Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,667 – Araucaria

Posted by Uncle Yap on April 7th, 2009

Uncle Yap.

dd = double definition
cd = cryptic definition
rev = reversed or reversal
ins = insertion
cha = charade
ha = hidden answer
*(fodder) = anagram

For 15 minutes, I sat, stunned and completely befuddled and then slowly bit by bit, I tackled the non-theme clues until I decided to take head-on 19Down and when I saw the light, it was still not plain sailing. Answers were not that difficult but parsing them and understanding the Master’s word-play was quite another. After more than an hour of pure agony and ecstasy washed down with copious amount of 15-year old Dimple (stock of Glen Morangie depleted :-(, I nailed this B*****D, which must rank as one of the best puzzles this year.

Bravo ! Rev John Graham MBE

Members of the Redgrave Family are indicated by *

*9 MICHAEL Ins of ICH (German for I, who is Rev Graham, the setter and puzzler) in MAE (West, the actress) L (left)
10 ANY TIME Ins of Y (first letter of You) in ANTI (against) ME
*11 KEMPSON Ins of MP (member of Parliament) SO (thus) in Ken (boy)
12 RANCHER Rachel’s (First name of Kempson, wife of Sir Michael Redgrave) minus l and plus n *(Raches n)
13 EUMENIDES EU (European) MEN (fellows) IDES (date, remember Julius Caasar’s Ides of March?)
*16 CORIN Ins of R (either Rex or Regina, both sovereign) in COIN (sovereign) One of the best clues I have seen. Short, simple and absolutely sweet
17 TONSILS Ins of NS (poles sounding like polls) in TOILS (labour’s)
18 NON-USER Cha of N (new) ONUS (burden) ER (Elizabeth Regina, monarch) The def “one who keeps off the grass” is superb
20 JEELY This was my last answer and jeely is indeed a sweet. I can see the City of Ely but JE?
21 ENTHRONED *(E, third letter of Preston + NORTH END)
*22 VANESSA VANES (weather vanes are direction indicators) SA (rev of as)
24 LOBSTER A beautiful punny clue
*26,7 NATASHA RICHARDSON NATAS (rev of Satan the devil) HAR (rev of rah, an exclamation like alas) + Ins of Hard’s (cruel’s) in ICON (idol)
27 ANTONOV *(not a) + Nov (ember)

1 SMOKIEST *(to kiss me) The good Rev must be a non-smoker like Uncle Yap. In May, I shall experience smoke-free pubs in the UK.
2 SCAM hs
3 CARSON CITY Ins of SON (rev of NOS, number’s) in (s) CARCITY
4 PLAN The saying is “as thick as a short plank” What an original device
5 SACROSANCT *(across can’t)
*6 LYNN King’s Lynn A town in Norfolk
14 MONKEY NUTS This reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo sneak appearance in his films as Araucaria is a tree of the monkey puzzle genus. This is an anagram of the substantial part of Milton Keynes
15 DASHED AWAY The word play eluded me
16 CONTRIBUTE Ins of BU (bus stopping too soon, what a beauty!) in CONTRITE (corry)
*19 REDGRAVE Cha of RED (left politically) GRAVE (last where first is cradle)
20 JIVING Ins of VIN (French liquor or wine) in JIG (dance)
23 SO-SO SOS (save our soul, an appeal for help) O (nothing)
*24 LIAM NEESON Rev of NO (numbers) SEEN (spotted) MAIL (letters)
*25 TONY an award for meritorious work in the theatre.

51 Responses to “Guardian 24,667 – Araucaria”

  1. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the blog Uncle Yap. I think 20ac is JOELY (Richardson), so it needs an asterisk. Jo is one of the “Little Women”, but I don’t know if that makes her a “sweet lassie”. I assumed Ely was a “little city” but maybe “little” is for Jo.

    Not knowing the full details of the Redgrave Dynasty I needed to use the very useful Wikipedia page on the subject, though that felt like cheating. I think this would have been better as a prize puzzle. Th clue for 26/7 suggests it was written after the recent death of Natasha Richardson.

  2. Eileen says:

    Good morning, Uncle Yap, and thanks for the blog.

    As you say, what a treat – hugely enjoyable and definitely one of the best.

    “20ac, I think, is Joely [Richardson] but I haven’t quite worked out why Jo = sweet lassie.

    15dn is a reference to the folk song, ‘Dashing away with the smoothing iron':

    ‘Twas on a Monday morning
    When I beheld my darling,
    She looked so neat and charming
    In ev’ry high degree.
    She looked so neat and nimble, O,
    A-washing of her linen, O,
    Dashing away with the smoothing iron,
    She stole my heart away…’

    and so through the week, hanging, airing, folding etc and finally, on Sunday, ‘a-wearing of her linen, O’ hence the ‘etc’ in the clue.

  3. mb says:

    I agree, Uncle Yap – an excellent challenging puzzle.

    20 is Joely (Richardson), a Scottish lassie’s jo + Ely (Burns’ “John Anderson my Jo” is the only example I know).

    “Dashed away” defeats me, too.

  4. Eileen says:

    Sorry, Andrew – spent too long typing the song, so missed your Joely contribution!

  5. C.G. Rishikesh says:


    That poem reminds me of Herrick’s (which I am going to quote from memory, so pardon any slips) but luckily the woman there isn’t involved in everyday chores:

    Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
    Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
    That liquefaction of her clothes.

    Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
    That brave vibration each way free –
    O how that glittering taketh me.

  6. Eileen says:

    Thank you for that, Rishi!

    12ac is surely RANCHES: Rachel’s [’11’s’] minus l plus n.

  7. Mick Hodgkin says:

    Well done for breaking down a very dense puzzle indeed. I particularly liked 19 down, which is something of a + lit given the Redgraves’ political leanings. In 26, 7, I think it’s AH, SATAN rev, then HARDS in R ICON, with the dreaded R=recipe for ‘take’ (cf blogs passim).

  8. Ian says:

    “Tony” is an award and a Richardson (big Van’s ex and Natasha and Joely’s father), a director now deceased). I’ve thrown away the paper so can’t remember the exact parsing but isn’t it defined as a Redgrave? Or is it something a Redgrave got, in which case it’s not the mistake I thought it was.

  9. Ian says:

    Eileen, I agree with ranches.

  10. liz says:

    This was a real pleasure. Thanks Uncle Yap for the blog and explaining 9ac which I got but couldn’t for the life of me see why. And thanks Eileen for the explanation for 15dn. I held off putting RUSHED AWAY until I got 13ac, which is a new word for me, but gettable from the wordplay.

    I loved 4dn and 16ac. Seriously good clues.

  11. Geoff Moss says:

    14d I do not believe that “This is an anagram of the substantial part of Milton Keynes” as stated in the blog. It is surely UT (tonic) in M[ilt]ON KEYN[e]S, though how one is to determine ‘monkey nuts’ from ‘ground breakers’ is beyond me.

  12. Jvh says:

    Monkey nuts (peanuts) are also called ground nuts. Apparently the stalk buries the fruit underground (thanks Wikipedia) — hence ground breakers.

  13. Geoff Moss says:

    Thanks Jvh. I was aware of the alternative name but virtually all plants ‘break ground’ in one way or another (eg when shooting) so what is there in the definition to indicate that we looking for a specific type of nut rather than a tree, shrub or whatever?

  14. Tom Hutton says:

    A very enjoyable crossword but 14dn seems to be rather loose. Bits of Milton Keynes indeed! Along with ground breaker as a definition of monkey nuts, the whole clue looks a bit weak.

    4dn is very good. I put it in but couldn’t see why so thanks for the explanation Uncle Yap.

    I’ve never heard of a non user before but it was easy to work out.

    Should 24ac have had a question mark or is there a usage of lobster as a high hitter?

  15. Mick H says:

    The point about MiltON KEYNeS is that the ‘bits’ taken are all in order, not anagrammed, so I think Der Puzzelmeister gets away with it. But Tom’s right, LOBSTER should surely have a question mark. I’ve always thought the -ster suffix indicated a female -er – as in ‘spinster’ – but I don’t know if that stands up. Chambers indicates ‘webster’ as deriving from a female webber. So I like to think a woman tennis player might be a lobster.

  16. Barbara says:

    Re Lobster:
    There must be many -ster suffixes that do not specifically denote female:
    A few that come that come to mind at the moment are: mobster, gangster,
    shyster … etc.

  17. cholecyst says:

    20 ac. I understand “jo” is lowlands Scots for “darling” – hence “sweet lassie” . Of course, it can also mean “sweet laddie” as in Burns’ “John Anderson my Jo” aforementioned.

  18. cholecyst says:

    Re Barbara’s comment: more apposite, maybe, is “punster” – a person who makes puns; just as a person who makes high hits(=lobs) is a ….

  19. JimboNWUK says:

    OK puzzle with access to Google, pointless on the train…. yet another one screwed up and chucked away in disgust

  20. Peter says:

    I’m a relative newbie to cryptic’s.

    I generally hate clues which rely on answers to other clues in order to solve them. I find the individual clues hard enough on there own!

    It seems to me that setters sometimes get too clever for their own good.
    But then, who cares what I think :o) If others found it enjoyable then good luck to them. Now where did I put the Daily Star?


  21. Paul G says:

    I’ve made my feelings on “the master” clear before, but there were some nice clues here (lobster was inspired). However, 14d is a joke. Worst clue I’ve seen in a long time.

  22. Paul G says:

    Hey Pete, (message 20),

    Welcome aboard. I’m with you on cross-referenced clues, I much prefer it if a clue can stand on its own. I think I too would be regarded as a newbie amongst the experienced cryptic solvers that post here. Word of advise though, Araucaria’s puzzles are a different kettle of fish to most setters, so don’t lose too much sleep over them 😉


  23. Dave Ellison says:

    Not a treat, not enjoyable and one of the worst! Sorry, Eileen.

    I just couldn’t get started, I was unsure whether 19d was the key clue, or others not referring to 19 might also be shortened. In any case I couldn’t get 19d.

    So I solved three! after about one hour. One of these was 17ac, and I couldn’t explain NS: POLLS does not sound like POLES where I come from.

    16a and 18a I could easily see what was wanted, so I don’t think they were particularly subtle. Insertion of K or R into a word for soveriegn – but that is not really indicated strongly enough by the ? mark; and “keeps off the grass” referring to abstaining form reefer, hash or something, but I was struggling with an anagram of burden and K or R.

  24. Dave Ellison says:

    Sorry – I mean’t “coin” is not really indicated strongly enough…

  25. muck says:

    Thanks for the blog, Uncle Yap. And for other helpful comments.
    There was a letter in the Guardian about last week’s Monday Araucaria being unusually easy.
    This one had me struggling – must be his revenge.

  26. Eileen says:

    Dave: we’re back to the continuing ‘horses for courses’ argument, aren’t we? I really did enjoy this puzzle enormously – but then I liked the theme and I knew them all. For some reason, I immediately thought ‘Redgrave’ when I saw the preamble and looked for a place to put it. I thought it was a very good clue – as Mick Hodgkin says, something of an &lit. And another lovely one for Natasha [but I did think it was perhaps rather soon].

    I do realise that many other people might not have the same interest and, having thought more about 14dn [I can’t help thinking we’re missing something here], I’m regretting saying it’s one of the best puzzles. But – it still remains, for me, one of the most enjoyable and satisfying.

    [I know I’m the one who [occasionally] goes on about rhotic and aspirated ‘homophones’ but I have no problem with polls / poles. Can you explain?]

    Muck: there was a follow-up letter in the Guardian yesterday, saying that Saturday’s prize puzzle was his revenge!

  27. Ralph G says:

    20a JO.. (fio) the Concise (820pp!) Scots Dictionary (1985) has: 1. joy 16c-. 2. term of endearment sweetheart, darling, dear usu. ‘my jo’ 16c-20c. 3. now chiefly verse; sweetheart, lover, usually male 17c-.
    I found the puzzle feasible, indeed enjoyable, with a minimal knowledge of the Redgrave/Richardson family. Mind you, I guessed .NOV at the end of 27a which gave me 19D REDGRAVE. 13d EUMENIDES was a standard gift for classicists, and that helped with 14d, 15d. Without that start I would have struggled probably.
    Re 14d MONKEY NUTS and ‘ground-breaking': might that be anything to do with the great East African groundnut scheme ca 1948 I think? I seem to remember a theory that these nuts would thrive in hard previously uncultivated soil and break it up, rendering it fertile and saving Africa, if not the world. It didn’t work, incidentally.

  28. Eileen says:

    Ralph: I had a similar thought about the ground nut scheme and wondered if Araucaria might be using ‘ground-breaking’ in the metaphorical sense, too, since it was a new idea.

    Yes, EUMENIDES was a nice charade and perhaps could bear an explanation, since Liz said it was a new word for her. Eumenides [‘the kindly ones’] was a propitatory name given to the Furies in Greek mythology, hence ‘making sisters furious’ in the clue.

  29. Eileen says:

    I know some people hate corrections but I can’t let it go: ‘propitiatory, of course.

  30. Brian Harris says:

    Liked the theme. Forgot all about it for a while, and then there was a forehead-smacking moment when I remembered that there was a theme around a family name.

    Typical Araucaria – part brilliant, part dreadful. Completed entire crossword but still a few constructions were mysterious, or just very clunky – eg 24ac.

  31. liz says:

    Thanks for explaining EUMENIDES, Eileen.

    I too wondered if it wasn’t a little soon for the Redgrave theme.

    ‘dropping bits’ in 14dn does seem loose even for Araucaria, but I can’t see what else could be made of ILT and E.

  32. Arthur says:

    Certainly not easy today. My sister read the rubric and asked what it meant. When I explained she said, “Like the Windsors?” and I said, “Yeah, or one like the Redgraves…” so it didn’t take long to find the theme. I think it’s perhaps a little tactless this soon after Natasha’s death, particularly as the surface of her clue suggests she was taken by the Devil.

    Rachel Kempson held me up (didn’t know her) and Tony was a Richardson not a Redgrave so 25d is mis-clued.

    On the subject of themed crosswords, I love them. OK, so it takes a little longer to get going and sometimes all the cross referencing seems unpenetrable, but once you get it, the grid suddenly fills up very satisfyingly. I really liked Logodaedalus’s Great crossword over a week ago too.

  33. Arthur says:

    Sorry, the Great crossword was by Pasquale.

  34. liz says:

    Arthur — I had to google to find Rachel Kempson too. Yes, Tony was a Richardson, but Vanessa Redgrave won a Tony award a few years ago (and perhaps other Redgraves/Richardsons have also won one), so I think this is Araucaria trickiness rather than a mistake!

  35. smutchin says:

    That was Pasquale, Arthur.

    I didn’t do so well today but only had about 20 minutes to spend on it this morning, which wasn’t long enough to to be able to crack the theme. I’d rather have seen this on a Saturday. Those who got the theme quickly seem to have done so largely by chance, judging by the comments.

    Loved 4d though – that one raised a smile.

  36. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #32: But Tony was surely an ‘award’ for Vanessa, in a sense of being important to her life.
    Moreover, Vanessa redgrave won a Tony award as Best Actress in ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’, in 2003.
    So, in my opinion, 25d is not mis-clued, but a very good ‘&lit’.

  37. Eileen says:

    I agree, Sil. I don’t understand all the queries about Tony Richardson, who was a ‘Redgrave’ by marriage, as is Liam Neeson, and there have been no queries about him. And hardly anyone seems to remember Rachel Kempson, wife of Michael of that ilk, who was a fine actress [as they were known in those days] in her own right, as well as being the mother of Vanessa, Lynn and Corin.

  38. Eileen says:

    I’ve been meaning to say all day that I thought 4dn was a great clue but the saying around here is ‘thick as *two* short planks. I’m still trying to work out whether that means people hereabouts are more or less stupid!!

  39. Stiofain says:

    Yea Eileen
    I loved 4dn too the saying here in Belfast is usually “as thick as 2 short ones” so similar.
    This was one of the Revs classics I thought but like others I have some reservations about the timing

  40. don says:

    Perhaps the extra intake of ‘liquor’ (defined by Chambers as _strong_ drink, usually distilled) has induced undeserved reverence for the reverend, Uncle Yap. So you’ve got to guess that ‘liquor’ (despite Chambers) refers to wine and then be able to speak French, along with German and know some Roman goddesses names in Greek mythology and have Wiki-what-have-you with you on the train to list a whole lot of distant relatives associated with the name Redgrave, which I thought was an awful clue, although I guessed it. How do you get ‘ranches’ from ‘rachel’ – oh, use the ‘s, for which others have been strongly criticised recently. I agree with Dave, “coin” was not really indicated strongly enough. ‘Jo’ is defined as a lover, sweetheart, generally male, and a ‘sweet lassie’ doesn’t equate to lover and ain’t male. Do ‘line up'(21a) or ‘solution’ (5d) indicate an anagram? Yes, the clue to ‘lobster’ needs a question mark! 14d (‘ground breakers’ = ‘monkey nuts’) was rubbish, and the more people try to rationalise it the worse it becomes. Any other setter would have slated for far less than this monstrosity of a crossword. Yes, I did finish it, apart from 13a, but with the aid of the internet, which I think is cheating.

  41. Eileen says:

    Don: this is a great pretext [and they don’t come very often] for me to use the wonderful line, ‘Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?’

    I thought I’d said all I had to say on this topic at comment 26 but would just add re ‘liquor': my Chambers 2008 11th edition has ‘a strong alcoholic drink’ [unqualified] and my Collins: ‘any alcoholic drink, esp. spirits’. I don’t think you have to be able to ‘speak French’ to know that vin = wine or German [I don’t] to know that ich = I but I know that I’m banging my head against a brick wall because the world seems to be divided between those who admire Araucaria for his [usually] brilliant clues and his amazingly long career and will forgive the [ok perhaps more than] occasional dodgy clue because he continues to delight and entertain us – and those who don’t.

  42. MartinR says:

    Don: broadly, I agree about the puzzle – not impressed at all, I’m afraid. Several clues were, in my view, patently unfair.

    But in what sense is using the internet “cheating”? I presume you use Chambers, Brewer’s, ODQ, Roget’s, etc., etc. They are all just tools to back up your solving – they don’t decipher the wordplay for you.

  43. Derek Lazenby says:

    Well people, I have been watching this thread all day with some amusement. As you may guess I looked at this and rapidly decided it wasn’t for me. None the less, it is reassuring for me to note that “I’m not the only one”. It is somewhat less reassuring to note that being critical caused no-one else to be the recipient of a somewhat negative response.

    Still, reading the thread was a good substitute for doing the puzzle in terms of entertainment value, lol.

  44. don says:

    I write on two accounts, Eileen. There are, on many occasions, a few minor quibbles for which setters are roundly condemned, often on obscure points. This happened quite recently and, even after a few small contentious points had been clarified by others, the general tone was that it was a bad crossword. Yet, however misconstrued one or two (and often more) of the reverend’s clues, the crossword as a whole is conceived as ‘wonderful’. I know the good points, but I think there is a discrepancy in the treatment of setters that is unbalanced and, hence, unfair. Let’s take homophones: you often criticise, yet you accept ‘sweet lassie’ = ‘jo’, although it’s generally accepted as (i) a lover (which a sweet lassie isn’t) and (ii) male (as in John Anderson, my jo’).

  45. don says:

    I knew you must have been lurking, Derek, and was waiting to offer you you my support. I guessed you’d have like this one as much as me.

  46. ACP says:

    For 16ac to be one of the best you’ve seen, it has to make sense. What does ‘Sovereign in itself’ actually mean ? Nonsense – therefore not a great clue.

    I was very impressed with the grid construction – one of the best I’ve seen – but 14dn and 15dn were awful. ‘You want’ as an anagram indicator in 1dn ?

    Araucaria does some great stuff but often mucks up a puzzle with a handful of impenetrable clues. He’ll be a good setter one day.

  47. Will says:

    I’m amazed only one person has commented as to it being in poor taste, especially the Natasha Richardson clue. I felt sick as I was doing the crossword and realised the theme.

  48. Will says:

    Sorry, re-reading the blog it was three, but still… out of 46 comments?

  49. Paul B says:

    Today’s blog is as good as ever from our uncle, but shhurrely the way forward for everyone is to be completely clear about why an item is disliked, especially as an entirely shoddy puzzle is such a rarity at this level. I mean, it wouldn’t be entirely above board, for example, to try and make something legit appear bad, so that any private agenda might be served.

    Not that any such wilful obfuscation should ever occur here.

  50. Arthur Hay says:

    Only just found this puzzle in the o/seas _Guardian Weekly_. Unless I’ve missed it above, the comments on “monkey nuts” seem to have overlooked the inserted solfa tonic = ut (where English uses “doh”)

  51. Rusty says:

    I too have only had the pleasure, and the challenge, of this homage via the Guardian Weekly, where it was belatedly (but incompletely, see below) republished. That’s the sort of thing you have to put up with here in Alice Springs. What is noteworthy is that the puzzle preamble was omitted in the GW. Without knowing there was a theme, let alone what the theme was, added substantially to both the agony and the eventual ecstasy of solving it. Given that handicap (which of course was no fault of the setter) all the pedantic quibbles raised in the thread above melt away.

    Thank you Eileen for reminding me of the link between dashing away and smoothers.

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