Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,159 – Araucaria

Posted by Andrew on November 4th, 2010


A moderately tricky Araucaria with some interestingly linked clues and a lot of amusement as always. There are also quite a few of his characteristic liberties, which I’ve noted in the comments below.

5. BATH MAT BATH (spa) + MAT (lacking lustre – I think more usually “matt” or “matte”). For once the ellipsis between this and the previous clue actually links the answers.
9. VISIT V (Roman numeral) + IS IT? (does it exist?)
11. REVOLUTIONISED [s]OLUTION (i.e. “topped”) in REVISED
13. INKY It means black, and rhymes with Pinky Pinkie (thanks Eileen!), from Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, who is a “coloured boy” because of his name.
14. FUNEREAL FUN ERE AL. AL as in “et al.” usually means “other people”, not “other things”.
18. LOST It follows 1dn and 4n to make the Shakespeare play, but the title is actually Love’s Labour’s Lost, so this is slightly inaccurate.
21. LITTLE AND LARGE TILT* + LEAN (tilt) + GERALD*. Even the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia can’t improve my memory of this dreadful double act.
23. MERRY HELL A sort of definition+cryptic definition clue.
25. TASERED SERE (withered) in TAD (a bit)
26,24. DAGGERS DRAWN Double definition
1. LOVE Nothing as in tennis scoring, and there’s “no love lost” between people who are at daggers drawn.
3. OPTION OP + O in TIN. “Hobson gave no” is the rather unstaisfactory defintion, referring of course to “Hobson’s Choice”.
4. LABOUR I preume this means that “New Labour” is now “old”.
6. THRONGED G (sounds like gee = horse) in THRONED (sitting)
7. MINISTER OF GRACE (FROM SEEING CAR IT)*. This refers to Hamlet’s cry in Act 1 Scene 4 when he sees his father’s ghost: “Angels and ministers of grace defend us!” I’m not sure whether this (singular) version is used on its own enough to qualify it as a standard phrase.
8. THEODOLITE Homophone of “the odder light”, with “Surveyor’s” as another dodgy definition.
12. GIDDY LIMIT Double definition
15. EMPLOYER ME + PLOY + ER (“I’m not sure”)
20. LAPDOG (GOD PAL)< As the clue says, a poodle isn't actually a lapdog, but both can be used as an insult meaning a lackey or sycophant (as was said of Tony Blair towards George W Bush for example).
22. ONUS The burden is “ON U.S.”

35 Responses to “Guardian 25,159 – Araucaria”

  1. Eileen says:

    Many thanks for the blog, Andrew.

    I enjoyed this typically Araucarian puzzle. I laughed out loud at the outrageous THEODOLYTE and liked GIDDY LIMIT and MERRY HELL. too.

    I don’t think ‘ministers [you have a wee typo] of grace’ is a standard phrase – I’ve never come across it anywhere else – but it’s clearly defined as one called upon in Hamlet, so there’s no problem.

    I think I’d disagree about ‘et al[ii]’ being more common than ‘et al[ia]’ but perhaps I’m thinking of ‘inter alia’.

    One pedantic point: I discovered this morning that the Graham Greene character is Pinkie, hence ‘rhyme for’ rather than ‘beheaded’, I suppose. Of course, I’d spent time looking for a word beginning with B.

    [I agree about 21ac. :-) ]

  2. BrigadierCarruthers says:

    Thanks for the blog Andrew.
    In 18 both the elements have an s (i) ‘s and (ii) just an s — it’s ok isn’t it?

    I found I frequently had a revelatory moment followed by a necessary period of forensic application to prove the ‘guess’ right. Only 25 eluded my analysis. I guessed it from the definition and intersecting letters but was unfamiliar, or rather insufficiently familiar with ‘sere’.

  3. molonglo says:

    Thanks Andrew. This was oddish and cheeky (it even had a Paul-like 1a) and good fun for about an hour. I think the Shakespearean play does work – re 18a – because that clue has a possessive. Lots to like here in the clues, notably 25a and 8d (Eileen: you do mean -lite?). A query: is ‘letters’ in 2d an anagrind?

  4. Eileen says:

    Thanks, molonglo – of course!

    I think ‘letters’ is OK as an anagrind but I agree with Andrew that, strictly, we need another apostroiphe to make 18ac work.

    Brigadier, Shakespeare came to my rescue again in 25ac:

    “My way of life
    Is fall’n into the sere, the yellow leaf;”

    Macbeth Act V sc iii

    again, the only place I’ve come across it, except in crosswords!

  5. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew. It won’t surprise anyone that I enjoyed this, especially the playfulness of 26,24. 8dn made me smile, too, along with others.

  6. Rishi says:


    The word ‘sere’ I know from its use in a poem by Ben Jonson that was prescribed for my study in school or early college:


    How easy it is now to track down a passage from a poem or a play! I am donating books (dearly cherished for decades from my father’s collection and my own) to private libraries because I need not have to fall back on them in search of half-remembered lines.

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew for a good blog and Araucaria for a very enjoyable puzzle.

    Re sere – OED reveals it occurs in Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner and in Wordsworth and Donne plus O.W.Holmes as well as Shakespeare (several places). As this implies it says ‘now poetical or rhetorical’ (it doesn’t mention crosswords but Eileen must be right that this is its main locus these days). Spellings differ (OED gives ‘seare’ in the Macbeth quotation).

    Thanks Eileen re Pinkie. Almost last to go in. I guessed the answer and assumed, like Andrew, it relate to Pinky but I could only remember an American film of that name about a girl who passes for white though not associating it with Greene. I meant to check further but got diverted.

    Overall most enjoyable with a wide array of tasty morsels. Loo roll, blue rinse, revolutionised, merry hell, daggers drawn, boutique, theodolite, giddy limit, and scrag end all ( :)metaphorically thank goodness)
    tickled the palate in their different ways as did the 1,4,18 linkage.

    Thanks again Araucaria.

  8. sidey says:

    How is ‘giddy limit’ used? I can’t find an example.

  9. Geoff says:

    Entertaining puzzle with several LOL moments, and rather more of a (pleasing) challenge than many recent Araucarias.

    Re 14, Chambers suggests that ‘et al’ can be an abbreviation for ‘et alii’ (and other people -‘et aliae’ if they are all female), ‘et alia’ (and other things) or even ‘et alibi’ (and elsewhere), but I agree with Andrew that its most familiar usage is in references to other work in academic journals: referring to a paper by Smith et al, rather than Smith, Jones and Bloggs.

    Thanks to Andrew et al

  10. tupu says:

    Thinking back over this puzzle, I am ‘stunned’ – not for the first time – by the range of A’s allusions. The word ‘tasered’ is a case in point. It is a relatively modern technical concept (1970s) derived from the noun ‘Taser’ [app. from the initial letters of Tom Swift’s electric rifle (a fictitious weapon), after LASER] but it is composed of a colloquialism (a fairly modern Americanism -1940s acc. to OED) and sere (an obscure and archaic poetical word).
    And more generally he draws his verbal pleasures from both far and wide. He is old and young, literary and scientific, formal and slangy all rolled up together.

    re et al.
    OED supports Andrew and Geoff on this.

  11. Dave Ellison says:

    sidey@8. My mother often used to say to me: “you are the giddy limit”

    Thanks, Andrew, needed the explanation for 11a and 25a. Otherwise an enjoyable hour’s worth.

    Not that it matters much but I did wonder why three daggers in 26a, and not two or four? And perhaps the (pictured) was a bit belt and braces, maybe a better clue, but harder, without it.

  12. Tokyocolin says:

    Many thanks Andrew. I found this slow going but persevered without aids and felt very satisfied when it all fell into place. I agree (not for the first time) with tupu@10 that Araucaria’s range of references is extraordinary. It is as if he has somehow assimilated Wikipedia or the Library of Congress. Absolutely masterly. Not quite my favourite setter but the one I most admire.

    I had no problem with SERE. I don’t associate it with a literary reference, just a useful word meaning dry and withered that has moved to the back of the shelf of everyday words. But I suppose I would be met with blank looks if I popped it into daily conversation, especially with my younger colleagues.

    I haven’t heard GIDDY LIMIT since my great grandmother so that for me was archaic.

  13. tupu says:

    Hi TokyoColin

    I suppose the ‘giddy’ is, like ‘ruddy’, a softening of ‘bloody’. The other expression I’ve come across, I think, is the expletive ‘My giddy aunt!’.

  14. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks Andrew.

    I started this morning, and was beginning to feel a little lost by the time my daughter phoned to remind me I had to go out. I took it up again this afternoon, and things slowly fell into place, though I was unable to see 26,24 for a very long time, which was frustrating. Are those keyboard symbols called daggers? I’m totally unfamiliar with IT terminology in English :(

    Regarding 18ac, the clue actually says “1 down’s 4s”, so the ‘s’s from the title of the play are not missing. My problem with this clue is that it relies on another which itself refers to this one.

  15. Andrew says:

    Stella – the “daggers” are more of a typographical symbol than an IT one, as used for footnotes for example (where they are sometimes called obelisks or obeli – another useful crossword word!)

    My (perhaps hyper-pedantic) point about 18ac is that the clue suggests “Love’s Labours Lost”, whereas the title of the play (at least in modern spelling) is “Love’s Labour’s Lost”. No S is missing, but an apostrophe is.

  16. Rishi says:


    † is a mark of reference. I have seen it in footnotes in old books. I think such symbols were used in printing in the past decades when superscript was not possible or pretty difficult. It is also called ‘obelus’. The plural form, ‘obeli’, appears occasionally in advanced crosswords.

    Another mark is ‡ which is called ‘double dagger’. Also called ‘double obelus’.

  17. finbar says:

    A while ago i came across a clue in guardian puzzle which went something like: “Robust comedy partner”. I entered “large” which caused much confusion with the checking letters. The answer should have been “hardy”. I confessed my shame on this very forum. But it’s nice to see that Araucaria has no such shame and has used both both partners of the act in todays puzzle, although he may not be specifically referring to Eddie and Sid.

  18. FumbleFingers says:

    Thanks Andrew.

    Stella – I don’t know about your keyboard, but mine is standard UK, which DOESN’T have a key for the dagger (aka obelus) symbol. I’d be impressed if anyone more techie than me were able to reproduce the character within 15×15’s pages.

    I really liked this puzzle, particularly in contrast to the recent Pasquale that just went too far beyond the limits of my vocabulary & general knowledge. In this one, no LOVE LOST, MERRY HELL, DAGGERS DRAWN, GIDDY LIMIT, etc. were all known to me – but mostly haven’t turned up for decades. Seeing them all together was a bit like meeting several long-lost friends at a school reunion.

    In which context, as has been pointed out, it’s nice to see bang-up-to-date neologisms like TASERED. As usual, I’m somewhat awed by the apparently effortless breadth Aruacaria encompasses.

    My only criticism is I’d rather not have been reminded of LITTLE AND LARGE. I agree with others here that some things are best left in the past.

  19. FumbleFingers says:

    @finbar – not wishing to be contentious, Laurel & Hardy are part of western civilisation’s illustrious past. Little & Large are part of the seamy underbelly.

  20. tupu says:

    Hi fumblefingers
    Microsoft word offers the following for daggers

  21. FumbleFingers says:

    your calligraphic skills humble me, oh great tupu!

  22. Gaufrid says:

    Doesn’t Rishi @ 16 get any credit? He posted an † even before your challenge.

  23. walruss says:

    I think ‘et al’ should mean ‘and all’, because it would be easier! Royally entertained by the King of Crosswords today, what a great puzzle.

  24. tupu says:

    Rishi and Gaufrid

    Apologies. I missed rishi’s. I made mine in word and then copied and pasted, but I find that number lock and alt + 0134 will produce it here as †.

  25. cholecyst says:

    Tupu – how clever! But what’s it got to do with crossword puzzles?

  26. Dynamic says:

    A very enjoyable solve when it fell into place. Was stuck with 26,24 across, 6 & 22 down for ages before I started to make progress. I didn’t know ‘sere’ or the Hamlet quote and hadn’t come up with Pinkie, which I have heard of, but knew it had to be inky. I spent an age pondering 17 across before it dawned on me. Made me feel quite dim, being a physicist by education and using the alias I use!

    Also, I’m typing with Nigella Lawson on TV in the background and she’d already mentioned “sear” (…in my brain) and “inky” (squid ink or “squink” risotto) while I’ve been typing, which is coincidental enough for me. Don’t imagine scrag end will make an appearance as she’s using a shin of beef for her stew, and cutting it with a knife rather than a dagger. That would be TOO weird.

    Thanks to all above.

  27. tupu says:

    Hi Cholecyst
    :)Like your question, it’s just something that arose out of this one.

  28. Sil van den Hoek says:

    This was a very good Araucaria, certainly nót [theodo]Lite :).

    But, that particular clue (8d), is it a perfect homophone?
    Is the ‘the’ of ‘the’ really the same as the ‘the’ of ‘theodolite’?
    [I know, a lot of the’s]
    My PinC thought it wasn’t – and I think I agree with her.

    Oh, those homophones.

  29. Dynamic says:


    I agree there’s a subtle difference: ‘The’ is usually prounounced with a flatter, lower dh (as in those) while ‘theodolite’ is usually pronounced with a sharper, toothier th (as in theme).

    I think to an English ear like mine, it’s not that noticeable especially in rapid speech, and it hadn’t occurred to me that it wasn’t a perfect homophone and it didn’t spoil the lovely clue. There might be regional or national accents where it’s a perfect match, but none spring to mind.

    As for its definition, I was thinking one could argue that a theodolite is something which surveys, so it could be called a surveyor in crosswordland, though clearly it doesn’t have the power of sight in the same way as the human surveyor operating it, so you would just call it a surveying instrument in the real world.

  30. Andrew says:

    The technical difference is that the TH is voiced in THE and unvoiced in THEODOLITE. See here for the gory details.

    There’s also the question of whether you pronounce (rhotacise) the R in “odder”.

  31. otter says:

    I enjoyed this puzzle a lot. As has been said, a bit harder than a lot of recent Araucaria’s puzzles, but plenty to amuse and tantalise. Lots of good linking between clues, as well. I ended up with GIDDY LIMIT (a phrase I haven’t heard since childhood, I suppose) and INKY. When I saw that clue I immediately thought of Pinkie in Brighton Rock, decided it must be something to do with his surname, looked it up and found he is Pinkie Brown – another colour, hmm, interesting, but couldn’t do anything with that word. It was only right at the end, with the connecting letters in place, that I came back to it and realised it was a rhyme for ‘Pinkie’ rather than anything more convoluted.

  32. Sylvia says:

    Did anyone else spend time pondering the rhyme ‘lily-white boy dressed all in greeno’for 13a? And no-one commented on ‘bath mat’ or ‘blue rinse’, both of which I loved. Great Araucaria!

  33. Arthur Hay says:

    Finding this puzzle published in the international _Guardian Weekly_ seven days later, I gave thanks that 17ac (dynamics) was such an obvious clue. Otherwise I’d still be trying to fit in “dizzy limit” for 12 dn.

    Is this an Australianism, or more widely used? Still quite current here.

    Loved the puzzle.

  34. rfb says:

    #33 – I have been resident in Canada for 40 years, and have never heard either “giddy limit” or “dizzy limit” used over here. I remember “giddy limit” from growing up in the UK, but not “dizzy limit”. So I assume the latter is an Australianism.

    As you said, the puzzle was great.

  35. Gordon Roy says:

    Both Giddy Limit and Dizzy Limit were used by my grandma in Stockport in the 1960s, so it is not simply an Australianism but both are probably mostly pre-1950s usage in Britain.

    Neither expressions are known in the USA here I now live; interestingly in The American Heritage Dictionary [by Houghton Mifflin] which is just one of the several US dictionaries that I also have over here, [as well as all the British ones], it gives the root of Giddy as being from the German root Gud [meaning God] and specifically Gudigaz, which means possessed by God.

    I don’t know if anyone is still reading this blog, but I thought I’d send the info anyhow.

    By the way I also had in Dizzy Limit as the answer until I got Dynamics.

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