Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,951 [Sat. 6th March] / Araucaria

Posted by Eileen on March 13th, 2010


I’m a last-minute substitute for rightback, who, unfortunately, has internet problems, so, not having expected to blog this, I’m trying to remember my thought processes when I solved it a week ago and the blog may well be less full than you would expect. I do know that the two long answers came first, almost solely from the enumeration [with one wee hiccup, see below]. They didn’t prove too much of a spoiler, though: there was lots still to go at and enjoy. Apologies for the lack of the customary Saturday title and theme music: suggestions welcome! [Slightly off-topic – but related – I lay low on yesterday’s Araucaria, which I thought was one of the most outrageous I have ever seen and, I think, stretched the limits of even his most ardent champions!  I feel on more stable ground here and am delighted to be able to blog my favourite compiler’s puzzle!]


1   A STRAW IN THE WIND: ASTRA [RAF stars] + THE in WIN WIN [‘win win situation for the’ – I loved that!] + D [500]. The motto of the RAF is ‘Per ardua ad astra': ‘Through hardship to the stars’.
9   ORANGE PIP: ORANG [ape] + reversal of PIPE
10  FLING: double definition
11  GO TO SEA: T[he] in GOOSE + A
12  AIR BASE: AIR [tune] + homophone of BASS [low notes]. [Of course, base also means low but I think a homophone is indicated.
14  HOGWASH: WAS in place of ART in HOGARTH [William, 1697-1764, moralist painter]
17  ELEGIST: ET [Latin ‘and’  ‘keeping’ LEGIS ‘ of the law in Latin’]: reference to Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy written in an English churchyard’ [1750]
19  PODESTA: ODES in PTA [Parent Teacher Association]
25 GWYNETH: I don’t want to tread on any toes here, especially considering my ‘thing’ about homophones. It was my understanding that Gwyneth [ the girl] and Gwynnedd [the county] are pronounced the same but I’d be really glad of enlightenment.
28 ODOUR: I wasn’t too happy with this: I haven’t seen ‘odour’ meaning this unless followed by ‘of sanctity’! Odo, the half-brother of William the Conqueror, was bishop of Bayeux and probably commissioned The Tapestry. [Is UR another candidate for the bonfire?]
29  IN THE CLUB: double definition


TRAIT: homophone of TRAY [carrier]: ‘originally’, because, in English usage, the T in this French word is perhaps more often pronounced.
AUGUSTA: AUGUST + A: I’m not very happy with the construction of this clue.
4 IMPEACH: I + MP [1000p] + EACH [apiece]
5   TOP RATE: TO PRATE [nicely balancing 30ac.]
6    ENFORCE: hidden in greEn FOR CEremony
15  GIDDY GOAT: reverse anagram of TOGA: I really like these but I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
16, 24, 13, 1dn SET THE CAT AMONG THE PIGEONS: I jumped in a bit too quickly here and entered ‘put’ instead of ‘set’, going purely by the enumeration, instead of working out the anagram [of MATE’S GONE CHEETAH SPOTTING] but Hogarth, on the second pass, put me right!
18, 24. 8 LET THE DOG SEE THE RABBIT: T[ime] in LETHE [forgetfulness] + DO + G[ood] + SEETHE [be very angry] + RABBI [minister] + T [model] : superb charade!
20 SHEARER: S[ociety] HEARER
21  ATHEIST: AT HEIST: I really liked this one.
22  SESOTHO: anagram of TO SHOES: a Bantu language, one of the eleven official languages of South Africa and national language of Lesotho.
23  RUN DEEP: I know I could see this last Saturday but it means nothing this morning: help, please!
27 VALLI: ALL in VI: Alida Valli starred in Carol Reed’s ‘The Third Man’.

30 Responses to “Guardian 24,951 [Sat. 6th March] / Araucaria”

  1. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Eileen
    Thanks for standing in at the last minute.

    23dn is N (new) in RUDE EP (letter, epistle) and a reference to ‘still waters run deep’.

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen, and for standing in. I remember this being fairly easy (again) for a prize puzzle, especially when I’d got the long answers.

    23ac – I suppose Fen rivers are “still waters”, so they running deep is a thing they do. RUDE EP[istle] about N

  3. Andrew says:


    No PDF version today for Crucible, I see. Another temporary glitch, or a sign of things to come?

  4. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen Again an easy theme and several easy clues. But numerous others easily got but hard to know why as well some stinkers – notably 14a, 15d and 21d. He makes you brood more than other setters, which is why he’s so good.

  5. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Gaufrid and Andrew. Now that you tell me, I’m not sure I did get it last week. I remember now being stymied by EP = epistle on another occasion. I must make a note!

  6. Eileen says:

    I have just looked at the annotated solution of this puzzle [I always forget it’s there!] and it simply gives AIR / BASE for 12ac. What do others think? [The clue was ‘Tune with low notes heard at aviation centre’.]

  7. sidey says:

    Nice on the whole, 1a almost making it into my all-time favourite clues. Incidentally, the real motto of the RAF is Per Ardua Asbestos, roughly S** you mate, I’m fireproof. My dad still thought it was hilarious after 33 years service.

  8. Gaufrid says:

    My parsing was the same as yours. There has to be a homophone otherwise ‘notes heard’ is superfluous.

  9. Davy says:

    Re AIR/BASE, the parsing is simple. The tune is AIR and low notes heard = BASE (sounds like BASS)

  10. sandra says:

    thanks for the blog eileen. must have been a nightmare a week on, as you were not expecting it!
    i parsed 12a in the same way as you, taking “heard” to be the homophone indicator when i looked at it again today!
    molonglo, hi. yes,14a was a stinker – last one in for me. but then doh! i had entered put the cat etc. didn’t even question it until quite late on. it was, however,a brilliant clue imho. as, again imho, was 1a. there were others too, but i felt this crossword was mostly too easy for a prize crossword, although i enjoyed it. think i may get my come uppance today though! .

  11. sandra says:

    i thought 15d a great clue – though i did struggle a bit with it.and i needed the crossword dictionary for 22d as i had never heard of the language. don’t object to that though.

  12. Alan says:

    This is my first posting as I’m only really starting and have learned so much from everyone else’s contributions. However, I just wanted to say that strictly speaking Gwyneth and Gwynedd are not real homophones. The “th” in Welsh is pronounced as the “th” in the English word “thin”, whereas the “dd” is the “th” sound in the English word “the” or “with” (ie, voiced as opposed to unvoiced).

  13. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Alan – and welcome! :-)

    I was hoping someone would clarify that. I think now the clue [“Girl or county [you can tell which in Welsh]” is perfectly fair, as it suggests that [only?] Welsh people would know the difference.

  14. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen and for standing in! I was also slightly held up by initially putting PUT at 16dn, which caused no end of trouble with 14ac, but got there in the end. Also forgot about the TRAY pronunciation of TRAIT but didn’t see what else it could be.

    Slightly off-topic — sorry you felt the need to lie low yesterday. Would have been interested to hear your views! I agree there were some outrageous liberties taken, particularly wrt to a couple of the defs, but I’ll forgive almost anything if overall it’s enjoyable overall…

  15. liz says:

    Sorry — too many overalls!

  16. Mr Beaver says:

    We’d finished this by Saturday tea-time, which made it easy in our book!

    Personally, I loved 14a – extremely clever construction, and I think ‘moralist painter’ is a fair def of Hogarth – his ‘Rake’s Progress’ is surely reasonably familiar to most.

    Also loved 15d – ‘playing the giddy goat’ is such a quaint expression, one entirely fitting for a retired vicar!

  17. stiofain says:

    I was another who put the cat out so failed on 14ac which I see now is a great clue.

  18. Bill Taylor says:

    I’m surprised you found yesterday’s Araucaria so outrageous, Eileen. As I’ve said already, I found this one and yesterday’s made a wonderful beginning and end to the cryptic week. And this was SO much better than today’s turgid prize effort by Crucible. I finished it but I’m not sure why I bothered.

    I think there’s a tendency here to be too stringent about homophones. It doesn’t bother me at all if they don’t sound 100-per-cent alike (as in Gwyneth and Gwynedd) as long as there’s no mistaking the setter’s intent, which I find there almost never is.

  19. Geoff Chapman says:

    About 25ac. Gwyneth and Gwynedd are not pronounced the same. Gwyneth, th, pronounced as in THing. Gwynedd, the Welsh dd, pronounced th as in THe.

  20. Eileen says:

    Liz, Bill and Geoff

    Since it’s now over 24 hours since the blog and Sunday’s a quiet day on the site, anyway, I’ll go slightly off-topic and respond to your comments – but you’re probably not still there!

    Re Friday’s crossword: I’m so used to Araucaria’s puzzles causing a furore – I used to leap instantly to his defence until I realised that he, more than any other setter, really splits solvers into love him or hate him camps and nothing anyone here says is going to change anyone’s mind, not that that stops them trying! – that I expected his detractors to have a field day. I really thought he was at his most audacious in this one and there were clues I couldn’t defend to anyone.

    Andrew’s comment 22 covered some of my question marks but I would also add 5dn: five times = WEEKDAYS? and, of course, NEVER, which I thought was awful.

    However, I’d like to think a line has been drawn under that one – and look forward to the next Araucaria!

    “I think there’s a tendency here to be too stringent about homophones.”

    Bill and Geoff, as you’re relatively new to the site, this needs a bit of explanation. You’ll have realised by now that regular contributors have their preferences and foibles and that can lead to ‘in’ jokes and remarks, which is unfortunate for newcomers.

    The homophone thing started as a bit of a joke, ages ago, when I referred to a homophone of the fort/fought variety as being anathema to my late Scottish husband, who always pretended to be exasperated when he met them. I subsequently started putting them in my blog as ‘homophones’. Through discussion about them, I learned the word ‘rhotic’ and then was absolutely amazed last July, when RHOTIC appeared in a Shed puzzle as the solution to ‘Tenor in drunken choir fought for fort? Not in such a dialect’and Shed posted a comment on 15² to say that our continuing correspondence had been the inspiration for it!

    So – we’re not really [too] stringent here and I promise that I will not mention them again! :-)

    To come right back on topic: as far as this puzzle is concerned, I thought I’d made it plain in both the blog and comment 13 that there was no objection at all here. The clue surely makes it perfectly clear that the setter does not regard these two words as homophones? I shouldn’t have said [comment 13] that the clue was ‘perfectly fair’, since that implies that some might say it wasn’t, but, rather, ‘very clever’. My comment in the blog was a request to any person with a knowledge of Welsh pronunciation to explain the difference, which Alan [comment 12] and Geoff Chapman [comment 19] both did. So now I know – and thanks again!

  21. Bill Taylor says:

    Point well taken, Eileen. Thanks for the clarification.

  22. sidey says:

    Eileen, you say more than any other setter, really splits solvers into love him or hate him camps, there is at least one member of a third camp who used to enthuse about A but now finds his contributions somewhat trite. I still do them because they are occasionally entertaining, but I find the more I do the rarer the entertainment. Shame, in his prime he was really very good.

  23. Eileen says:


    I don’t know when Araucaria’s ‘prime’ was: this year, he is either 86 [Jonathan Crowther] or 89 [Wikipedia]. I hope i’m half as sharp by that age! :-)

  24. liz says:

    Thanks for responding, Eileen!

    I’m aware that my reactions to Araucaria puzzles tend to be coloured by all the pleasure I’ve got from them over the years. Newer solvers might not have that bias.

    Friday’s wasn’t the best, I’ll agree, and my least favourite was the MONTE CARLO clue, but for some reason I find it really difficult to criticise him!

  25. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Sidey, I started doing crosswords only two years ago, and even I (who got into it by a puzzle in which he cited ‘Pretty Girl In Crimson Rose (8)’) saw a change. The Rev’s taken more and more liberties, which I do understand, sometimes like but most of the time don’t want to accept, although I don’t care eventually – my God, how complex I am :).
    Still, it makes solving a little bit more adventurous and challenging than usual, and as such I (just like my PinC) still look forward to his puzzles.

    I must say that Saturday a week ago, we enjoyed this crossword.
    For us there was nothing much wrong with it.
    We couldn’t be bothered about the homophone, but we disliked ODOUR (but then, is there a perfect crossword anyway?).
    Nor was there that much wrong last Friday – yes, índeed, that ’13 10′ clue was more or less unacceptable, we thought.

    In the end it is all about the style that you either like or don’t like. Everyone enjoys Rufus, some of us see Brendan as the cleverest of them all, I personally have a soft spot for Orlando/Cincinnus, and Araucaria is Araucaria.
    You can’t have it all all the time.
    When I saw Crucible as the setter of yesterday’s prize crossword, I thought ‘Wow’, but that changed very quickly when I found out that it was very unsatisfying – but a lot more about that ‘later’, of course.

    Music of the day: maybe something by Frankie VALLI?
    [please, not ‘Grease’ :)]

  26. Rob says:

    Friday 16 February 2001
    The Guardian

    “The monkey puzzler.

    After 42 years of delighting and infuriating Guardian readers, John Graham – aka Araucaria – is still regarded as the best in the business.
    On the 80th birthday of the ‘Tiger Woods of crossword compiling’, David McKie pays tribute ….”

    Above copied from a Guardian article – not so sure the ‘Tiger Woods’ reference would be appreciated now .. but then again ….

    Interesting that Sil quotes a clue “Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8)” as a clue by Araucaria approx 2 years ago that ‘got him into’ cryptic crosswords.
    Now Araucaria might well have used this clue 2 years ago but I first came across it as the title of a book published in 2003, sub-titled “A memoir of love, exile and crosswords”, written by Sandy Balfour.
    I would recommend this book to any cryptic crossword fan and interestingly it contains a crossword set by Araucaria specifically for the author. This crossword was printed in the Guardian as No. 22,445 on 16th February 2002.

    The postscript to the book states:

    “By rights the last word should belong to Araucaria.
    ‘How to keep up your reading? Happily, if romantic (4,4)’”

  27. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Rob, I am pretty sure Araucaria used the clue itself as a solution in that particular crossword in 2008, as a reference to the book which I subsequently bought.
    I clearly remember us sitting in one of those deck chairs in the Orchard in Grantchester – that’s where it all started for me :) :).

  28. Mr Beaver says:

    Sil, I beg to differ that ‘everyone enjoys Rufus’. He’s usually easier than most, which is nice, but I find many of his clues dull and humour-free. [Just my opinion, folks – no need to leap to his defence].
    I guess I just happen to be on Araucaria’s ‘wavelength’. I like his libertarian clues (I thought MONTE CARLO and NEVER were just fine, and made me smile). However you get there, you nearly always know when you’ve got the right answer. With some other setters, you’re left thinking ‘well, it’s probably xyz, but I’m not sure’

  29. jmac says:

    Well said Mr Beaver.

  30. Ian says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen, much appreciated under the circumstances.

    I found this a bit of a curates egg*. 90% of the material was fine as usual. Liked the theme very much and there was lots of the usual Araucarian inventiveness.

    As has alreay been alluded to several times, “Gwynedd/Gwyneth” was frankly poor. Odour was the last to go in and I had to spend an unfeasibly large amount of time looking at internet sites to uncover both ‘Odo’ and ‘Ur’!!!

    * Sidey @ #22 may have a point. With age, no matter what the profession, whether an athlete or a crossword setter, there becomes a time when performance starts to fade a little. That said, I’m extremely pleased that this setter is still a Guardian regular. Health permitting, I ‘m sure he’ll be around for quite a while yet.

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