Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,101 (Sat 28 Aug)/Araucaria (Bank Holiday Jumbo) – Plateresque

Posted by rightback on September 4th, 2010


Solving time: An hour before turning to references to fill in the blanks (54ac, 45dn) and correct the mistakes (21dn, 36dn); still unsure about 7dn.

This was a tribute to the prolific English playwright Alan Plater, who died in June. There were plenty of thematic titles and part-titles crammed into the grid (and I may not have seen them all), as well as Plater’s name at 10dn (hence the titles being ‘defined’ by ’10′s’), and the three symmetrical 23-letter answers were very nice. All this came at a price, though: the grid wasn’t great (several answers had less than half of their letters checked by a crossing answer) and included therein were some obscure answers (fair enough), some just-about-plausible non-dictionary phrases (hmm) and a couple of wholly unsatisfactory ‘solutions’ (the worst being the ridiculous EAT DOG at 45dn or possibly FLETCHER’S FLY at 33dn, which I don’t understand). Still, I enjoyed most of the solving process. RIP, Mr Plater.

(Plateresque, by the way, is a marvellous word which has nothing to do with Alan Plater but is an architectural term derived from the Spanish platero meaning ‘silversmith’.)

Music of the day: Misterioso (54ac) by Thelonius Monk was a strong candidate until I listened to it, but Shirley (32dn) by Billy Bragg was the clear winner. “How can you lie back and think of England // When you don’t even know who’s in the team?”: genius.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’. Thematic answers and references are in red.

11 REVOLVER SHOT; REV (= ‘parson’) + OL[i]VER’S + HOT (= ‘dangerous’) – a dubious answer phrase to kick off, and ‘I leave’ doesn’t make any cryptic sense since ‘I’ in this sense requires a verb in the third person. Oliver’s Travels is the first Plater play.
13 WHOLE WORLD; (LEW + O) in WHORL (the answer to clue 24) + D (= ’500′) – another non-dictionary phrase. ‘Lew’ is the late media mogul Lew Grade – worth remembering for Araucaria puzzles.
14 HULL TRUCK THEATRE COMPANY; HULL (= ‘naval body’) + TRUCK (= ‘traffic’) + THE + (RATE)* + COMPANY – ‘Theatre Company’ was gettable but I guessed ‘Hull Truck’ without any conviction whatsoever. ‘Full price’ was a tempting red herring. The surface reading here is pretty good.
18 HOT DOG STALL; HOT (= ‘Dangerous’) + DOGS (= ‘beasts’) + TALL (= ‘hard to believe’) – a good clue, but a pity that ‘dangerous’ = HOT was used three clues previously.
22 SCRUTINY; “SCREW” + TINY – referring to the novel The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
24 WHORL; WHO (= ‘Doctor’) + R,L (= ‘both sides’)
25 TANAISTE (hidden) – well done if you knew this! It’s the deputy prime minister of Ireland. Looks a useful Scrabble word, but unfortunately it’s capitalised (although the cognate Celtic words tanist(s) and tanistry are not).
26,4 SOMEWHAT; SO (= ‘like this’) + MEW (= ‘catcall’) + HAT (= ’tile’) – I thought the surface reading here might be a nod to the play Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.
30 KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING; rev. of PEEK, + (HEATS)*, + PIAF around (DIRTS)*, + LYING (= ‘untrue’) – Piaf is the singer Édith Piaf. I’ve come across this play before (in clues to ‘aspidistra’) but couldn’t have named the author.
39 IRIDIAE; I RIDE (= ‘I’m on a horse’) + A + E (= ‘point’) – a flag is an iris, and this is their formal name. Not the best clue, with ‘at’ and ‘with’ being superfluous, but I liked the use of ‘I RIDE’.
40 SAGA; SAG (= ‘droop’) + A (= ‘first’) – Plater adapted The Fosdyke Saga.
41 SCALIGER; (CASE + GIRL)* – Julius and his son Joseph were scholars with possible Veronese connections. Rather an obscure answer.
42 A TOLL – a dud clue, since ‘Bikini’ (referring to Bikini Atoll) needs a capital.
43 COCOONED; COCO (= ‘Chanel’) + ONE + D[aughter] – the wordplay saved me here: I always want to spell this ‘cacoon’ (which is a word but means something totally different).
44 BEIDERBECKE; BE around (EIDER + BECK) – another that I pieced together from the wordplay but was amazed to find was correct, especially given the unlikely ‘E’ it presented in 45dn (of which more later). More info here.
49 I THOUGHT I HEARD A RUSTLING; I (= ‘first’) + THOUGH (= ‘nevertheless’), + rev. of HIT, + EAR (= ‘listener’), + DARING around (LUST)* – a reasonably convincing surface for such a complex wordplay, although I’m not convinced by ‘unbridled’ as an anagram indicator.
54 MISTERIOSO; MISTER (= ‘fellow’) + IOS (= ’10′s’) + O (= ’round’) – don’t think I’d have got this if I’d spent all day on it, especially with an incorrect checking letter from 36dn.
55 ICONOCLASTIC; I (= ‘one’) + (OCCASION + TLC)* – a good surface reading but an anagram indicator (instead of just ‘needed’) would have been nice.
2,16,52 COALHOUSE DOOR; (CAROUSEL HOODO[o])* – when solving I thought ‘musical to close’ gave the ‘L’, with ‘breaking’ being the inclusion indicator and no anagram indicator. Looking again, the clue works better if ‘endless’ refers to the whole phrase ‘carousel hoodoo’. The play (actually a musical, hence the clue) was Close The Coalhouse Door.
3,9 A VERY BRITISH COUP; BRAVERY (with the BR moved) + IT IS + H[ot] + CO[mpany] + UP (= ‘exalted’) – ‘start to finish’ indicating that more than one letter must be moved is very cheeky, but I had to smile. On the other hand, the last word of ’11′ to which the clue refers is ‘shot’ and not ‘hot’ (which is the last part of the wordplay to that answer), so I think this clue is faulty too.
5 UTTER; THEN removed from THE NUTTER – ‘remove’ can be a noun, so this stilted surface reading is just about viable. I think I have heard of this play but again wouldn’t have known the author.
6 TWIT (2 defs)
7 DOG-END – given the reference to 18 (‘hot dog stall’) I think this must be correct; my best suggestion is that the reference to Plater is that he was a heavy smoker. I think the apostrophe in ‘reject’s’ might be erroneous.
8 BELONGINGS – the play is Belonging.
10 ALAN PLATER; A + (PLAN)*, all in ALTER (= ‘change’)
17 DEWDROP; D[eposited] in (POWDER)* – a well-worded, simple, accurate clue.
19 OFLAG; O + FLAG (see 30ac)
20 TRINITY; IN IT in TRY – referring to Trinity Tales.
21 JOE MADDISON; M[en] in JOE ADDISON – so close! I knew how this worked and thought I’d heard of an essayist called ‘Addison’ but didn’t know his first name, so guessed ‘Tom Maddison’. In fact it wasn’t Thomas (or Ronald, my second guess) but Joseph Addison.
23 CLOSE; C[apello] + LOSE – a topical football dig at Fabio’s expense. Talking of sport, what have AS Nancy, Stade Français and the Pakistan cricket team got in common? They all played Toulouse last weekend.
25 TEA TREE; T[h]EATRE + E[nglish]
28 TRAILER (2 defs, sort of) – ‘goes before’ as in a film trailer and ‘comes after’ as in something that trails.
31 PEBBLED; [ca]PE B[on] – a nod to Sonnet 60, I think. I had heard of Lake Bled, although I can never remember whether places are in Slovenia or Slovakia. Cape Bon is in Tunisia, apparently, but fortunately I didn’t need to know that.
32 SHIRLEY; SH + “EARLY” – the ‘IRLEY’ bit took me an age and I kicked myself when I got it. This novel was Charlotte Brontë’s follow-up to Jane Eyre.
33 FLETCHER’S FLY; FLETCHERS (= ‘people who make arrows’) + FLY – the wordplay here seems unambiguous but I can’t link this to any play of Plater’s or to Beiderbecke (’44′ in the clue). Possibly it’s FLETCHERS rather than FLETCHER’S, and possibly the title is a partial one?
34 NUGAE (alternate letters) – a Latin word for things of little value.
36 ORCHESTRIC; [t]ORCHES’ TRIC[k] – ‘Almost all of…’ meaning ‘Remove the first and last letters of…’ is not cricket (but then, neither is cricket at the moment). I guessed ‘orchestral’ but obviously couldn’t justify it, and failed on 54ac as a result (although I doubt I’d have got it anyway).
37 HIGH REGARD – a pun on ‘up’.
38 SPARK (2 defs) – the author Muriel Spark.
43 CHEERIO; CHEER (= ‘applause’) + IO (= ’10′) – a misleading ’10′, as in 54ac.
45 EAT DOG – an allusion to the phrase ‘dog won’t eat dog’ (not ‘dog-eat-dog’, which is actually how I stumbled upon the answer), but this sums up why this puzzle left me feeling very unsatisfied; ‘eat dog’ clearly isn’t a phrase in its own right and has just been shoehorned into the grid to fit a letter pattern which has resulted from overdoing the number of thematic entries. Worse, the clue is contorted, when an iffy phrase (and this is worse than iffy) at least deserves a straightforward wordplay. If I’d known ‘Beiderbecke’ was right I might have got this, but because I didn’t I saw the pattern ‘E?T ?O?’, decided ‘Beiderbecke’ must be wrong and eventually gave up.
47,40 RONNIE SCOTT; (NINE’S)* + COT, all in ROT – apparently Alan Plater spent a lot of time at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. I’ve put it in red, but this seems a tenuous thematic link.
48 MAGIC; G.I. in MAC
50 OATH (hidden) – ‘language’ as in swearing.
51 HOOP; rev. of POOH – because a hoop rolls, I suppose.
53,15,35 LAST OF THE BLONDE BOMBSHELLS; a charade in which LAST = ‘model foot’ (as in a cobbler’s last), BLONDE = ‘fair’ and BOMBSHELLS = ‘shockers’ – a satisfying solve after lots of trying in which ‘Last of the bloody cubbyholes’ was the prime candidate for a while, once I’d ruled out the possibility of another long anagram.

24 Responses to “Guardian 25,101 (Sat 28 Aug)/Araucaria (Bank Holiday Jumbo) – Plateresque”

  1. JS says:

    Thanks rightback.
    I enjoyed this – a lot of it, of course, involved searching online for references to AP’s works and figuring out how the clues worked. Obviously some were better than others but overall I thought it was a tremendous feat to be able to produce a puzzle such as this with so many references to the subject’s work (and life style!) Araucaria on great form – wonderful!

    I actually thought 33d – ‘Fletchers Fly’ was one of if not the best clue of them all. The wording of the clue was just brilliant IMO:

    “What you never see in 10′s concept is the 44 people who make arrows move through the air (9,3)”

    This paragraph from The Guardian’s obituary of AP should make it clear.

    “His work always soared when he incorporated elements of the surreal, as exemplified in the work of one of his heroes, Spike Milligan, or indeed his own juggling and acrobatic act, the Forty-Four Flying Fletchers, in his student days. The acrobatics were minimal, the juggling invisible. The act always began with an announcement that, unfortunately, 41 of the Flying Fletchers had been rendered indisposed with a pulled muscle: “Here are the other three.” Plater and two pals then marched on to the stage in string vests, baggy shorts and false moustaches. When they took their bows after an hour or so of invisible juggling, a hail of tennis balls rained down from the flies. They usually performed with a deaf drummer.”

  2. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Rightback

    I really struggled to complete this even after I had discovered the thematic Plater because I knew virtually nothing about him or his works.

    Having obtained a partial list of his works (he evidently wrote some 200) I made good progress until I stumbled over the references to his place of birth (Hull) and favourite night club (Ronnie Scott’s).

    45d EAT DOG was my last entry because I couldn’t think of anything better.

    Incidentally, both his wives were called SHIRLEY so maybe this was also thematic?

    I would never had made it without extensive Internet searching (which I try to avoid) but ultimately I was rewarded by solving it 100% as I have now discovered.

    The Annotated Solution explains 33d so:

    33* Fletchers fly [a fletcher makes arrows; his student juggling and acrobatic act was called "Forty-four Flying Fletchers, though there were only three people involved],,2307329,00.html

    Many thanks Araucaria for providing a challenging Bank Holiday experience.

  3. Tokyo Colin says:

    Thanks Rightback. I would echo JS’s comments. There was no way I could have contemplated this without full use of aids (having never heard of Alan Plater, or indeed most of his works) but felt very satisfied to complete it. It was made more difficult because I couldn’t find a complete listing of his works and so had to resort to guess at something matching the wordplay and crossing letters and then Googling to check. No easy feat for words like Beiderbecke and Misterioso. The “dog”-related clues were the most difficult for me and the last 3 or 4 to go in. But overall I enjoyed the hunt and was well-pleased with myself when it was done. Another complication was the size of the grid and the limitations of the iPhone screen, lots of scrolling around.

    Favourite clue/answer – 5dn, (the n)UTTER.

  4. Biggles A says:

    I didn’t like this one much. Alan Plater’s name emerged easily enough, even if the special instruction didn’t register, but it didn’t mean much to me so it became an exercise in tracking down his works and life history on the internet which isn’t how I like to solve cryptic crosswords. I really doubt that many – or any – of us could have derived the answers from the clues alone, it was more a matter of finding the solution and justifying it from the clue. Or deriving it from the crossing letters and searching for confirmation from the websites.

    Then while some of the clues were straightforward, others were notably absent from my reference books and online sources. 36 and 39 held me up at the last for this reason; I knew what the answers had to be but couldn’t find the confirmation.

    I find both Plater’s wives were Shirleys so thought that could have been worked into the clue for 32.

    Most of which proves my abysmal ignorance of modern British drama.

    In 14 “two is company” explains the – 2 at the end of the clue best I think.

  5. Pasquale says:

    Despite my well-publicised misgivings about the libertarianism of Araucaria, I generally enjoy his puzzles — they are part of my Sat. a.m. routine. I’ve long been a fan of the bank holiday specials with their thematic inventiveness. This one, though, left me chilly of not cold. The computer search was just too much, and after getting a few that way without working out the build-up of the clues, I gave up. Sorry about that — but I am happy for those who stuck it out and enjoyed it. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the next one.

  6. tupu says:

    Thanks rightback and Araucaria

    I cheated a little by setting out at the beginning to discover the subject AP.

    I tried to restrict my use of google and managed to solve several theme clues from the words but ultimately had to mop up the tail end.

    Several clues were very clever I thought, and I particularly liked 22, 26, 29, 30, 55,51 and 48.

    I think rightback is right re 7d.

    Re Sacliger – there is a strong connection. The Scaligers were Lords of verona. See

    Overall, I ended up admiring this puzzle, rather than feeling strong affection for it, even though there were many clever and amusing clues. I felt it was a bit too big for the subject matter even though Plater was a much loved dramatist and ‘national treasure’. On the other hand, judging from other comments, I seem to have felt more guilty about resorting to google than I need have been.

  7. Eileen says:

    I totally agree with JS and the price you mention, rightback, was for me, worth paying – except for EAT DOG, which I didn’t get!

    The Guardian obituary [well worth rereading, anyway] was a valuable resource:

    referring to

    the jazz-loving, heroically cigarette-smoking, Hull City-supporting Plater’ who

    ‘virtually lived in Ronnie Scott’s jazz club’ .

    It also refers to Selwyn Froggitt’s catchphrase, ‘MAGIC’ [14dn.]

  8. Davy says:

    Thanks rightback,

    I’m afraid I’ll have to agree with Pasquale here. I completed about half the puzzle over the weekend and simply did not return to it whereas normally I would endevour to finish it. There was just too much information about Mr Plater and all I could remember was that he wrote some of the original scripts for Z Cars.
    Not very much to go on without oodles of research. All credit to Arry for the complexity and cleverness of the puzzle but it didn’t hit the spot with me. I thought his Christmas puzzle was brilliant though.

  9. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, rb. I failed on 5d (I don’t know why now as it seems obvious, and I had guessed the way it worked); and on 54a, 45d, 8d. As I don’t enter prize puzzles any more (having the books already), I didn’t have the heart to put the time into completing it. 36d was my achilles heal, too, as I had guessed ORCHESTRAL.

    I guessed the theme straight away from the “In Memory of AP, 1935-2010″; I didn’t cheat until I had entered most of the AP soltions, which I could work out from the clues; a few at the end defeated me, so resortd to Google.

  10. Stella says:

    Thanks Rightback, for slogging on though you evidently didn’t enjoy this as much as you might have hoped.

    Hi tupu and Eileen,

    I started the same way as the former, and ended like the latter :)

    Wikipedia was helpful for the theme, as was the Guardian obituary, so it wasn’t so much a lot of Googling as fitting in the answers, which I did (most of them) before tackling the non-thematic clues. The enjoyable part of this stage was learning about Mr. Plater, and realising my mum must be pretty familiar with his work, as I remember her commenting on Z-cars during our monthly phone call a few months ago, presumably shortly after his death.

    Re 45d, the only thing I could come up with was ‘eat you’, – something on lines that if someone/thing eats you, you are then unable to eat :(

  11. Carrots says:

    Dare I say that, in spite of a generally acclaimed puzzle, that I think The Master may have over-stretched himself a tad? This puzzle lasted over three days in its solving…and wouldn`t have been cracked at all without Google.

    I`m not complaining about this (on the contrary as it provided an excuse for hours in the pub!) but some clues and several answers are far removed from regular reference or usage. The last three I entered were all (it turns out correct) but I still have no idea why.

    Having said this, my answer to “Who is the most popular Bank Holiday Jumbo setter?” remains the old boy.

  12. Coffee says:

    As one who studied a lot of AP at college, I thoroughly enjoyed this, though it was cut short by an emergency trip to the vet & I never got to finish it, so thanks for the explanations, though I can’t even find my copy now. Must dig it out as I think I may have a mistake in the NE corner- I don’t think 18A fits one of my down ones. Oh well, too late now & not a good week so maybe best left alone.

  13. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Rightback. I’m with those who enjoyed this one! 10dn was the first one I got, which made it a lot easier to get going. A recent ad in the Guardian for a boxed set of the Beiderbecke series gave me a nudge, too. I also vividly remember Close the Coalhouse Door from the Wednesday Play days. Although I managed some of theme answers from the wordplay, had to rely on Google and the Guardian obit for the rest — no objection to this, particularly as it introduced me to the story behind FLETCHERS FLY, which is priceless :-)

    Finished with 41ac unsolved, then had another go y’day and got it then…pretty obscure that one, I thought!

  14. Brigadier Carruthers says:

    Thanks for the blog right back but am i missing something (probably- I’m awfully tired). If 25 d is Tea Tree then 39 a must be I*I*E*E (with the final e from Tea Tree,how then Irid I ae. For the record I had Irideme(ride in I’m plus E)
    which I took to be an adjective , like an iris.

    Otherwise a very good puzzle and excellent blog.

  15. Tokyo Colin says:

    To BC@14. You are correct, there is a typo in the blog. The correct answer is IRIDEAE which matches your crossing letters. Both seemed equally plausible to me, by the way.

  16. Mike Laws says:

    I was disappointed to have to resort to so much googling, and frustrated by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a complete list of Alan Plater’s works anywhere. I did all I could in the pub, and thought I’d have a quick look at home before going to bed, but no such luck. No sleep until 4am!

    Z Cars was all I could think of to start with, because some of his scripts were in a school edition I came across as a teacher. Beiderbecke rang a bell, but I hadn’t known he wrote the series. No mention of Softly Softly either, for which he wrote more scripts than Z Cars.

    As regards clueing, I once had a letter from the late Alec Robins (Custos in the Guardian, usually alternating with Araucaria on Saturdays, collaborator with Ximenes on his book, author of his own, (Teach Yourself) Crosswords, setter of 129 Listener puzzles etc, etc) in which he commented that Araucaria’s grid-filling was uncanny, but his clues were awful.

    He was referring to A’s cavalier attitude to accurate grammatical parsing, and frequent disregard of sensible surface reading. I can handle that, while still disapproving strongly, but I really object to the inclusion of non-phrases, as in EAT DOG, which could be described as ‘uncanny’ in a rather differnt sense from Alec’s intention.

  17. Derek P says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this, and not having a good knowledge of Alan Plater’s work possibly increased my enjoyment, as puzzling them out from the wordplay was very satisfying, although quite time consuming. I agree with the comments about ‘EAT DOG’ though. I also had to look up SCALIGER which I didn’t know and all vowel combinations seemed possible.

  18. muck says:

    As other commenters, I got 10 ALAN PLATER quickly and obviously wasn’t going to progress much further without resort to Google/Wiki. I didn’t find a complete list of his works either, and gave up with only about 3/4 of the puzzle completed.

  19. tupu says:

    re ‘eat dog’

    Rightback is clearly right about the saying here which seems to take the form ‘dog does not eat dog’. This is not very familiar to me but traces it back to a Latin proverb in Varro (de lingua latina) and gives an English example from mid-C16.

    The more common expression these days seems to be ‘dog eats dog’ or ‘dog-eat-dog’ (adj.) and, I suspect, derives from this as a sort of degenerative opposite.

    Granted that there is this expression, and providing that people know it, I see little wrong with the clue and the answer as part of a proverb.

  20. Roger says:

    Well, I got there in the end and very enjoyable it was too. Thanks Araucaria for your tour-de-force and ditto rightback (do you get time-off-in-lieu for this one :) ).
    I remembered the various references to blond aspidistras a-rustling from somewhere but hadn’t realised there was a common denominator, let alone that it was AP ~ a new name to me, although I do now intend tracking down something of his to see what I’ve been missing !
    Maybe Araucaria had this sort of thing in mind when composing his in memoriam ?

  21. Paul B says:

    ‘Dog-eat-dog’ is a noun and an adjective. ‘Dog does not eat dog’ is what it is.

    I like Araucaria a lot, but this number looked like he’d been paid to do it (that is to say, I understand that he will create a crossword for anyone able to pay his modest fee). I knew nothing of Alan Plater, and suspect that what I now know (as a result of presevering with this dull chore) will soon be lost. Cell degradation via ale most likely.

    FWIW I solved this one with a bunch of genuine solvers (i.e. straightforward Grauniad punters who don’t feel obliged to come to this or any other crosswording website to make their views known) and they got bored very quickly.

    Not great.

  22. plutocrat says:

    Yup. This one was just too much. I was stuck on the beach without Google, and as I hadn’t heard of Alan Plater, I was pretty much doomed from the outset.
    However, as a side note, it strikes me that a lot of people are complaining about the lack of a single resource about Alan Plater, although now as a group you collectively know a lot. This my friends, is the purpose of Wikipedia: go and edit the page, add your knowledge, and make it into the definitive resource!

  23. Coffee says:

    This was the best one I could find:

  24. N_R says:

    Three years later, but…

    In this memorial puzzle to Alan Plater,
    I noticed nobody commented on his Oliver’s Travels, referred to in the first clue.
    Perhaps you have not seen it.
    It is the story of a quest to track down the master crossword compiler, Aristotle.
    If my memory is correct, there are references to Cinephile ( who is, of course, Araucaria.)

    I do not know of any other play or story or movie with a plot so deeply involved with crosswords.

    It is worth a watch. Starring Alan Bates and Sinead Cusack, 1995 5-part series.

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