Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24770 / Araucaria

Posted by mhl on August 5th, 2009


For an Araucaria puzzle, I thought this wasn’t too difficult. Figuring out his wordplay is always excellent fun, and I always learn a few new things. There’s a mini theme of “refusals” in four clues.

[Links to the puzzle as HTML, PDF and Java Applet]

1. AT FIRST A TT (teetotaller) = “an abstainer” around FIRS
5. WARFARE FAR in WARE = “Fabrications”; the relevant definition of WARE in Chambers is “(now usu in PL) articles of merchandise or produce collectively”
10. DIDO DID 0 = “Wasn’t a performer” and Dido, Queen of Carthage
11. PERCOLATOR PERT = “Forward” + OR all around COLA = “drink”
12. SKETCH S[ailing] + KETCH = “boat”
14. HOLBY CITY B[ox] in HOLY CITY; the definition is “Hospital on the box”
17,19. NOT ON YOUR NELLY NO, TONY = “[a refusal] for Blair” + (RULE ONLY)*
23. FLOTILLA Sounds like “flow tiller”, I suppose. I’d always thought the “o” in flotilla was as in “got”, and the written pronunciation guide in Chambers seems to agree. However, the audio clip in the online Chambers entry sounds much more like the suggestion in this clue :)
24,13. OVER MY DEAD BODY Double definition
26. PARKING LOT PARKIN = “gingerbread” + G = “good” + LOT = “company” (not sure about this – as in someone’s group of friends being “their lot”, I suppose). The definition is marvellous here, I think – “empty saloons in America”, “saloons” in the sense of cars
28. SPINACH SPIN = “Putting gloss on news” + A CH = “a companion [of honour]”
29. EPITOME I guess EPI[stle] = “the first letter”? + TO ME = “to Araucaria” Update: the consensus seems to be that this is just Ep. 1 for “first epistle” – that abbreviation is in Collins. Thanks to NeilW and Andrew
3,2. I DON’T THINK SO I DON’T THINK, SO “I’m not”. A nice joke on Decartes’s “I think, therefore I am”
6. AVOWAL A VOWAL = “One sort of letter, said” (sounds like “a vowel”)
8. RHONDDA R = “river” + HON = “of noble descent” + ADD = “join” reversed
9. TRADITIONALLY TALLY = “count” around R = “right” + (AN IDIOT)*
15. BOOK TOKEN BO = “box office” + OK = “agreement” + TO KEN = “to receive information”. I think KEN is more “understanding” than “receiving information”…
18. OIL LAMP OP = “work” around ILL + A.M. Although I’ve seen it before, it still took a long time for me to see that “wicked” meant “with a wick” :)
20. ROOFTOP O FT = “nought feet” in POOR reversed
21. LUMP SUM LUMP + SUM[mer]; I think the former part refers to the Collins definition of “the lump” as “self-employed workers in the building trade considered collectively, esp with reference to tax and national insurance evasion” – whether it can be used without the definite article, I’m not sure…
22. CLINIC I in CLINC[h]
25. EEJIT JE = “In France I” in TIE = “cup match” all reversed. Being based in Edinburgh, I feel obliged to make a small protest that Scotland isn’t “across the border” for everyone :)

32 Responses to “Guardian 24770 / Araucaria”

  1. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the blog mhl. I agree that this was quite easy going: the “refusals” were pretty easy to spot from their enumerations, giving a good start.

    I’m puzzled by 29ac, unless “first letter” means “first few letters of epistle”, which is loose even for A. It occurs to me that if the clue had read “…the last letter…” then the wordplay could be E (end of THE) + PI (letter).

  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks mhl. Isn’t it just Ep ! – Epistles One?

  3. NeilW says:

    I thought (maybe wrongly) that “eejit”, which anyway I had as “eijet”, was Irish brogue and thus rather more “across the border.”

  4. Eileen says:

    Thanks, mhl.

    Neil, Chambers has ‘eejit: Scot and Irish’. Certainly my Scottish husband used to say it!

  5. mhl says:

    NeilW: Chambers says “Scottish and Irish”. My silly comment would apply if I were living in Ireland too, I suppose :) When you say “Ep 1″ is “Epistles One”, is that another way of referring to Paul’s letter to the Romans? If so, I hadn’t see that nomenclature before.

    Andrew: your error suggestion (E + PI) is quite appealing, I think :)

  6. Andrew says:

    I think Neil’s got it with “first letter” = EP 1. I think (no dictionary to hand) that “Ep” is an abbreviation of “Epistle” generally – not any specific one.

  7. mhl says:

    Andrew: it’s not in Chambers, but Collins has “Ep.” as an abbreviation for epistle. I’ll update the post.

  8. mhl says:

    (Sorry for duplicating your comment, Eileen!)

  9. Bryan says:

    Very enjoyable: many thanks Araucaria & mhl.

    I opted for DIDO although the only African Queen I knew was Humphrey Bogart’s.

    I also opted (wrongly) for EIJET.

  10. NeilW says:

    Interestingly, if you google “eijet irish” there are countless articles claiming the word is exclusively Irish. (Occasionally the alternative spelling of “eejit is given…) I think this spelling works just as well in the clue as I don’t see that there is anything to insist on all the word being reversed – works just as well with only “tie” being reversed. Certainly the online checker gives the correct answer as “eejit” but it’s been wrong before. I guess there’s only one person who knows what he really meant!

  11. Tom Hutton says:

    A most enjoyable crossword.

    I don’t think Ireland can be described as being across the border so it must be Scots. I should know as I am one.

    Clues like epitome depress me a bit when even experts like yourselves cannot really give a convincing explanation. If it is using Ep as an abbreviation, this is another case of using very uncommon abbreviations to make a clue work.

    But, as I say, for me this was a most enjoyable but uncharacteristically easy crossword.

  12. NeilW says:

    Tom, I know you have your own parliament and many would like to separate from the UK, but the Republic of Ireland is truly another country – why is that not “across the border”?

  13. mhl says:

    EP for “epistle”, “letter” or “short letter” is also in the short list of useful crossword abbreviations in Don Manley’s Chambers Crossword Manual, so I’m sure that’s the right interpretation.

  14. Mick H says:

    Oh well, it makes a change from record=EP, bearing in mind that for young folks nowadays an Extended Play record is about as old as Epistles anyway.

  15. Colin Greenland says:

    Uncommon abbreviations: what about B.O. for box office? I’ve never seen it before. Thanks for this explanation and several others. I’ve never heard of that LUMP either, with or without the article.

    I do agree about KEN in 15d; and I’ve always supposed that “in the soup” means simply “in trouble”, rather than “insolvent”.

    After all of which niggles, I should say I love most of the rest, esp. 10a and 26a. “Company” for “LOT” seemed ok to me.

  16. Chunter says:

    28ac: I’m thinking of starting a Coincidence Corner – SPINACH is one of the answers in today’s FT puzzle.

  17. Eileen says:

    Hi Chunter

    …and so is IDIOT [English version!]

  18. Chris says:

    Well speaking as a Scot, I can assure you that any source that says “eejit” (and that’s the correct spelling) is just flat out wrong. It’s used very commonly in Scotland – and, indeed, and readers of the Broons or Oor Wullie should be very familiar with it (see also: gowk).

  19. liz says:

    Thanks, mhl. 26ac was very funny. I also liked the use of ‘wicked’ in 18dn.

    Colin — I don’t think BO is that uncommon an abbreviation. There’s HBO (Home Box Office) for a start.

  20. Chris says:

    Sorry, that first sentence should read:

    Well speaking as a Scot, I can assure you that any source that says “eejit” (and that’s the correct spelling) is exclusively Irish is just flat out wrong.

  21. Chris says:

    And a Google search gives 9000 results for ‘eijet’ and 175000 for ‘eejit’, demonstrating that the latter is much the more widely used.

  22. Chunter says:


    Amazing! I fear that we’ll be invaded by conspracy nuts.

    I notice that WHETSTONE has reappeared.

  23. NeilW says:

    Chris, my point entirely… If the answer’s actually spelt eijet, it can go to Ireland; if it’s eejit, you Scots are welcome to it :)

    Anyway, I’m sure this is growing tiresome for spectators – I did preface my remarks with “interestingly” etc… I didn’t seek to awake any fierce nationalistic debate.

  24. Eileen says:

    Now that we’ve given away three of the answers [!] I’d recommend today’s FT puzzle, if you can resist looking at the blog in the meantime. It’s a Satori [Taupi], so well worth it.

  25. sidey says:

    I’m not sure if A may have meant a different interpretation of 21d. The OED gives ” f. = lump work . Of persons: those who contract to do work ‘in the lump’, i.e. for a lump sum.”
    So perhaps it’s “Single payment to self employed workers” + ?

    Oh well, I thought I was on to something there…

  26. Chris says:

    Yeah, but Neil, the vast, overwhelming majority of the time it’s spelled ‘eejit’ in Ireland too. In fact, I’m tempted to say that if you ever see it as ‘eijet’ then it’s a mis-spelling.

    Google “eejit irish” and you’ll get about 350,000 results. Google “eijet irish” and you’ll get about 550 results.

    I’m anything but a nationalist. I’m simply saying, as a point of fact, that eejit is both Scottish and Irish, and either way is correctly spelled ‘eejit’.

  27. stiofain says:

    Only an eejit would spell eejit eijet.

  28. Mike Laws says:

    Nice one!

  29. Richard George Wilks says:

    9 Down has an R in it! TALLY = “count” around (AN IDIOT)* doesn’t?

  30. Hud says:

    Richard – the clue is “count around right”. The R of right is used in the anagram

  31. mhl says:

    Sorry, just a slip – I’ve corrected that.

  32. Dinos says:

    Yay. My best effort to date with only 3 clues missing: FLOTILLA, DIDO and RHONDDA ftr. Didn’t help that I had PERCOLAT(ED) as I didn’t get the cryptic at first.

    Loved all the emphatic refusal clues which helped me get started.


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