Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,945 (Sat 27 Feb)/Araucaria – Eton mess

Posted by rightback on March 6th, 2010


Solving time: Fail.

The theme here was American states, of which there are an impressive 12 in the grid (plus references to more in the clues), but this was easy to spot and the thematic clues would have been largely wasted on any solvers (and I’m sure there are plenty) who could reel off at least the majority of the 50 states. As a result three quarters of this fell out very quickly, but I stalled in the bottom right. Eventually I spotted ECSTASY but drew a blank on 16dn (BIDENTATE) and 24dn (ETONS?), and I still don’t understand the latter or the wordplay to 14dn.

Music of the day (24dn): Eton Rifles by The Jam.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

1 NEW YORK; [o]NE + WORK (= ‘labour’) around Y
5 MONTANA; [ver]MONT + ANA – ‘ana’ are stories, as in ‘Victoriana’, and so ‘stories of another [state]’ are ‘Vermont ana’. Up to that point I’d describe it as extremely devious but fair, but the last step (removing an arbitrary sequence of letters from answer 8, AVERAGE) is a trick too far.
9 FLORIDA; FL[ying] + OR + IDA[ho] – ‘homeless’ indicating ‘remove HO’, as ‘Ho.’ is an abbreviation for ‘house’. I’m not sure I like this indirectness since whereas ‘home’ is a synonym for ‘house’, ‘Ho.’ is an abbreviation for the specific word ‘House’, but I think this is much fairer than the previous clue.
10 IN WHITE – referring to this novel.
12 EBOLA; rev. of A + LOBE
15 EMBASSAGE; E + MAGE around BASS – a difficult word which I managed to piece together from a couple of checking letters and the wordplay.
17 UNSQUARED; U (= universal = ‘for everyone’) + (SQUANDER)* – I think this refers to the problem of squaring the circle, in other words constructing the square whose area is precisely the same as a given circle, a task which I believe is impossible in Euclidean geometry. Or something.
19 YO + GIS
22 TEXAS; TEAS around X (= ’10’)
23 MINNESOTA; (NINE ATOMS)* – lovely anagram.
26 AMONGST; (MAN’S GOT)* – I decided this couldn’t possibly be an anagram, only returning to it once I had the checking ‘T’.
27 NETBALL – because the aim of netball is to net the ball. A bit weak, I thought, since that’s where the name came from in the first place.
28 ECSTASY; EASY around C[a]ST
1 NIFTIER; rev. of FIN (= ‘director’ in the sense of a rudder, I think) + TIER (= ‘row’) – the superfluous ‘for a’ detract from this clue.
2 WYOMING; [ne]W YO[rk] + MING (= ‘china’) – extremely clever.
3 O + LIVE – although as the much-missed John Peel used to say, there are three types of live: “live”, which means it was recorded while live, but overdubs were subsequently added; “live-live”, which means recorded while live but left as is; and “live-live-live”, which means actually live.
4 KOALA BEAR; K.O. (= knock out = ‘eliminate’) + A LAB (= ‘a test centre’) + EAR (= ‘audience’) – very complex but perfectly accurate wordplay, although the surface reading is questionable. I was looking for a homophone here. I guess ‘iconic’ because of its association with Australia; some might complain that they aren’t techincally ‘bears’ but this phrase is in the dictionary so fair game.
6 NEW JERSEY; J.R. in (SWEENEY)* – normally I might say this indirect anagram was a bit of a stretch but even I knew J.R and I’ve never seen Dallas or owned a telly.
7 ARIZONA; “[h]ARRY’S OWNER” – I had A-I—- in place when I read this clue so didn’t get past the first word. That’s probably as well because it was hard to understand after solving and I’d never have got it from the wordplay. I thought it might refer to a famous (literary?) slave called Harry, but I think the name’s just arbitrary with the ‘slave’ connection implied by ‘owner’.
14 LOUISIANA; OUIS in LIANA (= ‘creeper’) – my best suggestion for OUIS is that Louisiana was originally claimed by France, but that seems a stretch (and can ‘oui’ in French be a verb?).
16 BIDENTATE; BIDEN (= VP) + TATE (= ‘pictures’) – I couldn’t get this in the time I had available, although probably should have. The definition is ‘Pitchforks are’ and the VP (Vice-President) is Joe Biden.
18 S + EXTANT – this was a useful early solve as I then saw ‘Texas’ from the checking ‘X’ which gave away the theme.
20 GEORGIA – because Georgia is both an American state and a European country.
21 SWARTHY; SHY around WART – a word I always struggle with because for years and years I thought it meant something like ‘stocky’ or ‘well-built’, despite the obvious connection with German Schwarz. I tried to make ‘scarred’ fit in here (‘scar’ = ‘blemish’, ‘red’ = ‘not blonde’).
23 MY ALL – an aboriginal word which I met in another crossword recently.
24 ETONS? – I went through the alphabet thoroughly on this and came up with six or seven words that fit but couldn’t make any of them fit the clue. With some electronic help I unearthed ‘Etons’ which apparently means ‘Eton suits’, i.e. dress suits, which matches ‘Posh clothes’, but I don’t understand ‘canned when ducklings are on menu’ at all.

22 Responses to “Guardian 24,945 (Sat 27 Feb)/Araucaria – Eton mess”

  1. molonglo says:

    Thanks for the blog, rightback. Because the theme jumped out immediately from 6d, with eleven more promptly following despite some tricky clueing (especially 5a), it was a thirty minutes job until the final 24d which needed a good pause and a guess. Afterwards I found ‘Etons’ in the SOED; and caneton=duckling in my French dictionary. I liked 12a’s ‘from the East’, and the Obama-Biden ticket in 25a-16d. Never heard of 15a despite a career in the field.

  2. Biggles A says:

    Thank you Rightback and molonglo. I rattled through most of it easily enough but, while knowing the answers, had to think hard to explain 5a and 7. I knew 24 had to be ‘etons’ too but quite failed to understand why. The OED wasn’t much help either. This is the first Prize Crossword in many months thst I have not been able to complete to my own satisfaction.

  3. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Rightback

    Having travelled extensively in the US, this unravelled very quickly for me.

    However, I did have to guess 24a ETONS; 23d MYALL; and 16a BIDENTATE – all of which were new to me and I wasn’t sure of ETONS until I saw the solutions.

    MYALL prompted some research on massacres of the Aborigines and I was horrified by what I found.

    Nevertheless, I found it one of the easiest Prize puzzles for some time.

    I am having much more trouble just finding today’s puzzle …


  4. jmac says:

    Whilst there were some fun clues, I found this puzzle a bit unsatisfactory. I don’t mind themed puzzles (whilst not being quite so keen on them as others), but to have the relevant clues announced in advance, and then to have the theme-pool of possible answers so circumscribed, didn’t make for a particularly testing time. It almost seems that the obviousness of several of the answers merely provided Araucaria the opportunity for some particularly obscure clueing as Rightback shows in his excellent blog.

    As with Bryan I had to guess Myall and Etons, and even after Molonglo’s explanation of the ducklings in 24 across, I still don’t fully understand how this clue works.

  5. Ian says:

    Thanks Rightback.

    Agree with jmac. Once NEW JERSEY opened the door, the rest of the themed clues were very easy.

    The rest caused a few problems though, not least MYALL and ETONS which were guesses. UP TRAIN was new to me too. I gather it’s a reference to an outward journey, whilst DOWN TRAIN is the returning inward trip.

  6. cholecyst says:

    Thanks, Rightback. The only way I could parse 24 ac was. Menus are often in French, so duckling could be canetons. Etons is in (= canned) the word canetons. Iffy, or what?

  7. Gaufrid says:

    Hi rightback
    I had a slightly different parsing for 1ac with ‘one’ being the definition and ‘not old’ = NE. This avoids ‘one’ doing double duty (though it still has to in 7dn).

    In 7dn the slave boy is Harry Harris in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

    Hi jmac
    In 24ac ETONS are ‘posh clothes’. If you add ‘can’ (canned) you get ‘canetons’ which is the French (on the menu) for ‘ducklings’. I doubt that these have ever appeared on a menu (there wouldn’t be much meat on them!) but ‘canard’ (duck) certainly does.

  8. Bryan says:

    Gaufrid @ 7

    The Grauniad’s annotated solution supports Rightback:

    1* New York (o)NE/WORK

  9. brendan says:

    Easy enough except for the eton mess. But where is the prize crossword today? Poor Hugh is going to get another lot of vituperative comments.

  10. cholecyst says:

    24 ac (Again) Consider the expression ‘topped and tailed’, which means to remove the top(s) and tail(s). So ‘canned’ could mean to remove the can in canetons. I find it amusing that this is the direct opposite of Gaufrid’s explanation!

  11. rightback says:

    I actually prefer Gaufrid’s interpretation of 1ac to that given in the solutions (and in my blog). Thank you also for identifying Harry Harris at 7dn – with this new knowledge I now think this is a brilliant homophone.

    Thanks to those that came up with ‘canetons’. I don’t think this clue is satisfactory, firstly because ‘canned’ could just about mean ‘in [the letters] CAN’ but not ‘next to CAN’, and secondly because as far as I can tell ‘canetons’ is exclusively a French word (which is neither common nor signalled by the clue).

  12. stiofain says:

    Though a big Araucaria fan I didnt enjoy this one. As others say the theme was too limited and most were easily guessable after getting a few crossing letters. I dont mind sometimes guessing an answer then working out the wordplay but it happened too often in this puzzle.

  13. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks for the explanations, rb. I “finished” in that I put all the right words in, but couldn’t explain 1, 5a and 2, 7, 14, and 23d.

    Another A. today, unusually two consecutively as a prize puzzle. I thought it quite easy again – 40 minutes.

  14. jmac says:


    Thanks for the explanation at #7

  15. NeilW says:

    Dave Ellison – I presume you must get the paper! The online version has not yet been published and I suppose those of us outside the UK will have to wait until Monday night to get it. Glad to hear it’s not too tricky or it would be even more frustrating since today’s Independent online is a stroll in the park!

  16. Stella says:

    If you can something, then it is canned – like tomotoes. So Etons are canned in a menu, which, let’s face it are usually largely written in Frencn. That said, I didn’t get the answer.

  17. Eileen says:


    A comment [from Australia!] on the Guardian crossword site gives this link to today’s puzzle:

    As Dave E says, it’s quite easy – but good fun. [I buy the paper, too!]

  18. liz says:

    Thanks, Rightback. ALABAMA was my way into the theme. All in all I found this an odd mixture of very easy and convoluted. Not my favourite Araucaria, but today’s is much more fun, thankfully.

    I didn’t see the wordplay for 5ac or 7dn — and given the explanation for 5ac I’d say this is beyond tricky, even for Araucaria!

    In 14dn I took ‘ouis’ to be consents as a plural noun, as ‘yeses’ but I can see that the construction of the clue implies a verb.

    I got ETONS only after messing around with what Derek calls ‘gadgetry’ and failed to see the wordplay. Now that it has been explained, I don’t think the clue is very satisfactory.

  19. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Rather unsatisfying crossword because of reasons given by jmac (#4) and stiofain (#12).
    Bit of a waste of time for Araucaria to clue ARIZONA and MONTANA like that, as the answers were so obvious.
    For 1ac, I don’t see a problem with the rightback/Guardian explanation. The clue gives us at the end a second ‘one’, which is the definition.

  20. Bryan says:


    Today’s Prize Puzzle has now appeared.

  21. rrc says:

    I enjoyed this crossword and completed most of it at Euston while waiting for my train. Had to wait to get home to complete 16 and 17. A crossword which I thought was extremely satisfactory
    Unfortunately I am not enjoying todays at all

  22. Bill Taylor says:

    You’re not, rrc? I quite enjoyed last Saturday’s (with the exception of ETONS) and I almost always get a kick out of Araucaria’s themes. But I liked today’s very much. Perhaps because it was a little easier and in spite of the fact that there was a bit of confusion with the on-line clueing.

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