Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Genius No. 72 / Araucaria

Posted by Gaufrid on July 5th, 2009


This was, I think, the hardest Genius puzzle since the Guardian site became freely available. I only managed to solve just over a third of the clues in the first session and then got a few more each day during the next couple of days or so when revisiting the puzzle. Being able to make a start on grid entry would have been greatly helped by solving 5d but I did not get this one until much later.

The breakthrough for me was solving five of the six 9-letter answers and then determining the only positions they would fit in the grid. This then enabled some of the other known answers to be entered which helped in solving the remaining clues. I had to use all the tools available to me to complete this one and if anyone was able to complete the puzzle without resorting to on-line aids etc they have my greatest admiration.

There were some typical Araucaria liberties in this puzzle (eg 3d {2}) and some very pleasing clues (eg 27a {27}). Overall, despite the degree of difficulty and the amount of time it took, I found this both enjoyable and rewarding.

The four ‘musically linked’ answers were all (parts of in three cases) Gilbert & Sullivan operas. The omitted parts, PIRATES, HMS and IDA could be jumbled to give TEAR AMIDSHIPS (13a & 14a).

{x} – clue number

1 {14} ESPADA  A SPADE with the end letters swapped – ‘object of caling’ as in ‘to call a spade a spade’.
5 {7} BACKDATE  BACK ET (and, in Latin) AD (epoch, in Latin – anno domini) reversed – the reversal indicator forms part of the answer in this one.
9 {18} LANGFORD  LANG (Belinda) FORD (Harrison) – Bonnie Langford; singer, actress and child star of the early ’70s.
10 {13} ESLOIN  *(INSOLE)
11 {9} COOLIE  COO (surprised) LIE (romance)
12 {31} TREATISE  homophone of ‘treaties’ (agreements)
13 {30} TEAR  dd
14 {1} AMIDSHIPS  IDS (Tory leader, Iain Duncan Smith) HI (greeting) in AMPS (current) – ‘Heart of Oak’ is the RN’s official march.
18 {4} ASPEN TREE  PEN (writer) in A STREE[t] (almost a way)
19 {3} ANTE  [n]ANTE[s] (19) – ‘raised object’ as in ‘up the ante’
21 {15} GREEN TEA  REENTE[r] (return to stage right away) in G A (adjacent notes)
24 {6} AZRAEL  AZ (extremes) LEAR (king) reversed – ‘deadly piece of 2′ because Azreal is the Angel of Death.
25 {16} GUELPH  E (energy) in PLUG (power source) reversed H (hospital)
26 {33} UNTANNED  becomes sUNNTANNED (brown) if ‘s’ (southern) is added
27 {27} SEXTUPLE  SEX TUP (determine that a ram’s a ram) L (left) E[xhaust]
28 {29} SVELTE  V (figure) in SEE around LT (officer)

2 {26} SCAZONTES  SCA (fell) T[he] (first of the) in ZONES (regions) – Sca Fell is a area in the Lake District around Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England.
3 {2} ANGEL CAKE  ANGEL (backer) CAKE (soap) – ‘has no eggs’ is the definition but angel cakes are made from flour, sugar and egg whites. However, the ovum is the yolk, the albumen being merely food for the chick before hatching, so I suppose one could say that an angel cake has no eggs.
4 {5} AVOCET  [viv]A VOCE (test) [tes]T (its end) – Viv Richards, former West Indian cricketer.
5 {8} BODY TEMPERATURE  D (daughter) in BOY (son) TEMPE (scene of beauty) RAT (beast) URE (river) – 98.4°F ie near 100 (C) but not °C.
6 {10} CREDENDA  RED (being left) END (last) in CA (state)
7 {11} DELFT  FLED (ran) reversed T (to starting) – ‘place with pearl earring’ refers to the painting Girl with a Pearl Earring by Jan Vermeer Van Delft.
8 {32} TRIPS  T[h]RIPS (insect) pronounced in an Irish accent
15 {17} HINDRANCE  HIND (female) RAN (in charge of) CE (church)
16 {23} PRESELECT  PRESEL[i] (Welsh hills I’m off) ECT (head treatment) – ECT, electroconvulsive therapy.
17 {28} STITCH UP  d&cd
20 {19} NANTES  N (pole) ANTE (before) S (pole)
22 {25} ROUSE  R[iver] OUSE (going to the Wash)
23 {12} ECLAT  T[h]ECLA (hairstreak, no second) with initial letter moved to the end

NE {22} PINAFORE  PIN (number) AFORE (previously)
SE {21} PENZANCE  Z (last) in PENANCE (atoning work)
SW {24} PRINCESS  IN (home) C (number) in PRESS (media)
NW {20} PATIENCE  AT IE (that’s) in PENCE (money)

8 Responses to “Guardian Genius No. 72 / Araucaria”

  1. Crypticnut says:

    Thank You Gaufrid.

    This was a brilliant puzzle and it took me all of two weeks before I was confident enough to lodge my entry. I managed to solve clue 28 easily and then, when I worked out the connection to G & S I was away. Still had some hold-ups with clues 26 and 1, which I am still kicking myself about when I worked it out and saw how simple it really was.

    Clue 5 was the last one I “solved” but only by default. I couldn’t see what else would fit – but couldn’t work out why. Thank you for your explanation. It’s all clear to me now.

    Well done!

  2. Crypticnut says:

    PS. I had to use on-line aids to get a couple!

  3. jvh says:


    Thanks for the blog. This was tough but enjoyable.

    I am puzzled why clue 32 has insect rather than insects.

  4. liz says:

    Thanks, Guafrid. I really enjoyed this puzzle, but didn’t understand all the wordplay.

    For once, I didn’t find it too difficult to start entering answers in the grid, but I got seriously held up in the SE corner by putting NAPLES for NANTES, largely because I was convinced that ANTE was ETNA the other way up…! The other one that stumped me for the longest time was UNTANNED.

    Crypticnut — I had to use on- and off-line aids to get quite a few of these!

  5. Mr Beaver says:

    Hats off to anyone who finished this – I solved a grand total of 9 clues and entered none :(

  6. Mick H says:

    I think this was the hardest blocked crossword I’ve completed – and wouldn’t have done so without the best part of a month to do it! Some great clues, but with words like SCAZONTES you just long for the 75 per cent cross-checking you can expect from Azed, Listener etc.

  7. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I think this was the hardest blocked crossword I did NOT complete ….. I think there were too many unsual words in it (like SCAZONTES, CREDENDA, ESLOIN, GUELPH etc) for a crossword of this kind. And some of the definitons were, although clever, not very helpful either, like the ‘C (not C)’ of Clue 8 or ‘I must fly’ for the name of a bird (in Clue 5). But then I am not a Genius …
    Anyway, thank you, Gaufrid, for the excellent blog.
    Only NW (PATIENCE) should be AT I (first) inside PENCE.

  8. Philbo says:

    Wow, I thought I was really getting the hang of things until I ran into this one. Thanks Gaufrid for the illumination..

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