Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,197 (Christmas Jumbo, Sat 18 Dec)/Araucaria – Moonlight departure

Posted by rightback on January 1st, 2011


Solving time: 45 mins

This Christmas special from Araucaria included several literary works, mostly with religious connotations, as referenced in the preamble. The Kipling character was Yellow Dog Dingo, the two phrases were 1dn (SAVING GRACE) and 25ac (FOUNT OF ALL WISDOM), the novelist was Virginia Woolf and the rest were novels apart from the film at 27ac, Ill Met By Moonlight; I’d heard of about half of these. I’m not sure I’ve fully understood the thematic relationships, though, particularly as to where Little Dorrit, Virginia Woolf and the dingo fit in.

It took me a little while to get anything into a grid, but once I’d got going I probably solved this a little faster than I’d expected. There was less ambiguity than usual with two grids because the patterns were completely different. In addition, the non-thematic clues had the enumerations given in the order to match the wordplays (although I’m not sure I realised this while solving). The clues were mostly approachable but rarely elegant, but then good double clues are notoriously difficult to write; for a double-clueing masterclass, and if you have a subscription to the online Times Crossword Club, you might like to try Listener Crossword No. 4109 (Not a Black and White Decision by Brock).

On a more general note: after about four years (I’ve just discovered, to my astonishment) of blogging the Guardian prize puzzles, I’m going to step down as of this week. There are a number of reasons for this; the main one (other than the time commitment) is that I very rarely have Internet access at weekends these days, so although I can schedule puzzles to appear on time, I often can’t correct mistakes or misjudgements or respond to comments for several days, which I’m sure can be frustrating for commenters. My theory that solving Guardian puzzles slows down my solving of Times crosswords and hence reduces my chances of ever winning the Times Crossword Championship isn’t, to be fair, a factor, but will be interesting to test nonetheless!

I’d like to say particular thanks to Neil Wellard for having created this blog and run it for the first couple of years, and to Gaufrid for having taken over and for all the sterling work he does behind the scenes. Further thanks are due to all those (too many to mention) who have subbed for me on the occasions when I haven’t been able to blog, especially when this has been at very short or no notice, and of course to everyone who has commented on the puzzles over the last few years. All that remains is for me to wish a very happy new year to all readers and the best of luck to my successor (to whom I’m afraid I can offer no handover help, since I will be incommunicado for most of January).

Music of the day: If this had been a rhyming Araubetical, I thought I’d pick Rhymes of Goodbye by Scott Walker. As it wasn’t, 9/19ac seemed to demand another album-closer, Wolf at the Door by Radiohead, but this was itself trumped by Gerry at 4dn: YNWA.

The solutions are listed in clue order, and in the given order within clues. * = anagram, “X” = sounds like ‘X’.

1 SOFT SOAP; F[oo]T (= ‘a measure’) in S.O.S. + O.A.P
TAKING UMBRAGE; AKIN (= ‘like’) + rev. of MUG (= ‘fool’) + BRAG (= ‘boast’), all in T[h]E
9/19 VIRGINIA WOOLF; VIRGINIA (= ‘state’) + WOOL-F[at] – lanolin is wool-fat; discussion of this use of ‘amount’ is left to the readers. The Red Riding Hood reference is to the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and of course the wolf dressed as Grandma in the fairy tale.
10 INTEGER; E.G. in INTER (= ‘between’)
BRUTAL; B (= ‘second’) + RUT (= ‘groove’) + AL[ia] – not sure about this use of ‘other things’ to indicate AL, since that abbreviation only exists (to my knowledge) as part of the longer abbreviation ‘et al’ (which is short for ‘et alia’).
11 NIGHTJAR – because a jar at night would be a drink in the small hours.
OIL-RICH; (HORLICKS – KS + I)* – not at all keen on ‘kings’ indicating KS; I can’t see any justification for that.
12 DEMONS; MO in DENS (= ‘studies’)
TRAIT; R.A. in TIT – ‘in petto’ means ‘within the breast’. I don’t know what ‘(as some say)’ is doing.
13/22 YELLOW DOG DINGO; (WILE GOD ONLY GOD)* – from the Just So Stories.
14 NUDGE; NUDE around G[od]
SCHOOLMARM; SCHOOL (= ‘a lot of fish’) + MARM[alade]
16/12 ANGELS AND DEMONS – a reference to the book’s author, Dan Brown.
18 TRENCHANT; TR + ENCHANT (= ‘greatly please’) – the definition is ‘cutting’ but I can’t see why ‘Trade Union leaders’ should indicate TR. Perhaps it’s just TR[ade], but then ‘Union’ is just there for the surface and spoils the cryptic reading.
SHORT PLANK – as in ‘thick as two short planks’, but this is one of those dubious answer phrases which usually means the setter has tried to cram in too many thematic answers. Still, I’ve seen worse.
20/22ac VERNON GOD LITTLE; (GRAND NOVEL TITLE)* with O replacing A – a Booker Prize winner. Whether this means it’s any good or not, I have no idea (cf the Turner Prize); perhaps someone could review (especially as I’m between books)?
22/20dn LITTLE DORRIT; LITT. (= ‘Letters’, as in DLitt) + LED + OR + RIT[enuto] (or RIT[ardando] if you prefer) – the Dickens novel.
KOHINOOR; [r]HINO in rev. of ROOK (= ‘castle’) – until relatively recently I thought a kohinoor was something similar to a tandoor (Indian oven), thanks to a local curry-house of this name. I now know better.
THIR[s]TY – inexcusably slow here.
25 PANDARUS; PAN + DAR[i]US – this was my penultimate entry: I couldn’t think of any Persian kings apart from Alexander and Xerxes (actually the son of Darius I) and also had forgotten this name. Pandarus fought for Troy in the Trojan War and also appears in Chaucer and Shakespeare.
NO AVAIL; (A LION + A V)* – this must be an anagram, with ‘5’ indicating V, but the intended cryptic reading defeats me. There may be some connection to the first half of the clue.
26 DOG-FOX; DOG (= ‘Pursue’) + FOX (= ‘deceive’) – my last entry (only the FOX part) and it was hard to dredge up even though I not only knew I knew it, I knew where from: this was an answer in the Times Crossword Championship Grand Final in 2006, and the reason I remember it (despite not actually having qualified for the final) was that part of the wordplay was incorrect (‘Vulcan’ used to indicate ‘God’ being an unindicated ‘definition by example’ – a pet hate of mine). On the other hand, if this inaccuracy hadn’t been present, I’d never have remembered the phrase ‘dog-fox’. I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from that.
REFRACTOMETER; RE (= ‘in the matter of’) + FRATER (= ‘brother’) around C (= ‘hundredth’) + TOME (= ‘book’) – I questioned C being given by ‘hundredth’ (as opposed to ‘hundred’), and also the Latin word for brother, but later discovered that ‘frater’ appears in its own right in Chambers (meaning a friar).
27/5dn ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT; I’LL + MET (= ‘police’) + BY (= ‘close’, as in ‘close by’) + MOONLIGHT (= ‘work on the side’) – this is the film quoting Shakespeare (‘Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania’, said by Oberon).
1/23 SAVING GRACE; rev. of AS, + V (= versus = ‘against’), + IN (= ‘fashionable’) + GG (= ‘horse’) + RACE
2 ASTRADDLE; STRAD[ivarius] in (LEAD)*
3 SHIFTY; (IF + T[ime]) in SHY (= ‘cast’)
INGOT (1 def, 1 whimsical interpretation as ‘in got’)
4 ANIMALCULE; AN + I[sland] + ME (= ‘setter’) around [c]ALCUL[ating] – I didn’t know the word but I did know the Latin diminutive -culus which helped a lot. This Guardianism (‘somewhat calculating’ = ALCUL) is at least more direct and fairer then ‘amount of lanolin’ = WOOLF[at] at 9/19ac.
GERRY (2 defs) – wartime slang for a German, and Gerry of the Pacemakers.
6 HORSEFLY – because Pegasus was a flying horse. Horseflies certainly do sting, but they also make a satisfying squish.
RULE OF LAW; R.U. (= ‘rugby’) + LEO (= ‘Lions’) + FLAW (= ‘defect’) – other than to fit the surface reading, I can’t see why ‘Lions’ can fairly indicate the singular Leo.
7 NATIONAL (2 defs) – the first definition being a race as in a tribe or nation and the second the Grand National, won last year by newly-crowned Sports Personality of the Year Tony McCoy (or A.P. McCoy as now seems the fashion). Although not a horse-racing fan I was pleased with this outcome, primarily because it would otherwise have meant a darts player (yes, admittedly a good one) winning and beating the practically perfect Jessica Ennis into second. Perhaps she will win in 2012 to go with an Olympic gold medal.
8 SELFSAME; ELF (= ‘fairy’) + SAM (= ‘boy or girl’), all in S.E.
DISTINCTIVELY; (LINCS DITTY I’VE)* – not hard once you know where the clue break comes, but I couldn’t work that out for a long time and kept trying to anagram the wrong letters (including the SE from ‘southeast’), and was also sidetracked by the possible definition ‘Identical’ and words like ‘indistinguishable’ and ‘indiscernible’.
9/5ac THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS; THE + (GM FOODS ON)* + ALL THINGS (= ‘the universe’) – another Booker Prize winner.
13/19 FOUNT OF ALL WISDOM; FOUNT (= ‘Expert’/’rising water’) + O (= ’round’) + FALL (= ‘drop’) + WISDOM (= ‘tooth’)
15 EACH OTHER; in ETHER (= ‘solvent’), MACHO with M[ale] dropped – very difficult to decipher, given the dubious use of ‘Insolvent’.
ISOLATED; I (= ‘first’) + SOLD (= ‘disposed of’) around ATE (= the goddess of mischief)
16 ANALGESIC; (A GLANCE IS)* – ‘effect of’ as an anagram indicator?
SOOTHING; SO (= ‘like this’) + O (= ’round’) + THING (= ‘object’)
17 STILETTO; rev. of LIT in SET-TO (= ‘battle’)
ABOMINATE; “A BOMB” (= ‘said to be worse than a storm’) + IN A TE[acup] – unconvincing all round. Only once I’d solved this could I finally get ‘No Angel’ out of my head as a possible answer at 25ac.
21 CRUSTY; C[irca] (= ‘More or less’) + RUSTY – apparently port, along with some other wines, can have a crust. I didn’t know this and had to get this purely from the wordplay, so it was a late solve.

32 Responses to “Guardian 25,197 (Christmas Jumbo, Sat 18 Dec)/Araucaria – Moonlight departure”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Rightback for this and your other contributions over the years.

    Also Happy New Year to everyone!

    The Grauniad has started 2011 off with the promise of a Prize Puzzle by Rufus (25,208) – see the main Crosswords page – although, if and when you can find it, it’s actually by Araucaria.

  2. Tokyo Colin says:

    Many thanks Rightback. The layout and instructions intimidated me into putting off attempting this and even then I still couldn’t understand what a “linked double clue” was and with zero interest in theology my prospects seemed bleak. But I began the journey with the first step and to my surprise, some time later it was complete. (Except for a foolish error with Nightcap at 11ac.) There were lots of Ahas and several mirthful moments along the way. I didn’t pay as much attention to the details as long as I was able to deduce the answer from the clue as given. But to address some notes you raised:
    In 6dn I think the “one of” serves to indicate LEO from “lions”.
    I think Dingo appears only in the name of the Kipling story and has no other thematic significance.
    I cannot understand the wordplay in the second part of 25ac either.
    I rather enjoy the “lift and separate” clue style and so was very happy to solve 15dn with “insolvent”.

    I read Vernon God Little not long after it was awarded the Booker prize. That usually guarantees an enjoyable read for me which was true of this as well but it was far from the “typical” winner and is not to everyone’s taste. I was about to try to insert a link to the Guardian’s review but since you won’t have internet access that seems pointless (as is this I suppose.) A black comedy, written in satirical style with vulgar Texan vernacular. A rollicking tale and a clever critique of a slice of society but the crudeness of the language can be offputting. I doubt if it will ever appear on high school English Lit reading lists.

    Lastly, thank you for your many Saturday Prize blogs, you have answered many questions I had. Your stated solve times initially seemed unbelievable but I know better now. Good luck with the Times championship.

  3. sidey says:

    A pleasant enough exercise, much solved as usual without reference to the cryptic parts of the clues. Any links between the nine clues has completely passed me by.

    Good luck with your championship aspirations rightback. As a Times man you have been remarkably tolerant of the old chap’s foibles over the years.

  4. Tykeitfromme says:

    Surely the savoury spread in 14 (“schoolmarm”) is Marmite, not marmalade. And today’s hidden Araucaria isn’t a prize, but allows no comments.

  5. Daniel Miller says:


    That’s pretty amazing – I too solved this – and indeed like you took quite a while to start filling the grid. I also found Pandarus and Dog Fox were my last 2 clues – suddenly the light went on with both.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this one tho’ even if like you I was at a bit of a loss regarding the relevance of the theme..

    Thanks for all your hard work on here. Do we have a successor or a vacancy?

    Cheers, Happy New Year everyone.

  6. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, rightback, for this and all the others – and all the best for the Times Championship!

    I agree with the savoury spread being Marmite [quite fitting, as it’s been said more than once that Araucaria is a ‘Marmite’ kind of setter] and with RU LEO = ‘one of the Rugby lions’.

    I don’t know whether I’m misunderstanding the problem with 25ac but ‘to no avail’ means ‘useless’.

    [My paper version of the Guardian has a prize Araucaria.]

  7. Daniel Miller says:

    Re: Kings = Ks – from Bridge – AKQJT etc – or perhaps Chess (KQBNRP).

    Re: Marm – Marmite it is I guess but since I don’t like Marmite I thought of Marmalade too!

    The annotated solution in The Guardian claims Marmite

  8. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Tykeitfromme
    “And today’s hidden Araucaria isn’t a prize, but allows no comments.”

    Just to confirm Eileen’s comment, the on-line pdf version also indicates that today’s Araucaria is a prize puzzle.

    Hi Daniel Miller
    “Do we have a successor or a vacancy?”

    As from today there will be a team of three people covering the Saturday Guardian in rotation.

  9. Biggles A says:

    Thanks rightback and a Happy New Year to all.

    My experience with this one was like others; it seemed daunting at first sight but yielded quite gracefully. ISOLATED was my last and it was satisfying to find ATE’s provenance. I agree with Eileen and don’t see much wrong with 25.

  10. tupu says:

    Thanks rigthback and Araucaria

    Very best wishes for the future and best of luck in the Times competition etc.

    After two weeks it has not been easy to remember all the ins and outs of this complicated puzzle which I solved when it appeared. It took quite a time longer than rb’s 45 minutes and I had to chase the Vernon in Vernon God Little out of google and check yellow dog dingo which I had guessed.

    I found animalcule accidentally while trawling something else which made me a bit annoyed with myself.

    On reflection, marmite must be right though there is the odd ‘savoury’ marmalade (red onion?).

    I think Tokyo Colin must be right re ‘one of rugby’s lions’ = RUleo.

    NB In 7d there is no mention of ‘guild’, U for union in ‘gild’ tart up.

  11. Biggles A says:

    12. Display is to demonstrate so the trate part is the homophone.

  12. Colin says:

    Got them all apart from ANIMALCULE. Not a bad showing.

  13. Wendy says:

    Has everyone seen Hugh’s post which appears in the Quick crossword comments today?

    “I have not been able yet to discover why today’s (1 Jan) prize crossword, which should be No 25208 by Araucaria, cannot be reached by clicking where indicated on the home page (nor why it is wrongly listed as having been set by Rufus).
    But, until things are fixed, you can get to it by entering the serial number 25208 as a cryptic puzzle in the archive search box on the home page. (You will there get the correct PDF option as well.)
    Happy New Year!”

    Something to look forward to after the roast beef!! Happy New Year to all.

  14. Andrew says:

    Thanks Wendy – it doesn’t actually seem to give the PDF option though :( Also, presumably because it’s published as a cryptic, the “Check” and “Cheat” buttons work, which is rather unfortunate for a prize puzzle..

    Thanks also to Rightback for the blog of this fascinating puzzle, and all his others over the past few years.

  15. Andrew T says:

    12 ‘As some say’ is because some people pronounce trait as ‘trate’ and others stick to the original French which is more like ‘tray’.

  16. Wendy says:

    All I did was to click on the Archive Crossword Search, and put in the serial number 25208
    and towards the top of the page I clicked on Print Version.

    Good luck,


  17. scchua says:

    Thanks for the blog, rightback…first time I’m commenting on the Guardian blog, and it happens to be your swansong…so all the best in your endavours.

    Re your comment in the preamble, I think Araucaria meant for only the 3 modern novels and 2 phrases to be part of the theological theme, with Little Dorrit, Virginia Woolf, dingo et al, not being part of it.

    As with others, I surprised myself by completing it, after the initial “oh no! where do I start?”. Last one in was 26D DOG FOX (the DOG was easy, and FOX was in preference to CON), but I can’t find a reference between a male fox and “the king of the earth”, but I’m sure I’m missing something?

    I have the same reading as Biggles A@11, re 12 DEMONSTRATE; TRAIT. But that makes an overlap of “characteristic” in the respective clues, whilst “(as some say)” is in an appropriate place for DEMONSTRATE, but not for TRAIT. Was this intentional?

  18. Eileen says:

    Hi scchua

    Welcome to the Guardian side – I hope we’ll see more of you here.

    Re 26ac, a fox’s home is called an earth.

  19. Gaufrid says:

    Hi Andrew
    The pdf can be found here:

    Hi scchua
    An ‘earth’ is the burrow or lair of a fox and a male fox would be the dominant inhabitant hence ‘king of the earth’.

  20. Carrots says:

    Thanks Rightback….and Good Luck! Your solving times have made you quite a star and I know I`ll not be alone in missing your contributions. I thought those little internet magic boxes resembling chocolate bars now work almost anywhere….except monasteries, prisons, nuclear submarines and space-labs. But wherever it is you are off to, however intrepid you may have to be, may good fortune attend.

    I was so pleased with myself for finishing this puzzle, I put a shiny new first class stamp on it and, at risk to broken limbs from black ice and compacted snow, trudged to our local mail-box to send it in. Alas, I plumped for ANIMALCULA, rather than ANIMALCULE, so I won`t see my name in lights.

  21. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Many thanks, rightback, for your marvellous job [and thanks for giving me feedback on another occasion, too].
    And btw, we [that is: I] will miss your Music of the Day.
    Good luck with whatever you are going to do next.

    A very complicated puzzle that took the whole of a Sunday afternoon to almost finish. DOG FOX was the missing one. Funny to see you write DOG-FOX in the blog, while Chambers tells us DOGFOX (one word) and Araucaria unlinks the two.

    We put a question mark to LEO/’lions’, but that’s solved now.
    Just like Biggles A we thought of the partial homophone for DEMONS-TRATE for ‘display’ in 12ac.

    Talking about 12ac, it was a bit odd to see the word DEMONS being used twice (also in 16,12ac). Apparently, Araucaria hád to do this, otherwise 12ac would have been an ‘orphaned’ clue.
    Another thing about 12ac is that there is no definition there, which there should be – or is this ‘homophone’ allusion enough?
    Oh, and there’s also 22ac which is used twice.
    It was probably too complicated for Araucaria to use the other 12ac instead of one of these 22acs for one of his linked double clues [for which then the enumeration would be different, too].
    Ah well, life’s so complicated ….. :)

    All in all, a special treat which didn’t turn out to be as hard as we expected it to be [after a period of not-filling-in-anything-at-all].

    I am not going to say something about C being ‘hundredth’ this time, but I am glad rightback doesn’t like it either.
    Finally, rightback put a question mark to ‘effect of’ as an anagrind in 16d (ANALGESIC) – I do not, but I was more surprised to see that two clues earlier (9d,5ac) the same anagrind was used.

  22. Eileen says:

    Re C = hundredth: the clue is actually ‘the hundredth’ and if Charles II = Charles the second, Charles the hundredth [should the monarchy last that long] would surely be Charles C? :-)

  23. scchua says:

    Thanks Eileen@18 and Gaufrid@19. Got it, add “earth” to “den”, “lair”, “holt”, and “covert”.

    Sil van den Hoek@21, re 12A, I think we’re both making the same point (my@17). “Characteristic” would be a definition for TRAIT but that would overlap with the clue for DEMONSTRATE, plus “(as some would say)” would be out of place for the clue for TRAIT.

  24. sidey says:

    C also stands for centi the prefix meaning one hundredth.

  25. Sil van den Hoek says:

    sschua (#23), again re 12ac, I think you’re parsing is right, but the first part of it (DEMONS) is nót properly defined [unlike TRAIT]. Suggesting that DEMONS is a part of DEMONSTRATE (‘display’) does indeed link both 12acs here, but is it enough to define DEMONS? Or should we know from 16,12 that the first part has ‘spirit’ as the definition?

    sidey, yes, that’s a thought – and you’re right, of course, although Eileen’s idea of Charles C is an attractive one too.
    On previous occasion I wasn’t happy with eg V for ‘fifth’ and X for ‘tenth’ [without ‘the’], both of which cannot be explained in a similar way as C(enti).

  26. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Rightback, and all the others over the years. And good luck with The Times championship. We’ll miss your contributions!

    I saved this puzzle until Christmas Eve and found it relatively easy to get into — my first was ILL MET etc. Still managed to make one mistake — NIGHTCAP instead of NIGHTJAR. Had a niggling feeling that it was wrong at the time, but didn’t follow that up…

  27. Carrots says:

    Auntie E you have given me quite a TURN! Charles The Hundredth ?!?! One is more than enough, thank you!

    Whilst Googling to find out what number our future king comes in at, I was intrigued to discover that Charlotte Cory, the ceramacist, has produced “A Royal Mug In Waiting”, available from the Rebecca Hossack Gallery. It`s eighteen quid, but has a lovely portrait of a Spaniel on it.

    Guess what I`m going to do next……

  28. Davy says:

    Thanks rightback and good luck for the future,

    I finally finished this after ignoring it completely for over a week. On the day of publication, I only got two clues and thought that it was beyond me and so cast it aside. I think it was Daniel Miller who described it as doable and so I had a second attempt at it. Surprisingly it wasn’t half as difficult as I had previously thought and slowly (ever so slowly) I started to make inroads. What a marvellous puzzle it turned out to be and to finish it was a great achievement for me.

    I’m surprised that no-one has mentioned Arry’s use of the word tit (petto) in the clue for TRAIT and this from a man of the cloth. I do hope that Ian W wasn’t doing this puzzle with his young daughter as he would be outraged.

  29. molonglo says:

    Thanks rightback, the hare chased for years by us unfitter hounds – I always enjoyed your blogs and wish you success with the TCC.

  30. Robi says:

    Belated thanks to rightback.

    I eventually solved this, albeit with a lot of steam coming out of my computer. Pandarus took some finding.

  31. PLL says:

    Re the thematic connections, there seems to be a minor theme of canines (WOOLF, DOG-FOX, DINGO), whimsically linked to the theology via DOG/GOD wordplay? DINGO is also vaguely but elegantly echoed by INGOT.

    Re Davy’s comment, am slightly surprised that the Rev. didn’t keep it clean with an ornithological clue instead of petto, since he tends to be one for the birds. That was a new word to me, though, so I’m not complaining!

    Thanks muchly, rightback, from a frequent reader but rare commenter. The replacement will have a high standard to match!

  32. matt says:

    Cheers Rightback. I will miss your posts for their detail and humour. The wit was often self-deprecating, but I don’t think you had much to be self-deprecating about.

    Good luck.

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