Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,253 / Araucaria

Posted by duncanshiell on February 23rd, 2011


This struck me as a typical Araucaria crossword with lots of cross-referencing between clues, lots of misdirection, a few words that many people do not use in everyday language, and one or two clues that would have strict Ximeneans in a state of great agitation.   As an educational tool it was wonderful; as a crossword it was challenging and entertaining.  I have learned a great deal whilst writing the blog.

It took me a while to get going given the many cross-references to unsolved clues, but eventually I got a toehold in the SE corner and spread steadily to finish in the NW corner.  I think it was the anagram at 23,19 that gave me the major breakthrough as I then had POCKET.

Being Scottish, and having learnt ‘To a Mouse’ at school, I had no difficulty with SLEEKIT, but I am less familiar with SCROFULOUS and MOIETY.  I am more of a scientist and a sportsman than a student of art, but I had heard of REYNOLDS and FORSTER.  The ROKEBY VENUS has passed me by until today, as has the phrase POCKET VENUS but it was fairly easily deducible from the clues.

I think the clues and entries touched on all of the following subjects, Geography, History, Indoor Games, Weather, the Bible, Medicine, Literature, Art, Clothing and Finance.

Although I struggled, I enjoyed the challenge.

Clue Wordplay Entry
1 Royal sultanate has nothing against royal family (7) R (royal) + OMAN (reference Sultanate of Oman, on the South East of the Arabian peninsula) + O (nothing) + V (versus; against) ROMANOV (name of family of the last imperial dynasty to rule Russia before the 1917 revolution)
5 Gesture deriding the Queen needs six 19s (7) SNOOK (derisory gesture; ‘cock a snook’) + ER (Elizabeth Regina; Queen) SNOOKER (a game played on a table with six POCKETs, POCKET being the entry at 19 down)
90 Some said "an eye for an eye" after 19 (5) N EYE F (part of [some] "aN EYE For an eye") sounds like [said] KNIFE KNIFE (Reference POCKET [19 down] KNIFE)  I’m not really sure where the definition is in this clue. Is there some link to using a knife to exact retribution in the form of cutting out "an eye for an eye"?)
10 Coming from the Pole – that or the railway? (9) N (North [pole] = ‘that’) + OR + THE + RLY (railway) NORTHERLY (as a wind, coming from the North [Pole])
11 15 – or should it be Queen? – maybe 19 (10) BATTLESHIP (a BATTLESHIP in the British Navy is designated HMS "name" where HMS represents His [King] or Her [Queen] Majesty’s Ship) BATTLESHIP (The entry at 15 down is KINGCRAFT [King’s ship].  Also a reference to the phrase POCKET [19 down] BATTLESHIP [a small BATTLESHIP])
12 Go away to get in with no contest (4) SHOO (go away!) SHOO (reference SHOO-IN [a certain winner; a sure thing; no contest])
14 Make a noise like the last trump (4,3,4) WAKE THE DEAD (reference extract from the Book of Revalation in the New Testament – "…at the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible….") WAKE THE DEAD (make a very large noise, said to be capable of waking the dead)
18 Be a top copper, more than usually mean? (11) SUPER (of superior quality; more than usually) + INTEND (mean) SUPERINTEND (supervise; be like a SUPERINTENDENT [senior policeman])
21, 24 Carefully select worker to take from 19 (4-4) HAND (worker) + PICK (reference PICKPOCKET [19 down] [to take from a POCKET]) HAND[-PICK] (carefully select)
22 Diseased flour cooked and eaten by Liverpudlian missing drug (10) Anagram of (cooked) FLOUR contained in (eaten by) SCOUSE (a native of Liverpool) excluding (missing) E (Ecstasy [drug]) SCROFULOUS (referring to SCROFULA an old name for tuberculosis of the lymph node; diseased)
25 Missing lord keeping some British model smoother (9) (LUCAN ([reference Lord Lucan who disappeared without trace in 1974] containing (keeping] BRI (first three letters [some] of BRITISH) + T (model) LUBRICANT (a substance used to reduce friction; a smoother)
26 One willing to bet at a 7, in part (5) T (at, as in "’t" [?]) + A + KER (part of KERCHIEF which is the entry at 7 down) Update: The wordplay is more likely, as Eileen suggests at comment 1 below: Hidden word (in part) in AT A KERCHIEF TAKER (one willing to bet)
27 General in burlesque, resembling a mouse? (7) LEE (reference American General Robert E Lee) contained in SKIT(burlesque) SLEEKIT (reference Robert Burns poem "To a Mouse" where he describes a mouse as a ‘wee sleekit cowerin’ tim’rous beastie’ or some variant on that spelling depending on which source you use)
28 Carer finally comes in to nurse novelist (7) Last letter R (finally) CARER contained in (comes in to) FOSTER (nurse) FORSTER (reference E M FORSTER, novelist who wrote ‘A room with a View’ and ‘Howards End’ among others)


Clue Wordplay Entry
1 Skint, having lost capital through painting 4 (6) BROKE (skint) excluding [having lost] the first letter [capital] B  + BY (through) ROKEBY (reference a painting by Velazquez entitled  ROKEBY VENUS.  The entry at 4 down is VENUS)
2 Half time – you nearly made it! (6) Anagram of TIME and YOU excluding the final letter (nearly) U MOIETY (half, either of two parts or divisions)
3 Eager to embrace quarrel with some elders all about tattooing, say (10) KEEN (eager) containing (to embrace) (ROW [quarrel] +  first three letters of [some] ELDERS) all reversed (about) NEEDLEWORK (tattooing, a form of artwork on the skin traditionally undertaken with needles)
4 Body of little beauty after 19 (5) VENUS (a planet; a body) VENUS (reference POCKET [19 down] VENUS, which I take to be a phrase describing someone small and petite with a beautiful body.  I can’t find the phrase :POCKET VENUS in any of Chambers, Collins, Shorter Oxford or Brewers, but Wikipedia hints at the definition I have used)
5 Setter out about to compete with wiper (9) Anagram of (out) SETTER containing VIE (to compete with) SERVIETTE (table-napkin; wiper)
6 Emperor with foothold out of crease (4) FOOTHOLD excluding (out of) FOLD (crease).  This is not just a hidden word. OTHO (reference Emperor OTHO, Roman Emperor for 3 months in AD69)
7 Cover for head, right cheek if needed, or 21 for 19 (8) Anagram of (needed, perhaps not the strongest anagram indicator I have ever seen, but all the letters are ‘needed’ to form the entry) R (right) and CHEEK and IF KERCHIEF (a square piece of cloth to cover the head. A HANDKERCHIEF would go in the POCKET. 21 across is HAND and 19 down is POCKET)
8 Painter only worked in colours (8) Anagram of (worked) ONLY contained in (in) REDS (colours) REYNOLDS (reference Joshua REYNOLDS, English artist, 1723 -1792)
13 Most of 7 19 watch one after talent (10) HEAD (CHIEF forms 5 of the 9 letters [most {?}] of KER<CHIEF (entry at 7 down) + HUNTER (a watch whose face is protected by a metal cover; a POCKET [19 down] watch) HEADHUNTER (one who searches for talent)
15 Machiavelli’s subject, like corruption, includes its leader (9) KIN (related; like) + (GRAFT (corruption) containing (includes) the first letter C [leader] of CORRUPTION) KINGCRAFT (the art of governing; an understanding of political science and the implementation of the art of the possible were two of the major talents of Niccolo Machiavelli, Italian philosopher, humanist and writer, 1469 – 1527)
16 Surfaces roads – so Cleopatra doesn’t get bitten? (8) ASP HALTS (Cleopatra allowed herself to be bitten by an asp as an act of suicide.  Hence if the ASP HALTS Cleopatra doesn’t get bitten.) ASPHALTS (surfaces roads),  ASPHALT can be used as a transitive verb according to Chambers
27 Work to give power, having a key (8) OP (opus; work) + ENABLE (to give power) OPENABLE (can be opened; having a key)
19 See 23 See 23 down [OUT OF] POCKET
20 One taking interest in turn for having extra security (6) U (turn) + SURER (having extra security) USURER (moneylender; one taking interest on the loan)
23, 19 Took up English football club to effect losing money (3,2,6) Anagram of (effect) TOOK and UP and E (English) and FC (football club) and TO OUT OF POCKET (losing money)
24 See 21 See 21 across [HAND-]PICK

39 Responses to “Guardian 25,253 / Araucaria”

  1. Eileen says:

    Phew! Very many thanks, Duncan, for the splendid blog – a real tour de force, as was the puzzle!

    I read 26ac as TAKER, hidden [‘in part’] in aT A KERCHIEF.

  2. Roger says:

    Thanks Duncan, a thorough analysis indeed. I think the words or should it be Queen ? in 11a may well be a reference to the idea that ships are often (usually ?) thought of as female.

  3. Duncan Shiell says:

    Eileen @ 1

    I think you are right – your parsing makes more sense than mine. I have updated the blog.

    Roger @ 2

    Your explanation seems equally likely, but in this case I don’t think I’ll change the blog

    I’m off to the golf course now but I’ll try and respond to comments about the blog (rather than just the crossword), late this afternoon (UK time).

  4. malc95 says:

    Thanks Duncan for a fine blog.

    In particular, it explained 12a which I couldn’t parse, and 6d where I had OCHE (as in darts etc), but couldn’t justify.

    All in all though another great puzzle from the Rev.

  5. Jack Aubrey says:

    Cracking fun! First run through produced little more than “nnnnnnnn?”; a more methodical plod started with a grunt as I got a tentative pick-hold, then several “aha!”s, quite a few “doh!”s, several “aaargh!”s, and not a few delighted laughs, concluding with a satisfied “aaahhh”.

  6. Geoff says:

    Thnaks Duncan.

    Pleased to say I raced through this one without any artificial aid, though MOIETY and HEADHUNTER held me up for a bit. I enjoyed this puzzle a lot, for its varied clueing and eclectic vocabulary.

    I think my favourite clue is 16d.

  7. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Excellent blog, Duncan, thank you.

    Well, I finished it apart from OTHO, and I’m still counting on the fingers of one hand the number of Araucarias I’ve completed or nearly completed. But about a quarter of the clues I couldn’t parse for love nor money, which takes the edge off the enjoyment factor. I think this setter is one whose puzzles I will admire, but not relish. That’s me and not him though.

    SUPERINTENDS and ASPHALTS were amusing.

  8. tupu says:

    Thanks Duncan for the detailed blog and Araucaria for a really good puzzle

    An unusual number of words containing K in this puzzle (11 at a quick count).

    I completed this but was left unclear about the parsing of 12a ‘shoo’. Thanks Duncan for this – I did not know ‘shoo-in’ and did not notice it when I looked up ‘shoo’ for help.
    I tried to make some sense of the idea of
    ‘show o’ = shoo with W in = no show but was naturally not impressed by such meanderings.

    Many clues entertained e.g. 1a, 14, 27, 28,1d, 2, 3, 7 and 13.

    As Duncan says, a journey of polymath delights.

  9. molonglo says:

    Thanks duncanshiell. Looked tricky at first pass, but 16d gave 27a, and all done well within the hour. The master’s quirky brilliance on display throughout – the intlocking (pocket) theme, the awful almost-homophone of 9a, the red herring wording of 23,19 and so. Splendid.

  10. Rosmarinus says:

    Thank you Duncan for setting out the blog so clearly. Referring back to the crosswords online can be very tedious especially when I find them as difficult as this one. Wish all you Bloggers would use this method.

  11. cholecyst says:

    Thanks, Duncan.

    Prompted by 28 ac, I desperately tried to only connect, but needed the blog to understand fully some of the subtleties.

    I knew the phrase “pocket Venus” – but from where? Certainly not from these sources quoted in the OE:

    pocket Venus n. a small and beautiful woman; also in extended use.
    1767 Hist. Mr. Byron & Miss Greville I. ii. 159 She was, in figure, a complete little beauty, a *pocket Venus.
    1869 S. R. Hole Bk. Roses viii. 125 The lovely little Banksian Rose?this pocket, or rather button-hole, Venus.
    1979 ‘P. O’Connor’ Into Strong City ii. xxvii. 98 Nancy was dark and petite, perfectly formed—the proverbial pocket venus.

  12. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, duncanshiell — a very clear unravelling of the wordplay, which I needed to fully understand 9ac, 12ac and 15dn.

    I loved the ingenuity of the theme. 5ac was my way into it.

    13dn was an ‘aha’ moment and 16dn made me laugh. Vintage Araucaria and very enjoyable!

  13. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Duncan, needed explanations for several (2, 13d and 12a). My experience was like Jack Aubrey’s @5, though he expresses it much better than I could. First time through – nothing, even the tentative letters were wrong. Then SCROFULOUS, followed by KERCHIEF, and POCKET was quite late in the day.

    Enjoyable, however.

  14. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Duncan.
    Top quality puzzle from Araucaria.
    Like others I thought this was going to be tough,but once I got a start the rest fell into place nicely.
    Got 23/19 early on which helped open up a lot of the linked clues.
    As so often with Araucaria,a lovely wide range of references,Machievelli,Rokeby,Reynolds,Otho,Burns,Lord Lucan…great stuff!
    Liked the definition in 5 down,but my favourite today was ASPHALTS,I love corny puns!

  15. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Well, I completed this puzzle, didn’t find it very easy but admire the ingenuity of it.
    I filled in seven answers without fully knowing why, so thanks, Duncan, for explaining the lot.

    Not sure why so many people were complaining about John Cage yesterday.
    What about today’s Rokeby, Otho or even Reynolds?
    And words like scrofulous or moiety. Ah well.
    Learned a lot today :).
    And I think I’m going to make MOIETY (2d) my Clue of the Day.

  16. duncan says:

    I was happy with “after 19″ as the definition of 9ac., this is fairly typical of rev graham’s style, I think. could not finish, though- 2d, 27ac & our emperor friend all new to me. I also puzzled over “oche” for a while for that latter. & I always thought it was “shoe-in”, as in “have a foot in the door of..”.
    well, learned some stuff today. this is good.


  17. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Duncan

    Another testing puzzle from Araucaria. I was getting nowhere till I got POCKET then the going got a bit easier.

    Wasn’t too impressed by the clue to 9a KNIFE. Although the answer is obvious,I still don’t get it.

  18. John H (Not the Enigmatist JH) says:

    I wondered why I had so much difficulty trying to scan OCHE into 6D.
    It was the only thing i could think of relating to “crease” once the H eliminated OTTO.
    Not very close and certainly no King Edward.
    I loved the partial homophone in 9A although I can see that it would drive a purist nuts. A rare type of clue and wonderfully misleading.

  19. yogdaws says:

    Thanks Duncan

    As always – or, at least, for as long as I’ve been visiting Fifteensquared – you left no stone unturned.

    With John H re 9a. A beauty. The Spanish Inquisition can go hang.

  20. Derek Lazenby says:

    Called it a day with the NW still to go. Too much like hardwork for no pleasure.

    Not even sure it would apply to this crossword, but it brought to mind a more general observation that although accuracy is alleged to be a prequisite, we all talk about definitions when much of the time we mean allusions. The two are not the same. Whatever, it’s the point where I tend to come unstuck with these things.

    Amused by the blog. I see we have a 90 across!

  21. Robi says:

    Great puzzle, although I found it difficult to get started with all the cross-referencing.

    Thanks very much duncan for an excellent blog :) – I do like having the clues there as well, as Rosmarinus @10 said. Didn’t get the homophone at 9 and failed to see that 23,19 was an anagram until I had solved it. I had never heard of SLEEKIT, but then I’m a Sassenach. I particularly liked ASP HALTS.

    If you are a scientist, Duncan, I’m a little surprised that you were not familiar with MOIETY. This is in everyday use in the biological sciences, but in this context it means ‘a small part’ rather than just a half (‘One of two or more parts into which something may be divided, such as the various parts of a vitamin or molecule’.)

    For those who are not familiar with SHOO-in, the lead-up to the Oscars will be full of people saying things like: “Colin Firth is a shoo-in for best actor.”

  22. Robi says:

    P.S. There is a book by Henry Blyth called Pocket Venus

  23. Cosafina says:

    I loved every minute of it. Worked out it had to be kingcraft, but needed your blog to parse it, so thanks!

  24. RCWhiting says:

    I enjoyed that. Fairly straightforward although I did not get 2d.
    I knew ‘moiety’ but was thoroughly misled by ‘half time’ = (ti) or (me).
    Another pont for the old man.

  25. Carrots says:

    Thank you Duncan S for a much-needed crib for at least half-a-dozen of my guesses. I hope that you didn`t get too wet on the golf course, although from my experience, golfers would play in the snow if they had flourescent balls.

    I pored over this puzzle for over 20 minutes before getting an incursion with SERVIETTE and I`m astonished with myself for very nearly completing it: I didn`t expect to. MOIETY was the last fence I fell at.

    And thank you Araucaria….you gave me an excuse to look up a reproduction of the ROKEBY VENUS (she has a lovely bum)!

  26. Chas says:

    I was like RCWhiting @24 trying to fit [ti] or [me] into 2d and took a while to get there. I actually do remember, somewhere, meeting moiety as meaning half.

    It took me an age to get POCKET then I was staggered at how many ways the master had managed to use it!

    Does anybody remember a Christmas double where the words MONKEY and PUZZLE were the keys. He managed to include powder-monkey and orang-utan as I remember it plus lots of others.

  27. retired pleb says:

    Regular lurker, but this Araucaria is worthy of a comment. I enjoyed it.

    With Robi #21 on the subject of moiety, my last in as well. NW corner was difficult to crack, but came out eventually.

    This is my type of puzzle

  28. tupu says:

    As noted earlier, I did not know shoo-in. I understand it is originally American slang. My instinct suggests that it might be a corruption of ‘shu (= sure) win’. The available dictionary etymologies do not support this, but claim (not all that convincingly I think) that it comes from the transitive verb ‘shoo’ = to drive in a desired direction.

  29. tupu says:

    ps I should probably spell ‘shu’ above as ‘sho’ as in ‘fo sho’ = ‘for sure’ and ‘I sho do’ = ‘I sure do’.

  30. g larsen says:

    Thanks Duncan.

    As you say, lots of typical (and delightful) Araucarian features, but I found this one much quicker than most (though I was one of those putting OCHE at 9d – it can be thought of as a crease, by analogy with cricket).

    Remarkable how we all differ – I’m usually on Araucaria’s wavelength, while struggling with other setters (eg Rufus)who many of the mighty regulars on this blog clearly find easier.

  31. MikeC says:

    Carrots @25. Please refrain from suggesting improper images of radioactive golfers (!).
    Seriously, though, this was a real tough one. Lots of different sorts of wordplay. 9a took a bit of spotting . . . (like the pocket hand kerchief?) I think this was one of those days where I didn’t get a good start and so took a while to build momentum – a bit like with the Nimrod and Anax puzzles we met in Derby. Enjoyable, nonetheless.
    Thanks to both A and duncanshiell.

  32. Robi says:

    tupu @29, I found this, which might help: “Shoo in” was originally a racetrack term, and was applied to a horse expected to easily win a race, and, by extension, to any contestant expected to win an easy victory. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first use of the term in print dates back to 1928. A “shoo in” was originally a horse that was expected to win a race, not by virtue of its speed or endurance, but because the race was fixed. The sardonic “subtext” of the original usage, now lost, was that the designated horse would win even if it were so lackadaisical in its performance that it simply wandered somehow up to the finish line and had to be “shooed in” to victory.

  33. tupu says:

    Hi robi

    Thanks. It’s very kind of you to bother! Yes I have seen that, and there is an example under ‘shoo'(4) from 1908 in the OED. Mostly, but not always, ‘shoo’ is used with ‘away’. I am however intrigued by the fact that glosses of ‘shoo-in’ regularly refer to ‘sure’ (and certain) and to ‘win’ without making any direct connection with the expression. OED gives ‘sho’ as ‘US Black pronunciation’ of ‘sure’ and the examples I quote in 29 are pretty standard. It also gives ‘sholy’ as ‘US. Black and Southern’ for ‘surely’ The intrusion of a ‘w’ sound between ‘shoo’ and ‘in’ would come very naturally (its a bit like the unwritten and wrongly inserted ‘r’ sound in ‘India (r)and Pakistan’ or ‘law (r)in England’) but I realise that in this case the written letter would be dropped while still being pronounced – :) which does not bode altogether well for my hunch!

  34. Duncan Shiell says:

    Thanks for all the comments on the blog..

    I am always fascinated by which words generate the most discussion in any crossword. For me SHOO-IN is an everyday phrase; clearly it isn’t for others.

    Although I tend to the sciences and sports rather than the arts, science itself covers an enormous field. In my specialism of surveying sciences and cartography, I hope I am right in saying that MOIETY is not a regular feature.

    Sorry about the appearance of 90 Across. Often I re-use existing blog formats and sometimes I don’t get the edits spot on. An Araucaria puzzle that genuinely got up to 90 Across would present an interesting blogging challenge.

    Carrots @25 is right when he implies that it never rains on the golf course. By Scottish Borders standards, the temperature today was positively tropical, so any drizzle was warm.

  35. Geoff Anderson says:

    I remembered ‘moiety’ from my A-level Hamlet but I couldn’t have quoted the line, which I see is 90 in I:i ‘Against the which a moiety competent / Was gaged by our king.’ It was a legal term in Shakespeare’s usage and legal experts argue over whether it meant a half or a third, but ‘share’ is a simpler ‘translation’. It appears in other plays by Will and also in some sonnets.

  36. Jack Aubrey says:

    I don’t have the text with me to quote accurately, but in his commentary on Shakespeare, Johnson quotes the pedantic insistence of an earlier pseudo-scholar that someone must have been writing on Shakespeare’s part when he apparently got “moiety” by when describing one moiety as the larger. The hapless pedant says that “for the honour of Shakespeare” I will assume that he did not write this passage.

    “And I will not assume it,” curtly thunders the contemptuous Doctor.

  37. grandpuzzler says:

    Thanks duncanshiell for the beautiful blog. The NW corner was the last in for me. Sadly, it was after reading your blog. After reading the comments regarding SHOO-IN, I checked my Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate: one that is a certain and easy winner (ca 1950). Obviously it took some time to get across the pond.


  38. RCWhiting says:

    Duncan #34
    ” For me SHOO-IN is an everyday phrase; clearly it isn’t for others.”

    Anyone with a reasonable interest in British politics will have heard the expression many times.
    It is often combined with the phrases ‘safe seat’ and ‘parachute in’.

  39. maarvarq says:

    Another heaping of obscurity upon obscurity in both solutions and constructions, undoubtedly delighting the worshippers at the cult of Araucaria, but frustrating and painful to the rest of us.

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