Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,022 / Araucaria

Posted by mhl on May 28th, 2010


Notes on this crossword below…

9. NAMEPLATE NAME = “Christen” + “South American river” = PLATE; the definition is “in brass at the door”
10,11. OSCAR WILDE OS = “very great” + CARE = “pains” around WILD = “very angry”
12. RENDSBURG RENDS = “Tears” + GRUB = “food” reversed
13. CLADDING CLING = “Keep hold” around ADD = “to put on”
14. ERNEST ERNE = “Bird” + ST = “street”; the definition referring to “The Importance of Being Earnest”
17. BOGART A reference to “bog-standard” meaning “low standard”, or perhaps that BOG ART might be art of a quality suitable for a bog (toilet) Thanks to Richard for pointing out that I’d not mentioned “bog-standard”
19. WEAR THIN WIN = “Success” around EARTH = “planet”
22. AMPERSAND [p]AMPERS = “21s topped” + AND = “with”
24. ELSIE I = “first” in ELSE = “otherwise”
25. DREAM D = 500 and a REAM is 500 sheets of paper, so D REAM[s] migth be “250,000 sheets”
26. POLAR BEAR PEAR = “fruit” around ORB = “world” around LA = “US city”
27. TRISTRAM SHANDY “Is worker” = IS HAND around TRAM = “cars” in TRY = “essay”
1. SANDWICH BOARDS SANDWICH = “food” + BOARDS = “tables”
2. CAMILLA “A MILL” = “a grinder” in CA = “state” (California)
3. LIP-READER LEADER = “article” around (RIP)*
4. REAR RANK REARRAN[ge] = “Make new disposition, almost completely” + K = “king”
6. TOOTS Bit difficult to classify: a cryptic definition, I suppose – you might “toot” a horn, and “toots” / “sweetheart” are terms of endearment
7. OCCLUDE ODE = “lines” about C-CLU[e] = “c-crossword element being incomplete”
8. BRIGHT AND EARLY BRIGHTAN = “South coast resort proclaimed” sounds like “Brighton” (apparently) + DEARLY = “with love”
15. RARE EARTH RAREE = “old show” + ARTH[ur] = “old king shedding old city”
16. PENDULUM END = “finish” + U = “posh” in PLUM = “appropriately vocal fruit?”; “appropriately vocal” since a posh voice might be “plummy” Thanks to EdUs for pointing out that PLUM sounds like plumb (as in “plumb line”) which might also act as a pendulum
18. GAP YEAR GEAR = “transmission” around (PAY)*
21. PAMPER REP = “agent” + MAP = “plan” reversed
23. REMUS Hidden answer. I think that the prejudiced remark that makes up the surface reading of this clue is regrettable and unnecessary.

48 Responses to “Guardian 25,022 / Araucaria”

  1. Ian says:

    Well done Araucaria and thanks mhl.

    Another fine piece of setting offering much enjoyment over breakfast this morning.

    Highlights were 1ac for the wordplay. Elegant as ever to achieve Sec(ularisa*)tion, Humour with BOG standard ART at 17ac and, best of all, the clueing of ‘Lip Reader’. I doesn’t come much better than this.


  2. Richard says:

    A good araucaria, I thought. Thanks for the blog, mhl.
    In 17 is BOG not a reference to ‘bog standard’ rather than a toilet?
    I’d never heard of RAREE – I had to google it.

  3. mhl says:

    Richard: yes, I’d added a comment about “bog standard”, but somehow managed to publish the version in another tab without it. I’ll put that back…

  4. Dave Ellison says:

    Enjoyable and I think not to difficult. Finished easily on the way in today. TOOTS the last to go in.

  5. Dave Ellison says:

    Rendsburg was the second last to go in – I should have been quicker on that, as I had forgotten it is twinned with my home town of Lancaster.

  6. liz says:

    Thanks, mhl. I thought 17ac was v funny. But I agree with your comment re 23ac.

    Very enjoyable overall.

    I think it was Eileen who mentioned a couple of days ago that ERNE, like SMEE, is often spotted in crossword-land! We’ve had both this week…

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl for a generally excellent blog and araucaria for a very enjoyable puzzle. Lots of entertaining clues, especially among the downs and particularly liked 8 and 6 which brought back memories of ‘Toot, toot, tootsie good bye’!
    I hesitate to start a hare or a brer rabbit here, but I think ‘racist’ is a harsh term for 23d’s clue though I was a bit surprised when I saw it. I suppose it was a pretty fundamental part of what Uncle Remus was in the stories which seemed much less patronising to me as a child than they might do now, and ‘black’ is a reasonably PC term these days though others like Afro-American may be more suitable. But I confess that it is much less clear to me how necessary the specification was for the clue, and it would probably have done better without. There may be a generational thing at work here – I notice in my 70s that my children and theirs are almost completely colour- and ethnicity-unaware as compared with myself, and I applaud this while hoping that some such awareness, in whatever section of the population it resides, is not automatically equivalent to ‘racism’.

  8. Eileen says:

    Thanks, mhl.

    I’d never heard of RAREE, either.

    Re 17ac: Shed once clued this with ‘artist’s graffiti in the gents, perhaps’ – but a name like that just cries out to be in a crossword!

    [It was just yesterday, liz – it seems you only have to mention something for it to happen!]

  9. mhl says:

    tupu: I’ve said all that I wanted to, but please note that I didn’t use the word “racist” at all, as you suggest in your comment – I said that the surface reading was that of a prejudiced remark, and that was the result of thinking carefully about how to express it.

  10. tupu says:

    Hi MHL. Abject apologies. I see that you used the term prejudiced rather than the harsher racist. The general drift of my comment still apllies I think, but please accept my ‘sorry’.

  11. tupu says:

    Mhl. As you will realise, our last messages overlapped. Once again, apologies.

  12. mhl says:

    tupu: no problem. (Incidentally, it’s not the word “black” that’s the problem for me, it’s that the voice of the surface reading is suggesting a scarcity of a positive quality like avuncularity.)

  13. cholecyst says:

    Thanks mhl. 23 dn looked a bit dodgy to me, too. I see nothing wrong with “black” but I originally took the surface reading to be “It would be surprising if there were many avuncular black men.” But then, that would only be possible if Araucaria had said “Avuncular black MEN…” and he didn’t. So it’s just a simple definition (ABM) with the advice that you can find the answer in some of “there must be”. So, nothing wrong at all.

  14. cholecyst says:

    mhl: another overlap!

  15. John says:

    It seems to me that seeing the word “black” used to describe skin colour as prejudicial is in a sense more discriminatory than accepting it as a perfectly ok way of describing a person’s appearance. Just as white is.

  16. Bill Taylor says:

    A rare disappointment from Araucaria — a mixture of easy, laboured and poor clues. I share the unease about 23d. I didn’t like 10,11a and 6d was awful. TOOTS for sweetheart? Not in my world.17a was another ugly clue. I don’t, incidentally, think bog-standard means low standard; it refers more to something basic, unadorned and unmodified. A bog-standard Mini, for instance — one with no extras.

    Highlights, such as they were: 1a, 1d and 8d. But this one left me feeling frustrated.

  17. mhl says:

    John: that wasn’t the point that I was making at all.

  18. John says:

    mhl: But my point is this.
    Although the surface wouldn’t work, (which is why “black” is necessary), would “Avuncular white man — there must be some” have evoked the same reaction. Why should anyone be offended at the suggestion that there might be no avuncular black (or white) men? The word is being used in its sense of “in the manner of an uncle”.

  19. Bill Taylor says:

    I think the debate over 23d points up the fact that it was a poor clue. Why have black (or white) in there at all? “Avuncular storyteller — there must be some” would have worked just as well.

  20. John says:

    Yes Bill. It would have avoided the controversy. But Uncle Remus was black, and what’s wrong with that? The fact doesn’t need to be skirted around to in order to satisfy unnecessary political correctness. All manner of people can be avuncular/non avuncular, generous/mean, nice/not nice, and so on. It’s not any kind of a slur on their origins to say so.

  21. mhl says:

    John #18: in either case it would be a stereotype. (I think that avuncular does have positive connotations, and those are still there in the surface reading despite its cryptic use.)

    John #20: The last part of the clue, however, isn’t referring to an individual, but the group in general. Bearing in mind that what we’re talking about is the surface reading, are you seriously saying that if you substituted “generous” for “avuncular” in that sentence, you wouldn’t have a problem with it?

    Anyway, I didn’t want to make that a big issue, just to note my discomfort about it, which is apparently shared by others.

  22. Bill Taylor says:

    Nothing at all wrong with Uncle Remus being black, John. But there’s simply no reason to mention it. Political correctness, necessary or otherwise, doesn’t enter into it. Uncle Remus is known as a storyteller. His racial origin is secondary and irrelevant.

  23. tupu says:

    Hi MHL. Thanks for your generous response. As I hope you see, I felt some discomfort about the direct black reference. I also now see your point more clearly – that the latter part of the clue is potentially a bit iffy. This went past me first time.

    Hi Bill. There is some point in a reference to cultural origins, if not demanding any direct reference to them or to ‘black’ in the clue, in that the stories have their origins in African folk tales about the hare (Brer Rabbit) which is seen there as an archetypally cunning creature. At the same time there was a deep racial prejudice that provided support to the system of slavery that took such stories and their tellers to America.

    As you say, though, the clue is clearly not an altogether happy one.

  24. Bill Taylor says:

    A good point, tupu, just as your observation in #7 about the “generational thing” and ethnicity awareness not necessarily equating with racism, was also excellent.

    Perhaps I’m spoiled by living in Toronto, which was deemed once in a U.N. study to be the world’s most multicultural city. Taking our ethnic mix as a whole, caucasians are just another minority. Colour and ethnicity cease to be a major consideration.

  25. walruss says:

    Thank goodness for that! Perhaps the sheer number of comments around the etnicity issue is telling ‘in some peculiar way’, as my lecturers used to say. A very enjoyable puzzle I thought, with Araucaria firing on all cylinders.

  26. muck says:

    I had to look up 12a RENDSBURG in two atlasses!
    It could equally have been Rentsburg
    Dave Ellison #5 was lucky to have personal knowledge, without which the clue is unfair

  27. Bill Taylor says:

    In Araucaria’s defence, just because it COULD have been Rentsburg, that doesn’t make the clue unfair, just a little trickier.

  28. tupu says:

    HI muck

    I too had to look up Rendsburg to check. I personally did not mind checking my atlas. Rentsburg does not apparently exist.

  29. Eileen says:

    Well now, I didn’t confess earlier to not having heard of RENDSBURG. I had to seek electronic help. Word Wizard returned ‘No words found’ for R?N?S?U?G. One Across came up with [only] RANDSBURG, which I confidently entered, without bothering to look it up – it sounded like a German town! After this discussion, I have googled it and found it’s in California!

    Perhaps it really is a little obscure!

  30. tupu says:

    I am vaguely reminded of a story about a maths teacher who stands in for a colleague in a class on The Merchant of Venice. A pupil asks ‘When it says ‘the quality of mercy is not strained’ does it mean strained as in ‘stressed’ or ‘strained as in ‘filtered’? The teacher thinks and then replies ‘As it isn’t strained, it doesn’t matter’.

  31. EdUS says:

    An excellent puzzle by Auracaria. A less than stellar blog given the gratuitous citicism of 23d and the failure to note re 16d that PLUM sounds like PLUMB, which can be a synonym for PENDULUM.

  32. Bill Taylor says:

    Go and stand in the corner, mhl, you less-than-stellar blogger, you!

  33. Ian says:

    Rendsburg, according to my Times Atlas of the World, Comprehensive Edition is located ar 54.14N 9.39E in the Schleswig Holstein region. Sitting happily equidistant between the city of Flensburg on the Danish border and the mighty Hamburg to the south. To the east just 20 miles away lies Kiel.

  34. tupu says:

    Hi EdUS. Is plumb really a synonym for pendulum? Of course a plumb line can swing – but isn’t it designed to hang still and vertical? If so, it only comes into its own when it stops swinging, and a pendulum is just the opposite …

  35. Scarpia says:

    Another great puzzle from the ‘Man’,
    Lots of good stuff here which has somehow become overshadowed by the debate over 23 down.
    My initial reaction was similar to that of mhl,but on reflection I think maybe we are all becoming a bit touchy about this.I have Afro-Caribbean friends who proudly describe themselves as black – the term is not necessarily derogatory.
    Loved the inter connection between 10,11,14.27 across and 5 down.
    Reminded me of the Dexy’s Midnight Runners ‘Dance Stance’ the only (white) soul song to namecheck 8 Irish writers in the chorus!

  36. mhl says:

    EdUS: thanks for the note about plumb / plum, which I’ve added to the post.

  37. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thanks, mhl for the blog!

    Yesterday I stated “This [Shed] was by far the best crossword this week – surely the most challenging, so I think it takes a Giant to beat this one tomorrow”.
    Well, there was a Giant today, but we thought Shed won.

    Bit unusual to end the homophone part of 8d halfway the word ‘and’, but it’s OK from a construction point of view.
    Some dodgy elements, we thought, in the triplet 12,13,14ac.
    In 12ac and 13ac Araucaria throws in ‘when’, apparently for the surface, but strictly speaking not very convincingly in the CLADDING clue. And the definition for ERNEST (14ac) ‘of consequence for OSCAR WILDE’? So-so.
    9ac (NAMEPLATE) was of un-Araucarian poor quality.
    Never heard of RENDSBURG, despite the fact that – as one from their [the Germans] neighbours – I know a bit about German cities. Indeed, obscurish.
    I’m sure, Arauacaria used it because nothing else fitted, not even with a different 6d.

    That said, there were good ones as well.
    Both 1d and 1ac: very nice, 3d (LIP READER): almost our Clue of the Day.
    Best for us: 18d (GAP YEAR), splendid surface, a near &lit.

    Pro saldo, good puzzle, enjoyable, though not spectacular.
    Rather standard fare, Araucaria Lite.

  38. mhl says:

    Scarpia: it seems that I need to reiterate that my problem was not with the word “black”, but the sense of the surface reading as a whole. I suggest that 23d is not worth discussing further, however.

    As you say, there’s lots of good stuff in the crossword – my personal favourite was LIP-READER, like Ian in comment #1

  39. noel says:

    Without ‘discussing’ 23d, I’d just like to add another ‘no’ vote – I found it had a clear racist surface reading and should have been edited out. I shall write to the crossword editor about this.

  40. tupu says:

    Hi Noel. I think the problem if any is not that it has a clear surface reading but one that might possibly be, and has been, read in a negative way. In the end it is surely at most an unhappily worded clue (see Bill Taylor @ 19 for a troublefree alternative) from a much loved, positively avuncular setter, designed to lead us to the harmless answer. I for one do not consider that it merits any letter to the editor or other such intervention beyond the friendly interchanges between ‘logophile’ bloggers here.

    Fn re Avuncular. The word means ‘with the quality of an uncle’. It may be purely descriptive of the genealogical condition of being someone’s mother’s brother or father’s brother etc. And/Or it may refer to the quality of such a relationship, and here it usually has positive connotations though there are plenty of wicked uncles about in life and literature. Originally, for what it is worth, the Latin term ‘avunculus’ was literally ‘a little grandfather’ and I seem to remember it referred only to the relatively friendly mother’s brother in contrast to the authoriarian father in patriarchal Roman society.

  41. Scarpia says:

    I apologise – my comment was influenced by the (very large amount)of other posts and I mistakenly misconstrued your original comment.As you also say, enough said about this matter.

  42. Rishi says:

    4a Make new disposition, almost completely, of king on back row (4,4)REAR RAN(ge)+ K

    What’s ‘of’ doing there? Can it be taken as a connector? I don’t think so!

    Is it a typo for ‘on’? What was the print version?

  43. Coffee says:

    Have to agree with Scarpia,

    Lots of good stuff here which has somehow become overshadowed by the debate over 23 down.

    Loved the inter connection between 10,11,14.27 across and 5 down.

    – Also liked 1a and 1d -more than what I see of Paul’s today, at which I’ve just had a glance….

  44. mhl says:

    Scarpia: no problem – I should have been more clear in the post, but I had to write it very fast yesterday and (stupidly) didn’t anticipate that there might be other interpretations of what I’d said.

    I should have said more about RAREE, but on Wikipedia it redirects to a rather Not Safe For Work page about Peep Shows, and I didn’t have time to find a better reference. The OED gives these definitions for “raree-show”:

    1. A set of pictures or a puppet show exhibited in a portable box for public entertainment; a peep show. Now hist.

    2. a. In extended use: an exhibition, show, or spectacle of any kind, esp. one regarded as lurid, vulgar, or populist. b. As a mass noun: spectacular or lurid display. Now rare.

    I hadn’t heard of RENDSBURG either, rather disappointingly, since I thought my knowledge of German cities was pretty good from playing the excellent board game “Power Grid” :)

    Rishi: I don’t like “of” as connector much either, but I think it just deserves a shrug in this case – I didn’t see the print version, but I don’t think “on” would work in the surface reading.

  45. ernie says:

    Thanks, mhl.

    Well done, Araucaria.

    23d REMUS perfectly acceptable.

    Laughed at 17a BOGART.

    1a SECULARISATION very good, but I failed to get it.

  46. Trench Adviser says:

    Araucaria used ‘mulatto’ in April. I think that is more questionable, yet there was no controversy at all.

  47. mhl says:

    Trench Adviser: goodness – I didn’t do that puzzle myself (or apparently 24,054, which clued the same word)

    I wish that the Guardian took the same care over the words and sentiments that are used in the crossword as they do in the rest of the newspaper. Of course, I understand completely that the world of the crossword is a bizarre alternative universe (as I think Sandy Balfour described it?) but it would be a trivial matter to just be a bit more careful to not cause offence. There have been four or five such issues over the last couple of years that I can remember off-hand.

    Unfortunately, the crossword editor’s past response to such questions is just completely inadequate:

    Yes, it’s difficult to know where to draw the line, but I don’t think that someone who would defend the clue “Are they capped in Ulster?” on the basis that it’s a “joke” is anywhere near drawing it in the right place.

    So, my minor complaint about the clue in this puzzle should really be seen in the context of a more general problem that I have with the Guardian crossword in recent years. (I say it’s a minor complaint since in this case the surface reading as a stereotype is obviously ridiculous, and clouded by the odd grammar that the clue’s construction forces.)

    (Incidentally, I’m afraid I don’t have much time for complaints about “political correctness”, which is too often used as a pejorative term for honest attempts to avoid causing personal offence.)

  48. Phil says:

    Is there such a word as ‘ernest’?

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