Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25057, Arachne

Posted by Handel on July 8th, 2010


Morning campers! An enjoyable if none too taxing puzzle today. Our favourites for today were 17ac and 10d for their amusing surfaces.




9. NIC(H)E

10. TONY BLAIR (tory in lab)* one of a number of politically themed clues


12. EWERS ‘were’ anagramised then ‘s’, the third letter of ‘base’

13. DISAPPOINTED (do it I snapped)*

17. CONSERVATIVE (not vice versa)* H thought the hyphen between the definition and anagram indicator was not ideal, I’m a bit more liberal on this, but understand that it’s the thin end of the wedge!

20. UNIT E

21. SUSPICION dd, took a while to parse this one: ‘a suspicion’ of something can be a slight quantity of it

23. J (g)ANJA WEED

24. liberAL IBId


26. REVER(s)E


1. GEN O C.I.D. E


3. EVE N.T.

5. CONTAINERISED (rendition case)*

6. SUBGENERA (bear genus)*

7. ENAM< E L

8. THRUSH dd

10. TORTOISE’S HELL very witty

14. PTOLEMAIC (email copt)*

15. MINI M(IS)E good surface reading

16. (Greenwich) MEANTIME

18. P U.N. JAB

19. PINNER dd

22. pIRATEs

43 Responses to “Guardian 25057, Arachne”

  1. Brian says:

    I also got through this one really quickly. Absolutely agree that 10D is clue of the day, if not the week.

  2. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Handel, but I’m surprised to find that a Brian with an ‘I’ has beaten me in the responses.

    However, I fully agree about 10d.

    I’d never heard of JANJAWEED before even though I’ve been to Africa and Japan. What next?

  3. molonglo says:

    Thanks Handel. I would have liked a little more elabotation, eg on 23a which I took as JANGAWEED with ganja first being knocked around: how did you (or others)see it? Some of the clues struck me as dubious in parts, eg 7d (why “at least”?) and 22d (odd grammar: the angry rather is being encircled).

  4. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, both. On the less taxing side, but I thought it was very entertaining nonetheless. Many good clues – 10dn is excellent (I’m still chuckling), but I liked SUBGENERA and also EWERS for its clever surface.

    Had to have a bit of a trawl through the dictionary for JANJAWEED. I never get the references to drugs, having never taken them. I have got lots of other bad habits though.

  5. walruss says:

    Some very familiar clues though, it has to be said, with TONY BLAIR an obvious candidate. On the plus side, 10 down, as people have said.

  6. Martin H says:

    Fine puzzle – 10d, 16 and 17 particularly good. Not sure about ‘are circling’ in 22 though.

    16 doesn’t look like a dd to me: Greenwich Mean Time without the G element (doesn’t start), defined as ‘(in the) interim’

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks Handel and Arachne

    Relatively easy light entertainment after the last couple of days and Boatman earlier. Large number of anagrams and inserts of one sort or another – 5d was a good one.

    Thanks for good parsing of ‘suspicion’ – I missed the ‘a bit’ bit.

    2d and 15d nicely constructed.

    As others, I thought 10d was the star turn – worthy of a prize!. I also liked 26a which took some time to get.

    Like molongolo, I found Janjaweed hard to parse at first, partly because it is often spelled Jangaweed which doesn’t help at all!

    7d was my last. I suppose the ‘at least’ smooths the wordplay following the ‘long IN the tooth’ misdirection since enamel is only on the outside.
    re 19d I’m not sure if the ‘she’ is warranted – ref. to dressmaking as mainly done by women?

  8. rrc says:

    this was very enjoyable, and not too taxing,

  9. otter says:

    Thanks Handel, and others. A generally enjoyable crossword, not too taxing on the whole, although it did require some thinking about.

    Like others I thought 10d was lovely, and brought a chuckle when I got it. (Had been struggling with (reptile feline)* until I got an O, then it suddenly came to me.

    Thanks for the parsing of SUSPICION. I had also not seen the ‘a bit’ as the definition.

    I got JANJAWEED for ‘dope and tobacco’, not a spelling variant I’d come across before. I still can’t parse the cryptic part of it. Is there a Jan group of thugs? I’m stumped, if anyone can help me I’d be grateful.

    Agree that 16d is GMT without the G.

    Thought 20a and 22d were rather weak.

    In 19d, is the ‘she’ superfluous? I get a pinner as ‘one which [trans]fixes’, but the ‘she’ mystifies me.

    Thanks in advance.

  10. Gaufrid says:

    The parsing of 23ac is:

    J (Japan) [g]ANJA (knock off good dope) WEED (tobacco)

    The ‘knock off good dope’ needs to be translated as ‘remove g from a word meaning dope’. The definition is ‘group of thugs from Africa’.

  11. Handel says:

    Hi everyone. Thanks for your comments.

    Agree that the ‘she’ in 19dn is superfluous, but it makes for a better surface.

    Apologies for the ‘dd’ in our analysis of 16dn, I’ll correct that in a mo – (Greenwich) was supposed to indicate that GMT had its first word dropped, giving the answer.

    We parsed 23ac as J=Japan followed by (g)anja, which is ‘dope’ with g for good ‘knocked off’ followed by weed for tobacco.

  12. Handel says:

    Curses, beaten to it by Gaufrid!

  13. otter says:

    Many thanks, both. Never heard of it. I shall hie me to a dictionary toot sweet.

  14. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu and otter – and now Handel

    What is the problem with ‘she’ in 19dn? Would you have thought a ‘he’ ‘superfluous’? Perhaps Arachne thought she would give a nod to us few female solvers. :-)

    [I’m reminded of Emmeline Pankhurst: ‘Trust in God. She will deliver us.’]

  15. Handel says:

    My comment on 19dn was clumsily worded – what I meant that there’s no reason why a ‘pinner’ should necessarily be female, but I quite agree that ‘he’ as an automatic second person is abhorent. Just wait till L notices this thread – I’m sure she’ll have plenty to add!

  16. Eileen says:

    Yes, I meant to add that I presumed it was the H half talking! :-)

  17. otter says:

    I meant that a personal pronoun (of either gender) was superfluous, because I was reading ‘pinner’ as ‘something which pins [something else] down’. For instance, I could be pinned down by a large log. I didn’t the sense of ‘pinner’ as ‘a person who fixes with pins [in dress-making]’. In which case no problem with a female pronoun, especially as traditionally, I suppose, the majority of pinners were female.

  18. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen
    :) Pace! I’m hoist by my own petard of mild PC sensibilities. As I’m sure you know, women may grumble if it is assumed that a doctor is male and a nurse female. My comment arose from a sense (incorrect?) that ‘pinning’ (done by a ‘pinner’) while logically gender-neutral would be relatively lowly-ranked if taken to be an occupation or standard part of one (perhaps I’m influenced by the low value of pins in idioms such as pin-money or ‘for two pins’?). I am in no way trying to express a sense of male deprivation or indignation that it wasn’t ‘He’. ‘One transfixes’ would be most sensible but less cryptically misleading and interesting – since the clue as it stands does lead one to try to think of words for woman or girl or their names.

  19. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen
    ps. I see that otter @ 17 has a different line, more in keeping with my original query about dressmaking.

  20. Eileen says:

    Hi otter and tupu

    Just a bit of light-hearted banter, really – why can’t English have a non-gender-specific third person pronoun?

    Re pin-money: I’d always thought this was about pins being expensive, rather than cheap, but then your reference to ‘for two pins’ made me wonder.

    I googled and found this, which seems to explain both:

    “The phrase originated in the Middle Ages in England, when pins were handmade, scarce, and very expensive. Catherine Howard, the ill-fated, later beheaded, fifth wife of Henry VIII, is usually credited with popularizing French-made pins in England in the mid 1500s. To help prevent the hoarding of the limited number of pins by the upper class, a law was passed in England allowing pinmakers to sell their stock only on certain days of the year. This would allow women of all classes to save up enough “pin money” to have the opportunity of buying perhaps at least one pin when the scarce items were next made available.

    When the industrial revolution introduced a glut of pins to the market, the prices dropped, and “pin money” became an expression referring to a wife’s pocket money, regardless of intended use. Now the expression refers to any money earmarked for incidental expenses, regardless of the gender of the saver.”

  21. liz says:

    Thanks, Handel. I breezed through this, enjoying it all the way — and then failed to get 7dn, much to my irritation! Quite a few smiles.

    And thanks to Eileen for fascinating stuff re pin-money!

  22. tupu says:

    Thanks. Interesting re pins. Quite a smart place for angels to be counted!

    You are right re third person in English. Some other languages I’m acquainted with conveniently have gender-free forms – e.g. Swahili and Finnish. I have often been amused by the use of ‘they’ and ‘a friend’ when people prefer to conceal the sex of someone they are seeing and/or talking about. At the same time Finnish and Swahili speakers seem to be quite aware of sexuality, despite sometimes mixing ‘he’ and ‘she’ up when speaking English!

    Finnish also has a word for ‘person’ which is used without the artificiality it often carries in English – so the ordinary Finnish for Neandethal man is (in translation) Neanderthal person, not that ordinary Finns spend a lot of time talking about her/him!

    Of course the other thing about English which slightly overlaps is our common pre-occupation with rank and class. Kipling has a nice poem in which he says ‘For the colonel’s lady and Judy O’Grady are sisters under their skins’. The automatically implied class difference is remarkable when one thinks about it – Judy O’Grady is readily assumed to be an Irish working girl and her basic similarity to the colonel’s lady has to be stated.

  23. Handel says:

    L here. There is no reason why 19 down shouldn’t be a ‘she’. In fact, being a bit contrary, I think that were I to have a gripe about it, it would be more to do with the assumption that a woman would be more likely to ‘transfix’ than a man, tying in with an ages old suspicion of women as bewitchers. But I think that was beyond my thinking as H and I were solving before work this morning, propped up by a large cup of tea each!

  24. FumbleFingers says:

    Maybe this debate on gender in language is drifting off-topic. I’m as pc (post-chauvinist) as the next [person], but I don’t see any harm in cluing PINNER as female. Neutral “one” would be a bit forced, and “he” would be downright perverse.

    Besides which I [stereotypically] assume Arachne is female, and would hardly wish to let the side down. In a contest where frankly I think it’s all over bar the shouting.

  25. tupu says:

    More positively – ‘She’ might be Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

  26. tupu says:

    My last crossed with yours. I suspect you are right about off-track! So it may be best to sign off on this one.

  27. Ian says:

    Thanks Arachne and Handel.

    A puzzle of moderate difficulty that gave me a few smiles along the way.

    As others have said, ‘Tortoiseshell’ was a marvellous clue – and one of the best I’ve come across for quite some time.

    Re 23 ac I’ve always though of excellent dope as ‘Ganga’ thanks Gaufrid (when in Jamaica) though I’m more sure about African thugs in Darfur that I though were called Jinjaweed!!

    10ac is a wonderful piece of clueing.


  28. Sil van den Hoek says:

    As others said, a very enjoyable puzzle [so, thx, Arachne].
    However, also a bit of a mixed bag.

    We thought 20ac, 6d and (to a lesser extent) 22d were weak(ish).

    20ac (UNITE), because the solution is almost the same as a word in the clue.
    And although very simple, we are still confused by it.
    ‘Single’=’unit’? As a noun or an adjective? And in what sense?
    And ‘union’ as the definition? A noun for a verb (UNITE)?
    Is there someone out there who can tell us?

    What we didn’t like in 6d was that the GENERA part of the answer is the plural of ‘genus’, so both are too closely linked.

    The ‘pirates’ in 22d are circling IRATE? We thought, ‘circling’ means ‘going around’ – only the P ans S are circling around ‘irate’. Or ……

    Not everyone will be pleased with S for ‘third base’ [although it is clear to us, of course] and ‘Shrink’ for MINIMISE. ‘Minimise’ goes slightly further than ‘Shrink’.

    Even so, a lot of nice and :) clues to compensate this.
    10d: indeed nice, but we enjoyed 17ac (CONSERVATIVE) just as much, with or without hyphen.
    Another winner was 25 (BIRD CALL), in our world of Twitter.

    Finally, two loose remarks.
    I was a bit surprised by the fact that J=Japan, as the Japanese call their country Nippon. But indeed, it is like that.
    In Eileen’s interesting post (#20), I saw ‘pin money’.
    In Holland ‘to pin money’ means nowadays: get some money out of a “Opportunity for East Germans to enrich themselves?”(4,2,3,4), named after the PIN code on debit cards.
    I just had to think of that.

    All in all, good entertainment with some very nice touches.

  29. brr says:

    Only the second time I’ve tried a puzzle by Arachne (I think). Gave up with 5 unsolved, which isn’t bad for me. I’m so pleased to have solved 10d and experienced the same delight as many others here.

  30. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    re 20a
    Unite is the name of UK’s largest Trade Union with nearly 2 million members.

  31. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Well, tupu, if that’s it – fine then.
    But I still think, for a crossword clue, union/unite is not a happy combination.

  32. Davy says:

    Thanks Handel,

    It’s a bit late to comment but what the hell. I always enjoy Arachne’s puzzles and this was no exception.
    I thought that 10a was just brilliant and ‘Tory in Lab disguise’ is just a perfect description of Mr Blair.
    10d was also excellent but the clue has had enough praise already.

    Do I detect a note of mysoginism creeping in at #24 ?. You’re not letting the side down matey, you’re letting yourself down. Let’s have no more of these juvenile sentiments.

  33. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    :) I was simply helping you with your request – “Is there someone out there who can tell us?”. No criticism or praise of the clue as a whole intended.

  34. Davy says:

    Final thought on 20a :-

    UNIT+E = UNITE = name of union

    Can’t see what’s wrong with that.

  35. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Davy, there is nothing wrong with thát.
    [well, apart from the fact that it’s not really very good]

    I just wanted to know why UNITE = ‘Union’ – and thx to tupu I know it now.
    And maybe you could explain me next in what sense ‘single’=’unit’ (see #28)?
    [I just like to know, that’s all]

  36. FumbleFingers says:

    Davy @32 – point taken, ok?

  37. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Handel.
    A bit late getting here,but I must say that I enjoyed this one a lot.Like everyone else thought 10 down was brilliant and also loved the Tony blair anagram.
    One point re 23 across,which I don’t think has been made,the tobacco part of the clue is superfluous – ganja weed is dope.

  38. tupu says:

    Hi Sil @35
    Singularity seems to be the defining quality of ‘unit’ e.g. Chambers defines it as ‘One, a single thing or person, a single element’. There is a shift from noun to adjective as you say (and dislike) but ‘unit’ is a decent answer to the question ‘What is fundamentally single?’

    Scarpia @37 I suppose that ganja = dope and weed = tobacco (whatever the two mean together).

  39. scarpia says:

    tupu @38.
    I agree with what you say but my point is, the clue works equally well without the “tobacco” part.

  40. walruss says:

    ‘Single’ doesn’t equal ‘unit’ for me, and it is typical of what the compilers are allowed to get away with in The Guardian’s puzzles. Also, UNIT is pretty much the root sense of UNITE, as in come together as one, and there’s no extra change of meaning worth the candle in the union’s name. It just means ‘unite’!

  41. Frances says:

    Late as ever. Great puzzle for me as a beginner and thanks to the many explanations especially the impossible 7d and 23a.

    Re 25a, how does ‘Bird’ = ‘Nick’.
    I held off putting this one in for ages as these words don’t seem synonymous to me. Surely one “does bird” or one is “in the nick”. Am I missing something?

  42. Tokyo Colin says:

    Late again, still catching up.
    Sil@28, the Japanese name for their own country is actually pronounced ‘Nihon’ but sports teams etc. are ‘Nippon’. No-one here can tell me why…

  43. Scarpia says:

    Frances@ 41.
    Bird and nick are both slang words for prison.

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