Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Genius 83 / Araucaria

Posted by mhl on June 6th, 2010


We found it tough to get going with this puzzle, but once we’d got the theme of 7-letter characters from Shakespeare, and, I’m afraid to say, resorted to using Wikipedia’s lists from A to K and L to Z, progress was pretty quick. The 20 of these themed answers are packed into the grid with impressive density. In some senses it wasn’t too hard to guess the answers for this puzzle, but there are quite a number (particularly in the South East corner) where the clues were very difficult to parse. I’m indebted to Gaufrid and others for suggesting readings for some of these clues.

I’m sorry that this post isn’t more authoritative – I’ll be interested to see whether the official annotations agree on quite a number of points!

1. CAMILLO “Infirm” or “in firm” means CO around the outside, with the inner part being AM ILL = “that’s me”
5. CALIBAN TALIBAN = “the enemy” with a “new leader”
9. PIU Sounds like “pew” (“seating for audience”); the definition is “More”: PIÙ is the Italian for “more”. (This is the first a number of clues where non-English words or phrases are used without indication, which I think would attract complaint in a non-“Genius” puzzle.)
10. MACBETH [Ernst] MACH = “sound fellow” (of the Mach number, indicating multiples of the speed of sound); BET = “Stake”, so “Stakeholder” indicates BET in MACH
11. BERTRAM BER = “End of months” (e.g. novemBER, decemBER) + TRAM = “transport”
12. COASTAL OAST = “Hot spot” in CAL = “state”
13. RENEWED RENE = “Frenchman” + WED = “unionised”
14. IDI IDI[ot] with “to back off”; the African of the definition is Idi Amin
15. NERISSA NERI‘S = “St Philip’s” + SA (sex appeal) = “it”
18. PROTEUS In Greek mythology, PROTEUS could change form to avoid capture, thus being something of a “Chameleon” – this gives us the adjective “protean”
21. COSTARD “shared top billing” might be CO-STARRED, or “Briefly”: COSTAR’D
25. LAVINIA LAV = “John” IN IA = “state” (Iowa)
29. RUE Double definition; RUE is the French for street or “way”
31. ORLANDO Ghana used to be known as the Gold Coast, so perhaps OR LAND, followed by O = “(old)”
32. LEONATO LEO = “Sign” + NATO = “alliance”
33. TYRRELL TYR[one] “Power one abandons” + RE = “about” + LL = “evens” – I think that must be from 1/1 looking like two lower-case Ls? Thanks to sidey for pointing out that LL is 50-50
34. NYE Double definition; the politician is Aneurin or “Nye” Bevan and a nye is also a nest of pheasants (? – perhaps someone with Chambers could confirm…) Update: thanks to Tom_I for confirming: “Chambers does indeed give NYE as a variant of nid or nide, which is “a pheasant’s nest or brood”.”
35. THESEUS THESE = “People on this side” + US = “the paper”
36. SLENDER S = “bob” LENDER
1. COMECON COM’E = “How’s” (in Italian) + CON = “with” (in Italian); COMECON was a group of communist states (“red brigade?”)
2. MACHAIR The definition is “Links”: MACHAIR is ground typical of a links course in golf; MA (Master of Arts) and a CHAIR are both “academic achievements”
3. LAERTES SET = “games” + REAL = “Madrid” (as in the football clue, Real Madrid) all reversed
4. OPHELIA “… kin”, since LARTES and OPHELIA were siblings; “essays read aloud” indicates a homophone of Charles Lamb’s Essays of Elia
5. CUB TRIP (BRIT)* (“Britpop”) in CUP; a cub trip is an expedition made by the cub scouts
6. LORENZO LOO = “John” around “rendering” (or return) of ER (Edward Rex) and NZ = “country”
7. BEROWNE ROW = “Line” in BENE = “well” (in Italian)
8. NOMADES NOES = “opposition” around MAD = “bananas”; an unusual spelling of “nomads”, I assume
16. EGO Hidden in [th]E GO[ndoliers]
17. SIR A (somewhat) reversed clue, I think: RISK = “Danger” is SIR reversed (“in retirement”) with K; the definition is just “K”, sometimes used to refer to a knighthood
19. RIA AIR = “wind” reversed
20. UNI “Ban Ki-moon” is number 1 at the U.N., so perhaps UN 1; “at scene of 2?” refers to the subsidiary parts of 2d: at a UNIversity you’d find MAs and CHAIRs
21. CAPULET C[at]APULT = “Weapon, lost at” around [battl]E
22. SCROOGE EGO = “16” + ORCS = “killers” (from The Lord of the Rings) reversed; “Subject of carol” refers to A Christmas Carol Update: Tom_I adds “while the Compact OED gives the Tolkien origin of ORC, Chambers gives it as “a killer whale or orca; a fierce sea monster (mythol); an ogre””
23. ANIMATE AN + MATE = “ally”, with I “put in”
24. DRAGONS DONS = “[UNI] people” around RAG = “paper”
25. LEONTES I had trouble parsing this – was “time” going to be EON, T or even EON + T? Was it L = “Latin”, or should “Latin kings” to be treated as a unit? The best interpretation I’ve heard is T = “time” in LEONES = “Latin kings”, assuming that LEONES (lions) are “kings” as in “Kings of the Jungle” or “King of Beasts”
I’m rewriting this explanation in light of the revealed answer and the comments below.  Everyone seems to agree that “possible 21st” is VALERIA, and that same name is also indicated by: VALE = “farewell” RIA, which might be said in response to “([RIA] leaving?)”  However, then there seem to be two lines of thinking: (a) the answer is VALERIE, with “from” meaning “derived from (etymologically)” or (b) the answer is VALARIE, with “from” as an anagram indicator for the indirect fodder (VALERIA)*.  I’m still without dictionaries for another couple of weeks, and while VALARIE appears in an number of word lists I have, it apparently isn’t in Chambers.  That spelling seems to be fairly common in the U.S., however, and is also ultimately derived from Valeria   On the other hand, an indirect anagram of this kind would be considered rather unfair.  It sounds as if we’re all awaiting the annotated solutions on the Guardian’s site with anticipation :) Update: the annotations say for this clue “Valerie VALERI(a/E)”, which means that the intention cannot have been option (b), and that VALERIE was the correct answer
27. NUNHEAD Reverse clue: NUN HEAD in a cryptic reading would give N, and NUNHEAD is in S. London
28. A DOLLAR “hundreds” also has a sense of “hundredths” , so the definition part is “100 hundreds”. I think that the subsidiary “lie-abed in rhyme” refers to the “lie-abed” or “lazy person” in the nursery rhyme, “A diller, a dollar”. Another suggestion was that this is meant to rhyme with “a loller”, but I think I prefer the nursery rhyme allusion as an explanation

32 Responses to “Guardian Genius 83 / Araucaria”

  1. sidey says:

    Than you mhl. I’d have thought ‘evens’ = LL in 33 is the Roman numerals so 50/50.

    I still don’t understand Valarie. Where’s the anagram fodder?

  2. mhl says:

    sidey: Thanks, not sure how I missed LL = 50-50 – I’ve updated the post.

    The anagram fodder is “Valeria”, the “possible 21st” of the themed answers

  3. sidey says:

    Bloomin’ ‘eck, so you were supposed to find an unclued 21st character…

    Oh well, congratulations to all who finished this.

    I missed Tyrrell (which I’d never have parsed) when trawling Wiki but saw “A Doctor” which obviously was wrong. 100 hundreds seems to me to be 10000 and I’ve never heard that rhyme. From my pov, a shame as the other three quarters was good fun.

  4. TRIALNERROR says:

    Re 28D, I didn’t have any problem with “100 cents”. Something in me reacts however against 5A. How does anybody else feel about being told who to regard as “the enemy”? Don’t get me wrong, I would agree that the terrorist forces self-identified as “The Taliban” have done despicable things and are rightly condemned; but should a crossword setter assume we all concur with what amounts to a political stance? This is quite aside from the fact that “taliban” as a Pashtu word just means “student”.

  5. Rob says:

    Thanks mhl

    Re 26d – given I had the crossing letters V?L?R?E I assumed the answer was VALERIE but then couldn’t make sense of the wordplay – as you say the answer seems to be an anagram of VALERIA (which would have been a 21st Shakespearean character.)
    I think ’19 leaving?’ being in brackets is a clue to this 21st character – so, perhaps, answering sidey’s critiscism in #3 – VALE RIA.
    So, VALARIE a spelling I was unfamiliar with, appears to be the answer but the ‘cheat’ button on the Guardian site has now been enabled and it gives VALERIE as the answer!!
    I realise this could be a mistake – it has been known to happen!
    What puzzles me is why Araucaria didn’t leave 26d as VALERIA and made it ’21 solutions of a kind’. Then the clue could just have been ’19 leaving?’

  6. mhl says:

    TRIALNERROR: Well, I think TALIBAN = “the enemy” is fair enough – British armed forces are fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan at the moment, so in military terms that’s certainly correct. Even if that weren’t the case, the Guardian crossword has a long history of reflecting political positions in the clues, and that’s one of the things that many people like about it. (This would be a far-from-controversial instance of that, I think.)

    I should also say that “time” <=> “the enemy” is so frequently used in crosswords that this clue had a nice element of misdirection for me.

  7. mhl says:

    Rob: Sorry, you’re quite right about VALE+RIA cluing the anagram fodder rather than being a second subsidiary. I’ll correct that. I assume the answer from the chat button must be a mistake, but the construction I parsed seems rather convoluted, so who knows…

  8. IanN14 says:

    I put Valerie for 26d.
    I had thought of Valarie as an anagram of Valeria, and of Vale Ria, but it would have been a very unfair answer.
    Not only is “from” a very weak anagram indicator, but it’s completely indirect regarding the clue. Doubly so.
    Also, as far as I know, there’s no-one of note with that spelling, and it’s not in Chambers. (Valerie is).
    I can only assume it was either a mistake, or the “from” is meant to imply (erroneously) that the name is “derived from”…
    Either way, I think it’s unsatisfactory.
    Perhaps he’d started with Valeria, but had to change it when he decided on Slender?
    Who knows?
    I’m waiting for the annotated solutions…

  9. TRIALNERROR says:

    By the way, the cheat function now gives 26D as VALERIE…?

  10. TRIALNERROR says:

    mhl @6

    I don’t have any objection to political positions being reflected per se, unless they make the assumption that everybody automatically shares the given perception. Not everyone who does the crosswords is British. For example I have a South African friend of Pakistani descent who regularly completes the Genius. For him, by virtue of his upbringing, “taliban” meant “student (of the Koran, or “one searching for religious enlightenment”) long before it had any connotations with terrorism. I think he was absolutely right to feel more than a little miffed at Araucaria.

  11. Tom_I says:

    Re 34a, Chambers does indeed give NYE as a variant of nid or nide, which is “a pheasant’s nest or brood”.

    Also, re the wordplay in 22d, while the Compact OED gives the Tolkien origin of ORC, Chambers gives it as “a killer whale or orca; a fierce sea monster (mythol); an ogre”.

    I finished this after a fashion, and submitted an entry, but I too had VALERIE at 26d, without understanding the clue (I still don’t). I didn’t understand 28d either, but now I’ve seen the explanation, I had heard of the nursery rhyme, but didn’t make the connection. I’m still not too sure about it.

  12. mhl says:

    IanN14: It does seem likely that there’s a mistake somewhere – I do hope that the annotated solutions clear it up!

    Tom_I: thanks for those notes – I’ve updated the post.

  13. Martin H says:

    Completely agree with TRIALNERROR about ‘enemy’ = ‘taliban’, and his entry at 10 makes an important point, although Araucaria may not even be stating a political position, merely reflecting a military situation as mhl implies. Even if this is the case though, in a conflict everyone is someone’s enemy, and the word can’t be defined as one antagonist rather than another.

  14. TRIALNERROR says:

    Thanks, Martin H @13. However,I don’t want to get into a flame war over what was, otherwise, a very satisfying solve. Nice touch that “RUE” is the plant Ophelia hands out to everyone in Hamlet.

  15. Tokyocolin says:

    In 28dn a dollar is 100 cents and ‘cent’ = hundred.

  16. Eileen says:

    Hi mhl and thanks for an excellent blog. [I remember telling you on 16th May in General Chat that it was well worth doing!]

    I hadn’t noticed that all the Shakespeareans were seven-letter words – thanks for that.

    Like you, I spent quite a bit of time toying with L EON in 25dn but couldn’t make anything more of TES, as a former teacher, than Times Educational Supplement, the staff room copy of which was eagerly grabbed by desperate alternative job-seekers! However, once it occurred, I had absolutely no doubt about T in LEONES.

    It emerged that VALARIE must be the answer to 26 dn but I still don’t like it. As IanN14 says, there’s little authority for it and, as Rob says, why couldn’t Araucaria have left it as VALERIA, since that was already clued by “19 leaving”, – except it couldn’t, as he suggests, be the 21st, since SLENDER would have been wrong. But that could so easily have been an unthematic SLANDER, which would have left 20 themed clues.

    Like others, I await the annotated solution with interest – I really enjoyed it, though!

  17. IanN14 says:

    I’m sorry to come across as a little controversial here, but everyone seems to be assuming that ValArie “must” be the answer to 26d.
    If there has been some mistake, surely it’s just as likely ValErie is “correct”?
    I know the Guardian site quite often gets the check feature wrong, but everyone seems to think it’s definitely the case here. I don’t think it is.
    I could be totally wrong, of course, but, as Eileen says, there’s no basis for the spelling Valarie at all…
    As so often with Araucaria, a lot of guesswork has to take place, and I think it’s just as likely he’s using “from” as in “derived from” as it is an (indirect) anagram indicator.

  18. mhl says:

    IanN14: I take your point about how “from” could mean “being derived from”, and the more I think about it, the more plausible that explanation seems.

    However, given that ValArie does seem to be pretty common in the U.S., that explanation seems pretty harsh on the solver given that both variants are ultimately derived from Valeria.

  19. Chris says:

    Hi there,

    I had a look on here to see what you guys made of that bottom-right corner. I found that very confusing.

    I didn’t get Nunhead, Tyrrell or A Dollar at first, and was convinced 26d was Valeria, which conflicted with the excellent Slender. Because of this, I thought Slender may be a red herring and the answer Shallow (shall owe or something), which I didn’t like but was all I could find to fit trawling through my ‘Wordsworth’ edition of the First Folio.
    On this point, I’m not wholly happy even now with Tyrrell as an answer. In King Richard the Third, the Dramatis Personae lists the spelling as Tyrrel. One l is a small point, but a big deal in a prize crossword.

  20. IanN14 says:

    Sorry mhl,
    I didn’t mean to be harsh on the solver.
    I was just suggesting that ValArie didn’t seem to be the “definite” answer.
    I think either one could count, I’m just going on popularity of spelling (and the fact it’s in Chambers. And that it’s what the check feature shows).
    Unless there’s a satisfactory explanation to the contrary, I think both should be allowed when it comes to the prize.

  21. mhl says:

    IanN14: I wasn’t suggesting that you were being “harsh to the solver”, rather that the clue was (either way, I think!)

    Eileen: thanks, I’m glad it was of use – it feels as if my last two posts on Araucaria puzzles have been rather hard work! Going by the comments, I do think I find his puzzles disproportionately difficult in comparison to other bloggers here. (They’re still very enjoyable, of course – I’m just not so secure in my interpretations of the clues…)

  22. sidey says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your interpretations mhl. Whatever A actually meant for ‘The V’ clue I doubt we’ll ever know as someone doesn’t respond to questions ;) Ditto ‘a dollar’.

  23. IanN14 says:

    Well, the annotated solutions are up….

    …and, as you say, sidey, we’re none the wiser.
    Oh well.

  24. sidey says:

    So, 26 Valerie VALERI(a/E)

    What the **** is that supposed to mean?

  25. jrnl says:

    There is a rhyme (which I didn’t previously know) by Christina Rosetti

    Lie a-bed,
    Sleepy head,
    Shut up eyes, bo-peep;
    Till daybreak
    Never wake: —
    Baby, sleep.

    This would make the reasoning behind 28d slightly different: “Sleepy Head” is S which is the abbreviation for (a) dollar…

  26. sidey says:

    According to the annotations it’s “A dilly, a dollar/a ten o’clock scholar.”.

  27. Pandean says:

    I think the VALERIE/VALARIE ambiguity at 26dn is an example of the occasional unfairness brought about by Araucaria’s creative, libertarian approach, which sometimes ends up as purely loose clueing. The VALARIE answer might seem OK enough by the fact that A, unlike more Ximenean setters, is happy to use ‘from’ as an anagram indicator, thus suggesting an anagram of VALE/RIA. But A may well not have realised that VALARIE is a name, so could have thought he was giving enough info for what he saw as the only possible fair answer from his clue. I’m a great admirer of A, so am generally happy enough to live with his ambiguities, even when they drive me mad at times. The rewards of his creativity are greater than the drawbacks, in my book. However, in this case, I think he needed to have been a bit tighter in his clueing, to indicate the change in ending from VALERIA to VALERIE. He could’ve had something like ‘Girl coming to different ending than possible 21st (19 leaving?)’. A bit wordy, but it says what it means and removes the ambiguity.

  28. liz says:

    Thanks for the great blog, mhl, and for explaining the wordplay I didn’t understand at 2dn and 15ac. It took me a while to get the theme and then I had to rely on a list of Shakespearean characters I found on the web to get some of the answers. Even so, the SE corner had me stuck for a while, until a more experienced solver confirmed that what I had put at 33ac was right. I had VALERIA at 26dn initially, then changed it to VALERIE when I got SLENDER.

  29. mhl says:

    It’s look like all the Valeries were indeed right then :) I’ve updated the post.

  30. Gail says:

    Finished the crossword quite quicklly apart from that damned corner! In my Shakespeare Tyrell is also spelt with one l, never heard of that rhyme and living up here in the N.East an obscure place in S.London is not part of my geographical repertoire! Did however get Valerie and the Taliban/Caliban answer gave me no ethical concerns!

  31. Jan says:

    Well done, mhl, an excellent blog.

    I’m yet another who was defeated by the SE corner. I confidently entered Valeria and didn’t find Tyrrell with two ls. I spent a long time trying to justify ‘Thryeus’ at 33. ‘Power one abandons …’ = thr(one). Yes?

    After wasting time, fruitlessly, on 28, 33 and 36, I was b******d if I was going to search a map of London for 27!

  32. sidey says:

    In case anyone’s interested, the following is the official explanation of THAT clue:

    The theme, obviously, is Shakespeare characters and Valeria appears in Coriolanus. “ria leaving?” gets you via the question mark to “Vale Ria!) But that is not the solution, so it is not the 21st of the themed solutions. Valerie is a girl’s name and it is close to valeria.

    This is obviously one of Arauracia’s non-Ximenean clues. But a large number of people were, I am happy to say, able to make the journey with him. It is not a clue that should (or would) have appeared except in a Genius puzzle.

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