Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,005 (Sat 8 May)/Araucaria – Action stations

Posted by rightback on May 15th, 2010


Solving time: 20 mins, with the majority on 5dn and 19ac

The ‘capitally linked’ answers were all stations on the London Underground. As a non-Londoner I wasn’t doing too badly but was ruined by 5dn where all I could see was ‘Grange Hill’, being led astray by the 80s TV series. I just couldn’t get it out of my head and it was at least 10 mins before I saw the answer, which was, er, GRANGE HILL. STEEL WOOL at 19ac also caused me trouble.

Not too much in this crossword stood out for me. The anagram at 16ac is good, I liked 21/24ac and the hidden answer at 20dn is clever (despite the superfluous ‘Ireland’), but there were several problematic clues and few with convincing surface readings (‘Some laughter in a healer’, ‘Sea without money’, ‘Unchanged in point of time’ were a few that I found stretched).

Music of the day would be Going Underground by The Jam, clearly, but that was the very first Music of the Day last time there was a Tube-themed puzzle (18th August 2007), so let’s have A Poem on the Underground Wall by Simon and Garfunkel.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

10 HELLO; HE’LL + O (= ‘love’)
11 EXURBAN; EX (= ‘old’) + UR (= ‘old city’) + BAN (= ‘prohibition’)
13 REEVE; RE + EVE – 2 definitions here (‘Man of authority’ and ‘bird’), sandwiching the wordplay.
19 STEEL WOOL; TEE (= ‘ball carrier’) + rev. of OWL, all in SOL (= ‘sun’) – this doesn’t make sense: reading ‘bird is’ for ‘bird’s’, the cryptic reading is ‘Ball carrier on bird is back in the sun’, which is actually an instruction to reverse the ball carrier, not the bird. This might be more forgivable if the surface reading made any sense.
21,24 BRENT CROSS – referring to the brent goose.
23 SILESIA; (ISLE IS A)* – an area mostly in Poland.
25 MAIDA VALE; M + AIDA (= ‘opera’) + VALE (= ‘farewell’) – the word ‘said’ seems superfluous here.
1 BLUEPRINTS; BLUNTS around (RIPE)* – ‘ripe fruit’ = ‘anagram of ripe’? I don’t think many setters would be allowed to get away with that.
2 MONUMENT; (UN)* in MOMENT – ‘unchanged’ has to be read as ‘UN changed’.
3,22 MARBLE ARCH; MARCH around BLEAR (= ‘watery [of the eyes]’)
4,8 STANMORE; STAN + MORE – Sir Thomas More.
5 GRANGE HILL; RANGE (= ‘limits’) in GHI (= ‘fat’) + L,L (= ‘plates’, as in learner plates)
15 SWEET PAPER; SWEEP (= ‘Man with brush’) around T, + APE (= ‘copy’) + R[ex] (= ‘king’)
17 IDLENESS – ‘love-in-idleness’ is another name for the pansy.
18 AMERSHAM; (ER (= ‘hesitation’) + SH (= ‘silence’)) in AM,AM
20 EUSTON (hidden) – I was very slow to see this.
21 BALHAM; HA (= ‘Some laughter’) in BALM
23 SWIM; SW1 (= the Buckingham Palace postal area, I suppose) + M (= ‘my leader’)

18 Responses to “Guardian 25,005 (Sat 8 May)/Araucaria – Action stations”

  1. molonglo says:

    Thanks rightback. Good weekend fun, moderately testing and no need for aids – except to check, eg, that Grange Hill exists in 5d and that ghi is as good as ghee. Got the theme with simple 9a giving 4d; the other places were well and amusingly cued. Fruit as an anagrind in 1d? Nice one, though – as were 2d and numerous others including 17d where checking revealed Shakespeare.

  2. Biggles A says:

    I got ‘Amersham’ first in the themed clues which meant nothing to me and I had to get ‘Monument’ before the penny dropped and it wasn’t too hard after that. I never did reconcile 15; I had sweeper fixed in my mind and couldn’t work it out. Thanks for the explanation Rightback. I now see the problem with 19; it might have been better to have read ..on bird back..but it still doesn’t make much sense.

  3. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Rightback, I really enjoyed this even though it took me ages to spot the theme.

    Like Biggles A, I got AMERSHAM first but I didn’t reconcile this with Underground Stations until later.

    My use of the Underground is limited to very few of those listed and I feel really sorry for the folk overseas who may have known even fewer than me.

    A huge improvement on yesterday’s puzzle!

  4. tupu says:

    Thanks rightback for an impeccable gloss. An enjoyable puzzle. I feel I am not as rigorously trained in X-word ‘grammar’ – a system of rules that will only generate correct clues – as you and some others are, so I am more (and perhaps too) forgiving. So ‘ripe fruit’ appears acceptable to me since setters seem to be always on the look out for new anagrinds – to rest more weary ones I assume. I am also less worried about those you see as stretched. Re ‘bird’s back’ – it may not withstand precise analysis but it’s pretty clear, though I can see there have to be limits to this line of argument. I have wondered whether a reading with ‘back of bird’ might also get squeakily by in sense of reverse view of bird. Thanks once again and congrats once again on your your combination of speed and precision.

  5. Tokyo Colin says:

    Thank you rightback. I share with tupu a lack of concern for clues which don’t follow some set of rules as long as they get me to the answer somehow.

    And thank you Bryan for sparing a thought for those of us who have never ridden the London underground. The instructions and the obvious AMERSHAM got me onto the theme very quickly but I had to solve each station from the clues. I messed up the anagram for Night All Get Into and had Notting Hall Gate (it sounded like a station to me.) So then last to go in was 5dn because there is no Grange Hall and no fat called GHA. I was not aware of the alternate spelling for ghee which didn’t help. But overall quite enjoyable and not as difficult as some.

  6. rrc says:

    definitely needed the underground map to complete this – even discovered that stations existed although familiar with the term – arsenal (football) grange hill (television series) brent cross (mi junction) but although it was focussed on the SE it was a crossword I enjoyed (more than I am today)

  7. sidey says:

    5 down is ORANGE HILL in the online solution, GRANGE HILL in the annotated version. I can’t see how either GHI or OHI can mean ‘fat’.

    I am continually amazed that people can refer to a setter who can produce such clues as ‘the master’. I blame Hugh.

  8. tupu says:

    Hi sidey

    Ghi seems to be an alternative spelling for ghee which is the clarified butter commonly used in ‘Indian’ cuisine as cooking fat.

  9. Bryan says:

    Sidey @ 7

    I very much doubt if ORANGE HILL is a station on the Underground.

    Please always allow for potential Grauniadisms.

  10. Bill Taylor says:

    I’m with tupu and Tokyo Colin — the arrival counts far more than how you get there. I enjoyed this one immensely. Two good prize crosswords in a row and today’s is shaping up well, too.

  11. john goldthorpe says:

    Well said, Sidey. And Araucaria’s surfaces in general make less sense than those of just about any other Guardian setter.

  12. Paul B says:

    And yet JG, to be fair, these meaningless surfaces do seem to have gone down quite well with audiences over the decades. And with me, I must say. I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading when I picked up my first Guardian crossword puzzle, written by The Lord John, as compared with the boring ones (an opinion now modified, thanks to becoming more boring myself) found in The Ximenean and other papers.

    And, also to be fair, while you might object, Sidey, to clarified butter being described as ‘fat’, that definition is not a mistake. From what I know the GCE doesn’t alter Araucaria’s puzzles in deference to His Greatness, but they are proof-solved by someone in a country vicarage before they’re sent in.

  13. Matt.vantage says:

    This was great i thought.
    As a novice, managed to do all but two over the weekend, and really enoyed some of the clues.
    SWEET PAPER eluded me, though (15d) where is the definition in the clue?

  14. nmsindy says:

    Re comment 13, the definition is ‘wrapping’, I think.

  15. Mr Beaver says:

    We enjoyed this puzzle. MAIDA VALE was my first themed clue – I’m no opera buff but Aida does seem to keep popping up… Didn’t get AMERSHAM until quite late on, despite having gone to school there!

  16. Daniel Miller says:

    Nice amusing and relatively quick jaunt, a memory jog round the Underground from days of yore (when I lived in London).

  17. Maarvarq says:

    … and if one’s only exposure to the London Underground was a brief visit 20 years ago, the theme was no use whatsoever to getting clues out. Fortunately the clues themselves were much simpler than the usual by this setter, or I would have given up pretty quickly.

  18. Huw Powell says:

    Thanks, rightback.

    I was stumbling along, with a few random clues solved, and fearing the theme would never become clear, when I decided to look up “amersham” because the clue’s mechanics demanded it, and it sounded like it could be a town. Wikipedia told me it indeed was, and also that it was in commuting range of London… about 20 minutes later, after realizing my atlas would be useless, I found a list of Tube stations on WP. Now, since there are hundreds of them, brute force wasn’t going to be much help, but now I had a head start. I started attacking any clue that appeared to be lacking a definition and seeing if I could make something resembling a place name out of them, then checking the list to see if they were. One or two popped out at me off the list because I was immersed enough to remember the numbers of letters. GRANGE HILL was one such.

    So, ironically, after a couple of hours I had all the themed answers, but was stuck on four “normal” clues.

    Put it aside after banging my head on 1,13,17, and 19, figuring I’d come here and see how stupid I was.

    Pulled it out today and had a look before logging on, and BLUNT finally clicked (doh!) and I was able to crank those last four out.

    In 19 I didn’t like the superfluous “needing”, and as rightback said, there was a lot of nonsense on the surfaces, although enjoying those is a low priority for me, excepting the occasional truly brilliant one.

    Lots of fun, especially since I eventually finished it, although of course without finding a “cheat” resource it would have been hopeless. Haven’t been in London since I was nine…

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