Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,117 / Araucaria

Posted by Eileen on September 16th, 2010


On the first run through this, I put in only two or three answers and thought I was in for a hard slog. However, once I found a few more, it all flowed pleasantly enough and turned out to be a lot of fun, as I would expect from this setter, with an amusing little theme based on 4dn.

6  GAZUMP: AZ [both ends of the alphabet] in GUMP [Forrest Gump was a 1994 film starring Tom Hanks.]  As a victim of this wretched practice in the ’70s, I always thought, as Araucaria appears to, that it was a rival buyer who did the gazumping, by outbidding the original offer, but Chambers gives  “[of a seller] to raise the price of property,etc, after accepting an offer from [a buyer], but before the contract has been signed” and Collins has a similar definition.
9  KNIGHT: double / cryptic definition: a knight [chess man] can move only two squares horizontally and one vertically (or vice versa).
10  OBLATION: OBL[1 G {thousand pounds}]ATION: a very nice surface
18  THUMBSCREW: UM [I’m not sure] B SC [scientist] in THREW [cast]: and I’m not sure what the ‘young’ is doing?
21  LAMB: hidden in fuliL AMB ition: ‘butter’ in crosswords is usually ‘goat’ but sheep do it, too.
22  PARSNIPS: reversal of SPINS [cycle rides] and RAP [charge]; a reference to the proverb: ‘Fine words butter no parsnips.’ Nigel Rees, in Oops, Pardon Mrs Arden!, quotes a stanza from Epigrammes of 1651 by a Thames waterman known as the Water Poet, John Taylor:

‘Words are but wind that do from men proceed;
None but Chamelions on bare Air can feed;
Great men large hopeful promises may utter;
But words did never Fish or Parsnips butter.’

23  VIRILE: R 1 in VILE
24  SKINNY: INN [tavern] in SKY [heaven]
25  BRANDY: brandy butter is a traditional accompaniment to Christmas pudding.

1  KINGSTON: KIN [like] + GS [goods] + TON [fashion]: Kingston is capital of Jamaica: a novel way to clue ‘kings’! I think GS for ‘goods’ is acceptable: children might say, ‘I got six Gs on my report’. we’ve seen TON a few times lately and it usually raises a query or two. It’s a loan word from French.
2  SCOTCH: butterscotch: ‘a kind of hard toffee, containing much butter’ – a nice link to 25dn.
3  PALLADIO: PAL [friend] + LAD [child] + 10 – Andrea Palladio
4  BUTTER: What stopped the “mad” Hatter’s watch in ‘Alice in Wonderland':
`Two days wrong!’ sighed the Hatter. `I told you butter wouldn’t suit the works!’ he added looking angrily at the March Hare.
`It was the best butter,’ the March Hare meekly replied.
Yes, but some crumbs must have got in as well,’ the Hatter grumbled: `you shouldn’t have put it in with the bread-knife.’
Some might quibble that it should be ‘watch-stopper’ but I think it works by analogy with ‘stopgap’.
FINGER: reference to ‘butterfingers’,  ‘someone who lets a ball etc they ought to catch slip through their fingers’ and ‘the breadth of a person’s finger, esp as a rough measure of alcoholic spirit poured into a glass': a nice reference to 2dn, where, in my husband’s case, it was usually very rough!
PHOBIA: HOB [fairy] in PIA [Italian girl]
COMPASS ROSE: simple charade [most unlike Araucaria!] of COMPASS [scope] and ROSE [increased]: ‘the circular device showing the principal directions on a map or chart': I don’t think I knew this was what it was called.
14  NESCIENT: ESC [some escort!] in NIENT[e] Italian for ‘nothing’
15  TOLERANT: RAN [managed] in TO LET [what’s available]
16  SHEARS: HEAR [catch] in SS [steamship]
17  EMPLOY: reversal of ME [setter] + PLOY [stratagem]
19  MUSLIN: is it really just ‘nearly Muslim’? Butter muslin was a loose-woven cloth used for wrapping butter.
20  WYVERN: anagram of W[ith] NERVY; I liked ‘nervy disposition’. The wyvern is “a fictitious monster, winged and two-legged, combining characteristics of the dragon and the griffin”. It’s a heraldic beast [my daughter’s school crest] hence ‘shielded’.

33 Responses to “Guardian 25,117 / Araucaria”

  1. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Araucaria

    An excellent blog! I completed the puzzle correwctly in a bit of rush before taking a holiday, so I missed a couple of points. Like Eileen I had a sluggish start, but then all went well.

    9a I thought this was going to be errant, saw it was knight but in spite of a long interest in chess harked back to errant for reading the clue!

    4d At first I thought this was going to be ‘hunter’. When I realised it was ‘butter’ I forgot the Alice story detail and checked it on Google.

    A mass of very good clues (I liked the anagram in 12a) and a good puzzle overall. Good use of ‘butter’ idioms.

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen, including for 1d. I got it but couldn’t parse it: it’s still pretty convoluted. Sheep as butter is a stretch, too. Had to look up COMPASS ROSE to check, and learned something. As ever with Ari this was a lot of fun.

  3. Dad'sLad says:

    Thanks Eileen. The toughest challenge of the week so far – I took over 40 minutes and like you had only a few after the first run through. 6a is a great clue.

    Grateful for the explanations of 22a, and 1,7 and 20d. Recollect seeing roses in the middle of some compasses on maps so that also makes sense. Like you I can’t see what “young” is doing in 18a. Surely not anything to do with the bachelor in BSC?

  4. Matt says:

    Eileen, Thanks for the comprehensive blog. For some reason I simply couldn’t see the parsing in Tolerant and don’t know “ton” as fashion although I do now!

    I think the “young” in 18a relates to it being a first degree (at age 21 typically) as opposed to “old” scientists who would be M.Sc. or PhD or Prof. At least that’s what I took it as.

    I also don’t think GS for goods is as complex as you describe it – if “G” can be “Good”, then pluralising G is simply Gs. I think this is acceptable for all abbreviations like this (NS for Knights, HS for Hearts etc. etc.) but that’s my opinion – I think others may quibble…

  5. Eileen says:

    Hi Matt

    I think I feel rather defensive when blogging an Araucaria and tend to get my retaliation in first – possibly seeing quibbles where there aren’t any. I was thinking of ‘news’ usually being clued as NN, I think, rather than NS.

    I’d thought of that possibility for ‘young scientist’ – but it’s a bit of a slight on mature students and the clue works perfectly well without it.

    Apologies to all for the delay in posting the blog, which was due to technological problems of my own making, and many thanks to Gaufrid for doing it for me! :-)

  6. liz says:

    Thanks for a great blog, Eileen, and for including the poem. I was lucky with this one — my first was PARSNIPS, which meant that I got onto the BUTTER theme quickly. Puzzled over 1dn, which was my last, for quite a while.

    Wasn’t too sure about sheep=butter, but otherwise this was very enjoyable!

    Can you or anyone else explain ‘serving’ in the wordplay for 24ac?

  7. Otherstuff says:

    In 18 perhaps an older scientist would have a masters or doctorate?

  8. Matt says:


    I have a B.Sc. and when I was young I considered myself a scientist. Now I am not young, I do not consider myself a “scientist” (just a wage-monkey with a strong scientific leaning) so it seemed OK to me, but agree it works without it.

    I didn’t use to like Araucaria as they seemed hard. Now they seem perfectly fair and when I see his name I know I have a chance of working it out even if I don’t know the definition bit itself (Palladio, Parsnips quotes for example).

  9. Eileen says:

    Hi liz

    I wondered about ‘serving’, too. Obviously, it’s needed for the surface but I think if you think of it as meaning ‘supplying / providing’ [both in Chambers], which are often used as an introduction to the definition, it works – very well, in fact, the more I think about it!

  10. liz says:

    Thanks, Eileen. Yes, I can see that.

  11. Brigadier Carruthers says:

    Well, none of your hints assisted me with 1d. I guessed it purely from the intersecting letters and the hot capital. Kin, well yes; gs, well I’ve seen it on invoices as an abbreviation quite apart from the plural of g for good, but ‘ton’ borrowed from the french? I feel like the chimp who has just typed Shakespeare.

    Just to add fuel to the fire, some might recall ‘Niento’in the hit parade circa 1963; Dicky Valentine? Ronnie Carroll? Obviously one has to be of a certain age.

  12. Brigadier Carruthers says:

    Apologies, I’m posting on the wrong blog, back to the G.

  13. liz says:

    Brigadier — there are always protests about ‘ton’! I think it dates back to the 18th century or possibly Regency times as a term for fashion or fashionable people. I only know it from reading too many Georgette Heyer novels as a teenager!

  14. Otherstuff says:

    Found this in an anagram solving website that also has a dictionary
    From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 :

    The prevailing fashion or mode; vogue; as, things of ton.
    [1913 Webster]

    If our people of ton are selfish, at any rate they show
    they are selfish. –Thackeray.
    [1913 Webster]

  15. crikey says:

    Excellent blog as always, Eileen.

    I’m surprised that nobody has commented further on MUSLIN… Is there are anymore to it than being “very nearly” MUSLIM?!

    As usual (for me), a mixed Araucarian bag – Some great clues, some tenuous and some pretty unremarkable.

  16. Stella says:

    Thanks for the excellent blog, Eileen, and for the quotes. The poem is sweet, but I’d never heard the saying. Its wisdom , however, in incontestable :D

    I thought I knew Alice back to front, my parents having written and produced a show based on the books, but I’d completely forgotten the butter episode, so didn’t see the connection :(

    15d being one of the more obvious answers, I stopped only for a second to ponder the possible meaning of ‘tolet’ as ‘what’s available’ – I realise now it’s rather the opposite :lol: My Latin has much to be desired. It’s not that it’s rusty, it never amounted to much in the first place, much to my regret – circumstances!

    Thanks to Otherstuff @14 for those ‘ton’ references, and for taking the trouble to look them up. I presume it’s pronounced to rhyme with ‘Tom’, as it does in French (if you ignore the nasal ‘n’), rather than with ‘tun’

  17. Eileen says:

    Hi Stella

    Coincidentally, one of the questions under discussion in the Guardian’s Wednesday ‘Notes and Queries’ column for the last couple of weeks has been: ‘”Fine words butter no parsnips” – but has anyone ever eaten buttered parsnips?’

  18. Richard says:

    Thanks for the excellent blog, Eileen. I thought this a great Araucaria except for 22ac which was hopelessly obscure to me. Shame as I got through all the other clues in a personal best time.

  19. Stella says:

    Hi Eileen,

    I always read that column, but I only get the Weekly, and delivery is a bit erratic lately. I have, however, eaten buttered parsnips, and find them delicious :)

  20. Martin H says:

    Regarding the Mad Hatter’s watch – it hadn’t stopped, it was just two days wrong – not too far out as it only told ‘the day of the month’ and not the hour, which would have been pointless anyway as ‘tea-time’ was permanently 6 o’clock.

  21. muck says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen – was just about to mention the Guardian N&Q discussion re- buttered parsnips but you were there before me!

  22. muck says:

    Sorry for non-working link to buttered parsnips
    Try this

  23. Davy says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    Another very entertaining puzzle from Mr Graham who continues to delight and amuse us. He still seems to be bursting with ideas after all these years.

    Thanks for explaining KINGSTON which I put in but didn’t understand the word play and also PARSNIPS which I didn’t read backwards (rebutted).

    Favourite answers were FINGER (very clever) and TOLERANT (liked the use of TO LET).

  24. FumbleFingers says:

    Thanks for blog Eileen.

    For my money, 21a LAMB=little butter is a bit of a stretch, and in 1d like=KIN is way ott.

    Other than that, I liked the puzzle. I was a bit rattled by NESCIENT because I didn’t know the word, but I can hardly blame Araucaria for that. Though I do think compilers should check current usage and avoid words as obscure as I obviously think that one is :-)

    Crikey @15 – Eileen did say muslin was used to wrap butter in the blog, although I think actually muslin was originally used for straining the butter out as it separated while churning. My nan did this in the days before you could use an old pair of nylon tights! I imagine sometime later “butter muslin” came to mean any fine-meshed cloth used in a culinary context.

  25. Eileen says:

    Bless you, Fumblefingers!

    I was very tempted to recall how my Nan Nan [pre fridge days] used to hang quantities of sour milk in what she called ‘butter muslin’ on the bath taps to make what she called ‘cream cheese’] – very similar, I think, to what is now called [aptly] cottage cheese.

    I decided this was perhaps too recherché and so resorted, reluctantly, to the Chambers definition!

  26. Eileen says:

    PS, Fumblefingers

    Have you never seen lambs at play? – delightful!

    I don’t really want to open a can of worms at this stage but I did rather expect kin = like to raise more eyebrows. I can find ‘kin’ adj. = [blood] related. I would just cite ‘akin to’ = ‘like’ – a bit of a stretch, I admit, but, remember, I’m high up among the Araucaria Apologists!

  27. snigger says:

    lamb/sheep? butter ??? pooh pah

    Eileen – “kin” raising eyebrows?? – more likely blood pressure !!

    and goods – gs ?? where will it end ??

    Davy – “bursting with ideas” – or should that be make up any rules you like as you go along ??

    and only 28 comments on this puzzle ???

    like myself, it would appear many did not get anywhere near completing this

  28. FumbleFingers says:

    Eileen, knowing your respect for Araucaria I kinda supposed you’d gloss over any misgivings about KIN, but I’m gratified to know you at least had them.

    I’ve certainly never come across the usage (specialised accounting jargon?) put up by Brigadier Carruthers @11. Which in any case presumably means “(kindred) items purchased within the same bulk order for some specific job, ideally to be delivered together” – not at all the same thing as “items which are like each other”.

    But (sorry, snigger!) I wouldn’t trash the whole puzzle for a couple of minor flaws. It’s a shame Araucaria never (so far as I know) graces these pages himself, since I’m sure he’d have a convincing rationale which would shame us all for our ignorant pettifogging.

  29. snigger says:

    FumbleFingers – it was not my intention to trash the whole puzzle,and reading back i don’t think i did.

    Todays crossword was standard fare for this setter – the need for Eileen to mention ” I’m high up among the Araucaria Apologists!”

    In my line of work it is highly unlikely i will ever need or use most of the words in any crossword, but i can assure you in the hundreds of delivery notes and invoices i have received, “gs” has never appeared.

  30. Liz says:

    How can Gs mean goods? If it’s referring to marks for schoolwork, say, G would be a fail and A or B would be good. A teacher doesn’t mark with a G, but would write the word “good”. I’ve never seen G or Gs as an abbreviation for good or goods.

    Also never heard of ton for fashion.

  31. Eileen says:

    Hi Liz

    As Matt says, at Comment 4, if, in Crosswordland, G = good then GS = goods.

    I may have muddied the water in my comment on the blog: in the olden days, when I was at school, G on exercises or school reports indicated ‘Good’ [and VG Very Good]. As a retired teacher, I’m well aware that in these days of grades, G means something rather different. :-)

    As mentioned above, ‘ton’ crops up quite often in crosswords, so it’s worth remembering.

  32. FlutterBy says:

    Thank heavens I found this website.

    1d was driving me MAD. I’m a huge fan of The Rev, but this clue has me ‘very cross indeed’.

    Kin = Like? Nope. Akin is the word that means like.
    GS = goods? Well. At a stretch, perhaps.
    Ton = Fashion? You have got to be taking the … mickey!

    And it’s not as if the surface actually reads nicely as a result, which might have been a (feeble) justification.

    Usually when I end up having to tease out the subsidiary parts of a clue having got it from the definition (in this case a nice straightforward ‘capital in the sun’) I eventually get a flash of insight, followed by a slap of the forehead and a “fair enough, you old bugger”.

    In this case, not so. Which is a shame because otherwise this crossword was a joy.

    Well, at least I found this site. So that’s a bonus. Thanks, Eileen.

  33. Eileen says:

    Hi FlutterBy [if you’re still fluttering nearby]

    Well, it took you a long time to find us! Hope to hear more from you now that you have. :-)

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