Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,851 (Sat 7 Nov)/Araucaria – Shaw thing

Posted by rightback on November 14th, 2009


Solving time: 37 mins, one mistake (9ac)

This was enjoyable but I found it very difficult. There was a theme based on George Bernard Shaw’s Three Plays For Puritans, of which I was entirely ignorant – knowledge of these would have made the puzzle hugely easier. (When I solved 13ac I did scan the grid to see if I could cram Pygmalion in anywhere, but to no avail.)

Music of the day: I’m sure I know a song referring to George Bernard Shaw (possibly by the Manic Street Preachers?) but can’t think of it; Burn It Down by Dexy’s Midnight Runners fits the bill, but it’s not the one I’m thinking of. Instead here’s one of his plays, You Never Can Tell sung by Chuck Berry. On the same subject, thanks to Sil for his excellent suggestion of The Kinks’ Dead End Street for the Boatman puzzle of a couple of weeks ago.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

1 RAFFLESIA; LES (= ‘small boy’) in RAFFIA (= ‘Weaving fibres’) – I was convinced that this clue involved an anagram of ‘fibres’ (in fact I solved 2dn, OFFBEATS, by hypothesising the ‘F’ in the crossing position) and so decided that the small boy must be ‘Al’, ‘one’ must give the final A and the answer must be ‘refalbsia’. This now looks utterly ridiculous but even if I’d known it were wrong I’m not sure I’d have seen the correct answer, which is one of these huge flowers.
11 AMBOYNA; A + (MAN)* around BOY – Araucaria clued this on May 9th as ‘Wood, a man confused about his past’, so I should have got it much faster this time around.
13 SHAW; “SAW” pronounced when drunk – the thematic author. ‘A bit naughty to clue this without a definition’, I thought when solving, but I now discover that ‘shaw’ can mean ‘a small wood’ which makes this an excellent clue.
14 MICROMETER; CROME in MITER – it’s not just the joint that has the American spelling but the answer, which should really have been indicated. (A micrometer is also a measuring instrument but that doesn’t fit the definition, and ‘measurer’ instead of ‘measure’ would spoil the surface reading.) As George Bernard Shaw said, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language”. The painter was John Crome, whom I’m going to label ‘obscure’, but I’m sure art connoisseurs will disagree. You can see some of his work here.
15 HASIDIM; DIM after (SHIA)* – plural of Hasid, one of several variant spellings of a word meaning ‘a very pious Jew’.
22 BASS (2 defs) – nice clue referring to Bass bitter (I think, although to be honest I wasn’t totally sure I had the right answer).
24,19 CAPTAIN BRASSBOUND; CAP (= ‘follow’) + TA (= ‘acknowledgement’) + IN + BRASS (= ‘money’) + BOUND (= ‘spring’) – I couldn’t see the justification for ‘captain’ when solving. This is the first of the Shaw plays, Captain Brassbound’s Conversion.
26 DEVIL; rev. of LIVED (= ‘Was’) – ‘cook’ in the sense of ‘to spoil’. This refers to the second play, The Devil’s Disciple
27 CLEOPATRA; OP + (ART)*, all in (LACE)* – …and this to the last one, Caesar and Cleopatra. The anagram indications ‘artwork’ and ‘lacework’ are very Guardianesque and I took ages to see them.
1 TREADS THE BOARDS; T (= ‘model’, as in the Ford Model T) + READS (= ‘studies’), + THE BARD around O (= ‘nothing’), + S (= Shakespeare’s first letter, i.e. ‘his leader’) – another vaguely thematic answer and another very complex wordplay, but unlike the others in this puzzle (24/19ac, 8dn) this one has a very good surface reading.
2 OFFBEATS; OFF (= ‘Holidaying’) + BEATS (= beatniks) – ‘longhaired weirdies’ made me smile long before I had any idea how this clue worked. I thought of several possibilities but didn’t get near ‘beatniks’ until I spotted the answer from guessing ‘off’ at the start. In music the offbeat (in simple terms) is the unstressed note in a bar – think the high notes in the intro to Blur’s Girls and Boys.
3 PLAY – Araucaria’s standard definition for this word, referring to the Hamlet quotation ‘The play’s the thing’.
4 ESCAPISM; (SPECS AM I)* – requiring ‘spectacles’ to be shortened to ‘specs’ before anagramming is rather indirect.
5 CAESAR – referring to Caesarian operations as well as the play.
6 SCREAMER; (CRES[t])* + AMER[ican]
7 BILLET (2 defs) – nice clue.
16 DISCIPLE – complementing 26ac. I struggled on this because I thought ‘Learner of 26 [Devil]’ was an independent definition.
18 TEA PARTY; rev. of YET around APART
20 ARRIVE (hidden) – this clue needs ‘somewhere’ to be split into two words so that ‘some’ acts as the hidden indicator. Again, very Guardianesque.
21 OPTICS; OPT + rev. of SCI[ence] – ‘for one’ means ‘for such a thing’, i.e. a science.
25 PIPE (2 defs) – here the quotation marks need to be ignored for the cryptic reading, yielding the two definitions ‘Conductor of water’ and ‘music hence’, but I think this is much less unfair than the word splitting required at 27ac and 20dn.

25 Responses to “Guardian 24,851 (Sat 7 Nov)/Araucaria – Shaw thing”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Rightback, yet another very challenging and enjoyable puzzle but (if everyone will forgive the expression) rather a curate’s egg. I bet that Rufus and Rover are still shaking their hymn books.

    I took this with me on my train journeys (2 x 60 minutes) and still had 7 to do when I got home. Later, I boasted that I had finished it off but you have now given me a rude awakening with 2 wrong: I had SOAK for 13a and MILLIMETER for 14a.

    I completely missed the theme and I was unable to get 9a RAFFLESIA and 11a AMBOYNA without Google. My local nurseryman was no help either but, in sympathy, he’s offered me a 50% discount on all Araucarias.

    Incidentally, RAFFLESIA evidently have a very unpleasant smell.

  2. Biggles A says:

    Thanks again Rightback, it must have been a hard one to take you over half an hour. I got there in the end but hadn’t worked out 8d.

  3. Ralph G says:

    Thanks, rightback. I didn’t know the ‘wood’ meaning of 11a SHAW, and needed your explanation of the ‘indirect anagram’ of 4d ESCAPISM. Let’ hope we don’t get the other meaning of SHAW- the upper parts of root vegetables (Scottish).

  4. Davy says:

    Thanks rightback for your explanations. I thought you might have highlighted “unpleasant” in 4d as being
    an unusual anagram indicator.

    I struggled with this one and finally got the last two (AMBOYNA and ESCAPISM) after about four hours on and off. The clue for “SHAW” made me laugh and is representative of Araucaria’s ‘anything goes’ attitude.

  5. cholecyst says:

    Thanks, Rightback. AS you say, difficult but enjoyable. Would have been easier if you got both PLAY and SHAW early on (I had the former but not the latter.)

    I liked “educated woman” giving RITA in 17ac.

    I had no problem with 14ac spelling as I believed “measure” could mean a device as well as a unit of measurement – e.g. tape measure.

  6. Alex says:

    Thanks for the blog. Very helpful.

    Didn’t even get halfway with this one before realising we weren’t on Araucaria’s wavelength that day, which is unusual. Not spotting the Shaw connection didn’t help. Ho hum!

  7. Eileen says:

    Thanks, rightback. I enjoyed this one.

    I didn’t quite understand your interpretation of ‘devil’ in 26ac – I took it as ‘cook’ as in ‘devilled kidneys’.

    Re davy’s comment on ‘unpleasant’ as an anagram indicator. I wonder if this is actually a really clever clue on the theme of the puzzle. Shaw also wrote a series of three ‘Plays Unpleasant’ and in this puzzle Araucaria is ‘avoiding the unpleasant spectacles’. [It would also explain why he didn’t abbreviate the word in the clue.]

  8. Harris says:

    This took us a good couple of hours and I don’t know if we’d ever have finished it without looking up Shaw on Wikipedia to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. Too many bits of cleverness to pick out a favourite, but all in all an ideal Saturday puzzle.

  9. Tom_I says:

    Thanks, rightback. I enjoyed this too.

    I agree with Eileen about ‘devil’ = ‘cook’. Chambers gives ‘to season highly and broil’.

    And like cholecyst I have no problem with MICROMETER. Again Chambers gives ‘measure’ as ‘an instrument for finding the extent of anything’.

  10. cholecyst says:

    Folk may be interested in this from Simon Hoggart’s column in today’s Guardian:

    ?Guardian crossword fans know that the doyen of our compilers is Araucaria, who is actually John Graham, an 88-year-old retired vicar who lives near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. John is astoundingly inventive. For example, one of his recent crosswords included among the answers the names of Herbert Morrison and Ernest Bevin, plus the (possibly apocryphal) remark one made about the other: “He is his own worst enemy” – to which the reply was: “Not while I’m alive, he ain’t.”

    Over the years people have asked John to compile personalised crosswords, and now he is going into the business. For £300 – this is what national newspapers generally pay per crossword, and here £100 goes to a charity of your choice – you can have one designed for you. He can incorporate 11 or 12 chosen words into the answers and scatter other references among the clues. Given the time it takes, that’s pretty good value, I’d say. Learn more at

  11. NeilW says:

    This was a very enjoyable typical Araucaria – hard work but doable.

    I thought 3dn was a reference to the interchange between Hamlet and Guildenstern: HAMLET: “Will you play on this pipe?” etc.

  12. liz says:

    Thanks, Rightback. Very enjoyable Araucaria! Lots of inventive clueing.

    Had to cheat to get 11ac and googled the Shaw plays. Like Eileen, I thought ‘unpleasant’ in 4dn was a nudge in the direction of Plays Pleasant and Plays Unpleasant. Didn’t see the wordplay for that one though.

    I also spent a lot of time trying to fit an anagram of ‘fibres’ into 9ac until the penny dropped with raffia.

    Perhaps we should all club together and get an Araucaria puzzle for fifteensquared!

  13. Bryan says:

    What a brilliant idea, Liz …

    Perhaps we should all club together and get an Araucaria puzzle for fifteensquared!

    But £300?

    However, I suspect that there might only be you and me and I could only chip in with a fiver.

  14. Paul B says:

    £300 is nowhere near ‘what national newspapers generally pay per crossword’. The Times will give you £200, but that’s as good as it gets (unless you set a Jumbo, which allows you to engage Goldman Sachs).

  15. Sil van den Hoek says:

    What should this crossword be about anyway?
    And what to do with it?
    Liz, I admire your enthusiasm, and Bryan, in your case, your support for the idea – but 300 quid for something that needs at least 30 “sponsors” (all of them being referred to in one puzzle?) is a bit over the top, I think.

    BTW, I did like this Araucaria (which we finished in two sessions, with a dictionarial break – how about thát word?).
    Apart from the SHAW clue, which we found too silly, but then “anything goes” in an Araucaria.
    Recently I was rather critical re Mr Graham’s brainchildren, but this one was vintage A.

  16. Eileen says:

    Hi Sil

    My initial reaction to SHAW was the same as yours. I thought there was no definition but was prepared to overlook that [as so often with Araucaria] because it was the link to the theme. But I’d forgotten the ‘wood’ definition of SHAW [which I had seen in a crossword before] until rightback’s reminder, and I now agree with him that it’s an excellent clue.

    Liz /Bryan – lovely idea but ‘You can’t be serious?!’ As Sil says, ‘And what to do with it it?

    But, on a personal level, if my family / friends had come up with this idea for my significant birthday, I’d have been in seventh heaven and above – the best present ever!

    Sandy Balfour, of whom I am a great admirer, since he shares two of my greatest enthusiasms, crosswords and Fairtrade, and whose books I have recommended before, eg : ‘Pretty girl in crimson rose’ [based on a Rufus clue, [8] and ‘I say nothing [3]’ [based on Enigmatist’s, in my top three classic clues] writes that he commissioned an Araucaria for his fortieth birthday. When he appeared in an Araucaria on 17th May, 2008 I made so bold as to email him to ask if he’d requested this one. He was gracious enough to reply to say that he was as surprised as anyone to see it.

    A great Christmas present if you know someone who would really appreciate it!

  17. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Hi Eileen,

    SHAW – even if the more or less obscure definition is there (wood), I still think this a silly clue because I don’t like the homophone.

    A year ago I bought “Pretty Girl In Crimson Rose (8)” for my PinC – and she loved it !! I know that one of Araucaria’s favourite clues is “I say nothing”, but I didn’t know that is a book too.
    Just recently, Enigmatist (as his alter ego IO) had “No news, love” (for NOTHING TO REPORT), in which I thought he tried to match the aforementioned clue.
    (BTW, this FT crossword – in my opinion – contained The Anagram Of The Year)

    And, Eileen, there’s something about A’s Idea on a personal level – but still, 300 quid is a lot of money (some months ago I made a birthday card for my PinC with a crossword on it – that’s personal as well).

  18. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Oh, and one more thing.
    I am pretty sure that Araucaria used the same trick for clueing CAIRO not that long ago.
    I tried to find it at 15^2, but unsuccessfully so.

  19. Sylvia says:

    Re 10a –
    Cairo is also the capital letters of Athens read out in capital!

  20. Bryan says:


    I had been wondering what to get you for Christmas but now the problem is almost solved.

    Please ask your nearest and dearest to write to Father Christmas with a list of words that can be guaranteed to bewilder you [quoting Ref: 15Sq Eileen Xmas 2009] and send it to one of these addresses:

    I’ll then invite Sil to produce a blog to appear here on 5 December 2010, the night before St Nicholas Day.

    Merry Christmas!

  21. Eileen says:

    Hi Sil

    What homophone?

    Re CAIRO: I wonder if you mean the FT Cinephile puzzle 13,099, on 10th June? The answer was CHI RHO, which from Gaufrid’s blog appears to have been clued as a homophone of Cairo.

    Brian: what a kind thought – thank you! But, although I’m a great admirer of Sil’s clues [he’s won a lot of accolades on Paul’s Crpytica site and his partner in crime is obviously a very lucky lady] for me it would have to be an Araucaria!

  22. Eileen says:

    Hi again, Bryan

    Apologies for misspelling your name. :-(

  23. Bryan says:

    That’s perfectly OK, Aileen, such Grauniad-type things can and do happen.

  24. Ian says:

    Thanks for the blog, rightback.

    A tour de force from Araucaria and one I completed correctly but in a time over 2¼ hrs.

    The Saturday Ugnadiars are getting harder!

  25. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #21:
    Homophone? Well, maybe it’s not the right word here, but I meant that I didn’t like the drunken sound of “saw” (leading to SHAW) – it is more or less a “sounds like”.
    Anyway, I found this a bit of a cheap clue.

    Re CAIRO: yes, it was probably a Cinephile then.
    But it was definitely a similar trick.
    (but certainly not as bad as Rover defining CORFU two times in a row as “here”).

    As to Bryan’s Marvellous Futuristic Idea, he was only talking about me writing a blog.
    Although I am a regular at Paul’s Cryptica site, I have never set an English 15^2 crossword in my life. I have only compiled two free-form puzzles for my PinC, and one as a kind of Christmas greeting card at work, last year.
    BTW, thank you for generally liking my clues. Depite the fact that some of them are edited in a way I don’t like (one or two are even wrong), and despite the fact that a number of the more complicated ones I’ve submitted (Paul understandably aims to please the middle of the road, I think) have not been chosen, it is still great fun to do.
    I’m full of ideas, but I send in only three a week, because that’s fair towards others.
    But most of all, it has helped me to become better in a language that’s not my first – and I am enjoying it immensely.
    Well, Gaufrid, this quite off topic now, but it is the last post anyway (I guess).

Leave a Reply

Don't forget to scroll down to the Captcha before you click 'Submit Comment'

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

7 − = two