Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,887 (Sat 19 Dec)/Araucaria Christmas Special

Posted by rightback on January 1st, 2010


Solving time: about an hour with four mistakes (PROUDHON at 23ac, NKRUMAH at 25ac, CRO-MAGNON at 18dn and HYANNIS at 40dn)

The theme here was people who had connections with dates which are whole (or half) numbers of hundred years away from 2009. The bracketed numbers gave the date (e.g. (3) indicated 2009 – 300 = 1709, (1.5) indicated 1859) but only after solving did I understand the letters (b = born/birth, d = died/death, a = accession) although this wouldn’t have helped me.

I enjoyed this challenge though the lack of any other thematic connection between the answers to clues without definitions meant that it was hard, and I made mistakes with parts of two of the thematic answers and also got another couple of difficult words wrong until I checked with references.

Music of the day: When I solved 15ac I thought the theme might be Man On The Moon by REM. Happy New Year to all.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

1 MALPLAQUET (a battle of 1809) – MAL(PLAQUE)T
6 SWEET + BRIE + R – another word for eglantine. Had it not been for the wordplay I’d probably have spelt this “-briar”.
13 GLADSTONE (PM William, born 1809); GLAD + STONE
14 MENDELSSOHN (composer Felix, born 1809); MENDEL’S + (HONS)* – Gregor Mendel is the geneticist. The indirect anagram of ‘hon[our]s’ held me up here.
15 CHARLES DARWIN (born 1809); R,L (both sides) + (WADERS)*, all in CHAIN (= ‘series’)
17 LOCKE + R – philosopher John Locke.
19 HENRY THE EIGHTH (accession 1509); N + RY (= railway = ‘line’) + THEE (= ‘old solver’), all in HEIGHT (= ‘stature’), + H[is] – an intractable wordplay, solved from enumeration and checking letters.
23 PROUDHON (social philosopher and anarchist Pierre-Joseph, born 1809); PROUD + HON – apparently certain sons and daughters of noblemen are entitled to be called ‘The Honourable'; it’s all explained here. I didn’t know this, and guessed ‘Proudson’, although I knew it wasn’t right (otherwise why ‘of nobleman’ in the clue?); although the surname was new to me it might have been guessable by analogy with the related names Prudhomme and Preud’homme, e.g. Michel Preud’homme, perhaps best known for being the first winner of the Yashin Award (best goalkeeper at the World Cup Finals) in 1994 although more recognisable to me as the victim of David Platt’s brilliant last-minute winner when England beat Belgium at Italia ’90, still one of my most memorable sporting moments (“…a fantastic finale! Agony for Preud’homme!…”).
25 KWAME NKRUMAH (former prime minister of Ghana, born 1909); (AMEN + rev. of MURK) in rev. of HAWK – gaah, I had this right and then changed the surname to ‘Nerimah’ (‘mire’ instead of ‘murk’ for ‘darkness’). The reversal indication is dubious here, with ‘return’ needing to apply to both ‘darkness’ and ‘raptor’.
31 ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL (engineer, died 1859); 1 SAM[uel] + BARD (= ‘poet’) + KINGDOM (= ‘realm’) + (BURNLE[y])* – another wordplay which I bypassed, although the biblical reference to 1 Samuel might have helped some.
32 HUNDRED YEARS; HUND (= ‘dog’ in German) + REARS (= ‘gets on its hind legs’) around DYE – the definition refers to the Hundred Years’ War, which actually lasted 116 years.
33 TENNYSON (Sir Alfred, born 1809); “TENNIS ON”
35 SANSCULOTTERIE; S + ANS + CU + LOTTERIE[s] – a new word to me, relating to the French Revolution of 1789.
39 SHADOW; HAD (= ‘held’) in SOW (= ‘broadcast’) – good clue.
43 HOUSMAN (English poet Alfred, born 1859); HOUS[e]MAN
45 EDGAR ALLAN POE (died 1859); (ARAL + LAN[d] + PO) in EDGE – referring to the Aral Sea.
48 OSCILLOGRAM; (COOL GIRLS)* + A.M. – ‘next’ meaning ‘next to’, but this clue lacks an anagram indicator.
49 INTENSIVE; (V + NINETIES)* – I wrote this in early on but couldn’t explain it while solving despite a few goes. Even afterwards it took me a long time to see the anagram.
50 METTERNICH (a German prince, died 1859); MET + TERN + ICH (= ‘I’ in German)
51 RETROSPECT; (SECRET PORT)* – I didn’t know this could be a verb.
1 MAGICAL; (CLAIM)* around AG (= ‘silver’) – very nice clue.
2 LLAMA; rev. of (A.M. ALL) – this really needs to be ‘all a.m.’ to make sense.
3 LA SALLE (= ‘the room’) in French – I think this is René-Robert Cavalier who explored North America.
4 QUOIST, from QUOITS – difficult until I got the ‘Q’.
7 WING NUT; WING (= ‘Player on the side’) + NUT (= ‘crazy’) – on first reading I thought ‘one’ was doing double duty, but ‘crazy’ can be a noun so the clue is fine.
8 EPERGNE; rev. of NGR in EPEE
9 BASENJI; AS (= ‘when’) in “BENJY” – was Benjamin Franklin ever known as ‘Benjy’? The definition is ‘Dog that’s quiet’ because Basenjis rarely bark. (Actually ‘Basenjis’ might not be right; ‘basenji’ itself is apparently plural in Bantu, meaning ‘natives’.)
10 IN ONE; I (= ‘setter’) + NONE (= ‘nobody’)
11 RANULPH; rev. of LUNAR, + P.H. (= Public House) – the explorer Ranulph Fiennes.
12 SMEW; S + NEW – ‘moggy sound’ is MEW, and the question mark is because ‘smoggy’ has to be split into ‘s + moggy’.
18 CRO-MAGNON; MAGN[ificent] in CROON – I didn’t know this word and saw CROON but not MAGN[ificent] which is an Araucarian stretch and not really guessable (I went for ‘dawn’). ‘Cro-Magnon’ means ‘relating to an early form of man’, named after the place in Dordogne where such skulls were first found.
20 ROWAN TREE; rev. of OR, + WANT + RE (= ‘in the matter of’) + E
21 HUMANISED; (MINUS HEAD)* – excellent.
22 TORRID; rev. of DIRT (= ‘Muck’) around OR
23 PHISH; hidden in ‘Memphis has'; also “FISH” – two wordplays here and also two definitions, the rock band and a word meaning ‘to send bogus emails’.
26 M + ODE
27 NUMBER (2 defs) – the second reading being ‘more numb’.
28 RERUN; [p]ERU in R.N. (= Royal Navy = ‘fleet’)
29 HELEN; EL in HEN – 5 is ‘elevated’ which can mean an elevated railroad or ‘El’ (also ‘L’). I found this hard, not remembering the connection with Helen of Troy.
30 SKY + E – which is now linked by a bridge to the Scottish mainland. If you are into mountains, and you haven’t been, you should: it’s amazing and like nowhere else in Britain.
34 MIGRAINE; RAINE after MiG – the poet is, I think, Kathleen Raine.
35 SCHTOOM; C.H. in rev. of MOOTS
36 CAMILLE; CAME around ILL – the eponymous lead character of The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas, which inspired Verdi’s opera La Traviata.
37 LINCOLN (Abraham, born 1809) – not sure what the intention is here; ‘city’ might be a reference to the football team Lincoln City or to Lincoln, capital of Nebraska, but it could just be straight indication of the English city of Lincoln.
38 THEORIC; THE [d]ORIC, also THEO[do]RIC – ‘ditto’ can be abbreviated to ‘do’, and the second wordplay seems to refer to Theodoric The Great, king of the Ostrogoths.
40 HYANNIS; “HIGH ANISE” – a village on Cape Cod. 5 is ELEVATED, hence ‘high’, and plant from 21 is the ‘anise’ that appears in 21dn (HUMANISED). I didn’t know the village, couldn’t make anything of the wordplay and entered ‘hyaenas’.
41 WHEREAT; (WEATHER)* – great anagram which fooled me for ages.
42 PLATER; P[lay] + LATER (= ‘presently’) – playwright Alan Plater. I originally had ‘Pinter’ in here, with some fuddled thinking involving ‘inter’ = ‘among us’ = ‘present[ly]’.
44 UNCUT – which might follow ‘uncus’ (= ‘hook’) in a dictionary or index (as long as ‘uncustomed’ and ‘uncustomary’ were omitted, of course).
46 GAME (2 defs) – ‘game’ can mean ‘lame’.
47 PAINE (author Thomas, died 1809); A in PINE

26 Responses to “Guardian 24,887 (Sat 19 Dec)/Araucaria Christmas Special”

  1. molonglo says:

    Thanks, Rightback. I took twice as long. Like you I found the instructions didn’t help – if anything they hindered. The bracketed numbers obviously referred to famous dead people (guessable having got IK Brunel at the outset), but what link could he and eg Nkrumah possibly have with HVIII? Much later light dawned. Some great clues, including for me 18d, some old favourites (8d and 27d) and some where you had to have Google, the Tree of Knowledge (35d). Hate that last resort.

  2. Biggles A says:

    Thanks once again Rightback and a Happy New Year. Like you, and I suspect Molonglo, I had completed the grid well before the significance of the figures and letters in brackets dawned on me. I am still not sure of the reference to Shakespeare in 38; in Othello Act 1 Scene 1 Iago uses the term ‘bookish theoric’ but is this mean an idea?

  3. Biggles A says:

    Delete ‘is’ insert ‘does’ in my last sentence! 37. Surely this is simply a reference to Lincoln Cathedral and its surrounds.

  4. Mr Beaver says:

    Although we took much longer than an hour (didn’t finish til Christmas Eve in fact – Metternich was last to go in), we enjoyed it and twigged the theme fairly early on (from 32a) which helped a lot.
    2009 must have been a vintage year for anniversaries – I thought all the personages and events were less obscure than they might have been.
    I got PROUDHON quickly owing to youthful political inclinations (“Property is theft!”)

  5. Tom_I says:

    Thanks, Rightback, and a Happy New Year to all.

    In 48a, isn’t “made by” the anagram indicator?

    Biggles A @2, re Shakespeare in 38d, Chambers gives “theoric or theorique n (Shakesp) theory, speculation”.

  6. Sylvia says:

    This was the perfect pre-Christmas recipe which made me neglect jobs crying out to be done before triumphant completion of the grid. What an amazing talent to dream up this wonderful head-banger! Araucaria is indeed THE master, in my opinion.

  7. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thank you, Rightback, for your marvellous blog (and a HNY).
    Your problems were – as so often – many of my problems, as I will point out below.

    The first word I was looking at, was 51ac and I got it rightaway.
    Therefore I suspected the theme had to do with ‘remembering things or people from the past’. Almost immediately LINCOLN followed (just being a cathedral city in the UK), which made me think of another ‘centenary’ crossword some months ago. After finding EDGAR ALLAN POE (from the numbering!) and CHARLES DARWIN the theme was clear, including the meaning of (2b), (5a) and (1.5d).

    But then the puzzle itself:
    – in 1ac I first thought of an angram of ‘dental’ to fit into ‘malt’, which it wasn’t – it was a real dental problem
    – 13ac: GLAD + STONE ….. (again)(don’t want to see it anymore)….
    – 14ac: I had just the same ‘problems’ as you with HONS (not completely fair to first have to abbreviate it and then to anagrammise (is that a word?)), but because I saw Mendel & Mendelssohn the solution wasn’t hard to find
    – 23ac: had just like you PROUDSON instead of PROUDHON – would have been more logical, but apperently the HON part is right
    – in 25ac there’s something wrong with the reversal indicators, as you mentioned in the blog – unless someone else has an explanation, I would say: this clue’s not right
    – 33ac: I got TENNYSON, but as a whole it is certainly not a homophone of TENNIS ON, so it must be broken down into TENNIS (hom of TENNYS) + ON (being played) and that’s fine (by me)
    – 48ac: just like Tom_I I think ‘made by’ is the anagram indicator – and thanks for explaining the ‘next’ bit of the clue

    – 2d: I agree with you that ‘a.m. all’ doesn’t make sense when you look at the clue – well, maybe, if you think about it very very deeply?
    – 9d: Benji can, according to Wikipedia mean: “Term used as slang for Benjamin Franklin or the United States one hundred-dollar bill”, so maybe that’s it then – BTW, Benji was also a film dog, remember?
    – 12d: thanks for explaning this, I did get SMEW but didn’t see the smoggy part – bit naughty of The Master
    – 28d was one of the last solutions I got, because the clue was almost too full of information for such a small word (RERUN) – but it is a clever clue
    – 29d: I thought it had to be HELEN, but is the definition “Fleet launcher” really fair?
    I am not so sure – there could have been a question mark in the clue, methinks
    – 40d: this is what I call ‘obscure’, I knew ANNIS or ANNYS had to be in there, but never thought of HY – did think of ELANNIS. Nor Wiki’s Cape Cod page nor a respectable World Atlas brought me any further – and indeed, why using this word when HYAENAS would have fit?
    – finally 44d: when I saw this clue I immediately thought of my last Gold (15 nov) at Paul’s Cryptica site (“Container” to come after “Cider” in dictionary? – leading to STRONGBOX (as follow-up to STRONGBOW) which Paul called ‘a novel type of clue’. Although I had UNCUT, I couldn’t fully explain it, but now I see Araucaria used the same idea – I feel flattered!

    All in all, a typical Araucaria rendering – clever, but sloppy in places.

  8. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #6:
    Sylvia, if you’re so enthusiastic about this crossword (probably rightly so), then you should also take a look at the FT’s 24 Dec rendering: an inspiring Cinephile with a grid just as big (& a theme as well). Just download it from the FT site.
    Well maybe, you already did?
    Anyway, HNY!

  9. Shirley says:

    I think it may be younger bloggers who are unfamiliar with Hyannis Port.
    For those of us familiar with the life of the Kennedys in the 60’s this was the place near where they had their holiday home and as such was always being mentioned in the news.

  10. Bill Taylor says:

    I did manage to finish it eventually but I never did figure out the theme — I’ve been waiting for this blog to appear! Yes, Araucaria is the Master but even the Master slips once in a while and I was underwhelmed with this one.

  11. cholecyst says:

    Sil, re #7. I took “fleet launcher” as as an Araucarian nod in the direction of the Homeric epithet, such as in the Iliad:-Achilles -swift-footed , Hector – tamer of horses. But I don’t think Homer ever actually described Helen in that way. He did attach several epithets to her e.g lovely-haired. Anyway, I liked it even though I’m pretty sure it’s been used before in cryptics.

  12. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #9:
    Thank you, Shirley, for explaining HYANNIS.
    I know, of course, who the Kennedys are and I am old enough to remember but never heard of Hyannis. Maybe I was/am only interested in their politics and less in their private lives. I searched at Wiki again, and I must admit: it is there – as a separate entry and mentioned on the Cape Cod page (but not in my World Atlas – the village is probably too small for that). So, maybe it’s not thát obscure then.

    Re #11:
    Cholecyst, after it was clear that HELEN was the one from Troy, I saw the connection, but as a definition it is rather vague, I think. And the fact that it has been used before doesn’t make it better or more acceptable. Even so, got it now, thx!

  13. Eileen says:

    Thanks, rightback, and Happy New Year.

    After today’s offering, it was good to be reminded of just how enjoyable this was!

    Just one thing: in 18dn, I don’t think ‘magn’ is necessariy the beginning of ‘magnificent’, which would be a bit of a stretch. Yes, it is typical Araucaria – he’s done the ‘great beginning’ before and it caused some discussion. ‘Magnus’ is Latin for ‘great’ – well known in ‘Magna Carta’ [and Magnum ice creams!] – and gives us lots of shorter words with the ‘great’ idea, like ‘magnify’, for instance.

  14. rrc says:

    For a bumper crossword to be completed for me is amazing, but to finish it by mid afternoon was some what mind boogling. It really was a brilliant puzzle and as usual for Aracauria there were three clues where help was needed namely 11d, 25d and 40d
    most enjoyable

  15. liz says:

    Thanks for a great blog, Rightback. I loved this puzzle, even with the occasional quibbles that others have pointed out. I got ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL almost straight away and guessed that it would be about famous people, but it took me a lot longer to fathom what the numbers and letters in brackets were all about.

    I took the poet in 34dn to be Craig Raine, who is a wonderful poet if you haven’t read him.

    Hyannis was also familiar to me from the Kennedy era.

    29dn I took to be a reference to the line in Dr Faustus: ‘Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?’ (said of Helen).

    My only (slight) disappointment was that the puzzle was published so early! I couldn’t resist tackling it…

  16. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #15:
    Hi Liz (HNY to you as well!), one should read (or have read) a lot of books nowadays
    to understand a definition for a clue, isn’t it?
    So there’s a line in Dr Faustus and from that moment on Helen is a ‘fleet launcher’?
    Silly me! :)

    BTW, I am still wondering if there’s anybody out there who has the right explanation for the construction of 25ac.

  17. Chunter says:

    29dn. The milliHelen (mH) unit has been defined as the amount of beauty required to launch one ship.

  18. Eileen says:

    Thanks for that, Chunter – lovely :-)

    Although I haven’t read or seen the play, I did think the quotation was better known than it appears to be [and it was in rightback’s link].

    Sil, I don’t think we’re going to get a satisfactory explanation of 25ac. I wondered about thinking of it as ‘return of raptor-with-darkness [about] but I know that’s not very good. Wouldn’t it be good if Araucaria were one of those setters who drop by to help clear up this kind of problem?

    I’m with liz in feeling rather sorry that this Christmas special was published so early [I know that it’s all to do with the way Christmas fell this year.] I tried to keep it but managed to resist only until the Saturday afternoon, which means that it’s a couple of weeks since I did it and it’s not easy to remember one’s thought processes. There have been a lot of puzzles in between!

  19. liz says:

    Sorry, Sil :-). I just didn’t think the quotation was that obscure — the play isn’t widely read, I’m sure, but the quote crops up quite a lot! HNY to you too!

  20. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Hi Liz, one final word about this.
    I am totally convinced now re Helen (as I am re Hyannis).
    If my PinC would have been around, she wouldn’t have given me the chance to make a point of it. These things are due to my non-English background, so do crop up every now and then (after which I sometimes feel a bit silly)- but I learn a lot from it!
    (BTW, Chunter’s mH unit is just brilliant, I think)

  21. Sylvia says:

    Sil: Many thanks and HNY to you! The FT crossword looks interesting and I have struggled for ages to get my printer to print in Landscape without success. Finally got a printable copy after reducing margins.

  22. Rob says:

    Hi – I can’t see the problem with 25ac.

    Eileen ~ #18 said:

    “I wondered about thinking of it as ‘return of raptor-with-darkness [about] but I know that’s not very good. Wouldn’t it be good if Araucaria were one of those setters who drop by to help clear up this kind of problem?”

    But if:

    Raptor = Bird of prey = Hawk.
    Darkness = Murk
    Amen = “So be it” which I think is a valid way of hinting at “I agree” (although when I say it to myself I feel there’s a ‘hint’ of reluctance in said agreement!) then:

    Return of Hawk with (including) Darkness = Kw….Krumah
    About (around) Amen seems fine to me. Given this was the name (5,6) of a well known person born in 1909 then I would say this was an excellent clue and I doubt if Araucaria himself could add anything to clear it up.

  23. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Rob, re #22,
    It not really common use to take ‘with’ as a container indicator, so there’s my problem.
    Otherwise everything you say is correct, apart from my different view on the order of words as mentioned in the BTW below.
    ‘With’ normally tells us to add something to what’s already there.
    ‘Without’ wóuld have been a suitable indicator (often used by this setter), so maybe that’s what Araucaria originally wanted?

    Reading the clue as:
    AMEN (I agree) to (= added to) KRUM (the return of darkness) – leading to AMENEKRUM – with HAWK about (= around),
    would lead to the letters of HAWK in the wrong order.

    Reading it as:
    AMEN to (KRUM with HAWK about), would either lead to AMEN KRUM KWAH or something like AMEN HA(KRUM)WK, depending on the meaning of ‘about’.

    BTW, your (and Eileen’s possible possible) way of looking at it: ‘return of raptor-with-darkness [about]’ is , in my opinion, very different from the opposite thing ‘return of darkness-with-raptor [about]'(which is what the clue says).

    Anyway, I don’t want to make a major point of this, certainly not within the greatness of most of the rest of the crossword.
    But I just always want to fully understand a clue.

    [The same thing happened to me (and to Rightback) in 2d where Araucaria changed the order of ‘a.m.’ and ‘all’ – which could, I say could, be justified in the end]

  24. Eileen says:

    Hi Sil

    Oh dear, I’m sorry for muddying the water even further – that was a silly mistake: I did mean to write ‘return of darkness-with-raptor’, as the clue says! :-(

  25. Dave Lawrence says:

    From a very unexpert Aurucaria Fan –

    OK about all the explanations with the exception of QUOIST . The only one I did not get after about a week . I assume it is a Scottish Ringdove – did anyone find a dictionary with Quoist in it ???

  26. beermagnet says:

    I have here Chambers 9th ed:
    quoist see queest
    Looking there:
    queest also quest, quoist and quist (Scot) n the ringdove or wood pigeon [See cushat]
    cushat also says “ringdove or wood pigeon” but doesn’t refer back to queest

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