Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,125 / Araucaria (25 Sept)

Posted by Gaufrid on October 2nd, 2010


I do enjoy Araucaria’s alphabetical jigsaws and this was no exception. I don’t remember one previously where the answers could be entered into the grid in two possible ways but the completed grid clearly indicated which one was correct (or, as the preamble put it, ‘is to be preferred’).

During the first pass through the clues, all but four (G, P, S & T) succumbed and so it was time to make a start on filling the grid. There was only one location where the two answers beginning with D would fit, similarly for J, but which one went across and which one down? I decided that it would be too obvious for the first answer in each pair to be the across entry and so I put these in the down lights.

ACCUSTOM and UNCOMMON were then entered, immediately followed by XANADU and ZEUGMA, after which the jigsaw fell into place quite rapidly. I was then able to parse the four initially unsolved clues and complete the grid. The preamble indicated that the grid could be filled in in two ways and that two sides of the grid would show which one was correct. I was lucky because RIGHT appeared in the right-hand column and BOTTOM was in the bottom row. The alternative way of completing the jigsaw would have BOTTOM in the right-hand column and RIGHT in the bottom row, clearly not correct.

ACCUSTOM  AC (the Bill) CUS (coppers) TOM (cat)
CASUS BELLI  *(ALL BUSES) in CI (Jersey etc {Channel Island}) – “something that causes, involves or justifies war”.
DELICT  DELIC[atessen] (good food store opening) T (time) – “a civil wrong” or “the branch of Scots law dealing with liability for unjustifiable harm or loss (corresponding to tort in English law)”.
DETACH  hidden in ‘caDET A CHance’
FATSTOCK  *(SOFT TACK) – “livestock fattened for market”.
GRISETTE  SE (home counties) in [ma]GRITTE (m[odern] a[rt] leaving exponent) – “(esp formerly) a young French female worker”.
HUBBUB  HUB (centre) BUB[ble] (half of bell)
ISLE  homophone of I’ll (setter’s going to) – the Bailiwick of Jersey is popular today.
JOMO  JO (little girl) MO (little time) – Jomo Kenyatta.
JUST  dd
KISUMU  I (one) SUM (lot) in UK (this country) reversed – this port.
LOUCHE  OUCH (how to express pain) in LE (French article)
MUTATING  *(TAINT) in MUG (face)
NO REST  NOR[th w]EST – as in the saying ‘ there’s no rest for the wicked’.
OBJECT BALL  OBJECT (appeal against) BALL (dance) – a snooker, billiards or pool reference.
PORTOBELLO  P (quietly) OR TO BELLO (homophone of ‘bellow’ {shout}) – two definitions, the road in London and the resort near Edinburgh.
QUALMS  Q (queen) U (turn) ALMS (charity)
READER  hidden in ‘aRE A DERby’
SHORTEST  homophone of ‘sure’ (certain) TEST (match) – December 21st is the winter solstice.
THEODORA  THE ODOR (American perfume) A – this empress.
UNCOMMON  UNCO (very Scottish) MM (numbers) ON
VAN ALLEN  VAN (leaders) ALL EN (directions) – these belts.
XANADU  AN AX[e] (a short cutter) reversed DU (of the French) – the location of the ‘pleasure dome’ in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan.
YALE  dd – a type of lock/key and an American university.
ZEUGMA  ZEU[s] (god not quite) G (good) MA (parent) – “a figure of speech by which an adjective or verb is applied to two nouns, though strictly appropriate to only one of them”.

37 Responses to “Guardian 25,125 / Araucaria (25 Sept)”

  1. Huw Powell says:

    I actually managed to finish this in a fairly civilized timeframe, although I wasn’t sure of the home counties = SE thing, being a long-time ex-pat. I also enjoy this style of puzzle, and wish the Grauniad would run them a little more often.

    Anyway, thanks for the blog, Gaufrid, and for the amusements, Araucaria!

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks Gaufrid. This was a lot of fun. In my case it was all but seven on the first pass. Most of those remaining were Ahas, like the C, the S and the F. Once I discarded zygoma for zeugma the W fell into place and finally the splendid Magritte/grisette play. Fortunately my version had bottom/right for the periphery, but it was interesting to try the other way just to see. Prize puzzles should be like this.

  3. Biggles A says:

    I enjoyed this one too and, like molonglo, tried it both ways to see if there was any difference. I’m just not sure about H – what is the relationship between bubble and bell?

  4. plutocrat says:

    Got fixated on Van Damme for ‘man with belts’ for a while! But eventually unstuck myself.
    Not sure if I’m envious of people who get ‘all but 5′ on the first pass. My technique is more of the ‘all but 25′ on the first pass’, ‘all but 24′ on the second pass. Then rest for an hour and come back to it. I rather enjoy rolling things around in my mind and savouring it, so if I solved it in 8 minutes flat, I’d be rather disappointed.

  5. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Gaufrid and Araucaria – this was a great puzzle and I gave myself a huge pat on the back when I completed it.

    Sadly, I failed to comprehend the Special Instruction and, after first entering the SE corner correctly, I then switched things around! Wasn’t I a silly billy?

    Met some new words en route including DELICT, G, K and Z.

    However, I hereby claim to be the first to report that this was a PANGRAM.

    Do I hear ‘Well spotted Bryan!’

  6. PS says:

    Good morning Biggles A (comment no3) I noticed that my Chambers Dictionary (11th edition) gives a third definition of bell as ” a bubble formed in a liquid”

  7. Dad'sLad says:

    Thanks Gaufrid.

    I felt quite chuffed completing this though inevitably I had gone for the un-prefered option of filling in the grid. Correcting it would have been very tricky without the on-line version.

    I was determined that Solstice was the answer for S which held things up and grisette was also one of the last in for me. However Portobello I got quickly although it is actually part of Edinburgh not near it.

  8. Donnyboy says:

    Another great jigsaw puzzle.

    Bryan – why is it a pangram? because all the letters of the alphabet appear in the clues?

  9. tupu says:

    An excellent puzzle. Thanks Gaufrid and Araucaria. It was nice to realise fairly early that ‘bottom’ was going to appear.

    I had to dredge my memory for Van Allen.

    I was very fortunate with Grisette having just last week been able to see and admire one of Magritte’s remarkable paintings – the Empire of Light.

    Thanks Bryan – you nearly ‘got me’ with that one.

  10. Davy says:

    Thanks Gaufrid,

    A truly great puzzle from Araucaria and one that I was proud to finish. How he manages to keep churning out quality puzzles, I will never know but my respect for him continues to grow.

    The special instructions somehow eluded me and I started with just 3 letters : C,J and E (end of Yale or Isle)
    before solving 20 clues and enterering nothing. So I decided just to start entering them where they would fit and it nearly worked except that THEODORA would not fit in but rotating several clues through 90 degrees worked fine. I could now solve the remaining clues and job done but could have been easier.

    I should have thought of the obvious but it was not obvious which two sides of the puzzle would contain the guiding words unless others can enlighten me. tupu where art thou ?.

    All in all, a nearly perfect puzzle, just a shame about the stray N from UNCOMMON below the guiding word RIGHT.

  11. Davy says:

    Forgot to say that I was disappointed that rightback didn’t do the blog. I would be interested to know how long it took him.

  12. Davy says:

    Correction : starting letters D, J and E.

  13. tupu says:

    Hi Davy

    You called, my lord? :) I guess I just got lucky. I worked at the SE corner and saw that TOM was appearing down there and twigged.

  14. Stella Heath says:

    I didn’t twig, and have just redone the whole puzzle, which in no way detracted from the fun I had doing it last Saturday – rather the contrary, as I remembered the results of my web-searching and appreciated anew the cleverness of the cluing.

    Favourite clue, N

  15. Carrots says:

    Super puzzle! Thankxamillion Arry and Guafrid. I felt like a momentary genius completing this. Alas, the correct “orientation” of this puzzle was arrived at by chance and empiricism…and this meant I really had to complete nearly all the clues before tackling their insertion. XANADU and UNCOMMON weree the way in.

    Just one of these a month would make me a very happy chappie: an excuse to spend ALL Saturday afternoon in the pub!

  16. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Many thanks, Gaufrid!
    [but we’ll miss you, rightback :(]

    Another good crossword from Araucaria, to which I have nothing to add as such.

    I wonder how people generally solve an Araubetical – I mean, first the clues (or as many as possible), then the grid? Or combining the two (and if so, from what point onwards)?
    I say this, because we found the ‘interaction’ between clues and grid not very smooth this time.

    To be more precise: after having solved over half of the clues, we were still not able to fit a substantial number of them into the grid. Normally we can – something which enables us to find useful letters for the remaining solutions.
    Maybe it was because we were missing too many 8-letter words.

    We finished the puzzle in our second session, and were lucky enough to have ‘right’ on the right and ‘bottom’ at the bottom.
    There must be people out there who did it the other/wrong way around – we saw images of Araucaria smiling at them with a twinkle in his eyes … “Damn!” :)

  17. Tokyocolin says:

    I wish I could say I enjoyed this but I failed and gave up. I got all but 7 on the first pass but apart from the bottom/right corner could not get any further due to the missing answers. That gave me HTN and TOM which meant nothing so I was convinced that even what I had was incorrect. The first prize puzzle for months I haven’t finished and I have yet to complete any puzzle of this type. I am lost without the crossing letters to solve the more difficult clues. Especially with Channel Islands, Wight, Portobello, etc. Nothing wrong with them and with a letter or two I would have got there. I will go back over this and try to figure out how the successful solvers were able to enter solutions into the grid while there were still many unknowns.

  18. Claire says:


    Like a fool I assumed from the rubric that ‘sides’ meant left and right perimeters, so when I started to fill in the grid and came across a sequence of letters that couldn’t possibly make a word down the left hand perimeter, I assumed I’d made the wrong decision, rubbed it out and started all over again. Which of course was wrong. Should have stuck with my original decision. And I still didn’t twig when I’d completed it and ‘rightn’ appeared across the bottom. But what the hell. It was a great puzzle, one of my favourite kinds, so thanks Araucaria, and Gaufrid for the blog

  19. Bryan says:

    Donnyboy @8

    Sorry but I can’t give away trade secrets.

    Well, not for free anyway.

  20. muck says:

    Thanks for the blog Gaufrid, but weren’t you just lucky to get the correct symmetry?

    Claire@18: “I assumed from the rubric that ‘sides’ meant left and right perimeters, so when I started to fill in the grid and came across a sequence of letters that couldn’t possibly make a word down the left hand perimeter”. Me too, but fortunately I had enough end letters to get bottom. After that it was easy

    Dad’sLad@7: Portobello has an Edinburgh postcode, like most of East Lothian, but isn’t actually in Edinburgh

  21. muck says:

    Correction: Dad’sLad was right and I was wrong – Portobello is now in Edinburgh

  22. Eileen says:

    I’m afraid I initially went a bit mardy on this one. I got all the clues and entered them as I usually do [see below, Sil] only to find that I had ‘right’ along the bottom. Like Claire, I had thought that ‘sides’ meant ‘sides’ ! couldn’t believe that Araucaria would play such a trick. I’m a word person and, to me, solving a crossword is getting the answers to the clues, not sorting out mathematical problems like turning the grid by however many degrees – but, on reflection, I’m mathematical enough, I suppose, to know that ‘sides’ can mean top and bottom, as well.

    My first reaction was that I couldn’t be bothered to start all over again – I do the crossword in the paper and I’d messed it up – but, hey, this was Araucaria and I couldn’t be cross with him for long, so I went on line and printed myself a second copy. Having got all the answers and, by now, knowing what should appear round the perimeter, it didn’t take too long to enter the clues in the ‘preferred’ pattern.

    To answer your question, Sil: I write myself a list of the clues, according to the number of letters and fill in as many as I can, then immediately, if I can, fill in the double letter clue, to give myself a start with possible crossing letters. Unlike Gaufrid, I expect the first clue to be for the across clue [as far as I remember, this has been the case in every Araubetical except one – I may very well be wrong!] and therein lay my mistake, of course. I then take a leap of faith and enter one or two answers intuitively and hope for the best, It usually seems to work out. I really admire those who wait until they have a full set of answers before they start to fill in the grid, with no crossing letters. In this case, the answers did fall into place quite readily and, had it not been for the preamble, my solution would have been perfect!

    There has been not so much comment on the clues. My favourites were CASUS BELLI, GRISETTE, NO REST and ZEUGMA [it must be so difficult, when compiling Araubeticals, to come up with yet more clues for words beginning with X or Z but this was stunning, I thought.

    Araucaria – as always, all is forgiven. :-) – and many thanks, Gaufrid, for the blog.

  23. Biggles A says:

    Thanks PS @ 6. Belated research informs me it is a mainly Scottish usage but my Presbyterian education was lacking here.

  24. tupu says:

    I had assumed that the bell/bubble connection was somehow linked to the idea of a diving bell which keeps a bubble of air within itself for divers to use. There is it seems a water or ‘diving bell’ spider which weaves a silken bubble of air in which lives under water. Descriptions speak of bells and bubbles more or less interchangeably.
    cf. below from
    “Living in a Bubble
    The air bell serves multiple purposes, said Paul Selden, a professor of invertebrate paleontology at the University of Kansas who was not involved in the study”

  25. liz says:

    Many thanks, Gaufrid. Had to take my son back to uni today, so late to the discussion. I do remember, however, that Araucaria has done this before with an alphabetical — ie had a symmetrical grid that could be filled two ways. On the previous occasion I seem to remember THE TOP spelled out across the top and BOTTOM spelled out, as it was here, across the bottom.

    Lovely puzzle. I solved quite a few before attempting to enter them in the grid, but came a cropper and had to print out another grid and try again. I got the SE corner out, but made missteps elsewhere…then eventually all came right. I do love these sorts of puzzles!

    My way of solving is to write down the alphabet, look for the duplications and the long answers and work it out from there (or not). I would be delighted if these were more frequent –I also seem to remember when we had them once a month.

  26. Andrew says:

    Fans of Araucaria’s jigsaw puzzles might like to know that the Chambers Book of Araucaria Crosswords, Volume 1, consists of 60 of them (some with various additional gimmicks). After the takeover of Chambers-Harrap these books may become hard to find, but Amazon still knows about them.

  27. Sylvia says:

    I also solve such wonderful puzzles by writing down the alphabet and number of letters for each, and then solve as many as I can initially on paper. I also check how many spaces are in the grid (i.e. 4 x 10, 4 x 4) and compare that they match the number of solutions (sometimes double word answers are separated). If I have already solved all or most, say, 8-letter clues they may then be entered into the grid, checking that any first letters created for other solutions are in the correct length of space. (Gosh – wording this is almost as difficult as completing the puzzle!). If I haven’t yet solved enough clues to be able to do this, I then concentrate on solving all the incomplete clues of each particular length before proceeding. Is there an easier way?

  28. Huw Powell says:

    By the way, the first thing I did after getting the Ds was pencil in B-O-T-T-O-M and R-I-G-H-T. It was a lucky guess and helped tremendously.

  29. Huw Powell says:

    Sil @ 16,

    I do much what Eileen describes above – I make a list by number of letters, with all the starting letters, as an “intermediate” solving location. I strike them out when I have entered them. And of course, the only way to really get started is to look for the letters that start more than one word, in this case D and J. Those letters can often be entered before any solving, and can be anchors for possible words they check.

  30. stiofain says:

    Sil I go thru the clues and when ive solved 13 of them I think ive a good chance of getting a little bit of a clue to the others.
    In Araubetiticals (sorry muck is too late here to look for the copyright sign)
    I usually start to fill the grid with the double start letter clue
    which seems to be a feature the good rev includes in each.
    I thought this was excellent how many more words starting with x can be clued fairly?

  31. tupu says:


    It’s interesting what some of us find hard and others not. I have never had much difficulties with these alphabeticals ( :) no doubt till next time) – I find the words are usually relatively easy to get given the advantage of knowing the first letter and it doesn’t seem to take long to get started and sorted. At the same time I have often enough noted what sorts of things I do find difficult which several of you seem to find rather easier. Vive la difference I suppose.

  32. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Dear All, many thanks for telling me your strategy.
    Special thanks to Sylvia for putting so much energy in describing her way of solving – which is, in fact, quite identical to ours.

    That said, my question (in #16) was more a rhetorical one … :)

    Perhaps, we were a bit unlucky this time, but normally – after having solved, say, 30% of the clues – it is already possible to fit some into the grid, providing us with hints for other clues.

    I like to put words into the grid as quick as possible, so in fact, while solving the clues, I always keep an eye on the grid.
    In this Araubetical that just didn’t work – we needed more words than usual to start filling the grid.
    That’s what I meant with some lack of ‘interaction’ between clues and grid.

    As others didn’t seem to have encountered this ‘problem’ [in fact, thát was what I was curious about], it is most likely that we initially missed out on too many crucial words (ie, as I said before, 8-letter words in particular).

    We found a lot of the clues on the easy side (for Araucaria) and therefore expected to fill the grid without much hassle. But alas.
    It’s about how we experienced solving the puzzle, certainly nót about the quality of this crossword (which was beyond criticism).

    [let’s leave it here]

  33. Carrots says:

    Sil: I enjoy your “take” on Grauniad puzzles….and marvel at the presumption that English is not your first language. Like several of our continental friends, you exhibit a kind of “comfort” or “confidence” with our language which enables us to spot a non-native speaker very readily. We enjoyed a visit from a Danish friend recently who pounced on my love of crosswords and wanted to learn more. I showed her a couple of your posts and asked if she could guess your nationality from them. “Dutch!” she replied! Was she right? If so, how the hell did she know?!? (The print-outs did not contain your name)…..(!)

  34. Sil van den Hoek says:

    So, she didn’t say “English!”? Very disappointing! [ :)]
    Well, of course, her answer was spot on.
    But I can’t help you with your last question [didn’t you ask her?].
    It would be interesting to put one of my first ever posts [must have been in 2008] next to a recent one – I think I learned a lot during that period (and I still do, every single day).
    I am not afraid to make mistakes, and I know that every now and then I say things that I shouldn’t say.
    At times I may have strong opinions, but I like to put question marks too. In fact, just as much. So far, being part of discussions (or even instigating these) has surely helped me to get closer and closer to the heart of Crosswordland and to a better understanding of the English language (though ‘idiom’ is still not my strongest point).
    Thanks for your nice words, Carrots.
    [and sorry, Gaufrid, for being completely off-topic (but it’s more or less the end of this blog anyway)]

  35. Bryan says:

    Carrots @ 34

    Linguistically, the Dutch are truly amazing. I lived in Holland for 5 years and my Dutch teacher (who had never even visited England) spoke perfect English and knew far more about English grammar than me – even though I’d been to a so-called ‘Grammar School’.

    Even girls stacking shelves in supermarkets can switch readily from Dutch to English to German and to French.

    They’re also lovely people and a Dutch friend of mine has just uncovered an amazing Archive for me in Den Haag.

    By the way, I did meet Prince Bernhard who was also a very nice guy, although a wee bit ‘controversial’.

  36. Carrots says:

    Bryan & Sil: Thanks for responding. As I don`t want to get escorted off the premises for straying off-topic, I`ll post a reply (much) later today in the 15-sq. General Chat Room…after a Pinta with Rufus at lunchtime.

  37. paul8hours says:

    Great puzzle and very enjoyable to do but I have to agree with what Sil is hinting at. The clues were a touch too easy to solve knowing the first letter without needing to have a few inter-acting letters. This meant that you could do it in 2 separate stages – first the solving then the placement. Shouldn’t these crosswords be a combination of the 2 ?
    A minor comment on the work of a great crossword compiler of course.

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