Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,908 – Arachne

Posted by manehi on January 15th, 2010


Found this quite tough to get into but got there in the end… some very clever cluing, I thought. Nice theme of eating and drinking, with some kind of nod towards it in every single clue.

1 MOSAIC (miso)* around A=”one” + C[alorie]
5 COOKBOOK “Dr” => doctor => COOK in the sense of falsifying results and “John” is a BOOK of the Bible
9 SERAGLIO (galore is)*
10 TWENTY is a cardinal number… it took me a while to get the second half – XXXX is the Aussie beer, half of which leaves XX, or 20 in Roman numerals
11 GORDON RAMSAY (roar my gonads)*. Lovely surface.
13 MUSS Hidden in “humMUS Salad”. “sandwich” is rather odd as an indicator for the hidden letters.
14 ATYPICAL Second one I filled in without really getting. Had to resort to Google to find PICA [wiki], the “unnatural craving for food”, which goes inside ([I]taly)*
17 ABRASIVE A BRAVE around SI – Si being silicon, the stuff of computer chips
18 ITCH =”hunger”. [d]ITCH=”to get rid of”
20 FRENCH POLISH referring to the famous French restaurateurs and the wood finish.
23 GROUSE double def.
24 SHORTCUT another double def. Edit, thanks to NeilW: SHORT + CrUsT=”crust regularly”
25 SEQUENCE …and another
26 NEWISH NE (né) is French for “born”, WISH=”craving”, and NEWISH = not quite “mint” (condition).
2 OVEN rev(NEVO), hidden in fiNE VOdka
3 ANALGESIA [c]ANAL + (IE GAS)*. IE=i.e.=”that is”.
5 CHOCOLATE MOUSSE (hot sauce cools me)*. Nice anagram.
6 OUT TRAYS OUT=”dismissed” e.g. in cricket + TRAYS
7 BREAM BEAM=”support”, taking in R=”king” to give a fish.
12 RUBBER TREE “Johnny”=RUBBER=condom, and the may TREE is another name for the hawthorn.
15 IRISH STEW cryptic def
16 EIGHTEEN is a baker’s dozen, 13, plus 5, or the answer to clue 10 i.e. TWENTY, minus 2.
19 MINOAN MAN around rev(ONI[on])
21 NAURU a Pacific island [wiki], and N + AU + RU, chemical symbols for nitrogen, gold and ruthenium.
22 NUTS rev(STUN)

32 Responses to “Guardian 24,908 – Arachne”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks manehi. suffering as I do from an Arachnephobia I failed to finish.

    Worse, I didn’t know why until you explained such mysteries as Johnny and Ozzie beer.

    Oh for another Rover!

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks manehi, I enjoyed this. “Roar my gonads” is wonderful!

    In 3dn I thought “in part of alimentary canal” was ANAL – a bit of a shame the letters are in plain view in CANAL: perhaps “in part of gut” would have been better (and also shorter).

  3. Monica M says:

    Thanks manehi,

    I had fun doing this one, and laughed out loud at 11ac, I could just imagine the subject yelling that with some added expletives.

    I may have been stumped by 10ac, but sitting down with my colleagues this afternoon at the end of work and opening an obligatory XXXX Gold …. it came to me, altho I didn’t understand the cardinal part of the clue.

    25ac is the one that got me.

    Thanks for poiting out the food theme, I didn’t see it at all.

  4. Doktorb says:

    Really thought I’d get somewhere with this one (I really, really, wish I could “do” cryptic crosswords). But once again, a complete failure :(

  5. Ian says:

    Nicely themed puzzle that had several very well-worked clues.

    I too liked 11ac and also admired 20ac. Sadly, somewhere like La Gavroche or The Riverside at Bray was a little out of my league!


  6. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Doktorb at no.4: stick with it; practice makes perfect and all that (although on my bad days I sometimes think it needs about half a lifetime’s practice with cryptics). This looked at first glance as if it would be not too tricky, but I found it tough to finish and got a good number of clues without understanding the wordplay. But gonads, anal and condoms all in one puzzle – what more could you want of a Friday morning over coffee?

    And I, too, completely failed to spot the food and drink theme.

  7. NeilW says:

    Thanks manehi.

    I thought there was a bit more going on in 24ac with “type of pastry” = SHORT and “crust regularly” providing CrUsT.

  8. liz says:

    Thanks, manehi. I really enjoyed this puzzle and thought the theme was used in a very clever and entertaining way. I seem to remember the last Arachne was a treat, too.

    11 ac was brilliant and made me laugh!

    Didn’t see all the wordplay and had to use the check button to get the last couple of clues. Originally put ‘analgesic’ instead of ‘analgesia’ at 3dn, which held me up a bit.

    I agree with NeilW re 24ac.

  9. Robert says:

    Monica M, your story about the beer and 10ac is a complete lie

  10. Richard says:

    My least favourite Guardian crossword this week…
    John = Book is very obscure, and so is pica in 14ac.
    Where does the TREE in 12 come from?

  11. Tom_I says:

    Great fun! I’ll never be able to look at Gordon Ramsay again without thinking of that anagram. 😀

  12. sandra says:

    thank you manehi.

    i found this one very difficult in places – think my crossword skills are deteriorating!

    doktorb: some are easier than others and this was imho at the hard end of the scale. kathryn’s dad – i have had more than half a lifetime’s practice and i failed on 10a and couldn’t see the complete wordplay for “atypical”. but the enjoyment would go if i could just sit there and fill in the answers without having to exercise the little grey cells. such as i have!

    laughed at the gordon ramsay clue – stroke of genius – and i liked french polish. didn’t know of nauru and had to look at the xwd dictionary for an island with 6 letters beginning with n, which was how i got it. so i failed on that too.

    but overall, i enjoyed the puzzle.

  13. Richard says:

    Sorry, manehi, I forgot to say thank you in my previous post.

  14. Berny says:

    ‘may perhaps’ is reference to the May tree

    Not my favourite either

  15. Gaufrid says:

    Your comment #9 was uncalled-for and unjustified as well as not being relevant to the puzzle under discussion.

    If you wish to participate on this site please do so in a polite manner. An apology to Monica M wouldn’t go amiss.

  16. Val says:

    Just want to say that 11ac is going to make it into my top few clues of all time. I loved it and got it immediately without even needing to check the letter count or validity of the anagram.

    Being an ex-dietitian I knew pica well and did try and work it in but still am too new at this game to have spotted the rest of the answer. That was probably my only chance at having the advantage of an obscure word from an obscure profession and I missed it.

  17. Radchenko says:

    Thanks for the blog. Some very clever constructions, but makes it very hard going when you ‘get’ the answer but can’t get the wordplay, and there were several of these.

    10ac: got to pick an Australian beer, lose half of it (‘downing’ suggests inclusion rather than cutting to me), interpret it as roman numeral, then recognise it as a cardinal number (and I think cardinal as definition of twenty is a bit weak). OK there was some help from 16dn to the answer, but all the same.

    14ac: did not know PICA, ‘Italy leaving one puzzled’ = ATY-L; would never have got that.

    Ah well. I know there is a reason for a nice gentle Rufus at the start of the week but saving the hardest until the end of the week when your brain is right fried anyway is tough.

  18. Tom says:

    There were a few tricky ones, and two we didn’t get on this, ta for the solutions.

    Did anyone else get legged up with wrong but valid answers? Doing the across clues first, I got URGE for 18a (PURGE minus the start, P, meaning a hunger), then RABBIT for 23 (carp and game).

    I knew purge had to be wrong when I got to irish stew, rabbit took far longer. Is it rare for clues like this to have multiple answers that fit so well, and is it something compilers should try to avoid?

  19. manehi says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    NeilW: of course you’re right re 24ac, not sure what I was thinking earlier…

    re 10ac: crosswords often leave me with the impression that there must be at least as many plants/birds/rivers/fish as there are cardinal numbers 😛

    Tom: I’m always falling into that kind of trap, and they do seem to come up. Short double defs tend to be the most ambiguous, and have the least checking letters.. I did once have a small corner of a puzzle filled entirely with almost plausible entries and was quite annoyed at the “sloppy” cluing for not quite making sense!

    No-one else had a problem with 7dn? I couldn’t get the wordplay at all until after I finally filled in BREAM and realised that “kingfish” couldn’t be the definition.

  20. benington says:

    Really enjoyed this.

    Went through Fosters, Swans, Tooheys before I got to XXXX (Castlemaine Four X as it was advertised) – never realised I knew so many Australian lagers as I never drink the stuff!

  21. muck says:

    Most enjoyable puzzle.
    Good theme and cluing.
    11ac GORDON RAMSAY: brilliant

  22. stiofain says:

    Very enjoyable puzzle but spoiled a bit by the inclusion of “atypical” though arachne more than made up for this with gordon ramsey ( an &lit? )
    Robert@ 9 as regular readers know Monica M is from Brisbane 12 hrs ahead of GMT so it is quite reasonable that a lot of her countrymen would be having a xxxx on a friday night.

  23. Mr Beaver says:

    I did think this was hard, but there were enough laughs to compensate. We put in 5a, 10a and 14a without knowing why – hats off to Manehi for decoding those ! – and didn’t get MINOANS at all – it was a bit tortured I thought.
    I was pleasantly outraged by 12d – quite refreshing to hear a reference to rubber johnnies – the word condom was unheard of (outside anti-VD leaflets) before AIDS, now one never hears them referred to as anything else.
    The one clue I thought was a real duffer was 15d – worthy of Rufus on a bad day, not cryptic at all IMO.

  24. Chunter says:

    It’s perhaps worth mentioning that ‘pica’ is the Latin for ‘magpie’.

  25. Dave Ellison says:

    It started out easy – 8 completed on first time through, 12 by the second, 18 the third, and in the end failed to get 4 solutions, so thanks for the answers.

    Pica I knew, but found it difficult to work in – I thought it also referred to eating non-foods, such as coal, in pregnancy.

    I still kick myself for my U blind spot. 25a I had -e-u-n-e, but couldn’t spot the answer. My rule, which I always forget to follow, is that if there is a U try a Q before it – I would have got it straight away then.

    11a One of the best ever!

    Not keen on the “back” in the down 19, nor on “Cardinal” as the definition in 10a: “A cardinal” would have been fairer.

  26. Dave Ellison says:

    I have just looked up pica (on wiki admittedly), and it isn’t really an unnatural craving for food, rather for non-food stuffs. This is why I wasn’t convinced pica should be part of the answer until very late on in the crossword.

  27. Sil van den Hoek says:

    It doesn’t happen very often, but today we stopped working on this crossword after filling in about a quarter of the grid.
    We were asking ourselves “what’s the frequency, Arachne?”

    Looking back at it, most of it was clued completely fair.
    Well, ‘Dr’ = ‘cook’ is not that obvious.
    I should have known XXXX (and ANALGESIA, NAURU, SERAGLIO and MINOAN)?
    But I don’t like the main feature of this crossword: its cleverness.
    The way of cluing felt mathematical (“construction first”) and I don’t like that, even though I am a mathematician …

    There was no ‘lightness’ at all. Yes, 11ac was a good anagram, but for us not enough to ‘laugh out loud’ (which we hardly ever do anyway). We stopped after the horrible clue 24ac (SHORTCUT).

    Sometimes there’s no chemistry at all.
    The date: 15 Jan 2010.

    PS, can anyone explain 22d to me?
    As this crossword is faultlessly constructed, it must be possible, I guess.

  28. Mr Beaver says:

    Sil – ‘bowl over’ = stun (sort of)
    ‘bananas’ = NUTS (as in crazy) though it’s a bit of an Americanism perhaps.
    Didn’t have any trouble with this one, though it’s maybe two colloquialisms compounded

  29. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thank you, Mr Beaver, got it now.

  30. Monica M says:

    Thanks for the support …. but Robert wasn’t to know I’m from Brisbane, so my comment may have seemed implausible. And right now I’m regretting that I might have had too many beverages last night …. only the one XXXX, but too many wines with dinner.

  31. Paul B says:

    Well, that’s all very interesting.

  32. Barnaby Page says:

    Thought 5ac was brilliant – it took me forever to get it, but “Dr John” was a very neat bit of misdirection.

    “Not feeling pain” as a def of “analgesia” seemed a bit clumsy, though. “Absence of pain” or “prevents pain”, maybe.

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