Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,083 (Sat 7 Aug)/Araucaria – Holy smoke

Posted by rightback on August 14th, 2010


Solving time: Don’t know (clock stopped while solving), but at least 15 mins by the time I concluded that I didn’t know the word at 13ac; 25ac and 15dn also wrong.

I started slowly on this (only 3 answers in the first 3 mins) and continued in the same vein, finishing with three errors. This was probably about right difficulty-wise for a prize puzzle, but there were few convincing surface readings, some dubious wordplays and nothing that will stick in my memory (except hopefully the words I didn’t know!).

Music of the day: A curious Irish folk song, The Banks of Newfoundland, which may not merit more than one listen but might help me to remember the word ‘holystone’.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

1 STREAMING + COLD – hmm. This might be a reasonably well-used phrase but its validity as an answer is questionable. The normal rule is that all answers have to be dictionary phrases in their own right, so ‘catch cold’ or ‘cold snap’ would be ok but this phrase isn’t any more acceptable than ‘tall building’ or ‘screaming child’ would be.
10 CRICKET MATCH – ’11s’ in this case meaning ‘teams of eleven’.
11 EARLY ON; EARL (= ‘One of 14 [Lords]’) + YON (= ‘that’)
12 OFFER; OF + FER (= ‘iron from Paris’, i.e. ‘iron’ in French)
13 HOLYSTONE; HOLY S[ain]T ONE – wholly unconvinced by this. The breakdown is a nice idea, but there are a number of problems: ‘holy saint’ is tautologous, St Peter was not (a little research suggests) the first saint in any way (that was St Ulrich of Augsburg), although he was arguably the first Pope, but most seriously there is nothing ‘etymological’ about this (‘cryptically’ might have been better). Anyway, to ‘holystone’ means to scrub a ship’s decks with a holystone (sandstone). I didn’t know this and entered ‘hellsbore’ (which isn’t even a word – I was thinking of ‘hellebore’ which is apparently a plant), which looked marginally more likely than ‘hillslope’ or the Batmanesque ‘holysmoke’. [Correction: the wordplay is actually ‘holy stone’, since ‘Peter’ comes from the Greek for ‘stone’. This also explains ‘etymologically’ satisfactorily. Thanks to Tokyo Colin for pointing this out.]
14 LORDS – as in the House of Lords and Lord’s cricket ground where I had the enormous pleasure of watching England dismantle Australia last year.
16 EDGBASTON; (GETS ON BAD)* – where England are, as I speak, thrashing a Pakistan side in a state of total disarray. It’s a shame that ‘Gets on bad’ is so ungrammatical. This was a breakthrough solve for me as I quickly put in the other cricket-related answers.
18 ACTION MAN; ACT 1 + ON + MAN (= ‘island’)
19 POSIT; P.O. (= ‘postal order’) + SIT
20 MARSH ARAB; (ABRAHAM’S R[ight]) – not in Chambers, but these are inhabitants of Mesopotamia.
23 DECK + O – a glance.
24 SECONAL; SEAL around CON – ‘a hypnotic and soporific barbiturate’. Sounds amazing.
25 SIBERIA; I.B. (= International Baccalaureate) in SERIA – apparently ‘opera seria’ is Italian for ‘serious opera’. I thought the answer must be ‘subarea’ but (unsurprisingly) couldn’t explain it.
26 FRESH AS A DAISY; rev. of SERF + HAS, + AY (= ‘always’) around DAIS (= ‘platform’)
2 TAIL FIRST; (A1 + L + FIRST FIRS) in TT (= Tourist Trophy = ‘races’) [corrected – thanks Myrvin]
3 ESKER; ESK + E + R – a gravelly ridge. Nice clue, although the link word ‘with’ is a bit awkward. The Esk is in Eskdale and (I once discovered to my cost during a mountain race) rather less crossable than you might think. There is a fantastic swimming pool near the top, though.
5 NEEDLE GUN; NEED + LEG + U.N. (= ‘international body’) – I knew this phrase but not of its Prussian origins.
6 CARD SHARP; D.S. (= Detective Sergeant) after CAR, + HARP (= ‘instrument’)
7 LAY TO (hidden backwards) – well hidden, I wasted time trying to do something with ‘booty’ = ‘loot’ and thinking ‘raised’ would give ‘up’.
8 SCHOOLMARMISH; SCHOOL (= ‘A lot of fish’) + MARMI[te] + SH (= ‘say nothing’) – having spotted the answer I still took a long time to understand the wordplay because I was fixed on ‘marmalade’ instead of Marmite.
9 INTERNATIONAL; INTERN (= ‘Confine’) + AT + IONA (= ‘island’) + L[enin] – apparently an ‘International’ is an international socialist organisation; more here.
15 SHOSHONES; SH (= ‘Don’t talk’) + ON (= ‘about’), all in SHOES – another word I didn’t know, and I guessed ‘Shoshunes’ (from ‘shun’ in ‘shoes’, which fits the wordplay if you accept ‘don’t talk’ = ‘shun’).
16 ESMARALDA ESMERALDA [corrected – thanks Bryan]; (DAMSEL)* around ERA – a gypsy from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
17 TEST CARDS; TEST (= ‘international’) + CARDS (= ‘pack’)
21 RE + CUR
22 BASTA[rd] – Italian and Spanish, and used in Shakespeare.
23 DUBYA; (BUY)* in D.A. (= District Attorney)

44 Responses to “Guardian 25,083 (Sat 7 Aug)/Araucaria – Holy smoke”

  1. plutocrat says:

    13 across. Thought this was a reference to Peter the Rock.

  2. Biggles A says:

    13. I agree with plutocrat – thou art Peter and upon this rock I shall build my church.

    6. I had thought it was D in cars, ie on wheels, but I know it is difficult to be in more than one car at any one time so I couldn’t explain the extra S.

  3. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Rightback I really enjoyed this, although 13a and 15d were new to me. Otherwise, I considered it fairly easy for a Prize Puzzle.

    So much so that I finished it over breakfast and then I had to buy a Times to take with me on the train. Consequently, I am now £1.50 out of pocket.

  4. Bryan says:

    Oh yes: there’s a typo in your blog re 16d.

  5. Myrvin says:

    Last one in was SIBERIA. Had to find how IB fitted.
    Took a while to get the cricket refs. EDGBASTON late in, even though I was at University there.
    Never heard of HOLYSTONE. I was trying to fit ROCK in – from Peter. But no problem with it – I agree with the others.
    2d: I didn’t like FIRST in the clue and answer.
    Didn’t know 3.
    Had OBAMA instead of DUBYA for ages.
    And TIE UP instead of LAY UP.
    No problem with 1a, but I didn’t try to look it up. You are right rightback it isn’t in Chambers. Nor is MARSH ARAB.
    I though OPERA SERIA was one that went on and on and on like a series. Still better that East Enders.
    I had just watched a cartoon version of The Hunchback, with ESMERALDA in it. Still got the middle E & A the wrong way round.

  6. Tokyo Colin says:

    Thanks Rightback. I enjoyed this and had no real difficulty. I had at least a faint awareness of all of the words used except NEEDLE GUN but that was an easy solve from the wordplay. 13ac didn’t need any religious knowledge, the given name Peter is derived from the Greek word for stone.

  7. DadsLad says:

    Thanks Rightback.

    Fairly straightforward once the cricket theme emerged. A couple of dictionary checks. Seem to remember from history at Unee that there were several Internationals – First, Second etc – though confusingly any one of them could often be referred to as The International.

    Like others I had no difficulty with holystone. Although the Jesus’s rock allusion had me cringing at the memory of Burrell’s self-serving interview about Princess Diana…….

  8. tupu says:

    Thanks rightback and Araucaria

    No serious problems. Less amusing than some. The cricket theme was more restricted and less entertaining than we sometimes get.

    I agree with several earlier comments. I did not know the word in 12 but guessed it easily.
    Streaming cold is a well-known idiom (unlike tall building). I had to guess seconal.

    Siberia caused me some difficulty – there were some unsatisfying alternatives (Alberta, Liberia – not quite regions) till ‘basta’, and then it wasn’t at first easy to check in Chambers. Esker also needed checking.

    Marsh Arabs are well known through their fate under Saddam and celebrated travel writing. Shoshones possibly demands a mis-spent youth watching westerns in the local cinema or just a keener than average interest in Native North Americans.

    PO in 19 caught me nicely by surprise.

    Best clues were 2d – misleadingly hard to get and parse, and 26 (well constructed). Although the answer was ‘mundane’ 10, 4 raised a smile.

  9. Davy says:

    Thanks rightback,

    Contrary to most comments up to now, I didn’t find this at all easy. I did half of it on the Saturday, came back to it on the Sunday after completing Everyman, looked at it for half an hour and got precisely nothing.
    Then I got a couple more and slowly the light began to filter through although it took me an eternity to see
    INTERNATIONAL. From there on, it was pretty straightforward. I thought the EDGBASTON anagram was good even though the clue was not grammatical but this is what you get from the Libertarian setters.

    I really enjoyed this puzzle and it’s like being a detective, solving some of Araucaria’s crosswords.
    Great stuff.

  10. rightback says:

    Thanks for the corrections (2dn and 16dn). ‘Esmaralda’ was an ironic typo, as I usually misspell it ‘Esmerelda’.

    Thanks to Tokyo Colin for pointing out that ‘Peter’ is derived from the Greek for ‘stone’. This explains why ‘St Peter’ = ‘holy stone’, etymologically – nothing to do with ‘holy st one’ (although most commenters seemed happy with that!).

    ‘Streaming cold’ might be a well-known idiom (#8), but it produces barely a sixth of the hits on Google that ‘tall building’ gets. There has to be some kind of convention governing the validity of answers, and for multi-word phrases the usual rule is that they have to appear in their own right in a dictionary, otherwise someone who has never heard of the phrase/idiom has no way of checking it or knowing that it’s right or even what it means.

    An interesting slant on the ‘Libertarian’ question from Davy (#9). I think I’m generally more inclined to forgive a slightly dubious or ungrammatical surface reading than a clue whose cryptic reading doesn’t make proper sense. But I have to remember that this is the Guardian and that one out of two is pretty good!

  11. crikey says:

    Agree with Myrvin at #5 re 1d – a bit lame to have “first” in the clue as well as the answer, particularly when the surface isn’t that great.

  12. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks, Rightback, though I must admit I was not happy with your explanation for 13a – but then I’m a Catholic, and my Dad’s name was Peter, so I know a bit about where the name comes from :)

    Like Davy @9, it took me two days to get into this, mainly because I’d made a few hasty entries, such as ‘streaming NOSE’ for 1a, and, once into the cricket theme (via ‘Edgbaston’), I hastily put in ‘Earl’s Ct.’ for 11a, to go with Lords’, envisaging a match between two London sides – obviously my knowledge of cricket is extremely rusty.

    Having put right these blunders, the puzzle fell into shape quite nicely. Unlike others, I have no difficulty in spelling Spanish words 😉

    I had to look up ‘esker’, ‘shoshones’ and ‘marsh Arabs’, but they were gettable.

  13. tupu says:

    Hi rightback
    Sorry if I seemed nitpicking re tall building. I simply took your point that it is just a combination of an adjective with a noun. Streaming cold is an idiomatic phrase, seemingly less well known than I imagine, but I see it as such more like ‘tall story’.

  14. tupu says:

    Hi Myrvin (and Crikey)

    Re 2 down. I too wondered at first re ‘first’ but I decided in the end that it was good because it was so misleading rather than simply repetitive.

    :) Myrvin re rightback @10 and tupu@13. Now some Tutsi are really tall!

  15. Biggles A says:

    #10. plutocrat and I may not have spelled it out in detail but I would have thought it was plain enough that Peter = rock = stone and that saints are holy.

  16. rightback says:

    Ah, I see what you meant. I suppose ‘Petros’ in Greek meant both ‘stone’ or ‘rock’ and the name ‘Peter’, and ‘Peter the Rock’ was a slightly contrived English translation to preserve the metaphor. There’s a more detailed discussion of the linguistics here.

  17. Martin H says:

    I enjoyed this – one of those puzzles that comes at you from all directions; great clueing variety, plenty of interesting words: learned needle-gun and holystone (the only reading of this clue that makes sense is the one outlined by Biggles A).

    ‘Streaming cold’ appears in the Cambridge International Dictionary of English and the current Cambridge Advanced Learners’ Dictionary, for what that’s worth. Agreed these don’t claim to be definitive as Chambers etc, but the phrase is shown as one which is in familiar current use. I didn’t think twice about it.

  18. rrc says:

    I thought tail first was clued fairly, I liked streaming cold although I have been known to take issue that there is no absolute authority on another crossword I do which does make life difficult especially when using obsure words or phrases.this one how ever I enjoyed.

  19. Stella Heath says:

    Linguists distinguish between ‘idioms’, ‘common phrases’ and ‘juxtapositions’.

    The first would refer to phrases which are often used metaphorically, even if totally out of context, but with a commonly understood meaning.

    A common phrase is one which is often used as such, but usually within a specific context, while a juxtaposition would be the common use of two words which are often found together. Thus, ‘rain or shine’ is a phrase, not an idiom, and a ‘streaming cold’, like ‘pouring rain’, is a juxtaposition, whereas ‘raining cats and dogs’ is an idiom.

    You might hear a foreigner talk of ‘streaming rain’, and it would jar, but you could have difficulty explaining why :)

  20. muck says:

    I had to check 3dn ESKER, and guessed 25ac S(IB)ERIA without knowing ‘seria’

  21. Stella Heath says:

    I knew of ‘opera buffa’, and ‘seria’ was an obvious opposite, at least for me.

  22. tupu says:

    Hi Stella

    Thanks for that. It is thought provoking. I have not been able to verify that terminology in the linguistics texts at my disposal, but you do seem strictly speaking to be right that idioms are defined as fixed expressions whose meaning is conventional rather than strictly deducible from the literal meaning of their component elements. By this (or closely similar) definition, ‘streaming cold’ is not an idiom.

    I suspect though that one might well call it ‘idiomatic’ in the everyday use of that word.

    Crystal writes of various forms of ‘collocations’ and the degree of statistical predictability of the terms used in them. In that respect “streaming?” is quite likely to evoke “cold” in the mind of an English speaker.

    My guess is that the more ‘types’ one tries to impose, the harder it will be to handle the boundaries between them. I find it hard to see a clear distinction between what you term ‘common phrase’ and ‘juxtaposition’, while ‘rain or shine’ seems to me to be pretty close to qualifying for ‘idiom’ status since its reference can simply be to regularity rather than weather conditions.

    As you say, translating or ‘explaining’ such ‘collocations’ can be a nightmare at times.

  23. tupu says:

    Hi Stella
    I should have said Stella @19 having taken too long to write the above!

  24. sidey says:

    “You might hear a foreigner talk of ’streaming rain’, and it would jar, but you could have difficulty explaining why ”

    But rain often streams down windows 😉

  25. Stella Heath says:

    Nice, Sidey.

    Hi tupu,

    I don’t claim my terminology is exact, since I’ve been off work for a long time and the only reference book I have here in my living room is Chambers.

    In any case, different specialists use different terms, and as far as I know there is little common lexicology for these things. The point I wanted to make a little clearer (with your permission, RB) is that what I call above a ‘juxtapostition’ is sufficiently common as to be allowable, even if it doesn’t appear as such in a dictionary.

    BTW, has anyone tackled today’s Prize?

  26. Myrvin says:

    Yup! Done the prize. May I help?

  27. rightback says:

    We should not really discuss today’s prize crossword on the blog until after the closing date.

  28. tupu says:

    Hi Stella @25
    Thanks. I take your point, we seem to be in broad agreement.

  29. Stella Heath says:

    Hi, tupu – as per usual, I find :)

    Thanks for the offer, Myrvin, but my question was literally by the way. So don’t worry, RB, we’ll have plenty to discuss next Sat.

  30. Myrvin says:

    I’m sure you were only interested in my views on the grid layout and whether it was a really nasty nasty Paul.

  31. beermagnet says:

    Coincidentally ESKER was one of the recent words on the daily “Word-a-day” email which I recommend and which you can sign up to here:

  32. Biggles A says:

    rightback @16. Please forgive my note of petulance. I had checked your reference and found the whole subject quite absorbing and educational, representing as it does one of the major points of difference between Catholics and Protestants. There is a difference between petros and petra but it is debatable whether it would have been clear at the time.

  33. MikeS says:

    Bit late to make a comment but I tutted a bit at the definitions of Lords and Edgbaston as International Cricket ‘Matches’. It also seemed rather too easy to me for a prize puzzle. But I found yesterdays Paul to be hugely enjoyable – should make for an interesting blog next week.

  34. Little Dutch Girl says:

    Loved this one – despite the cricket references and a weapon of destruction. At least the former was confined to grounds and not field positions.

    DadsLad @7 your history is spot on. Possibly the most famous International is the 4th held in 1938 which marked the split between Trotsky and Stalin.

    Beermagnet @31 your site looked interesting but is it run by Americans? I am not a fan of the way they abuse the English language.

    Paul’s in yesterday’s paper is a real challenge – we’ve finished it but don’t understand some of the answers. However we agree with the convention about waiting until next Saturday. So we are looking forward to reading the blog next week. Good luck whoever’s turn it is.

    Those who can’t wait can try

    Admin – link deleted

    but the discussion doesn’t match this blog! So thanks rightback for this one.

  35. Eileen says:

    Little Dutch Girl

    I don’t want to be too 8dn, but as rightback indicated # 27, we just don’t reckon to do that kind of thing on this site.

  36. Little Dutch Girl says:

    Sorry Eileen @35 I think you misunderstood. I don’t approve of spoilers. So I was agreeing with rightback.

  37. Eileen says:

    I don’t think I misunderstood: it seems disingenuous to say you’re not in favour of spoilers and then provide a link to one! It’s just something we’ve never done here and I feel really strongly about. This is not that kind of site – I hope! :-)

  38. Little Dutch Girl says:

    Dear Eileen

    Then perhaps it was intention that was misunderstood. I do come across on this blog (at least what I think are) spoilers from time to time. So I was just making a contribution to re-direct that. However I’m not the owner of the site so I shouldn’t have done it. I apologise for any offence I have caused.
    I have now edited my earlier post and removed the link. (Gosh that was a new skill I acquired – so thank you for that.)
    I trust that my comment at #34 is now acceptable.

  39. Eileen says:

    Thanks for that, Little Dutch Girl. Perhaps I was being over-sensitive and -protective.

    [I don’t understand what you mean about editing your post, though: I think there are a number of us who would love to be able to do that but don’t know how!]

  40. Little Dutch Girl says:

    Hello Eileen
    By editing my post I mean deleting and adding text after I’ve submitted it. I can tell you how to do it but I realise that I can edit everyone’s entry not only my own. You may not want me to post that. Can you read my email address? If so I’m happy for you to contact me personally.

    I don’t think you are being over-sensitive and over-protective. You and your colleagues set this blog up as volunteers. You are entitled to set the rules. You had your vision of how the blog should run. There are other sites people can choose who would prefer different rules. I like this blog and get a lot of enjoyment and enlightenment out of it.

  41. Eileen says:

    Hi LDG

    Am I beeing extraordinarily dim? I still don’t understand what you mean by editing your poat 34, which is still exactly the same as it was originally, including the link!

    For the record, I [fortuitously] discovered 15² only two and a half years ago. It has been going for considerably longer than that and I certainly had no part in setting up either the site or the rules! I’m just an ordinary solver / commenter, like yourself, who became a blogger – something which is open to all contributors, as you will see in the ‘About Fifteensquared’ thread – and Gaufrid’s very timely Announcement!

  42. Little Dutch Girl says:

    Hi Eileen

    Now isn’t that interesting and no you are not being dim. On my screen the link doesn’t show any more – I deleted that section. Hmmm….. I will think about what is going on!

  43. rrc says:


    thanks for that link – that was one I didnt know. I feel that it may be useful in the future.

  44. Gaufrid says:

    Please, no more off-topic talk about editing comments. This is not possible unless you are either the site administrator (me) or the author of the post in which the comment appears.

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