROW (= ‘front’) – this had me in knots: for ages I didn’t see the possibility of O’ER so couldn’t see where to put the anagram of ‘hereto’, and was sure it was something like ‘See/Let the raging … blow’ with ‘against’ = AGIN (in the middle of ‘raging’) and ‘horse’ = BLOW (but ‘blow’ is cannabis or cocaine, not heroin!).
2 MUCK ABOUT – this bemused me when solving, and afterwards until Google reminded me of the phrase where there’s muck there’s brass.
3 SPIRIT (2 defs) – very nice double definition (‘Whisky bottle?’) except for the question mark, which applies to the first word of the clue rather than the second.
6 RESOLUTE; SOL in REUTE[rs] – very Guardian, ‘finish off’ meaning ‘remove one or more letters from the end of the word’. I still liked this one, though.
7 A + DEP[artmen]T
8 WEST-BY-NORTH; WORTH around (N.Y. BEST)* – refers to Fort Worth. West-by-north is between west and west-north-west, so about 281 degrees.
14 RED BUTTON[s] – the ‘singular’ idea was clear enough, but I could only see ‘Rod’ as the first word and took a guess at the surname, thinking I was looking for a TV personality. It turns out that Red Buttons was an actor, but the actual answer phrase is a bit strange and I really don’t think the definition (‘still working on TV’) is fair.
15 REPLICATE; REP, + CAT in LIE – the easiest of the ones I got stuck on; I was waylaid by the ‘P’ and the possibilities of ‘clone’ = ‘copy’ or ‘ape’, and also by ‘reproduce’.
16 MOVEMENT (2 defs) – I didn’t know the first definition here (‘the moving parts in a mechanism, esp the wheelwork of a clock or watch’).
19 STONER (2 defs) – another drug reference that stumped me. Perhaps I mix in the wrong circles.
21 GORGE (2 defs) – this time the question mark is spot on, and makes for an excellent surface reading.
22 MITRE – this is more of a whimsical definition (referring to a bishop’s headdress and a mitre joint) than a genuine double definition, so the question mark is fine.

11 Responses to “Guardian 24,647 (Sat 14 Mar)/Araucaria – Twin pity”

  1. Shirley says:

    Thanks for this Rightback. We had never heard of these Ruthless Rhymes and spent ages looking through dictionaries although we managed to work out the first one from the wordplay it meant nothing.
    I think in a couple of clues you are looking for something too complicated – in 23AC surely the crop is just the harvest.
    In 14D the red button on your TV is the one that is used to show that the TV is still on standby. It’s surface is meant to mislead you into thinking that the answer is someone who is on TV – very Auracarian!

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks Rightback. In 14dn I thought answer specifically referred to the feature on digital TV where you can press the red button to get more information about the current programme, or some such. The “still” seems redundant though.

  3. cholecyst says:

    Well, I enjoyed this puzzle. Solving it encouraged me to read some more of Harry Graham’s sick verse (I especially like the last two here appended):

    Weep not for little Leonie
    Abducted by a French Marquis!
    Though loss of honour was a wrench
    Just think how it’s improved her French.
    More Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes (1930) “Compensation”

    Aunt Jane observed, the second time
    She tumbled off a bus,
    “The step is short from the Sublime
    To the Ridiculous.”
    Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes (1899) “Equanimity”

    Billy, in one of his nice new sashes,
    Fell in the fire and was burnt to ashes;
    Now, although the room grows chilly,
    I haven’t the heart to poke poor Billy.
    Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes (1899) “Tender-Heartedness”

    “There’s been an accident,” they said,
    “Your servant’s cut in half; he’s dead!”
    “Indeed!” said Mr Jones, “and please,
    Send me the half that’s got my keys.”
    Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes (1899) “Mr Jones” (poem attributed to

  4. Colin H says:

    Took me 20 minutes to solve the rest of it, and another hour to get the Harry Graham quote. Like Shirely, I solved the first half from the construction, got “Clara threw”, and Googled it to get the rest.

    Would this count as cheating? I don’t care :).

  5. Dave Ellison says:

    I had the same problems, and had to google once I had got “oer the” and “mountains” and probably “rugged”. But I had never heard of this doggerel nor of its author, so I don’t regard it as cheating, as it was impossible to get it from the word play.

    Araucaria continues to be very variable.

  6. Geoff says:

    I suspect there were few solvers who were familiar with this quotation. I had certainly never come across the ‘Ruthless Rhymes’ or their author. I didn’t even try to parse the clues, but guessed ‘rugged/ragged mountain’s brow’ from the crossing letters and relied on the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations to do the business.

    Perhaps these verses were better known when Araucaria (aka Rev John Graham) was a lad – perhaps he is even a relative of Harry Graham?

    Fortunately, the rest of the puzzle was reasonably straightforward.

  7. Barnaby Page says:

    I had heard of Ruthless Rhymes, though actually I thought they were the Belloc poems properly called Cautionary Tales for Children – I was surprised to find that it is an entirely separate body of work by a different poet.

  8. liz says:

    I Googled to get the quotation when I was reasonably sure of ‘rugged mountain’s brow’. It rang a faint bell when I found it. 16dn stumped me all week and now I’m kicking myself! Thanks for the blog.

  9. muck says:

    I found the long clues impossible from the wordplay, but not difficult once I Googled ‘ruthless rhymes rugged mountains’. Nice to see my pseudonym at 2dn though.

  10. Mr Beaver says:

    Geoff – we also wondered if Harry Graham might perhaps be Araucaria’s grandfather. If so, the sense of humour might be inherited !

  11. rightback says:

    Thanks to all commenters (and especially for the other Ruthless Rhymes) – good to hear that I wasn’t alone in struggling with this!

    Shirley: Yes, in 23ac the crop is the harvest in the cryptic reading, but I was referring to the surface reading.

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=""> <strike> <strong>

seven × 5 =