Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,737 / Araucaria

Posted by Eileen on July 4th, 2009


Something of a treat for me today, to blog an Araucaria prize puzzle [entertaining, as ever] in Rightback’s absence. I can’t even dream of approaching his prodigious solving time – but then I like to savour my solves, or, at least, that’s what I tell myself.  When we see a composite clue like the first one, the first thought is that it’s going to be one of the good Rev’s famous long anagrams but this time it’s a paraphrase. I was held up in getting started on that one because, on the first run through, I was trying to see some connection [1dn] between James Bond and fiddlesticks. I had heard of the song but didn’t know much of its background, before googling. The music for today seems to be obvious.


               [And tell them I’m having the same.
               Go see what the boys in the back room will have
               And give them the poison they name.]

The beginning of a song sung by Marlene Dietrich as Frenchy in ‘Destry rides again’. According to Nigel Rees, Lord Beaverbrook was so infatuated with Marlene Dietrich that he said that her singing of this song was a greater work  of art than the Mona Lisa and, apparently, it was he who first referred to the boffins as ‘backroom boys’.
11   ZINGARO: ZING [life] A RO[many]. I was rather concerned by this to begin with because the definition ‘Romany’  seemed to be [very unusually] in the middle but then I realised that the definition is actually ‘him’
12   NULLIFY: NU [‘UN’ changed!] + FILL  [complete] reversed + Y [unknown] 
13   ETHIC: hidden in gET HICcups. I wasn’t entirely happy with ‘for’
15   DRYSALTER: DRY [formal] + homophone of psalter [religious book] A drysalter is ‘a dealer in gums, dyes, etc or [obs] in salted or dry meats, pickles, etc’ [Chambers] hence [‘former] preserver’
17   TUMMY ACHE: UM [hesitation + MY +AC[count] inside THE
20   GENET: [planta] GENET – the royal family which reigned in  England from 1184 to 1485. The GENET is a cat-like mammal of Africa and S Europe
21   CASHIER: double definition
23   ECLIPSE: CLIPS [film extracts] in EE [orientals]
26   CONGA: CON [prisoner] + GA [Georgia – state]
27   THIRD TIME LUCKY: anagram of MILK CURD IT THEY. I really liked this one


1      SWIZZLE STICK: SWIZZLES [cheats] on [followed by] TICK [credit] James Bond famously asked for his Martinis  to be ‘shaken, not stirred’
2      EATEN: homophone of Eton
3      HIERARCHY: HIER [‘yesterday’ in French] + ARCHY [Don Marquis’s cockroach – a new one on me, I’m afraid – in  the New York Evening Sun early last century] I still can’t do links, so I’ll have to ask you to google, if necessary.
4      TABLOID: anagram of BAD LOT I
5       HOCKNEY: substitute O for A in ‘hackney’, which I knew as a carriage but hadn’t realised it was a horse. With  the reference to the Plantagenets earlier, ‘My kingdom for a horse!’ sprang immediately to mind.
6       BERYL: BE [live] + RY + L
7       YEOVILTON: anagram of TO LIVE [‘dangerously’ made a lovely anagram indicator here] inside YON [that]
10      HYDROTHERAPY: [Philip] ROTH in HYDE [Earl of Clarendon, father-in-law of James II] + anagram of PRAY
14      HEMISTICH: HEM I STI[t]CH: the picture this conjured up – of Araucaria doing embroidery – certainly had me in stitches! I think perhaps ‘needlework’ would have been preferable, because hems don’t really feature in  embroidery but I don’t want to delve too deeply and ruin the image. A hemistich is a half-line of poetry.
1 8    CURRANT: CUR [dog] RAN] T[ime] Initially I was unhappy about ‘against’ introducing ‘time’ but then very dimly remembered that I think we said in primary school, ‘I’ll  run you to that lamp-post’, making ‘run’ a transitive verb [= ‘race’] but I may be misremembering and it may be dialect. I resorted to Chambers and found ‘chase’, hidden very deep.
19      EYE-BEAM: this was not what I expected: I thought that EYE was going to mean ‘glance’ and that an eye-beam  was something at the side of a joist and I’d somehow got to equate ‘beam’ with ‘detective’. But it turns out that EYE-BEAM is a glance, so it’s EYE [detective, as in private eye] + BEAM [joist] which leaves me rather unhappy with ‘on side of ‘in a down clue.  Edit – please see comment 7, which makes perfect sense – thanks, Neil
22     IDLER: ID [Identity: ‘who’s who’] + LE [‘the’ French] + R[ight]
24     PANIC: [his] PANIC: I can’t believe this was one of my last ones to parse!

24 Responses to “Guardian 24,737 / Araucaria”

  1. Crypticnut says:

    Hi Eileen. Congratulations on a very comprehensive analysis.

    As an Araucaria fan I absolutely loved this. Hardest one for me was 1ac etc which I finally got from some of the crossing letters and a couple of educated guesses, but had to google it to discover the relationship to Marlene Dietrich and the movie. So I wonder from whence he dredges these things up. Remember the Ruthless Rhymes from a few months ago?

    Not That I’m complaining – it’s these sort of challenges that he presents that I find so absorbing!

  2. Colin Greenland says:

    Thank goodness for this blog. I finished it, with much unsavoury recourse to Crossword Help engines, but didn’t understand 11a, 10d or 19d at all.

    On the other hand, I didn’t see a problem with 18d. I thought you just took CUR (“dog”) and RAN (“took part in race”), and you put them “against” (i.e. next to) T (“time”).

  3. Eileen says:

    Hi Colin

    I’d have no problem with ‘against’ used in that way in an across clue but in a down clue it would usually be ‘on’.

  4. Chunter says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen.

    7dn: I really dislike this! ‘RNAS station’ is what’s sometimes called a leaky acronym: the ‘S’ already stands for ‘station’. In any case there are only 2 possibilities – Yeovilton and Culdrose! See

  5. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Chunter; I did mean to mention that. I found in Wikipedia that it’s called RAS syndrome [Redundant Acronym Syndrome] which, of course, is an example of itself. [I must confess to occasionally referring to my PIN number.]

    [I only knew Culdrose.]

  6. Biggles A says:

    I filled in all the squares quickly enough, for me, and then spent almost as long finding out why. It was educational; I did not know about Archy the cockroach nor about the remarkable career of Edward Hyde and I am not old enough to have seen Destry Rides Again though I did know of it. Here is Frenchy in action;

    At the risk of being pedantic, RNAS is an abbreviation for Royal Naval Air Station so the second ‘station’ is de trop.

  7. Neil says:

    Thanks for another really good blog, Eileen.

    I was a fool at 11ac for choosing ZINCALO instead of ZINGARO. Perhaps if I’d paid proper attention to the wordplay …

    Otherwise fine. I thought this one of Araucaria’s less tricky ones, but good fun as ever.

    Eileen, 19dn, I think, as you say, that ‘glance’ is the definition (which Chambers agrees with) and ‘eye’ is, of course ‘detective’. But ‘beam’ I think is ‘side’ as in boats. It refers to a boat’s width but also ‘on the beam’ means off to one side, port or starboard. Then, an I-beam is a girder – or joist – (usually steel) with an I cross-section (an ‘I’ with square serifs).

  8. Eileen says:

    Hi Neil

    Thank you very much for that. You’ve explained the ‘say’, which I couldn’t account for and it was bothering me.

  9. Neil says:

    And, 20ac – a GENET is in no sense a cat, it only resembles one (a bit). I thought this as a definition was very poor.

  10. Eileen says:

    Neil, my ‘cat-like’ definition came from Collins. Chambers has ‘a carnivorous animal related to the civet’, which it does define as ‘catlike’ [sic]. But you’re right, ‘cat’ as a definition is not good.

    Biggles, I forgot to say thank you for the film – very entertaining!

    [Chunter had pointed out the redundancy at comment 4.]

  11. Radler says:

    Re 19dn – Not sure whether “beam” was defined by “side” or “joist”. However, I think “side” is fine as a positional indicator in both across and down clues, after all, a square has four sides.
    Similarly, “against” (18dn) – works equally for me with down clues.
    In fact, the argument could be made that even words like “on” could be used in across clues – e.g. “a picture on the wall” doesn’t mean the picture is on top of the wall. And “joined up writing” doesn’t mean the text is written vertically. It’s little wonder that prepositions are so problematic when learning a foreign language!

  12. Eileen says:


    ‘On’ is quite frequently used in across clues [and sometimes causes discussion] but then it means that that part of the solution comes at the end – [added] on – rather than at the beginning, as in down clues.

    Re 19dn – Neil’s interpretation completely convinces me because, as I said, it explains the ‘say’.

  13. liz says:

    Thanks for a wonderful blog, Eileen, and for introducing me to Archy the typing cockroach! I reminds me of an American children’s book my daughter used to be very fond of, where the typist was a kitten.

    I was expecting a long anagram at 1ac etc too, but guessed the song once I had got a few checking letters. I liked 1dn a lot! ZINGARO was one I had to look up and only saw the wordplay afterwards. YEOVILTON was another one I googled.

    I agree with Neil re I-beam.

  14. muck says:

    Thank for the blog Eileen. The composite 1ac held me up longest, although I worked out that it couldn’t be an anagram because I had two Bs from crossing clues.

    Chunter#4: I didn’t like RNAS either, because I hadn’t heard of it. Chambers 11th edn has ‘Royal Naval Air Service (until 1918); then Royal Naval Air Station’. Earlier editions have only ‘Royal Naval Air Service(s)’, which was presumably what A intended. But, that doesn’t work either – Yeovilton didn’t become a Royal Naval Air Station until 1940!

  15. NeilW says:

    Congratulations, Eileen, on a super analysis. Like my namesake, I also had Zincalo for 11ac, but really just out of desperation. Please would you mind elucidating further on what Zingaro has to do with “him” – still completely lost!

  16. Eileen says:

    Hi Neil

    I’ll do my best! Zingaro ia a gypsy, as is a Romany and, I’ve just discovered, a Zincalo! – but the wordplay doesn’t fit him as an answer. ZING [life] + A ROMANY with a lot [many] going gives ZINGARO = ROMANY = ‘him’. [I hope that’s clearer but I’m not sure it is!

  17. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen; a little clearer but… a bit like Araucaria’s recent poser “anomalous”, where you’re still left wondering if there’s something more!

  18. Neil says:

    Eileen and NeilW (oh dear, I’m a W too; potential further confusion):
    I got in a pickle with ZINCALO/ZINGARO until Eileen showed me the light. I’ve even got bruises on my head, from where I’ve been kicking myself! So, if NeilW is still fretting, forgive me for interfering but, following Eileen’s lucid interpretation, this is how I saw it:

    ZING = life. A ROMANY with ‘many’ (a lot) taken away (going) leaves A RO – to add on to ZING. Whoopee – ZINGARO!
    A Zingaro is a a Romany but is also part of the wordplay. Eileen identfies HIM as the definition; that would be ‘him’ the previously referred to Romany, thus, the Zingaro. Yes?

    (My Gran used to have an expression – “The better I’m makin’ it, the worse ’tis gettin'”).

    I thought this made absolute sense, quite unlike the “anomalous’ business, which nobody could seem to make any reasonable sense of at all (pace Eileen, who had a go).

  19. Eileen says:

    “(My Gran used to have an expression – “The better I’m makin’ it, the worse ’tis gettin’”).”

    That’s exactly how I felt, Neil! I quite agree that it’s nothing like the omelette thing.

    [I love the picture of you kicking your head!]

  20. Crypticnut says:

    Just to add a little more to the “ZINGARO” debate – according to Wictionary ZINGARO is Italian, male gender, for gypsy. Plural is ZINGARI and feminine is ZINGARA.

    Hope this doesn’t add to the confusion!

  21. Chunter says:

    I can’t resist mentioning I Zingari, a cricket club that was founded in 1845.

  22. Bryan says:

    I loved it!

    Many thanks, Araucaria, I found it easier than most Prize Puzzles – like yesterday’s for example which, thanks to 8d, took me forever.

    I didn’t get the Marlene Dietrich song initially but when I did I immediately ordered a copy of ‘Destry Rides Again’ which I hadn’t seen for ages. And, when it came, that was a real bonus.

    But I guess that you have to be of a ‘certain age’ to remember that.


  23. Bryan says:

    The Boys in the Backroom

    Quite right, Eileen, QUOTE: Backroom boys people who provide vital scientific and technical support for those in the field who become public figures; the expression derives from a reference by Lord Beaverbrook in 1941 to, ‘the boys in the back rooms…they are the men who do the work.’ UNQUOTE

    But ‘Destry Rides Again’ appeared in 1939 so, evidently, The Beaver had been inspired by Frederick Hollander and Frank Loesser, although the boys then in question were running a crooked card game.


  24. mhl says:

    I meant to say this earlier, but thanks for the excellent post on this puzzle, Eileen! We managed to parse everything in the end, but it took a while…

    With regard to ETHIC, I now deliberately look out for “for” and “’s” as hidden answer indicators in Araucaria’s puzzles – there are a couple of other examples in this old comment:

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