Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,167 (Sat 13 Nov)/Araucaria – Juncture repair job

Posted by rightback on November 20th, 2010


Solving time: 38 mins

This very impressive construction may have had the most involved preamble I’ve seen in the Guardian. Essentially, half the clues led to two answers differing by either the first or last letter, and the right selections had to be made to allow all 26 letters of the alphabet to appear in the perimeter.

This was a puzzle of four approximately equal parts for me:

  • a strong first 9 minutes in which I had completed most of the left-hand side and some of the bottom right;
  • another 10 minutes in which I solved almost nothing further until I got a couple in the top right;
  • a further 10 minutes wondering where on earth the ‘J’ was placed in the perimeter, eventually broken when I solved 5dn (JUNCTURE) and then (now being fairly sure of the placement of the ‘M’) cracked 18dn (TRISTRAM) followed by 24ac (METZ) and 9ac (ULEMA);
  • a final 9 minutes to spot my stupid spelling mistake at 6dn (‘despondant’ for DESPONDENT) and then finally crack 17ac (DEMENTI).

Perhaps because of the number of ‘special clues’, the wordplay on the whole seemed less complex than usual for Araucaria and there were few obscure references, and overall this was a tough but very enjoyable challenge.

Music of the day: 14ac reminded me of the ‘Bluenotes’, as my mum used to call them, so here’s an early Bluetones track, Bluetonic, and a later one, Keep The Home Fires Burning. (I think I’ve used Wagner’s wonderful Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde (18dn) once before.)

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

8 GLANDERS/FLANDERS – I hesitated over the first letter of the disease here until the options were reduced.
9 ULEMA (hidden) – really should have got this faster, I even looked for a hidden word at one stage and still missed it.
10 QUIT/SUIT – I initially suspected that clothes would give ‘gear’, but couldn’t see a synonym for ‘leave’ to fit ?EAR. Once ‘quit’ occurred to me I was sure it would provide the Q for the perimeter.
11 LORD COPPER – LORD (= ‘sovereign’) + COPPER (= ‘penny’) – I didn’t know the name, which comes from Evelyn Waugh’s novel Scoop so wrote this in tentatively, especially since I had (and still have) some doubt over whether ‘sovereign’ = LORD is quite right.
14 BLUE NOTE; (ONE + LUTE + B)* – a slightly dubious definition in which ‘might’ might have been preferable to ‘would’ (B flat is only one possible blue note), but I suppose the reference to the aforementioned ‘B’ excuses it.
17 DEMENTI[a] – the noun démenti (in Chambers) means a contradiction or denial. I had a complete shocker here, firstly because of an incorrect checking letter from 6dn (qv) and secondly because I thought this was a ‘special’ clue with the wordplay leading to a word with a different last letter from the definition, thanks to having missed the double clue at 4dn (qv also). Fortunately, once I’d fixed the erroneous letter the possibility of the wordplay giving ‘demente[d]’ led me to the answer (which I knew had to end in ‘I’).
23 UP + TO A POINT – because apparently ‘up to a point, Lord Copper’ was his minions’ way of saying ‘no’ (see the link above at 11ac). On reflection I think I probably have heard that phrase before but didn’t understand the reference when solving.
24 METE/METZ – spent too long on ‘mile’ here. FC Metz so nearly won the French league championship in 1997/8, losing out to Lens only on goal difference.
25 APPRO; AP (= ‘son of’ in Welsh) + PRO (= ‘expert’) – I was fortunate to know ‘Son of Welsh’ = ‘ap’ (as in some surnames) but misread the clue initially, omitting the word ‘expert’, and wrote in ‘apply’ (with ‘test’ = ‘ply’ and ‘to see if wanted’ = ‘apply’). Luckily 16dn wasn’t too hard so I saw the error quickly.
26 SUSANNAH; S + USA (= ‘states’) + N,N (= ‘news’) + A + H[orse] – ‘horse’ = H because both can mean heroin.
1 FLOURISH; L in FOURISH – I liked this a lot, having wasted time trying to anagram ‘teatime’.
2 KNIT/UNIT – lost time on ‘fuse’ here, amongst other options.
4 ASCRIBE/ESCRIBE; (SIC + BEER) – when solving I thought that this was a normal clue with the ‘(not sic)’ implying that ‘beer’ should have read ‘bear’ and also doing double duty as an anagram indicator. I should probably have considered other options given the pain that this subsequently caused me at 17ac (which was in fact a normal clue), but unfortunately that’s the problem with ‘libertarian’ setters – their best clues can miss the mark because ‘near miss’ alternatives look close enough, whereas with more accurate setters you know you haven’t quite cracked it.
5 PUNCTURE/JUNCTURE – an extremely good clue which I struggled with even once I was sure it started with ‘J'; ‘Flat’ = ‘flat tyre’ just didn’t occur to me.
6 RESPONDENT/DESPONDENT – oh dear. No excuse here – I knew the Latin ‘respondere’ was second declension so it had to be -ent and not -ant, but got mixed up with ‘dependent’/’dependant’ (where both options are possible). What’s really annoying is that the potential ambiguity (as I thought) occurred to me as I wrote in the answer and I subsequently forgot about it.
7 PATENT/LATENT – excellent.
13 LOCAL LOOPS; LO (= ‘see’) + CALL (= ‘phone conversation’) + OOPS (= ‘I shouldn’t have said that!’) – a nicely worked surface. I didn’t know the phrase ‘local loop’ which is apparently the connection between a customer and the local exchange.
16 EGG SPOON; EGG (= ‘spur’) + SPOON (= ‘cuddle’)
18 TRISTRAM; “TRYST” (= ‘reported date’) + RAM (= ‘male’) – another clue that stymied me, and even once the answer occurred to me I couldn’t fathom the wordplay because I was sidetracked by ‘romance’ = ‘tryst’ and ‘male’ = M, neither of which was correct. Tristram was a the Knight of the Round Table, also known as Tristan as in Tristan and Isolde.
19 ‘FRAID SO; (OF D[octo]R IS A)* – inadequate and ungrammatical anagram indication.
21 IN PLAY; INLAY (= ‘marquetry feature’) around P (= ‘quiet’) – because if a ball is ‘in touch’ it’s out of play and therefore vice versa (correctly with a question mark).
22 DETEST; DE (= ‘of foreign’, i.e. French) + TEST
24 MINE/MINX – again, the ‘X’ had to be the correct choice here for the pangrammatical perimeter.

34 Responses to “Guardian 25,167 (Sat 13 Nov)/Araucaria – Juncture repair job”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Rightback I found this very challenging and very enjoyable. Whatever will Araucaria think up next?

    It took me some time to work out the correct perimeter options and the SE corner was my last to complete.

    The only uncertainty that I had was APPRO which seemed OK but I’d never heard of AP meaning ‘son of’ in Welsh until today.

    Here’s hoping that Araucaria now serves up another of these delicacies!

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks rightback. This took me an hour or two, despite 1d and 9a instantly gettable, and then 23a and 11a being a Scoop quote once much in vogue in our household. The trickery in the setting, however, slowed things down. 17a was new, though divinable. One quibble re 20a: the only one of the doubles (knit/unit, bellow/yellow etc) that wasn’t itself cued. And 19d seemed a clumsy job. All the rest of it was great.

  3. Bryan says:

    Actually, Rightback, the correct answer to 20a is VILLAGER which negates Molongo’s observation @2.

  4. Bryan says:

    I now see that the correct choice of the various alternatives has not always been listed first as I had supposed. These are:


  5. cholecyst says:

    Thanks Rightback. Once I had digested the complicated instructions, I actually found this easier than usual – maybe because of the progressively diminishing options available for completing the perimeter squares.

  6. Mr Beaver says:

    Yes, as Rightback says, the wordplay tended to be easier than normal, but I found this offset by not always knowing how to treat the clues. The shorter ones (eg 2d, 3d, 5d) were obviously pairs, but several (eg 20a, 6d) could have gone either way, so were trickier to parse.
    Overall, a challenge but tractable – great fun!

    It’s always interesting to see what is familiar or obscure to others – ‘ap’ in Welsh names was well-known to us, as was the Lord Copper quote (and hasn’t Araucaria used this before ?), but the events of the French (or indeed English) football league have alas utterly passed me by!

  7. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Rightback – this was a lot of fun.

    Bryan, I think molonglo was observing that there was no definition for VILLAGER. However, I think that’s fair enough – Araucaria gave an analogous example in the preamble: in ‘life-changing river’, ‘file’ is clued only through the wordplay, as is VILLAGER.

  8. Davy says:

    Thanks rightback,

    This was great fun and I was expecting about 15 minutes from you so 38 minutes is indeed a surprise !.
    Being of Welsh descent, ‘ap’ did strike a chord somewhere but I’ve spent all of my life in England so it
    did not register immediately. The last two in were METZ and MINX.

    I really enjoy Araucaria’s more unusual puzzles especially ones like this (I don’t remember a similar one),
    the jigsaws and the bank holdiday puzzles. Many thanks Arry.

  9. tupu says:

    Thanks rightback and araucaria.

    I much enjoyed completing this, though I had to check various points as I went along. I had read Scoop in 1967 while working myself in East Africa and was greatly amused by it, but I did not remember Lord Copper and his newspaper (not mentioned in the Blog?) the Daily Beast.

    The rules made it easier to solve, e.g. otherwise I would not have guessed dementi and might have chosen Pillager.

    As Eileen says, the example file/nile is comparable to pillager/villager.

    NB Metz/mete is different again (the change is in the last letter) and dementi/dementia is almost a stretchy extension of this though that would give 15 clues so it is not I assume intended as such.

    My favourite clue , once understood, is 23a.

  10. Stella says:

    Thanks Rightback. I enjoyed this, and got through it reasonably quickly (for me), but took a little while to finish the SW corner – the 24’s -, which I eventually did after checking the perimeter, changing ‘pillager’ to ‘villager’, ‘latent’ to ‘patent’ and ‘detain’ to ‘detail’, thus leaving the only possible end letters ‘x’ and ‘z’.

    Great fun!

  11. Daniel Miller says:

    As far as a Saturday crossword goes this was relatively tame stuff. Enjoyable but – once you got going – pretty straightforward to knock off the alternates.

    Here are clues for the day:

    Synthetic Cream – or Boddington’s? (10, 4)
    Extremely clever on the pitch? (8,7)

  12. Thomas99 says:

    What’s different about Metz/mete?

    There was lots of criticism of 19d on the Guardian site, but none of it was about the anagram indicator!

  13. tupu says:

    Hi Thomas99
    Thanks and whoops/sorry! You are right to query my point here. I was misled (a week after solving) by the fact that most of the answers were first letter changes but of course A gives milk/mill as an example and there is also detail/detain in the puzzle!

  14. Sil van den Hoek says:

    “Relatively tame stuff?” (Daniel @11).
    We found this an extraordianry puzzle, at least as far as its originality is concerned.
    Hard to get into, but a lot easier after making a decent start.

    LORD COPPER and its reference in 23ac stumped us till the end.
    A bit silly, we thought it wás Lord Copper (what else could it be?), so should have Googled it as we had not heard of him.

    Blimey, rightback, 28 minutes – that’s extraordinary, too :).
    Thanks for explaining IN PLAY [is that cricket again?].

    And tupu, it’s not clear what you say about METZ/METE and DEMENTI.
    What’s so different about the first?
    [however, the definition (‘in Lorraine’) will not please everyone, I guess, like 8ac’s ‘in Belgium’]
    And the latter is indeed not one of the 14, so just DEMENTI[a].

    Special crossword!

  15. tupu says:

    Hi right back

    I should have said ‘Thanks’ for your thoughtful comment re 4d which also left me puzzled (and re 17a. – see my comment @9)

    I suppose that ‘escribe’ is the alternative and has to be like ‘villager’ (though in this case not the answer), undefined but ‘described’ by the instructions – (not sic). :) Lord knows how it could be defined to fit in the surface – cf. OED ‘To describe (a circle) so as to touch one side of a triangle exteriorly, and the productions of the other two sides’. Unless it refers to the obsolete meaning of ‘To write or copy out’!?

    As I mentioned ‘dementi’ could almost be part of the theme (no final letter/’a’ as final letter) and to be frank I am still only 90% sure which is the theme clue and which the standard!

    Further comments would be appreciated on this.

  16. tupu says:

    Hi Sil

    Sorry, we crossed! Like Thomas99 you are right.

  17. Tokyo Colin says:

    Thanks Rightback. I found this very enjoyable and not too difficult. I didn’t make use of the fact that the outer letters had to include all the letters, just solved each clue until the grid was complete and then went round flipping the letter pairs until I had all 26. It rarely occurs to me to approach a puzzle any other way.

    I had never heard of AP or LORD COPPER (or the Daily Beast) but they were not difficult to surmise. I did know ULEMA though.

    I don’t keep track of solving time but I am sure I finished this in under an hour, which I would think makes this the first time I have taken less than twice your solving time. Either you’re slipping or I’m improving…

    19d was my favourite clue. Dodgy anagrind perhaps but great wordplay, a real aha!

  18. Sil van den Hoek says:

    “As I mentioned ‘dementi’ could almost be part of the theme (no final letter/’a’ as final letter) and to be frank I am still only 90% sure which is the theme clue and which the standard!”

    tupu, could you please explain exactly to which clues you are referring to? It looks like you want to make DEMENT- part of the game, but I cannot see how that would work.
    Or am I missing your point?

  19. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    I’m not sure.
    If dementi was to work it would have to be simply dementia without no final letter rather than with one (a). I suspect this won’t really do, but as Rightback says it can be hard to judge a ‘libertarian’ like Araucaria.

    Also 4d is probably escribe/ascribe (with no definition of ‘escribe’ but a sort of instruction how to construct it (sic beer not sic)).

    There are 28 clues altogether and half of them are special. 4d and 17a cannot therefore both be special (the other 13 are obvious). So which one is? – as I say, it probably has to be ascribe/escribe.

    I hope that helps explain my (unsatisfactory?) thought process.

  20. rrc says:

    Not impressed with this offering. I would not have worked out Lord Copper in a month of Sundays for I did not know the book or the author Beastly connections only made sense when the answer was discovered. I had always thought this compiler gave punters a chance but this offering proves me wrong.

  21. Stella says:

    Well, rrc, I hadn’t heard of them either, but I managed with the simple wordplay and a peak at Wiki, where all was explained.

    BTW, Rightback, I think ‘sovereign lord’ is an accepted juxtaposition, and when addressing one’s sovereign, is it not correct to say ‘my lord’?

  22. John Dean says:

    rrc: “Up to a point, Lord Copper” is a pretty well known quote. If you search online for the phrase you’ll find millions of hits, many of which make no reference to Waugh or the novel. It’s not necessary to know the book any more than it’s necessary to know the Punch cartoon to understand “curate’s egg”.

  23. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    ps :) I have been ‘out to lunch’ in two senses! Looking again at the clue to 17ac, on my return, convinces me it is wrong to have considered it as a possible theme clue. Not only does it not fit the rules properly but it has all the markings of a simple standard clue – definition (denial) + instruction how to get the answer. Sorry to have bothered you and others with this. This leaves ascribe/escribe as the ’14th’ as I had marginally preferred and rightback had decided.

  24. Sil van den Hoek says:

    tupu, so you’re not 100% sure which one to choose: 4d or 17ac.

    The first letter of 4d can only be an A, as 14ac definitely ends in an E.
    Therefore 17ac can only be DEMENTI.
    DEMENTI is ‘Denial’, and – this is the important bit – to be one of the 14 we need a word meaning ‘(of) nearly failing mind’ ending with a letter other than I.
    Rightback mentioned in his blog DEMENTE[d], but that cannot be it because DEMENTE is not a word in English – it’s not in any of the dictionaries that I possess nor otherwise to be found. And the only other word that’s theoretically possible (‘dements’) doesn’t make sense from a grammatical point of view.

    Maybe, I’m missing your point, but I cannot see how 17ac could be one of the 14 special solutions.

  25. Roger says:

    Thanks rightback. This was an enjoyable variation of the Araucaria A-Z Special.

    I wonder whether the ‘dodgy anagrind’ in 19d might also be part of a double definition.
    “So I need to keep off the beer then, doctor” … “ ‘Fraid so, old chap”
    “Do I have to ?” … “ ‘Fraid so, if you want to get better”.

    Just a thought.

  26. tupu says:

    Hi Sil

    See 23. We’ve crossed again! :) We can’t keep (not) meeting like this!

    My point for what it was worth (not much!) was that I was trying to juxtapose dementia/ dementi – the change of final letter being the removal of rather than a substitution for ‘a’. But as I say it is now quite clear this won’t do.

    Part of the confusion arises from the fact that ‘escribe’ is such a rare and specialised word and unlike villager is not used as the answer. Also another reading of the clue as a standard one is possible (see rightback). Your point that the answer has to begin with ‘a’ and 17a has to end in ‘i’ doesn’t really arise, since either way round one gets ascribe and dementi.

    The ultimate problem was to understand both answers rather than to get them. Once one goes back a week later to the wording of the clue for 17a all is revealed.

  27. Brad says:

    Being a beginner, I am very much hesitant to step in, but I thought 17ac was a double of dementi/demento.

  28. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Welcome, Brad,
    But could you perhaps tell us what DEMENTO means, because I cannot find it anywhere (in relation to this clue).

    And BTW, in my first post (#14) I put rightback on 28 minutes.
    A bit optimistic, it was actually 38.
    Still pretty quick :).

  29. Brad says:

    You’re correct. On re-reading, I have to retract. Demento shows up in an American dictionary I have here as a deranged person, but the “nearly” in the clue definitely favors the shortening of dementia.

  30. Sylvia says:

    I struggled with the NE corner because I had dejectment/rejectment for 6d until the end

  31. cryptomaniac says:

    Hi all

    Enjoyed solving this Xword, one of the few from the Guardian that I have managed to vanquish…

    Had to struggle with many of the clues, though Google and Wiki came to my rescue admirably, once I had a little to go on.

    Wonder if anyone noticed that Susannah is a principal character from Tristram Shandy (I haven’t read the book – this is just Wiki info). Seemed to me to be a very nice touch. Hats off to Araucaria!


  32. Daniel Miller says:

    I say it was ‘relatively tame’ as you knew exactly what the requirement was – (A to Z) – and some of the brief clues indicated a simple choice of possible answers (e.g. SUIT or QUIT). By process of elimination the final solution was more readily achieved than many other crosswords when several answers may come to mind. I normally struggle with Saturday crosswords (relatively speaking) – they tend to take me a lot longer (and I suppose more enjoyable when solved).

  33. Davy says:

    Daniel @32,

    I don’t really see how knowing that each answer either started with or ended with a unique letter of the alphabet, made this an easy (relatively tame) puzzle. I would say that it was more difficult than an alphabetical jigsaw, where the first letter of each answer was known. I found this quite tricky but there again there’s usually one person who says regardless of the complexity of the crossword, that it was either easy or too easy.

  34. Daniel Miller says:

    Davy @ 33

    From my POV to know you have to put ABC..XYZ around the circumference of the crossword made it a lot easier. Clearly one person’s meat is another one’s poison! There are certainly some Saturday crosswords I just give up on – but this wasn’t one of them! I used to give them a wide berth but now I give them a go – admittedly I find the set-up on most Saturdays a lot harder than the majority of the weekdays.

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