Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,707 (Sat 23 May)/Araucaria – To a T

Posted by rightback on May 30th, 2009


Solving time: 10:27

This grid is normally a stinker (it has twelve 9-letter words each with only four checked letters and its four quarters are connected by just a single square each at the centre) but it was more than justified in this case: all of the 9-letter words begin with ‘A’ and end in ‘T’ (all in unchecked cells) which is a pretty impressive feate of construction.

That said, the preamble was very poor (not for the first time in one of these Araucarian specials): the wordplay in the special clues gave the middle 7 letters but the definitions were to the full words which is not what the preamble states.

I thought the clues in general had much better surface readings than those in other recent puzzles I’ve solved by this setter. New answers to me were PETASUS and KAI LUNG.

Music of the Day: Here is a song entirely about hats, including the petasus – extremely useful (maybe) for the crossword solver but I don’t know if it’s any good because my computer won’t play the music!

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

9 PRIMED; PRIED (= ‘looked’) around M (= 1000 = ‘number’) – when solving I parsed this incorrectly as ’round’ = ‘prime’ and ‘number’ = ‘D’ (= 500).
11 SO(ZZ)LE – I only knew ‘sozzled’ but apparently this is an American verb meaning ‘to intoxicate’.
12 ARCHIVIST; R[ed] C[ross] + HI (= ‘greeting’) + V (= 5) + IS
13 PROMPT (2 defs) – a good clue that took me much longer than it should have, I convinced myself that the fifth letter had to be a vowel and was looking for a word like ‘promit’.
17 ARM (2 defs)
19 PET + AS + US – as worn by Hermes.
20 A + BOUNDS – ‘to abound’ can mean ‘to be rich (in)’, which I suppose at a stretch is about the same as ‘to produce great quantities (of)’.
21 SKY (2 defs, the second the Russian suffix ‘-sky’) – this amused me.
23 L(A,H)ORE
27 AIR POCKET; IRE around POCK – a ‘pit’ is ‘an indentation left by smallpox’, hence ‘pock’.
28 COLON + Y[our]
29 AUTOPILOT; UTOPI[a] + LO – ‘George’ was once slang for the autopilot of an aircraft.
31 AGREEMENT; ME in GREEN – this refers to the poem Green Grow The Rushes, O which Araucaria often references; it includes the line Two, two, the lily-white boys,
Clothèd all in green-o
2 BICARB; CAR in BIB – another that took me longer than it should, I spent too long concentrating on ‘feeder’ (which I didn’t know could mean a bib) instead of looking at the definition.
4 M.O.T. + I’VE
5 NON-USER; NONUS + E.R. – a legal word I couldn’t have defined.
7 AMAZEMENT; MAZE MEN – by coincidence I was in Belfast on the day this was published and saw this mural to hunger striker and Maze prisoner Bobby Sands on the Falls Road, so solved this quickly.
14 APPLECART; (CLAPPER)* – the definition alludes to the fact that this word is normally heard in the phrase ‘to upset the applecart’. I’m not sure what ‘needs clapper out’ means in the surface reading.
15 AT THE LAST; TT (= ‘teetotal’) + HELAS – the French word ‘hélas’ is cited in Chambers as cognate with the English ‘alas’, but this is pretty obscure; perhaps there’s a “famous” literary use of which I’m unaware?
17 ASS (cryptic definition)
18 MAY (cryptic definition) – a question mark might have improved this.
22 KAI + LUNG – apparently a fictional Chinese story-teller; ‘taels’ were old Chinese weights used for money. I dithered for a while between ‘kai’ and ‘koi’ for the Maori meal, probably confused by ‘poi’ which is a Hawaiian dish and the Japanese fish ‘koi’.
24 OP + POSE
25 SCHISM (hidden)
26 REJOIN (2 defs)

11 Responses to “Guardian 24,707 (Sat 23 May)/Araucaria – To a T”

  1. Biggles says:

    Once I realised that a was the first letter and t the last in the autopilot clue I thought the preamble was clear enough and the rest followed logically.

    14d. Surely “clapper out” is just an anagram pointer.

    15d. I would have thought that hélas, as a French expression of lament was legitimate enough.

    Thanks rightback for a very good commentary.

  2. Chunter says:

    15d: When he was asked to name France’s greatest poet, the novelist André Gide is supposed to have replied ‘Victor Hugo , hélas!’

  3. Chunter says:

    18dn: no question mark needed as it’s a dd: ‘may’ is another name for ‘hawthorn’.

  4. Chunter says:

    14d: ‘needs clapper out’ to provide some ironic applause?

  5. Mr Beaver says:

    I have to agree with Rightback about the ambiguous preamble; maybe this was deliberate to avoid giving the game away too soon ?
    Despite having the first and last letters of half the clues, we found this fairly tough (and toughly fair ?) – our solving time as usual about the same as Rightback’s – but only if read as hours:minutes!

  6. rightback says:

    18dn: The ‘flower’ part is fine but ‘uncertain’ hardly defines ‘may’, which is why I think a question mark was necessary (and why I described this as a cryptic definition rather than a double definition – although it isn’t really either!).

    14dn: Yes, ‘clapper out’ is an anagram but I was questioning the surface reading, not the cryptic reading. Chunter’s suggestion is probably the best available.

    Thanks for the Gide quotation!

  7. Chunter says:

    18d: I take back my comment. I must have misread rightback’s comment ((too early in the morning!).

  8. Tim the Newbie says:

    Got about halfway through before resorting to google/wikipedia – not always the surest route though as it meant I ended up with ‘Becard’ for 2 down – a kind of bird that eats flies, hence to my desperate mind a ‘feeder’ and I put car in bed, vaguely remembering the phrase acid beds from gardening! Anyhow, thanks very much for the explanations; incredibly helpful.

  9. liz says:

    Thanks, Rightback. I never time myself and certainly never solve in anything like your time, but I managed this pretty quickly for me and for a Saturday. ACCEPTANT was my entry into the theme. I agree the preamble was confusing, but I always find them so, except for the A-Zs, and I suppose they are meant to be. Perhaps it was haste that led to my mistake — FRAMED for PRIMED at 9ac.

    re MAY. I knew this because of the Pilgrim’s ship, The Mayflower. (If I can suggest another song for today, it would be Paul Simon’s ‘American Tune’). I agree that a question mark would help the clue.

    re KAI LUNG I knew this from the mystery stories of Dorothy Sayers. Kai Lung is favourite reading of her fictional detective, Lord Peter Wimsey.

    PETASUS was new to me.

  10. AMB says:

    What a great puzzle from perhaps my all-time favourite compiler, and what a splendid Bank Holiday Weekend. Some absolutely wonderful work across all papers, with the Indy singled out in particular for glory.

    Really brilliant stuff, so here’s to more of it.

  11. Ian P says:

    Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat lies dusty and long-unread on my shelf. It’s not as dull as it sounds, there’s not much mat unrolling in it.

    Whilst I enjoyed the puzzle I didn’t really see the point. It’s not a theme, it’s only a trick, easily spotted. Sometimes one imagines Araucaria in his den chuckling away at some cleverness. This time, I wasn’t chuckling along.

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