Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,172 by Araucaria – A Labour of Love

Posted by PeterO on November 19th, 2010


The luck of the draw gives me an Araucaria for my first Cryptic blog. Not vintage Araucaria, perhaps, and nothing too difficult (thankfully). It is always satisfying when I can look at 1 Across and solve it cold. Curiously, before getting either of the referenced 19, 10 clues, I had solved more than half the puzzle, including some of those that referenced them.

There is a theme to the puzzle, of British political party leaders in opposition.


1 HOKKAIDO HO (house) + KK (thousands) + AID (help) + O (nothing). The northernmost of Japan’s large islands.
5 SQUAWK SQUAW (wife of brave) + K (king). That one tickled my fancy.
9 WOLFLING WOL – LOW (base) reversed – + FLING (brief spell of fun).
10 LEADER Homonym of lieder. A variation on an old theme.
12 REACH-ME-DOWN REACH (stretch of river) + ME(a)DOW (field, lost a) + N (new).
15 SYNCH Homonym of sink (go down).
17 FOOL ABOUT The first of the 19 10 references: FOOT (Michael Foot, the Labour Party leader in opposition 1980-1983) about LABOU(r) (his party cut).

18 NO COMMENT NO (number) + COMMENT (how, in French).

19 PARTY Double definition

20 MOTHERCRAFT Double definition.
24 ARABLE AR(e) ABLE (can).
25 SOMBRERO S (spades) + OMBRE (card game) + RO (or reversed).
26 GALOSH GASH (spare) around LO (look).
27 AS IT WERE A SIT (a rest) + WERE (we’re, the Guardian’s).


1 HOWARD’S END The reference to another party leader in opposition, another Michael, this time Conservative, 2003-2005.
2 KILMARNOCK KIN(n)OCK (Neil Kinnock, Labour, 1983-1992; losing heart) confining L (student) + MAR (Scots earldom).
3 ALLAH ALL (everyone) + AH (expressed satisfaction).
4 DANCE OF DEATH Anagram of AN ODD TEA CHEF. The medieval allegory, famous from Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre, Liszt’s Totentanz, the ending of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, and its parody in Woody Allen’s Love and Death.
6 QUEEN WASP Queen (mother) + WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant; no  black Catholic).
7 AIDS A + IDS (George Iain Duncan Smith, often known by his initials IDS; Conservative, 2001-2003). Defining AIDS as a problem is somewhat loose.
8 KIRK Captain of the Enterprise in Star Trek; and a principally Scottish word for church.
11 TOP OF THE POPS A slightly derived anagram of PE (physical education) PHOTO SOFT P(orn).
13 JOURNALESE JOE (boy) containing URN (container) + ALES (drinks). Nicely misleading definition.
14 STAY-AT-HOME STAY (support) + (f)ATHOM (six feet) + E (ecstacy; evidently the drug of choice among crossword compilers, more addictive than C or H).
16 HAMAMELIS HAM (meat) + A MEL (homonym of a meal, lunch; I would have pronounced the witch hazel with a short e, but the correct long e makes the homonym closer) + IS (is to follow).
21 CUBIT CUB (the definition given in 9A) + IT (given here). The old measure from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger.
23,22 EARL HAIG EARL (peerage) + HAIG (homonym of Hague, William Jefferson; Conservative, 1997-2001). Field Marshal Douglas Haig.

31 Responses to “Guardian 25,172 by Araucaria – A Labour of Love”

  1. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Peter.

    Your first cryptic blog, my first Araucaria solve – good combination!

    There is some good stuff in here – QUEEN WASP, WOLFLING, SYNCH – but there were several where I got the answer without the slightest idea of how it worked. I can understand why he has his fans and there’s a sense of humour in there as well, but I’m not convinced he’ll ever become my favourite setter.

    Anyway, I did quite enjoy this one.

  2. Bryan says:

    Many thanks PeterO and welcome!

    I enjoyed this – even though I failed to get 3.

    I particularly liked the linked ones even though it took me some time to appreciate the connections.

    Many thanks Araucaria and also for the superb Prize Puzzle that was published last Saturday.

  3. mhl says:

    Welcome to the Guardian blogging team, PeterO, and thanks for a great post. I thought this was a very enjoyable solve.

    Although I was sure 12 across was going to end in -ME-DOWN, I’d only ever heard the expression “hand-me-down”, never “reach-me-down”. HOKKAIDO was the other sticking point for me, although the construction is easy enough that it really shouldn’t have been…

    (There’s a minor typo in 27 across – SIR instead of SIT)

  4. Andrew says:

    Thanks Peter, and welcome. Like you, I solved a lot of the puzzle, even the linked clues, before getting either 19 (which you haven’t listed, by the way) or 10.

    7dn – IDS is of course Iain Duncan Smith.

  5. NeilW says:

    Thanks PeterO. Like you I was bemused at seeing AIDS defined as a “problem”…

    By the way, you seem to have forgotten the pupil in 2dn

  6. NeilW says:

    21dn, I think it’s from elbow to the tip of the middle finger. Apologies for the pedantry.

  7. PeterO says:

    Thanks all for pointing out the various omissions and commissions. I hope that they are all corrected now without introducing further errors, other than the blank lines which popped up of their own accord and refused to go away.

  8. tupu says:

    Thanks PeterO and welcome, and thanks Araucaria

    I wondered if I was going to get going on this one. Howard’s End sprang to mind and then I couldn’t understand why E.M.Forster didn’t figure! Eventually the penny dropped, but only after several further solutions.

    I completed the west side first. Allah was first, and Dance of Death and Hokkaido.

    There are some nicely amusing clues inc.5a, 18a, 6d (probably my favourite), and 14d.

    16d was a bit clunky but charades often are.

    I did not see the proper parsing of 17a or of ‘arable’. I first thought 17a might be foot about (like footle?) but then realised what it was and assumed the parsing was o. lab. in foot (forgetting the ‘u’) With arable, I thought it might be able containing ‘ra’ which would be much too untidy for this setter. Thanks PeterO for clarifying these.

  9. Coffee says:

    I too had never heard of REACH-ME-DOWN, and thought AIDS was dodgy. I did like 11 D though; quite easy for an Araucaria overall. Well done & thanks PeterO.

  10. molonglo says:

    Thanks Peter O, and welcome. Got 10a which crops up often, and hence the theme, at once, followed by some easy ones like 23,22 and some clever ones like 17a. Had to look up witch hazel for the otherwise too esoteric 16d and though I got it had had no explanation for gash=spare in 26a. Can you explain? Failed only on 17d, far out. Almost full marks to Araucaria for another beauty.

  11. rulei says:

    “Spare” as in “surplus”. When the Royal Navy used to hand out a daily rum ration, the leftovers after everyone had been served were known as “gash rum” and were thrown overboard.

    I only know this because it features in a Navy Lark episode (CPO Pertwee installs an arrangement of pipes to catch the gash rum from the scuppers)

  12. Stella says:

    Thanks Peter. I needed your explanation to fully understand 6d.

    Other than that, I must have been on the master’s wavelength today, as I got straight into the puzzle and filled in most of the long answers without even bothering about the parsing – they just seemed obvious, for some reason.

  13. Roger says:

    Thanks PeterO and Araucaria. This was a breath of fresh air compared with yesterday’s tangled web and most enjoyable. Loved squawk but was unfamiliar with the singular form of galoshes.
    18, 19 is an interesting combination across the middle of the grid as is 14, 19 (non-voters). 12 and 17 parties sound like fun but the 27, 19 needs updating. I’ll pass on the 4, 19 if you don’t mind. (Mercifully there’s no mention of Tupperware ….)

  14. cyniccure says:

    Ref 5a. Worth noting that squaw is considered an offensive term by native Americans. So probably not a usage the Guardian should be encouraging.

  15. James G says:

    Thanks Peter O. I needed yoyr help parsing 6 (i’ve never heard of white anglo-saxon prots), and 24. Very clever. And thanks for answering why gash=spare.

    re 10, the Oxford Lieder festival used to have the tag-line “take me to your Lieder”…

  16. Brian (with an eye) says:

    @rulei (11) – that very episode of The Navy Lark was on BBC7 this very day! (repeated at 7pm if you’re really looking for some way to avoid Children in Need).

  17. Stella says:

    Roger@13, very witty :)

    Perhaps I should have added to my comment that it helped that I immediately saw the top row on the first reading – I was beginning to feel quite brillaint, but I find I’m not the only one :)

  18. Mick H says:

    I was surprised by the inclusion of ‘squaw’, too, having heard it was offensive – and indeed Chambers lists it as such.
    But there seems to be a fascinating and lively politico-etymological debate about this:
    Anyway, loved the puzzle, and interesting how Araucaria avoids the best-known leaders. Except John Smith, I think this includes all Labour and Tory leaders who have not been Prime Minister since – what, the 1960s? OK, no Ed Miliband, but he still has time!

  19. PeterO says:

    James G – It’s probably not surprising that you had not come across WASP – I think it is still largely an Americanism.
    Stella – you should feel chuffed to get the first two clues straight off, and it surely gives a boost to the downs. Like tupu, Howard’s End came to my mind without benefit of 19, 10, and I put off considering who the Howard of the clue was. Kilmarnock was obvious from the checked letters, but I was not looking forward to parsing the clue later; when it came to it, I was relieved to be assured by Wikipedia that there really was an Earl of Mar.
    I have not been able to find any guess as to why gash=spare, but the naval connection seems assured.

  20. Carrots says:

    Congratulations on an excellent blog! Don`t mind the nit-pickers….thats what they are there for. I finished this (just if you discount HAMAMELLIS, which was new to me) so I`ve restored a little self-esteem after yesterday`s debacle. To-day was piles of rocks in Athens, but I pleaded sore feet and found a scruffy little taverna within which to crack the puzzle.

  21. Kathryn's Dad says:

    It’s funny how people’s passive vocabulary differs – I have always known the gash = spare equivalence. I don’t think it’s a regional dialect thing, though, is it?

  22. William says:

    Welcome aboard, PeterO, and thank you for the much-needed blog.

    I rather enjoyed filling in what I assumed were the answers but wondered what all those clues had to do with them.

    There was so much in this I had never heard of I rather lost heart, persevering out of inquisitiveness more than anything.

    Still, The Reverend is always entertaining and thought-provoking and that is, after all, what this rum business is all about.

    Thank you.

  23. JS says:

    Brian (with an eye) #16

    Thanks for the info re The Navy Lark ~ going to enjoy that in 10 mins or so!

    PS There is no apostrophe ‘s’ in Howards End.

  24. snigger says:

    Kathryn’s Dad – i spent some time at sea (not RN) the “gash bucket” was the waste bin, for all things “spare”, and i have heard ex-RAF personnel describe something not very good as gash. Possibly service slang rather than regional dialect.

  25. Mr Beaver says:

    Didn’t enjoy this one as much as usual for Araucaria – mainly because the penny didn’t drop about the theme, even at the end! Mrs B got Howards End early on and for some reason we thought the theme related to Howard Marks – and that maybe 10a could be ANIMAL. But then none of the other themed clues made the slightest sense :(
    Still, as Bryan remarks, A is forgiven everything for Saturday’s prize puzzle,and this month’s Genius, which has entertained us for the last fortnight!

  26. Sil van den Hoek says:

    We did enjoy this crossword, even though we didn’t enjoy the fact that we weren’t able to finish it [but we díd enjoy the coffee :)].
    The SW corner stayed blank until the very end.

    There were some iffy things in this puzzle.
    In 9ac “return to base” for the reversal of “low”? “to”?
    In 12 ac “a lost field” for a “meadow” losing the “a” – this is even worse than yesterday’s “Student swallowing poison”.
    And then 24ac (ARABLE). AR[e] ABLE is the obvious parsing, and I know what ARABLE is, but is there a proper definition? ARABLE is an adjective, and the only thing that is in the clue is “Ploughed” [which cóuld mean ARABLE, although Chambers also says “fit for ploughing”] but what about “fields” then?
    And, finally, why does Araucaria put both his “(say)”s in brackets (in 16d)?

    Did I say we enjoyed it, at the start of this post?
    Well, we did eventually, but Araucaria was not in the form of his life [which may, btw, hopefully last forever!]

    And PeterO – fine blog!

  27. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    Like you I enjoyed the puzzle though a little less than some others. As usual I find your comments interesting and thought provoking when they don’t completely chime with my own feeling (unlike yesterday’s re poison where we agree boy is the most ‘obvious’ subject). Re some of your queries re iffiness.

    1 ‘a lost field’. I didn’t feel this was as bad as yesterdays example (re boy) though it needs a similar construction. Like ‘boy swallowed’, ‘A lost’ is readable as an adjectival phrase and is not all that far from standard English (cf blue eyed boy).

    2. I didn’t find the ‘to’ in ‘return to base’ so troublesome eg. it is readable as (giving or making) return to base.

    I suppose it’s ultimately a matter of how uncomfortable one feels about these ‘iffy’ cases.

    3. I’m afraid ‘arable’ is sometimes used as a noun. Cf OED
    b. absol. quasi-n. Arable land.
    1576 LAMBARDE Peramb. Kent (1826) 3 Consisting indifferently of arable, pasture, meadow, and woodland. 1697 DRYDEN Virg. Georg. II. 321 Tis good for Arable, a Glebe that asks Tough Teams of Oxen. 1883 HARDY in Longm. Mag. July 258 A group of these honest fellows in the arable. So this one is definitely OK.

    Paradoxically, I fell down on more straightforward cases (parsing 17 and 24).

  28. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Hi tupu, I withdraw my comment on ARABLE. You’re quite right.
    I should have known better.

    But, sorry, “a lost field” is IMO still rather awful.
    You didn’t convince me at all with your example.
    So we can turn the whole thing around? “field lost a”=”a lost field”?
    But as nobody seems to be bothered about it, I am probably the odd one out.

    As to the ‘return to base’ construction I still dislike it, certainly after reading the clue as a whole. But probably this is a matter of taste. I suspect, though, that Araucaria knows that the editor allows him to do these kind of things in order to improve the surface, because he is Araucaria and he can do what he thinks is right.
    If so, that’s, in a way, something that I savour.
    Even if I didn’t like it here.

  29. Dad'sLad says:

    Frankly astonished at the lack of comment on AIDS (7d) as a ‘problem’. I have been so upset I have waited until now to post.

    Others will have there own experiences of the ‘problem’. Here’s mine;

    Work as a musician took me to Bucharest in 2001. Post-Ceaucescu dirty needles were a major public health problem and whole classes of children were inadvertently infected with the AIDS virus. Whilst in Bucharest we played at a children’s hospital for kids infected by AIDS. There was a very modern bright area on the first floor with space for parents to stay. Staff explained that it was for the kids who would die that week. There were several occupied rooms with no visitors as parts of Romanian society preferred to disown their infected children.

    The kids we played for had up to a year to live. They were full of life and unaware of what was coming.

    Araucaria, I can assure you that AIDS was much more than a ‘problem’ for those children.

    Gaufrid, please do not moderate this. I appreciate the rule about relevance, but hope you will let this be aired.

  30. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    Thanks for you helpful response. Please forgive a small pedantic quibble. ‘Field lost a’ doesn’t occur in my comment but it would have to read differently again – either as field (subj) lost (v) a (obj) or field plus ‘lost a’ as absolute construction. In ‘a lost field’ my reading was not that ‘lost’ is an active verb form but that ‘a’ + passive past participle ‘lost’ combine to make an adjectival phrase describing field.

  31. Sil van den Hoek says:

    tupu, don’t worry, I know exactly what you mean, but I don’t like it at all. I find it a very very laboured way to describe that the ‘a’ leaves the ‘meadow’. Let’s leave it here. :)

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