Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,803 (Sat 12 Sep)/Araucaria – Chekh mate

Posted by rightback on September 19th, 2009


Solving time: about 15 mins

A while ago I was playing Articulate! when the name Anton Chekhov came up. This was described to my team as “a Russian chess player”. Easy, we thought. We must have came up with about 10 before the time ran out.

Anyway, Chekhov was the theme of this week’s puzzle, with several of his plays also appearing in the grid. I thought the puzzle was slightly on the hard side for Araucaria, and if I hadn’t known all the play titles (possibly a first for me) it would have been harder still.

Music of the day: Here’s another of Chekhov’s plays, Swan Song by Led Zeppelin.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

9 EMPHYSEMA; (HYPE’S)* in EMMA – not sure I could have spelt this without the wordplay.
11 HO + T’ + EL – three varients of ‘the’ of which I knew only two, Greek being a shortcoming of mine. If I’d thought harder I might have remembered the plural version used in ‘hoi polloi’, which means ‘the masses’.
12 COUGH DROP; Spoonerism of “DOFF CROP” – nice.
13 VIRTUAL; “R U” separately (‘split’) in VITAL – another good one.
15/26 LITT. + LEW + OMEN – a couple of standard Araucarian references, ‘Litt’ standing for ‘letters’, as in LittB (Bachelor of Letters), and Lew Grade, and a reference to the book’s content via Chekhov’s Three Sisters.
17 JUST SO (2 defs)
19 FIEFDOM; (OF + MED + IF)* – difficult wordplay. 15ac is LITTLE, so ’15 medicine’ = ‘little medicine’ = MED.
22 LADY VICAR; LAD, + rev. of IVY, + CAR – I liked ‘clingy girl’ in the wordplay.
24 ANTON; [c]ANTON[a] – love the wordplay but what a shame there was no reference to 4dn and Cantona’s famous ‘seagulls‘ quotation! You may also remember him for the kung fu kick which inspired that quotation, or perhaps for this.
27 AMBERGRIS; AMBER (= ‘light’) + GRIS (= ‘grey’, in French or old English)
28 TYNWALD; rev. of LAWN in [dir]TYD[ogs] – the parliament of the Isle of Man.
29 AS + SENT
2 EXPAT; EAT around XP (= ’10p’).
3 ROYAL HUNT; (TH[e s]UN)* after ROYAL (= ‘a stag with 12 or more points’, according to Chambers) – ‘of the Sun’ does double duty here as a reference to the play The Royal Hunt of the Sun.
4 SEAGULL – SELL (= ‘dispose of’) around AGU[e]
5 SLUSH; S (= ‘opening to subsidise’) + LUSH (= ‘drinker’)
7 S(LEE)PY – the General is Robert E Lee.
8 PENCIL; PENC[e] + I L – excellent clue.
14 ROUNDSMAN; UND (= ‘German and’) + S[outh], all in ROMAN – the surface reading doesn’t really make sense here, but the definition and wordplay are very good.
16 THE + SAURUS – sauros, from which we get our dinosaur endings, was Greek for ‘lizard’.
19 FORM + BY – ukulele player and comedian George Formby.
21 BLEW IT; BLEWIT[s] – I knew this had to be ‘blow up’ (= ‘mushroom’) or ‘blew it’ (= ‘wasted opportunity’) but couldn’t see which. Even with the ‘E’, I thought ‘with almost’ gave the final -WIT, not knowing the mushroom in question.
25/4ac THREE SISTERS – this took me an age to understand after solving. The Maquis were WW2 guerrillas of the French resistance, so ‘the Maquis’ = THE RESISTERS, which with ‘very little change’ (i.e. a swap of two adjacent letters) becomes the answer. Nice!

18 Responses to “Guardian 24,803 (Sat 12 Sep)/Araucaria – Chekh mate”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Rightback. I still wonder about 21d. A blewit is a mushroom singular so I can’t see the reason for ‘almost complete’.

  2. Chunter says:

    Hi Biggles,

    Both Chambers and the OED say that the mushroom is called blewits (singular).

  3. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Rightback, I loved this which I found relatively easy and it prompted me to read up on Chekhov. What a man!

    It took me some time to recall George Formby even though he was a favourite of mine when I was a kid and my mother took me to see him at the Oldham Empire. (Yes I was born in Oldham.)

    Today’s puzzle looks like being more tricky as there are no Clues on the online version; no Special Instructions (although some are implied); and the PDF version is so tiny that I need a microscope.

    In other words PERFECT!

  4. The trafites says:

    I got ‘BLEWITS’ from Bradfords.

    15 minutes? More like 5 hours here!


  5. beermagnet says:

    By some coincidence I found the lunchtime theatre near my work in London running a couple of little known one-act farces by Chekhov, The Proposal and The Bear. That really is hilarious knockabout stuff. Well worth a fiver. Still on for another 2 weeks.

    Bryan: I believe the implied “Special Instructions” on today’s online crossword are just a screwed-up link that they normally put to the pdf version. That is here and shows no preamble:

  6. Biggles A says:

    Chunter, Thank you. I just Googled it and there are plenty of instances where the singular is used. It seems the word blewit is an Old English contraction for “blue hat” so I’m not sure how the plural developed.

  7. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Beermagnet, your link is superb but, alas, too late. I’ve now finished it and I had already reached the conclusion that the Special Instruction in my version should have been: ‘Powerful Microscope essential’.

    In fact, if and when you can see it, it is relatively easy for a Prize puzzle.

  8. Chunter says:

    Biggles : I assumed that it’s a singular word; neither dictionary mentioned either singular or plural.

    (While on the subject of dictionaries, I recommend anyone who owns an iPod Touch or an iPhone to look at My printed edition of Chambers is no longer required!)

  9. Eileen says:

    Thanks, rightback.

    As you say, a shame about the seagulls – it’s not like Araucaria to miss a trick!

    I still don’t understand 15,26. There are FOUR sisters in ‘Little Women’ – I read it enough times as a child to know!

  10. IanN14 says:

    Agreed with rightback and Eileen re: seagulls.
    But he was on his best behaviour. Nothing too controversial (apart from the number of little women) and some nice clues.

    And Chunter @8; thanks so much for that link.
    Brilliant, isn’t it?

  11. Chunter says:

    Ian, Yes- fantastic (and I don’t say that very often). Have you noticed that if you can get a random word by shaking it?

  12. IanN14 says:


  13. Chunter says:

    More (and very sad) news from Chambers:

    ‘Union officials said they were fighting plans to close the Chambers Dictionary office in Edinburgh.’ (

  14. Chunter says:

    Ian, Yes indeed, but it’s not a feature (bug?) that’s well advertised.

  15. IanN14 says:

    Thanks again Chunter.
    I think the BBC have moved your link to here.

    I’m off to try out my new app on today’s Inquisitor…

  16. Chunter says:

    Thanks, Ian. Good luck!

  17. Martin Searle says:

    I am quite happy that Araucaria made no further reference to that scruffy Frenchman. That kick happened 19 rows in front of me, and I was not supporting that Northern team with Southern supporters…..

  18. RB says:

    As I remember that incident, the fellow on the end of Cantona’s ill-advised lunge got exactly what he deserved. Meanwhile back to the crossie…excellent stuff…only took me till Thursday to finish it! Re 21D I’ve also seen the mushroom spelt as BLEWITT, which fits the clue better.

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