Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,179 (Sat 27 Nov)/Araucaria – Hob story

Posted by rightback on December 4th, 2010


Solving time: 16 mins, one mistake (HOBBEMA at 24ac)

This crossword was themed on the song Rising Early in the Morning from The Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan, which contains the following verse:

     Oh, philosophers may sing
     Of the troubles of a King;
     Yet the duties are delightful, and the privileges great;
     But the privilege and pleasure
     That we treasure beyond measure
     Is to run on little errands for the Ministers of State.

Not knowing this, 18ac (which had no wordplay) baffled me although I guessed the answer. 13ac was nearly excellent but to be honest I wasn’t overly taken with much of the rest of this puzzle, and I don’t fully understand 5dn. Probably I’d have enjoyed this puzzle more if the theme had meant anything to me.

Music of the day (7dn): Not Leila but Layla by Derek and the Dominoes.

* = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

5 LITTLE; LITT. (= ‘letters’, as in LittB, Bachelor of Letters) – I think ‘bingo’ refers to Bingo Little, a character from P.G. Wodehouse’s novels about Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, but why no capital on ‘bingo’? This would have been so easy to rewrite slightly to accommodate the correct version. Perhaps the Guardian considers this to be fair, but for me it’s just wrong.
8 SYMPTOM; rev. of (P.S. around MY), + TOM
9 RUNNING (2 defs)
12 ELAN[d] – the surface reading needs an ‘of’ before ‘vigorous’, but this would have spoilt the cryptic reading. I’m not sure which I like less.
13 LEANED UPON; LE + ANE + DU PON[t] – in French, ‘ass’ is ‘ane’ and ‘of the bridge’ is ‘du pont’, which almost makes this a very nice charade. The ‘le’ at the beginning is unfortunate (it should be ‘l’ane’ rather than ‘le ane’) but probably justifiable if you consider the French terms translated independently and then concatenated.
18 KING – see intro.
20 ELECTRIFICATION; ELECT + (I + IF ON CAR IT)* – I struggled badly on the second half of this word.
23 SHIMMER; “SIMMER” said with a drunken slur
24 HOBBEMA; HOB + BE MA – the painter Meindert Hobbema, of whom I had never heard. My best guess was ‘hobs’ + anagram of ‘tea’ to give ‘Hobseta’. If the intention is ‘pour out the tea’ = ‘act as mother’ = ‘be ma’ then I think that’s unreasonably vague for such an obscure name.
26 DU + TIES
2 ROMAN WALL; ROMAN (= French for ‘novel’) + W[ith] + ALL – not listed in Chambers as a phrase in its own right, although it’s probably a common enough expression to be ok as an answer.
3 AT TEST – if only I were.
4 DAMNEDEST; DAM + (NESTED)* – the definition is the wrong part of speech, but the answer is clear enough.
5 LARGO – ‘Broadly’ was a well-worked definition as I failed to ‘lift and separate’ ‘Broadly inadequate’. I don’t understand the wordplay, though – presumably something to do with ‘Little and Larg[e]’?
7 LEILA; (ALL + I.E.)*
10 GREEN AGENDA; GREEN[g]AGE + (AND)* – another clue where I had the first part but couldn’t get the second, at least until I thought of ‘greengage’. Nice wordplay.
14 NOURISHED; NOSHED around UR (= ‘original’) + I (= ‘first’) – the prefix ‘ur-‘ is listed in Chambers as meaning ‘original’, as in ‘urtext’ meaning the earliest version of a text. This fails my ‘could I explain this to a beginner’ test, which I feel all daily puzzles should pass, even the prize ones.
15 PRIVILEGE; R[ecipe] (= ‘take’) + I + VI (= ‘sixth’) + LEG (= ‘part of a course’), all in P.E. – a very complex wordplay which I got lucky with, having tried ‘Right’ = R whereas in fact ‘Right’ is the definition.
16 EGG TIMER; E.G. (= ‘say’), + (TIGER)* around M[eal]
19,25 RABBIT WARREN; RABBI (= ‘Minister’) + TWA (= ‘two Scots’) + R,R (= ‘rivers’) + E,N (= ‘points’) – I wasn’t keen on the indirectness whereby ‘Much of 11′ had to be converted to part of the answer to clue 11 (‘Minister’) which itself then defined part of the answer (‘rabbi’). Initially I had ‘secret warren’ in, with ‘Much of “minister of state”‘ = ‘secre[tary] [of state]’.
21 EVITA; E (= ‘note’) + [élan] VITA[l] – I didn’t know the phrase élan vital but guessed this from the definition.
22 IMRAN; (RAN + 1 + M[ile])* – the only Khans I could think of were Kubla, Amir and Shere, so I was slow on this. An anagram indicator would have been conventional.

26 Responses to “Guardian 25,179 (Sat 27 Nov)/Araucaria – Hob story”

  1. Biggles A says:

    I spent a bit more time on this one than usual with Araucaria but completed it with a sense of achievement. I have my doubts about 11 – is a Minister a public servant? – and 14 – does not the verb nosh mean to eat rather than to feed? I suppose it could mean to feed on but that is not quite the same thing.

    I’m sure rightback is correct with 5d – little and large.

    I had to resort to Google for 18 and to find that ur in 14 is a prefix meaning original.

  2. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Rightback

    I enjoyed this even though I failed to get HOBBEMA (never heard of him); KING (totally obscure) and GREEN AGENDA where I had wrestled with Greengage without success.

    No complaints though!

  3. Eileen says:

    Thanks, rightback.

    I was hoping for enlightenment re 5dn but I see you were baffled, too. The annotated solution is no help, either: “5 largo LARG(e/O) [Little and Large]” ! [And I think two references by A to that comic duo inside a month is two too many.]

    I worked out HOBBEMA from the wordplay [I actually liked the clue!] but had never heard of him, either. I was astonished, when I googled him to confirm, to find that I was familiar with his paintings. ‘The Avenue at Middleharnis’ was on the wall at at least two of the schools I’ve attended / taught at.

  4. malc95 says:

    Thanks rightback for informative blog.
    I still don’t understand 5d, and guessed at 18a but otherwise enjoyed the master’s latest prize offering (until today’s which I haven’t looked at yet).
    Have to say that unlike you I loved 5a ref to Wodehouse character, & particularly 24a – at my nan’s tea table the question was always “who’s going to be ma?”

  5. molonglo says:

    Thanks rightback, especially for 21d which I couldn’t parse at all. I cheated on 18a, once I had most of the missing bits: maddening how the song wouldn’t quite come, despite ancient familiarity with it. Clue of the day, or maybe the year, was 24a, which was a real laugh out loud. Quite a bit of free French – as you note, the LE ANE in 13a while le = to the in 5a, and de = of the in 26a. But in a crossword, that’s OK. On 5d, I assume “large” is inadequate beings a letter short, and there’s a double match (foil) for little/bingo in 5a.

  6. Carrots says:

    After a couple of strolling outings I suspected that His Lordship was softening us up for something really challenging….and I don`t think I was wrong. What I hadn`t figured on was a massacre. After a gruelling three hours, including a barrage of Googlings, I managed to finish just about two-thirds of it (plus three guesses, all of which were wrong). I retired hurt and have sulked for a week.

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks rightback for an informative blog and Araucaria for yet another prize puzzle.

    Fewer ticks for tickling clues on this one, I’m afraid, but some good ones nonetheless.

    I did not know the G and S ref. and had to work out 11a and guess 18.

    I read 5d as others, got little from wordplay and did not know Bingo Little till I googled

    I knew of two Imran Khans – the cricketer and a lawyer often in the news.

    I also enjoyed 24 and knew Hobbema from the well-known painting Eileen mentions, a liking for which I ‘inherited’ from my dad.

    I enjoyed 13a but am still a bit unsure of that amount of French in an English xword. But I am aware noone seemed to share this unease last time I raised it.

    Others to please were 23, 10 and 14.

    Like rb I was not all that taken with ‘rabbit warren’ though I got it without too much trouble.

    I took Roman Wall not as an idiom but simply as a well-known historical limit to the Roman Empire in Britain.

  8. NeilW says:

    Thanks rightback. Having been waiting all week for an explanation of how Large became LARGO, I see even Eileen can’t help… I guess LARGO is “inadequate” because it has zero on the end instead of the letter E… as suggested by the annotated solution. Disappointing if it’s nothing more than that, though.

  9. Mr Beaver says:

    We finished this without too much grief, though I admit there were a few clues that didn’t seem to work as well as A’s usually do (even allowing for the libertarian style).
    HOBBEMA rang a faint faraway bell once we’d got a couple of crossing letters, and again the G&S was vaguely familiar – at least in theme – which allowed us to guess our way through the linked answers.

  10. Roger says:

    Thanks rightback. I didn’t have a problem with ‘bingo’ (5a), though. Capitals are quite often meant to be read as lower case in this game so why not construct a clue where the opposite holds occasionally ?

  11. Jan says:

    Thanks, rightback. I really struggled with this one, not knowing G&S or the painter.

    But the one that completely flummoxed was 21d. I was fairly sure that the answer must be EVITA but couldn’t justify it. The only ELAN I could think of was the Lotus one and tried all sorts of contrivances with Eclat, Evora, Elite, Elise and the rest of the ‘sequels’ to the Elan! :(

  12. Robi says:

    Thanks, rightback. Eventually finished it, although my computer had to help me a lot with G&S. It took me a while to understand the answer to 19,25, not being Scottish. I assumed 5d was a reference to Little and Large as it had been used fairly recently. I thought 10d was GREEN ENERGY for a while, which didn’t help the rest of the solution until it was corrected.

  13. Sil van den Hoek says:

    This was not really the best of Araucarias, even if we always enjoy solving a crossword on a Saturday afternoon with a cup of coffee and/or a glass of wine at hand.

    In our opinion, by far the best clues were LEANED UPON (13ac) and GREEN AGENDA (10d).
    For which (the latter) apparently ELECTRIFICATION is an example (??).
    Molonglo (#5) shortlisted HOBBEMA (24ac) for Clue of the Day.
    Well, we knew it had to be Hobbema.
    In a lot of Dutch cities streets are named after him.
    But for someone not familiar with this painter the wordplay is not helping either [“be ma” – I tend to agree with rightback].

    The last word to go in was KING (18ac).
    Thanks to Wikipedia.
    Looks like a General Knowledge question (did I say General?).
    If you’ve never heard of this song, the answer is not gettable.
    Bit of a silly definition, too.

    Definitions, ah well.
    What about ‘Limit’ for ROMAN WALL (2d)?
    Or “having done her best” for DAMNEDEST?
    Just like rightback, we got the answers (quickly), but.

    No problem though with the French Connections in 13ac [I think LE ANE is fine in Crosswordland], although the repeated use of DU (in 26ac) should have been avoided.

    In 11ac (THELONGONE), we have once more a brand name (Foster) in a clue – Araucaria used quite a few recently.

    We thought, 22d (IMRAN) was a rather clumsy clue.
    As rightback says there’s no indicator. Perhaps, ‘from’ does the trick, even though ‘Khan’ is coming from ‘Ran a mile’ and not the other way around.

    Others have mentioned the ‘inadequate’ part of 5d (LARGO) already.

    With all these clues the problem is that the answer is clear, but the construction just not sound (enough).

    Personally, I have some problems with the use of I and VI for ‘first’ and ‘sixth’, because I think it has to be ‘the first’ and ‘the sixth’. Chambers doesn’t like them anyway.
    But maybe there are examples to convince me.

    And, yes, I agree once more with rightback, ‘bingo’ should have been capitalised in 5ac (LITTLE).
    The other way around is fine – that is, there are people who do not like that either [my PinC is one of them].
    So, I do not support Roger’s view on this.
    There are unwritten rules for these things.
    Rightback calls it “just wrong”, I would say “at least, unfair”.

    Final question: what if Araucaria’s name would have been Bonxie?

  14. cryptomaniac says:

    Thanks, Rightback

    I didn’t know of greengages until I read your blog, though I managed to get the right answer by solving the across clues. We are not familiar with G&S in India, so Google-ho it was. Thoroughly enjoyed many of the clues, though didn’t get the Bingo Little reference despite having read P.G. Wodehouse, until after solving it. Got searching for terms used in fencing to solve 5ac and 5dn, for reasons that defy logical explanation. Never heard of ‘elan vital’, either, and went wrong on that one, before another blog site helped clear the fog.

    All in all, one of the few prize puzzles I could solve fully and correctly within the day – with a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. Also, for me, it was the second Araucaria prize puzzle I managed to solve within a month, so double the sense of ach., etc.. Look forward to the Master’s next offering!

  15. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    You asked the same question last week re Bonxie. I sympathise with the general point that some setters are forgiven more than others, though the conclusions we may draw from this are not always the same, of course.

  16. Stella says:

    I’m a day late in responding, having been extremely busy yesterday, but thanks Rightback, especially for the link to the theme song.

    I’m a lifetime G&S fan, though with little opportunity to exercise here in Spain, so this was a welcome excursion – though, my tastes having concentrated on the lesser-known works, I had to spend some time researching to find the quotation, and having identified The Gondoliers, wasted more time looking for it said by Luiz, the only four-letter character, even though I didn’t want him to be the answer, for reasons I think will be obvious :)

    I broadly (largo) agree with the mixed sentiments expressed by others, though I did like 19/25. The only one I hadn’t heard of was the artist, though, like Eileen, I found his pictures familar once I looked him up

  17. rightback says:

    Thanks for all comments.

    Roger (#10): the reason that it is generally considered acceptable (but not by all, as Sil rightly points out) to have a capital letter where a lower case letter would do but not the other way round is that given the right context, any word could conceivably have a capital; in a newspaper headline, for example, all letters are usually capitals, and in book chapters or song titles the first letters of words are often capitalised. On the other hand, there is no circumstance where a capital letter necessary for a name (such as in Bingo Little) may be uncapitalised (unless, of course, you’re trying to be cool for cool’s sake, as in ‘the guardian’ or e.e.cummings).

  18. Laros says:

    For what it’s worth, I think 9ac is a triple definition: management is “running”, sport is “running” and in contest, eg an election, is “running”.

  19. Roger says:

    Thanks for that, rightback (@17). However, I still like to think that Araucaria was employing a little (and new ?) trick here to confuse the punters … libertarian setter that he is, cocking a snook at perceived convention. One comes to expect nothing less, after all ! It would be interesting to hear his side of the story, I think.

    … but then again, it might just be a typo/balls-up.

  20. tupu says:

    Hi Rightback and Sil

    Re little. As I, like many, did not know Bingo Little I had to work out the answer from the other available information and find out about the character by using a search engine. Since such engines are not case sensitive the answer comes up anyway, and a capital B would not have helped me in the least.

    Also for those who know of Bingo Little, the lack of a capital may be an irritant but it will not noticeably affect their solving. For them the presence of a capital B would simply ‘nursemaid’ them into the solution.

    I do realise though that ‘stylistics’ are legitimately a major focus of interest to yourselves and some others.

    Sil says there are unwritten rules about these things. I recognise the need for basic rules but in particular cases like this, I am not at all clear about the source of their authority and whether to quote Samuel Goldwyn they are always :) ‘worth the paper they are written on’.

  21. Roger says:

    … indeed so, tupu ! Hopefully I read into your comment @20 an air of support for my assertion that there’s no real problem with ‘bingo’ as it stands and if so, thanks. We’ll probably never know whether Araucaria intended the lower case or not but I hope he did ~ it certainly produced the sound of pennies dropping and even an “Oh, no” or two once I saw what he was after. And that’s a large part of what it’s all about, isn’t it ?

  22. taxi phil says:

    My limited knowledge of G&S didn’t run to this particular quotation, but I soldiered on and eventually got stuck in the North East corner after about 75 minutes. Picked it up four times during the week, but gave up. I know even less of Wodehouse than I do of G&S, but both are rather old hat to a mere youngster of 63 such as myself ! Hence I filed with Little & Larg(e)o, and also failed to pick up Tyneside, for which I have no excuse. Pleased to report that this week’s offering was cleared in 20 minutes despite being a tricky little devil.

  23. taxi phil says:

    “Filed” should read “failed” !

  24. tupu says:

    Hi Roger
    Sorry if my comment was opaque. Yes, I agree with you – though whether the reference in the clue is too obscure (capital or not) is another matter. On balance I feel it is educative, at least for those with search engines, given the clear possibility of solving by other means.

    :) I first wondered if to ‘file with’ might be some form comparable to ‘file for’ (e.g bankrupty, divorce or both) but soon realised what you meant.

  25. Judge says:

    Re 13 across – if I remember correctly, the clue was something like:
    needed supoort of the “ass of the bridge”….
    It seemed to me that the quotation marks were deliberately placed to allow the answer to be “le ane” rather than “l’ane“.

  26. maarvarq says:

    I got the theme by Googling “delightful duties” and “little errands” to find a song I’d never heard of from a lesser G&S operetta, and was wildly unimpressed with 13 ac, 14 dn and 24 ac (“pour out the tea” = “BE MA”? Really!) Araucaria is back in wilfully obscure mode, I see.

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