Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25008 / Arachne

Posted by mhl on May 12th, 2010


Some very good clues in this puzzle, (e.g. 7d, 10d) and a few which I think are bit weak. I’m not sure about how to parse 15a and 14d, I’m afraid.

1. SLOWDOWN [redundancie]S + LOW DOWN = “mean”
5. GORGES GOREGOUS = “Lovely” without OU = [The Open] “university”
11. TROLL TROLLOP = “hooker” without OP = “work”
12. MIRROR IMAGES MIRROR = “Tabloid” + IMAGES = “pictures”
15. ESPY Not sure about the subsidiary here: “See river moving east (4)” Thanks to Liz for explaining: move E in SPEY to get ESPY
16. HONOURABLE (LABOUR)* in HONE[st] = “two[,] less than honest”
18. FORBEARING FOR = “Pro” + BEARING = “way of moving”
19. ISLE Hidden answer
24. IDIOT DI reversed = “Rejected princess” + I + TO reversed = “returned to”
25. GERMANIUM M (Monsieur) = “Frenchman” in GERANIUM = “plant”
26. GREEDY G = “girl” + REEDY = “thing”; I don’t know when “G” is ever used as an abbreviation for “girl”, but perhaps someone else can suggest a context…
27. ALDERMAN ALDER = “tree” + MAN = “feller”
1. SO-SO SOS = “request for aid” + O[xfam]
2. OINK OK = “Agreed” around IN; a Tamworth is a type of pig
3. DAHLIA H in DALI (H for heroin or horse) = “Drug-taking artist”; “bed” in the definition being a flower bed, of course
4. WATERBOARDING A horrifying torture technique, described as “enhanced interrogation” by the Bush administration: (OR DEBATING WAR)*
6. OUTSMART I guess it’s OUT = “Unfashionable?” + SMART = “Fashionable?” but I’m not sure about the definition: “Which is best?” Thanks to Liz, who points out that “to best” someone might be “to outsmart” them
7. GEORGE BUSH A very entertaining clue: (SHOE! BUGGER)* (referring to this incident)
8. SELF-SEEKER SELF = “author” + (EEKS)* + ER = “soap”; being a fan, I think it’s a bit unfair to call ER a soap!
10. CARBON NEUTRAL Excellent anagram and &lit: (LET NO URBAN CAR)*
13. PERFECTING PERFECT = “mint” (as in “mint condition”) + (GIN)*
14. APPRENTICE Presumably a reference to competitors being fired by Lord Sugar on the TV show “The Apprentice” but I don’t quite get the “plum” bit… Thanks to tupu and Andrew who suggest that it’s probably that the winner gets a “plum job” with Lord Sugar
17. DEPORTED PORT = “Basra, perhaps” in DEED = “action”
20. SLEAZE (LAZES)* + E = “partner” (East is the partner of West in bridge)
22. FIRM Double definition; in horse racing, the “going” might be described as FIRM
23. OMEN [w]OMEN

33 Responses to “Guardian 25008 / Arachne”

  1. liz says:

    Thanks, mhl. I think that in 15ac if you move ‘east’ (E) you get SPEY, a river. And in 6dn I took the definition to be ‘best’ as in ‘to best’ or outsmart.

    Lots to enjoy here, I thought. My favourite was the highly amusing 7dn!

  2. mhl says:

    Thanks, liz – I’ve added your notes to 15a and 6d

  3. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl. A pretty enjoyable and at times tantalising puzzle. 15a took me a long time and some hunting before I understood it, as did 14d – I got fixed on ‘florentine’ for a while! The ‘plum’ is I suppose the job that the one winner gets. It took quite a time for the sugar ref to seep in even after it was clear what the answer must be. Thanks for the gloss on firm – I missed the race course reference for some odd reason. 13d seemed the poorest clue. Several others were quite pleasing.

  4. Ian says:

    Thanks mhl and Arachne.

    Very little here to delay a speedy finish to a generally well contrived set of clues.

    Plenty to amuse, esp. the ‘Dubya’ joke and the superb anagram/&lit for 10 dn.


  5. Another Andrew says:

    Thanks, mhl. I enjoyed this a lot, particularly 10dn. I guessed 11a and 15a without understanding them and only failed on 14d, which I would never have got.

    Oh, and I liked 2d because it’s a lovely word and it reminded me of the Tamworth Two.

  6. Eileen says:

    Thanks, mhl – I really enjoyed this.

    There were some really clever clues, I thought – I liked 15, 24, 27ac and 1,2,4, 6, 10, 14 dn. particularly.

    2dn reminded me of ‘The Tamworth Two': and 7dn of my own entry to Paul’s Cryptica site: ‘Silly bugger whose departure is imminent [6,1,4]’ [some time ago, obviously!]

    I think the author in 8dn might be Will Self.

  7. Eileen says:

    Pipped by Another Andrew!

  8. Eileen says:

    I really meant 7dn rather than 6dn – but I did like 6dn, too!

  9. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks mhl. Much to enjoy here and very little (if indeed anything) to quibble about. 10dn was exceptional.

  10. Andrew says:

    Thanks mhl – I presume being the APPRENTICE would be a PLUM job with SUGAR (though I wouldn’t fancy it myself..).

  11. Rishi says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed solving this crossword.

    The best ones have already been mentioned in posts above so I needn’t repeat, except to say I liked 27ac the most!

    I appreciate the inclusion of such lights as WATERBOARDING and CARBON NEUTRAL. Would word pattern search software return these matches?

    7d is good but I thought it was dated.

    As for 23dn, in the said context is a warning ever issued?

  12. Bill Taylor says:

    Some lovely moments in this one, including, I thought, 24a. 14d held me up for quite a while — being in Canada, I’ve never heard of Lord Sugar. In our version of The Apprentice, Donald Trump does the honours.

  13. Rishi says:

    Re the use of ‘best’ in a clue and the query thereon, I am reminded of an offering in an Everyman crossword:

    Worst, or just the opposite? (4)

  14. crikey says:

    Am I alone in thinking 14 down is a bit of a stretch? Is “plum” really an acceptable abbreviation for “plum job”?

    Otherwise, as mentioned above, lots of great stuff.

  15. Rishi says:

    You may perhaps want to insert the figure 1 for the 1dn slot.

  16. mhl says:

    Thanks, Rishi – I’ve fixed that.

    And thanks to Another Andrew and Eileen for reminding me of the bizarre story of the Tamworth Two :)

  17. Richard says:

    Thanks for the blog, mhl.

    Some very clever and challenging clueing but pretty fair, I thought.

    I have to say that an Alderman was a council member – certainly not a council official.

  18. Paul (not Paul) says:

    Super puzzle. A delightful combination of good clueing and witty surfaces. Maybe not hard enough for some on this site but perfect for me to complete in a lunch hour.

    8d was my favourite with its implied allusion to Will Self’s egomania.

  19. Carrots says:

    Arachne: Great Fun….and well worth the risk of a visit to your parlour! I must admit that my only previous encounter with the term “Sugarplum” was in the title of a Claes Oldenberg sculpture/installation: “With Dreams of Sugarplums in Their Heads”. So it took almost an extra hour (with the puzzle almost complete) for the penny to drop.

  20. scarpia says:

    Like everyone else,I thought this was great fun.Loved 15 across and 7 down.Last to go in was 14 down.
    Tried to match something from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker for ages and then got sidetracked with the old story for children ‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod / The Sugar Plum Tree” by Eugene Field’,but realised this was probably too obscure for a weekday Guardian(I do miss Bunthorne!)

  21. Martin H says:

    Great stuff, although, being pretty ignorant TV-wise, I still don’t get ER in 8, nor APPRENTICE, even if it was clearly the solution. Unfair? Yes, I think so, and in a generally poorly-clued puzzle, like yesterday’s, I’d have found them inexcusable. As it is, they only slightly spoiled what was otherwise the best puzzle for quite a few days. Odd how context can affect judgement like this.

  22. Gerry says:

    Zipped through most, slowed down by ‘forbearing’ and ‘apprentice’. I agree with Martin re TV refs.

  23. anax says:

    Martin @21 and Gerry @22
    Good points re TV references. It’s a difficult one for setters. If you go back 20/30 years ENA (Sharples) was pretty much done to death as a reference to Coronation Street – but in the (before my time) good old days there were far fewer TV channels, hence far fewer different programs, and to an extent more novelty value in watching TV in the absence of other forms of entertainment (e.g. a life) which we take for granted now, so it was much easier for solvers to get the ENA Sharples connection.
    Times have moved on but setters still want to make use of cultural – in this case TV – references, but even Corrie’s audience is a small fraction of what it was all those years ago; setters can only keep their fingers crossed that the references they use will be familiar to a significant number of solvers, but they can’t hope for “most”.
    Yes, I’d have got ER and The APPRENTICE, but I couldn’t name a single X-Factor judge. Top Gear presenters – no problem. BBC news presenters – not a chance. The line setters draw can only be based on guesswork.

  24. Richard says:

    I agree with anax about TV references. Can’t fault Arachne for ER or APPRENTICE, though…

  25. Sil van den Hoek says:

    What a great crossword – one of the very best, recently.

    Many clues (and certainly most of the Down clues) were so full of imagery.
    All that story-telling.

    Yes, Eileen, we had to think of your splendid Cryptica clue as well, but this one was simply brilliant [and Rishi, for us, clues like this are never dated – unlike George Bush himself].

    We didn’t have a problem with ER [because we were looking for ER], but didn’t get the APPRENTICE. But just like Martin H, we found it excusable. We can’t have it all.

    Arachne put so much thought in her clues.
    On the eye simple things like ‘tree-feller’ or ‘colourful occupant of one’s bed’ are just very nice.
    When you read the clue of 26ac, one’s inclined to see ‘wanting’ as a part of the construction, but it is part of the definition.
    The clue of 18ac doesn’t read like ‘patient’ will be the definition. Very clever, and another prove of fine clue-writing.

    We were very impressed by this crossword.
    Hard to beat this week.
    Thanks, Arachne!

    [And thanks, Gaufrid, for one of your many blogs. BTW, just over a week ago, Armonie used G for ‘girl’ in the FT (13,376) – an abbreviation which I questioned there]

  26. Richard says:

    Having reflected upon my earlier comment about TV references, I guess I would be amongst many who would not be happy if a compiler were to clue soap = HOUSE !

  27. Eileen says:

    I forgot to say that I liked 27ac because it immediately reminded me of:

    Two Irish job-seekers see a notice: ‘Tree – fellers wanted’. One says to the other: ‘What a pity there’s only the two of us’.

    [Please see discussion on 25ac of yesterday’s Indy puzzle. :-)]

    Thanks, Arachne, for a super puzzle!

  28. Esmond says:

    I liked the Iraq theme in 4 and 7 down, the reference to Basra and particularly 12 across.

  29. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Shame on me, mhl.
    Did I say “And thanks, Gaufrid” in #25? I fear so.
    Don’t know why I did, but sincere apologies.

  30. Martin H says:

    Richard @26 – Oddly, you might think, I would be happy with soap = house, because it’s simple: there is a soap of that name. With ‘apprentice’, on the other hand, I think it’s unfair because you have to know something more about the programme, beyond its name, to get the solution. Perhaps that is an indication of the line a setter should be careful about crossing.

  31. D & G says:

    An enjoyable puzzle which we only got to start after Fulham had so heroically lost the Europa final. I know we’ve been told off about not referring to politics or football and we promise to never do again (ish) but well done Fulham. By the way agree with comments about apprentice being a little bit curved. Shame Zamora didn’t curve another ball in…

  32. Jan says:

    A very belated response!

    Thank you mhl. I loved the puzzle but stood no chance of getting 14d. because I had confidently entered EBOR for 15a. I was convinced that I needed an ecclesiastical see. I do know that the diocese is York, not Ebor, but the Archbishop takes that name.

    So, with the River Ebro, I moved the r for river to the east. :)

  33. Huw Powell says:

    Didn’t quite finish this one.

    I should have got GREEDY and DAHLIA, though, and missing ISLE was a bit embarrassing.

    I never would have got APPRENTICE in 100 years, I don’t even watch the American version. I didn’t mind ER though, all one has to do is be vaguely aware of the existence of the show for that to work.

    Cheers, and thanks, mhl and Arachne!

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