Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24899 – Araucaria

Posted by Uncle Yap on January 5th, 2010

Uncle Yap.

Araucaria, as usual, combines a great sense of humour with his enigmatic style of clueing. I particularly like his well-disguised definitions such as playgirl for Cressida and Great king for Alexander. Very challenging and totally entertaining.

1 LIBEL LAWS Barrier backed by head of state against some of our freedoms (5,4) I can see WALL (barrier) backwards and S (head of State) but it took me ages to see LIBE comes from some of “our freedoms” namely, life, LIBErty and the pursuit of happiness (US Declaration of Independence)
6 MUSIC Sounds like Mew’s sick
9 SUPER-INJUNCTION Cha of SUP (drink) ERIN (ireland) JUNCTION (get-together) Super-injunctions have become one of the most effective tools powerful individuals and corporations reach for when they want to silence the media. In their simplest form, they prevent news organisations from reporting what happens in court, usually on the basis that doing so could prejudice a trial. (Guardian news report)
11 CRESSIDA Cha of Cress (plant) Ida (4 such named mounts in Crete, Turkey, Antartica and Tasmania according to Wikipedia) and only the good Reverend John Graham will call a female character in a play as “playgirl
14 COMBATANT Ins of BAT (flier) in COMA (trance) + NOT minus O
15,24 ROSINANTE Rosin (amber or resin) Ante (stake)- the name of Don Quixote’s horse
16 AVERT A VERT (green)
18 ALEXANDER Ins of X (kiss) in ALE (drink) + AND ER (and queen). What a marvellous def, Great King ! Great Clue !
20 EMPORIUM Rev of MUIR (Hugh, the Guardian diarist) OP (work) ME (setter)
21 ISIS Egyptian goddess, wife and sister of Osiris.
25 CIRCUMFERENTIAL Ins of N (North point) in *(miracle cure if t)
26 PLONK dd
27 NEW JERSEY What a way to define this American state ! “request from wool shop”

1 LISTS dd; the boundary of a jousting-ground or similar area, hence the ground itself 14Ac is combatant
2 BAPTISM Ins of APT (fitting) + IS in BM (British Museum). Whereas a church baptism uses water, another common expression is “baptism of fire” a trying ordeal especially when someone is new.
3,10 LORDSHIP Cha of Lords (Mecca for cricketers) Hip (joint)
4,22 AUNT SALLY Cha of Aunt’s (relative’s) Ally (friend) and of course an Aunt Sally stall is put up as a fairground attraction for people to thrown stick or balls at
5 SQUARE-TOED Ins of O (oxygen) in *(tree) -> inserted in SQUAD (soldiers)
6 MUCK-SPREAD Spreading scurrilous and slanderous stories may well get one into trouble with Libel laws (answer to 1Ac)
8 CONTAINER dd Answer to 10Ac is SHIP and there is something called container ship
12 CARTER RUCK Ins of R (right) + TERR (lot of terrorists) + U (turn) in CACK (dirt), a firm of solicitors in the UK, presumably noted for their vigorous defence and/or prosecution of libel matters.
13 RAGAMUFFIN Cha of RAGA (Indian music) MUFFIN (the Mule in a UK children’s tv show)
14 CLARET CUP Ins of *(truce) in CLAP (applause)
19 DISMISS DIS (Underworld) MISS (girl) A very clever definition
23 CROW dd

Key to abbreviations used
dd = double definition
cd = cryptic definition
rev = reversed or reversal
ins = insertion
cha = charade
ha = hidden answer
*(fodder) = anagram

50 Responses to “Guardian 24899 – Araucaria”

  1. molonglo says:

    Raced through this until hitting the wall on 12d – couldn’t get away from dirt=muck. Thanks Uncle Yap for the explanation. Never heard of the firm.

  2. rrc says:

    This was quite difficult until 1a went in, then it fell into place. I loved 12d.

  3. IanN14 says:

    12d.: You presume correctly, Uncle Yap, as Ian Hislop, or anyone at Private Eye would tell you.
    I don’t really like the use of the phrase “a lot of” in clues like this (or “some” in 1ac.). Far too inexact.
    Or is it just me?
    Didn’t care for 23d. either…

  4. Andrew says:

    Uncle Yap, thanks for the blog.

    Ian, I agree with you, though this use of “some” etc is so common from Araucaria that I hardly notice it these days. TERR for “lot of terrorists” is a particularly bad example though – four letters and less than half the word hardly counts as “a lot”. I spent ages trying to fit ETA (reversed) in there after getting AVERT.

    I don’t really get 23d – is it just that CROW is the sound a crow makes? That really is a rubbish clue if so.

    I also have a quibble about 27ac – wool shops (in my limited experience) just sell wool (and knitting equipment), so you couldn’t usually buy a (new) jersey in one.

    Apart from, or despite, all that, I actually enjoyed this!

  5. Eileen says:

    Hi Andrew

    I had the same thoughts about the wool shop!

    In 23dn, I think it’s a reference to cock-crow.

    Re 6ac: I think the clue indicates MEW + SICK – which is not a homophone for music! [Hugh Stephenson also has something to say about homophones in his newsletter – it’s on the website now. And let me add my congratulations, Ian – shame about the money!]

  6. IanN14 says:

    Thanks Eileen,
    And yes, I’d forgotten about (tried to erase from my memory?) 6ac.
    Worst homophone ever?…

  7. sidey says:

    My new year resolution was not to be horrid about Guardian crosswords, so I won’t. I will say that it’s a pity a little more wasn’t made of the ‘libel’ theme, a good idea. And young Master A really should try harder to avoid ‘part of’ clues like 12d. B+ for effort, C for execution.

  8. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Uncle Yap & Araucaria, very enjoyable. I really struggled with this but got there in the end.

    For 12d I had thought of CARTER RUCK but the Grauniad showed the words as hyphenated which put me off until I could think of nothing else.

  9. liz says:

    Thanks, Uncle Yap. Annoyingly, I missed SPIRITS despite having all the checking letters. (Although surely you can be in poor spirits as well as in good spirits?) I didn’t like the homophone in 6ac either. Very enjoyable all the same.

    Carter-Ruck *is* hyphenated — at least on the firm’s own website…

  10. Bryan says:

    Liz your are right, as always.

    Silly me!

  11. Andrew says:

    The law firm is named after the double-barreled Peter Carter-Ruck; it’s not the typical list of partners’ (or founders’) names, as in Sue, Grabbit and Runne for example.

  12. Ian says:

    Another very fine, entertaining effort from the doyen of setters.

    The theme, based on the recent Trafigura case, was Cyclopsian in tone!! That said, it might have proved a tough barrier to some of the overseas solvers unaware of this Guardian/Private Eye issue.

    I really liked the homophone that was 6ac. Excellent.

  13. Eileen says:

    Ian, do you honestly pronounce it ‘mew-sick’? I don’t know anyone else who does – wherever they come from! :-)

    That, of course, is not to say I didn’t like this puzzle – it’s Araucaria!

  14. cholecyst says:

    13dn. Does anyone know when Muffin was turned into cat food? I’m getting on a bit but can only dimly recall the little animal.

    6ac. Eileen is correct. I’ve never heard music pronounced other than MUZIC.

  15. Eileen says:

    Cholecyst – from Wikipedia:

    Muffin the Mule is a puppet character in British television programmes for children. The original programmes featuring the character were presented by Annette Mills, sister of John Mills, & aunt to Hayley Mills, and broadcast live by the BBC from their studios at Alexandra Palace from 1946 to 1952. Mills and the puppet continued with programmes that were broadcast until 1955, when Mills died. The shows were then shown on ITV in 1956 and 1957. A new modern animated version of Muffin reappeared on the BBC in 2005.

  16. Chunter says:

    When searching for ‘Carter-Ruck’ you should bear in mind that many people have difficulty in spelling the name. One particular typo is very common.

  17. Grumpy Andrew says:

    Tortuous as ever from Araucaria. Could pick many dreadful clues but I’ll leave it at 14a.
    First, ‘flier’ is horribly vague, we’re asked to guess from coutless things with wings; then there’s ‘coma’, which is hardly a mere trance, and finally the inaccuracy of ‘not cut short’, which should leave ‘n’ or ‘no’ but not ‘nt’.
    No fun at all.

  18. Gaufrid says:

    Grumpy Andrew
    I think ‘not cut short’ is perfectly fair. It’s not ‘not minus o’ as indicated in the blog but n’t, as in didn’t or haven’t or isn’t. Ignoring punctuation marks is normal practice in puzzles so this just leaves ‘nt’.

  19. DaveL says:

    6ac: I can’t understand the fixation with homophones. The *letters* making up MUSIC come from MU (sounds like mew) and SIC (sounds like sick) but why should the final word have to sound like mew-sick in order to be acceptable?

  20. AlyD says:

    23d – I thought this was okay, referring to the biblical phrase about Jesus being denied thrice before the cock crows or some such.

    I agree 6d was slightly laboured, but not impossible to solve – and I liked the libel theme, although on 12d shouldn’t ‘Muck-spreading’ the noun rather than ‘muck-spread’ the adjective be at risk from libel laws.

    Was disappointed not to see ‘Trafigura’ as an answer as well – maybe Carter-Ruck obtained a super-injunction to prevent it!

  21. John says:

    Don’t see how anyone can call this entertaining when it contains so many obscurities and inaccuracies.
    To interpret LIBE as “some of our freedoms” as in life, liberty etc…. is a stretch far too far for me. Whose freedoms? I for one am not American.
    Apart from the homophone issue in 2 ac, in which I side with Eileen, if “received” is supposed to mean “heard”, again it’s very tenuous for me.
    Where’s the anagrind in 25 ac. Allows?
    Request from wool shop? If anything it should be request “to” wool shop, but still very weak.
    I can only underline the inadequacy of “lot of terrorists” in 12dn.
    Sorry to buck the trend by finding this unsatisfactory, but once again I find the praise unjustified.

  22. Frances says:

    Not so much bending the rules as making new ones up – “a lot of terrorists” = ‘terr’ for example, and “not cut short” = ‘nt’. Also, “wild tree without oxygen” in 5d suggests an anagram of a type of tree without the o, surely? Not ‘tree’ _with_ an o?

    Enjoyed 13 and 27 though.

  23. Eileen says:


    Just for the record: despite my scepticism re the homophone’ in 6ac {and I see what DaveL is getting at] I have no problem with receive = hear: cf radio / TV ‘reception’ [same root].

    In 1ac I took LIBE as simply being ‘some’ of LIBERTIES [freedoms], without reference to the Declaration of Independence, where Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are RIGHTS. This would be slightly more acceptable than TERR for ‘lot of’ terrorists.

    I took ‘allows’ as the anagram indicator in 25ac, in the sense of ‘makes possible’? [I made that definition up! :-)]

    Frances – in crosswords ‘without’ often, confusingly, means outside [opposite of ‘within’].

  24. Phil says:

    After failing miserably with Rufus yesterday I was just pleased to complete this by a laggardly 5 pm. How I envy those able to blog in the morning – especially before 7 pm

    I found this very enjoyable – whilst I can understand the gripes above my day was ruined rather more by Graeme Smith.

    Also in passing does anyone regret like me that the Guardian no longer publishes its Christmas Biggy (what happened to the Araucaria doubles of yore?) on Chrimas Eve – when we had a leisurely and slightly sozzled 3 days to solve?

  25. Radler says:

    The last of the relatives having gone home, this was the first crossword I’d done since his Christmas prize puzzle! It took me even longer than normal to coax the brain into gear, but I found it very enjoyable, and am amused rather than irritated by the typical Araucarian liberties. Even when they break the rules, the clues are solvable and therefore arguably fair in my view.
    12dn was solvable because “TERRorists” was in the clue. (It would not have been fair as an indication of ALQ, for example.)
    The homophone of music was imperfect, but perfectly solvable – I like DaveL’s suggestion that it was a homophone plus charade.
    And we can quibble about New Jersey and wool shops, but surely most of us can agree it was funny.

  26. Eileen says:


    Well, the puzzle on the Saturday before Christmas was a jumbo Araucaria but it does seem a long time since he produced a double one. We haven’t had an Araubetical (© Muck) for a while, either.

  27. dialrib says:

    Maybe it is because I am a bit deaf, but I quite like not-quite-exact homophones (as long as I spot them, of course). Although homophones that depend on a regional pronunciation do get my goat.

  28. muck says:

    I always like to see my pseudonym on 15sqd –
    6dn MUCKSPREAD: I parsed* this one
    Eileen@#26 thanks for acknowledging my copyright

  29. Tom Hutton says:

    My moan in an otherwise enjoyable if iffy crossword is references to Muffin the Mule. Once again we are getting references to popular culture of half a century ago. This does put a premium on the solvers being old and grey but can hardly encourage new blood into the world of crosswords. Are any of the correspondents to this site under 25?

    Note: can you right a sentence where you can reasonably substitute spirits for cheerful. This was a typical Araucaria clue. You can see what he means but it doesn’t quite work for me.

  30. sidey says:

    Surely Muffin the Mule is still current as a perennial off-colour joke?

  31. MarkH says:

    I only managed to complete two thirds of this and even after reading Uncle Yap’s notes, would never have got “combatant” and “carter ruck”, so I’m pretty much in agreement with the comments of Grumpy Andrew and Frances.

  32. Eileen says:

    Hi Muck

    That’s OK – I always acknowledge my sources!

    I was pretty sure it was you but a quick look at the archive confirmed it – and I was able to copy rightback’s ‘copyright’ sign! :-)

    It really is time we had another one, isn’t it?

  33. Eileen says:

    Hi again, Muck

    Many apologies – I’ve only just taken in the middle line of your comment [my own name leapt out at me, I’m afraid!] That’s really excellent!!

  34. BrendanPG says:

    The blog was certainly much appreciated today as this was far too hard, so it’s good to see a few others struggled. Grumpy Andrew, Tom Hutton and Frances in particular took the words out of my mouth regarding “spirits”, “Carter-Ruck” and “combatant”. Well done to those who could solve these clues, but as already stated by the aforementioned, they seemed to a relative novice like me too vaguely clued or too obscure, even with crossing letters.

    Of course, it didn’t help that I was convinced “lot of terrorists” was IRA or ETA or some such and having a crossing “M” in “combatant” I was determinted to fit MiG into the answer!!

  35. Mick H says:

    As a counterpoint to the undercurrent of latent homophonophobia here (not really of course, I just wanted to write that), it should be pointed out that 6ac has two homophones. “Sound of catcall” = MU, “not well received” = SIC (sick), so it is not necessary for the word as a whole to be pronounced Mewsick – it is a charade of homophones, and a rather fine clue.

  36. stiofain says:

    very subtle muck
    homophonophobia is great mick i also liked this clue 6ac and agree it works when split in two

  37. molonglo says:

    Learning the cock-eyed limits to one’s knowledge (yes Muffin the Mule, no Carter Ruck) is a blessing of fifteensquared, and of having teenage grandchildren

  38. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Again, a crossword that we couldn’t finish ….
    The NE corner left us puzzled.
    CRESSIDA is very good, indeed – I think, CONTAINER rather weak.
    And MUSIC? Well, it leaves me indifferent – it’s OK.

    To be honest, I didn’t want to comment on this crossword (most of it has already
    been said), but I do have a problem with 15,24.
    The horse of Don Quixote is called Rocinante, so with a C and not with an S.
    There is a writer, Alexis Gilliland, who has written a Rosinante trilogy thinking of our Spanish hero, but.
    No one’s having problems with this?

  39. Andrew says:

    Sil – I think Rosinante is a fairly common anglicisation of Rocinante. I thought this had cone up before, but search reveals nothing. My “Wordsworth Classic” of Don Quixote (1993, translator not identified) actually spells it “Rozinante”.

  40. Eileen says:

    Hi Sil

    Re ROSINANTE: like Andrew, I remember this coming up before but, annoyingly, can’t find it in the archive. I didn’t have a problem with it, since that’s the only spelling I knew [Spanish not being one of my languages].

    Re MUSIC: Dave L at comment 19 first suggested this could be a charade / homophone and, as I already indicated , I’m prepared to go along with that – but I’m not entirely convinced that that’s what the good Rev intended!

    Re CRESSIDA: yes, a great clue, especially as [Cretan] Ida is a classical mount [birthplace of Zeus]. It was just a pity to see a spoiler in the preamble. :-(

  41. Jerb says:

    Sil and Andrew – I think it’s the case when a work of literature’s been around so long that spellings change and develop (the Spaniards of today would spell the title character Don Quijote, for example).

    By the way, I’d heard of Muffin the Mule for some reason and although I’m not exactly under 25, I’m not far off. He’s one of those characters whose names in the air, I guess.

  42. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Yes, Andrew, I thought so, and I just found out that there are publications by (a.o.) the Oxford University Press in which the horse is called Rosinante with an S.
    [I wouldn’t want to challenge Araucaria’s knowledge in these kind of things anyway]
    But still, why anglicise a name?
    [Well, if I were from Novosibirsk, I probably would call you Andrej :) ]

  43. Sil van den Hoek says:

    BTW, agree with you, Eileen, about the mentioning of Cressida in the preamble. These things still happen every now and then.
    So please, dear bloggers …

  44. Uncle Yap says:

    >Also, “wild tree without oxygen” in 5d suggests an anagram of a type of tree without the o, surely? Not ‘tree’ _with_ an o?

    I think I have mentioned this before : treat “without” as the opposite of “within”

    >mentioning of Cressida in the preamble

    Sorry about that … I will henceforth remember to be general above and specific below

  45. stiofain says:

    cool uncle yap we love your specifics

  46. Shed says:

    Eileen #13: music is pronounced ‘mew sick’ in Abba’s Thankyou for the Music – but they came from Sweden, of course.

  47. Tom_I says:

    I had to abandon this overnight and come back to it, but still failed on CARTER-RUCK.

    Nothing much to add, but I don’t think anyone replied to Tom Hutton’s comment @29 about 7d (Hard stuff is cheerful [7]). Chambers gives SPIRIT as a verb meaning (among other things) to cheer. Therefore SPIRITS (3rd person singular) could be equated with “is cheerful”. Well, just about. I wonder if Gordius could have got away with that without comment. Clearly The Master can.

  48. Chris says:

    I’m coming to this very late – so late, in fact, that I wonder if anyone will even see this. However, I wonder if everyone thus far has got the homophone parsing of 6ac slightly wrong.

    I read it as “catcall” = “mews”, and “not well received” = “ick”, in the sense of the colloquial expression of distaste. That way, the homophone works perfectly, as you get the “z” sound required.

  49. Frances says:

    @Tom Hutton comment 29 – I’m 22 and I had no problems with the Muffin the Mule reference.

  50. gm4hqf says:

    The one that beat me was 12 Down, Carter Ruck. Never heard of them. I assumed that Dirt was MUCK & it put me completely on the wrong track.

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