Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,111 – Araucaria

Posted by Andrew on September 9th, 2010


My second Araucaria in a row, and quite a tricky one, with some devious wordplay. Some may complain at the theme of girl groups, but I knew all the names involved (apart from 3dn and a slight obscurity at 20dn (better explained by Eileen) despite it being definitely not my area of expertise.

4. ISLAND I SLAND[ER]. “Starts” for five-sevenths of a word is a bit cheeky.
9. BEST KEPT VILLAGE [George] BEST KEPT (was goalie) + VILLA + G[oali]E
11. MADE A BET “Maid” + ABET (help)
14. ERNEST ER + NEST (house), with “house” and “boy” (the definition) misleadingly joined together
15. ATOMIC KITTEN A TOM + I (first) + C (cat’s first) + KITTEN (baby)
18. RUCKSACK RUCK (Carter-Ruck is a well-known law firm) + SACK (redundancy), and rucksacks are taken on the back.
22. NOLANS NO + L + ANS[wer]. Formerly the Nolan Sisters.
25. MUTANT AN (French for “year”) in MUTT (fool). Paul appears as Mutt in the Financial Times, and as Punk (used in 1dn) in the Independent – I wonder if this is more than a coincidence? Ignore that – Paul is of course Mudd in the FT
26. BANANA If it’s followed by RA (artist) and MA (degree), you get BANANARAMA
1. KNEES-UP SEE in PUNK, all reversed
5. SPINDLE SPICE (girls) less CE + (END L)*
6. ALL SAINTS The three teams mentioned are all known as “The Saints”
7. DEGREES The Three Degrees are another girl group (famously Prince Charles’s favourites), and a right angle is ninety degrees.
8. STUMER [CO]STUME + R. I didn’t know this word: online sources suggest it means something fraudulent rather than a “stupid mistake” – perhaps someone could confirm what the dictionaries say.
16. TOURISM TO UR IS 1 M[ile]. In the book of Genesis, Abraham was from the city of Ur.
17. CAMERON ME in CARON. For some reason I was slightly surprised to find that Leslie Caron is still alive.
19. CANTATA One leaving prison might say TA-TA to the CAN
20. CYNTHIA (AN ITCHY)*. Cynthia “Cindy” Birdsong was briefly (1967-1970) a member of the Supremes, but I’m not sure exactly what “Name for start of 24″ is about. Thanks to Eileen for pointing out the Cynthia is another name for the goddess Diana
23. LYDIA Lydia was an ancient kingdom as well as being a girl’s name; and presumably the rest of the clue is (rather loosely) indicating L[ovel]Y DIA[mond] D’oh! As several people have pointed out, it’s just hidden in loveLY DIAmond . The name always reminds me of the song Lydia the Tattooed Lady, especially the rhyme “Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclopiddier”.

38 Responses to “Guardian 25,111 – Araucaria”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Andrew

    This was the best puzzle for ages. I wish that they were all this good.

    My mind is at rest now that you have explained how 26a works and also the ‘Country’ component of 23d.

    After twigging the theme, I searched everywhere for Spice Girls but, as always, Araucaria was again ever so clever.

  2. Eileen says:

    Many thanks for a great blog, Andrew.

    My heart sank, rather, when I saw the theme, from 24, 21, thinking I wouldn’t know the rest – but at least I’d heard of thhem all!

    Some great clues – 16dn made me laugh and 19dn raised a wry smile.

    SPARKLER and RUCKSACK are particularly clever, with great surfaces.

    Re 20dn: I don’t think this is part of the theme: CYNTHIA is another name for the goddess Diana, derived from her birthplace, Mt Kynthos on the island of Delos.

  3. Eileen says:

    Chambers: ‘STUMER: a stupid mistake, clanger’.

  4. Brian (with an eye) says:

    Thanks for the explanations – I could see it must be D R & The S, but couldn’t be bothered to fathom the anagram. Surely 23 is a simple hidden – a ‘piece’ of [love]LY DIA[mond].

  5. NeilW says:

    Thanks Andrew.

    I took 23dn to be two definitions plus a simple ha: loveLY DIAmond.

    Chambers gives meaning no 7 (!) of STUMER as “a stupid mistake, clanger”

  6. NeilW says:

    Beaten by Eileen and Brian!

  7. Andrew says:

    Thanks to everyone for pointing out the hiding of LYDIA – I wasn’t expecting anything so blatantly obvious!

    Thanks also to Eileen for her erudite explanation of CYNTHIA.

  8. cholecyst says:

    Thanks, Andrew. I thought this was brilliant. But what a peculiar theme for the Learned Reverend? I notice another Girl Band reference in 11ac (Girls Aloud).

  9. Eileen says:

    Hi cholecyst

    Yes, not bad for an octogenarian – Araucaria never fails to amaze.

    Andrew – not really so erudite: I just happen to know more about English and Latin poetry, where CYNTHIA is [quite] often used, figuratively, for the moon, than I do about girl bands! And, as cholecyst implies, this was a much more typically Araucarian clue!

  10. Andrew says:

    > not bad for an octogenarian

    Almost a nonagenarian, in fact: he’ll be 90 on 16 February 2011.

  11. TokyoColin says:

    I think it is a tribute to Araucaria’s precise cluing that I was able to complete this without too much trouble despite knowing only Bananarama from the girl bands, apart from DR & the S of course.

  12. Eileen says:

    Hi again, Andrew

    Yes, I’d forgotten it was quite so close. We’re in for a treat then, surely?

    Admirers may enjoy reading this:,3604,438558,00.html

  13. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew. This was a treat! I guessed 24, 21 from the enumeration, which was my way into the theme. 19dn made me smile. Didn’t know STUMER and only got it by using the check button, and failed on 26ac…which made me cross!

    Thanks for the link, Eileen. I don’t know whether Araucaria would be pleased to be compared to Tiger Woods today :-)

  14. Brigadier Carruthers says:

    The Cynthia/Diana thing is definitely an Araucaria thing. I eventually justified it in an alternative if inferior way. Cindy Birdsong was not a founder member of The Supremes but she was in at the start of the re-branded Diana R. & The.

  15. molonglo says:

    Thanks Andrew. Ridiculously I got 24 and the theme at once but the other big one, 9a, was absolutely the last. In between were some lovely clues like 16d and 19d which both made me laugh. You do learn things from this blog – on 5 January it was Carter Ruck, from this same setter (puzzle 24899) and that was needed to solve 18a.

  16. medici says:

    I think Paul is known as Mudd in the FT.

  17. walruss says:

    Medici is right! What a lovely puzzle today, very enjoyable, and with a theme that didn’t cause any problems. I like 26 across the best, for all kinds of reasons!!

  18. Andrew says:

    medici – you are quite right… I have no idea why I thought Paul was Mutt. Sorry for the MUDDle.

  19. Derek Lazenby says:

    Hard work, but unlike some, not unpleasant hardwork, got there in the end. I must be getting better, despite having not a finished a few recently because I pleased to announce that I have now lost count of how many of A’s I’ve finished! Wish I’d understood the full details of the word play before I came here. I would definitely have smiled at some.

    Chambers only gives that meaning of STUMER as #7? That’s the only one I knew, as in “a bit of stumer” being more polite than “a bit of a {male hen}-up”.

  20. Daniel Miller says:

    Quite brilliant. Some marvellous word play.

    Interesting way to introduce George Best as a clue…particularly admired the Banana(rama) clue – the lovely use of Diana to get Cynthia (obvious after the fact, and thanks Eileen for the additional information)….

    The usual high standard of Araucaria we’ve all come to expect.

  21. reg says:

    Is 26 entirely fair? Most of the clue doesn’t contribute to the answer at all, but is used to generate a whole new word, which obviously relates to the theme but nowhere is that indicated.

  22. Martin H says:

    I didn’t enjoy this as much as most of you. The key clue went in from the numeration and the two S’s from ‘resist’. Once I had these and 9ac I pretty much ground to a halt. I’d forgotten the special instructions until I wondered what ‘Nolans’ was all about, groaned inwardly at the implications, but began to make some progress – had to cheat on 6d as I would never have got it otherwise at that stage ( that’s not really a clue anyway, it’s a simple quiz question – no wordplay, although it looks as if there might be: someone’s going to say that that is A being devious and therefore cryptic, but I don’t buy it).
    From there on it was pretty much plain sailing, apart from ‘stumer’ and Carter’s legal follower. At least the theme was nicely handled, in 5 and 26, and I can’t complain about the standard of clueing throughout. So what am I complaining about? Nothing much really – sometimes it doesn’t click, that’s all.

  23. Martin H says:

    ….. right – All Saints – Googled it.

  24. John says:

    reg: The setter does point out that some thematic solutions are not fully clued, which probably accounts for 26 ac

  25. Sil van den Hoek says:

    We join the Choir of Admirers – a lot of smiles today!
    And even more than that in CANTATA (19d) and TOURISM (16d).

    Just like molonglo we saw 24ac rightaway from the enumeration, my idea that it had to be ‘X Y and the Zs’ and my PinC’s first guess.
    After that, the grid got filled so fast that we hereby declare: this was an easy crossword [well, for us, anyway].

    But, there were some little ‘buts’.
    Just like Andrew [thank you, as ever] we think 4ac is not completely right: SLANDER doesn’t have 5 starts.
    And 26ac is also a bit dubious [so, agree with reg].
    Of course, it may be not fully clued as Araucaria promises us.
    The definition is there (‘fruit’), but there’s no reference to our girl band – which is something that Araucaria warned us for.
    However, the construction of 26ac leads to BANANARAMA which is nót the answer, so in fact part of the construction is missing.
    Not sure whether thát’s fair.
    Something doesn’t feel right here.
    Finally, 7d (DEGREES) was a bit loose, too.
    ‘Three academically’ – well, just.
    ’90 degrees is right’? – bit ‘not fully clued’, isn’t it?

    That said, all in all a 12ac of a crossword.
    [although, for us, Puck’s still in front this week]

  26. otter says:

    I’m another who enjoyed this immensely. I could see that delightful sparkle in Araucaria’s eyes while I was working on this. I don’t think it was by any means a particularly easy puzzle, but amazingly I completed this in very fast time for me, about 20 minutes I think (looked it over during the Archers and had completed it by 7.30). Don’t have energy to go over what I particularly liked, but there were many things.

    Thanks Andrew for explaining 16d and 26a, which I wasn’t able to parse even though I got the answer.

    Sil, both 26a and 7d are related to 24 21, even though the solutions fitted into the grid are not themselves girl groups, so I’m happy with them being only partially clued.

  27. Paul (not Paul) says:

    My favourite puzzle for ages. Partly, perhaps because I was imagining how the more classically orientated solvers might be struggling with Eternal, All Saints et al. But actually, and quite brilliantly, Araucaria has managed to weave in a few classical references to keep the old folk happy.

    What’s not to like?

  28. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Otter (#26), I think there’s ‘not fully clued’ and ‘not fully clued’.
    My comments on 7d are about ‘right’ not being the same as ‘right angle’ [the incomplete clueing isn’t an excuse (or issue) here].
    And in 26ac it is all about what you think is reasonable when someone tells you it is ‘not fully clued’.
    Just ‘Fruit (6)’ does also fit that description perfectly well.
    In all the other clues involved (15ac+1ac, 22ac, 6d and 7d), the construction is intact – but not here. That’s my point.

  29. Gerry says:

    I agree with much of the above comments. I enjoyed many of the clues. Favourite perhaps was 17d.

  30. otter says:

    Sil, I’d call it playfulness. They both made me smile when I saw what he was doing.

  31. Bob says:

    Really super puzzle and blog. I was very pleased to finish it, albeit taking many hours.
    Pedantic point about DR and the Ss:
    Rather than Andrew’s
    I think it’s more elegant to restrict the scope of the first anagram, giving
    (AND I)* + A[C]ROSS + AND + PURSE* in THEMES

  32. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re Otter #30: and me too [although nót in 26ac – which is just a half-baked clue].
    But that doesn’t mean I can’t put question marks to certain things. Playfullness could overrule cryptic correctness, but preferably shouldn’t. Like also in 4ac.
    Apparently, Araucaria gets away with it again??

    PS1, don’t get me wrong, I liked the crossword very much – but …

    PS2, I think Bob’s right in #31.

  33. Carrots says:

    A tough one…even by the Old Man`s standards. I had to bring it home still incomplete and had some very welcome advice…and a couple of solutions!…from `Er Indoors`. What really threw me was that RAISIN is a perfectly accpetable answer for 26 Ac., viz: fruit (definition) followed by RA (artist), (with I/one) & SIN (one of seven deadly ones). BANANA was the last to go in after LYDIA and CYNTHIA put paid to RAISIN. I`m a bit suprised that no-one else seems to have committed my error…or, more probably, fallen into the same trap.

  34. paul8hours says:

    Ref Sil 25. The only clue I didn’t get was 26ac but it does refer to the girl band theme in ‘with one of 7′, there being 7 bands mentioned.

  35. Sil van den Hoek says:

    paul8hours, I don’t think ‘one of 7′ refers to one of the seven bands mentioned [which is only true if you take the Spice Girls as one of them, as you shouldn’t, I think].
    It is the building stone for the last part of BANANARAMA, as Andrew made clear in his blog.
    Well, let me try one more time then: the construction of the clue gives us BANANA [the definition being ‘Fruit’ & the final answer] + RA [artist] + MA [one of the degrees], but as the solution in the grid is just BANANA there is something missing from the construction [e.g. an indication that it might lead to our beloved girlband, or that we ultimately don’t need RAMA].
    It is not that the clue is incomplete as such, but it is the fact that it is at the expense of the construction that would lead to the answer in the grid – that it is my point.
    And that is NOT happening in the other incomplete clues.
    Of course, I do understand what Araucaria wants, but – again – even with the words in his preamble in mind, something doesn’t feel right for me.
    Though others might disagree.

  36. Huw Powell says:

    Not as much fun here as some had, didn’t help that I only just noticed the “special instructions” which makes the girl band clues fair, I guess. Banana is a rule-breaker to me. A few left me blank being too British, the village thing, had to look up the ball clubs on wikipedia for the obvious answer – another poor clue in my opinion – it’s just a pub quiz question that requires in-depth local sports knowledge, with no cryptic way to get to the answer. Carter-Ruck isn’t so well-known where I live.

    The puzzle stopped being fun two or three solutions ago, and I gave up to come here with 6 unfinished and 3 or 4 still in pencil.

    Oh well, can’t love them all. Thanks for the explanations, everyone.

  37. amarcord says:

    In defence of BANANA, can I suggest that the short form is fruit, an artist (Nana Mouskouri) and a degree, while the long form is a girl group made of fruit, an artist and a degree?

  38. maarvarq says:

    6dn was nothing to do with the theme, but still not “fully clued”, lacking in fact a definition of any kind. Perhaps “Northampton … linked on Nov 1″ would have been better?

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