Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,446 – Arachne

Posted by Andrew on October 6th, 2011


I rattled through this pretty quickly, but there were some excellent clues that made it very enjoyable, with 9ac being my favourite. Thanks to Arachne for the entertainment. The reference at 11dn (and maybe also 5ac) might be a tad obscure for some..

5. BERTHA Homophone of “birther” – name for some American conspiracy theorists who believe, or pretend to believe for political expediency, that Barack Obama is not a “natural-born citizen”, as the Constitution requires the President to be.
9. CHASTITY C[onvent] + IT in HASTY, and a lovely &lit
10. SCRAPS SCRAPES (awkward situations) less [Assang]E, with the surface referring to Julian Assange of Wikileaks.
12. LAP OF HONOUR Cryptic definition
15. DROPS DR + OOPS less O (I think, with O=0=no)
17. ALKALOIDS AL[cohol] + (KID ALSO)*
18. WORRIEDLY (WIDE LORRY)*, and a very nice surface reading
19. SEPIA Homophone of “seepier”
20. LABRADOODLE (ADORABLE OLD)*, &lit. The labradoodle is a cross between a labrador retriever and a poodle, so perhaps not exactly a mongrel , but still a very nice clue.
24. STYMIE Hidden in froSTY MIEn
25. OKLAHOMA LA HO = Los Angeles House in AMOK*, and the classic Broadway show.
26. ELEVEN E (energy) in ELVEN (“of little people”)
27. STARKERS K (king) in STARERS
1. BUCKLE DOWN BUCKLE (clasp) + DOWN (= drink, as a verb)
2. SHAMPOOERS S[alon] + OO (“rollers” – balls or wheels) in HAMPERS, and junior staff at a hairdresser’s might have to do the shampooing.
3. MOTIF M + O + TIF[f]
6. ENCIRCLES E N (cardinal points) + CLERICS*
7. TRAP Reverse of PART (organ). TRAP = mouth = kisser
8. ALSO Alternate letters of AlLuSiOn
11. DONKEY JACKET A cryptic definition that may be incomprehensible to younger or non-UK solvers. The former Labour Party leader Michael Foot was reviled in the press for supposedly wearing a Donkey Jacket at the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph in 1981.
13. HIPPODROME HIP (in, fashionable) + POD (school, as in whales) + ROME (empire). “Theatre” is the definition.
16. STILL LIFE STILL (a still “generates” spirits) + LIFE (zest)
22. ISLE Hidden in hIS LEague, and a reference to the Isle of Man
23. LYRE Homophone (“articulating”) of “liar”. Pinocchio’s nose grew when he lied, but I think it’s a bit unfair to define him as a liar!

31 Responses to “Guardian 25,446 – Arachne”

  1. Arachne says:

    Many thanks, Andrew, for a top blog, especially at this time of night. You’re a star. I’m off up the apples and pears, and tomorrow will mostly be spent in a bottle so I may not be able to pop in again, but I’d like to invite suggestions as to what my original, unbowdlerised, clue might have been for 2dn. Someone must have an idea…

    Nighty night
    Arachne x

  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks Andrew and Arachne, both!

    I can certainly imagine what might have been for 2dn! Actually, when solving, the clue that suggested an alternative construction to me was that for 9ac…

    We had LABRADOODLE about a year ago when Paul clued it as “Hollywood supporter drawing cross.” I think I prefer your anagram, Arachne!

  3. grandpuzzler says:

    Thanks Arachne and Andrew. You are correct about what may be too obscure for me. Thanks for the link regarding DONKEY JACKET. Didn’t get the birther connection in 5ac. My excuse is that I pronounce the two words differently and I overlooked the homophone indicator. Thanks for the education.


  4. Eileen says:

    Many thanks for a great blog, Andrew – I don’t know how you do it so quickly!

    As you say, this was perhaps easier than usual for Arachne but there was still much to enjoy in the wit and variety of cluing [several laugh-out-loud moments] and the lovely ‘lift and separate’ device, used to such good effect in wine cellar, crack cocaine, footwear, Empire Theatre and Wacky Races.

    Like NeilW, I remembered Paul’s LABRADOODLE so it didn’t take me nearly so long as last time, when I couldn’t believe there was such a word.

    Many thanks for the entertainment, Arachne. I hope you get your own 12ac on Sunday!

    [It’s not too late to sponsor Arachne running dressed as a bottle in the Chester Marathon on – see ]

  5. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks Andrew and to Arachne for dropping in. Good luck for Sunday’s record attempt.

    I certainly needed an explanation for 11d and 5ac. Apart from that, an excellent puzzle and blog, though I’m surprised you didn’t mention the childen’s fiction references at 14 and 23d, and especially 27ac :lol:

  6. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    Relative stroll from Arachne (unlike the Chester Marathon – good luck, Spider Woman!).

    Good &lit at 9a, the hairdressing theme of both clue and solution at 2d is well done, and I particularly liked the construction of 20a and 13d. The Emperor’s New Clothes reference at 27a is great fun.

    15a didn’t quite work for me, but that’s a very minor niggle.

  7. andy smith says:

    Aside from scatalogical cluing, I thought 2dn was very well constructed with the complaint that “for the juniors” seemed a very weak defn to me (an amateur solver). “to get the staff in a lather” or similar would have been clearer, to me anyway.

    I’m still no clearer on the parsing of 15, and didn’t like 7 or 23dn – but i liked the rest of it.

  8. andy smith says:

    Sorry, I meant to say that an alternative to 2dn (as per Arachne’s request for alternative suggestions) might involve some tasteless scatalogical cluing, not that the clue is at present…

  9. Thomas99 says:

    “O” is standing for 0, ie zero, ie “no”. Presumably the disquiet it is causing some people is coming from the fact that O=0=no is strictly speaking 2 stages, which goes against Ximinean rules and makes it a “libertarian” and supposedly unfair clue.

    I think it’s just slightly ungainly. From O to “no” isn’t far enough or difficult enough to make it unfair in my opinion. Setters get away with this sort of thing quite often.

  10. Gervase says:

    Scatalogical clueing might be tasteless, but I always find that a bit of Pauline ribaldry brightens up the day.

    However, the clue that Arachne settled on for 2d wins out in cleverness over what it lacks in snigger factor.

  11. andy smith says:

    Hi thomas, thanks for the more detailed explanation. But actually it wasn’t the take zero from Oops that bothered me, albeit I wouldn’t have got it, but the absence of any indicator to insert it into ‘drs’. If the clue read Doctor’s ex-exclamation … it would pars OK for me, but I probably miss something.

  12. Thomas99 says:

    You again? I was just talking to you on the other site.
    I don’t think it’s an insertion. The “‘s” is just old-fashioned “padding” (an unfair term) – it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s ok because “David-in-Penarth’s comment” means more or less the same as “A David-in-Penarth comment”, for example. So it’s Dr + oops, not oops in Dr.

    I’m fairly sure the zero/0/O thing is what got David’s goat, by the way, although I was mystified at first.

  13. andy smith says:

    Hi Thomas. D’oh. Thanks!

  14. Gervase says:

    andy smith @11:

    My understanding is that the parsing is DR + (o)OPS. “Doctor’s” needs to be read as ‘Doctor has’. This is a device I don’t like (but I’ve bored everyone often enough with my reasons for this, so I won’t regurgitate them). The other feature I was slightly uncomfortable with was the use of ‘take’ to mean ‘remove': ‘when you take no’ (without any preposition) reads to me more like an instruction to add, rather than to remove, the O. ‘…when you take AWAY no….’ would have worked better for me.

  15. chas says:

    Thanks to Andrew for the blog.

    I had remembered Michael Foot but the USA has so many conspiracy theories that I was unable to pick one. :)

  16. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and Arachne

    I completed this but found parts of it hard. I got 5a and 11d (it had to be) but did not recall the references to anti-Obama ‘birthers’ and Michael Foot (clever if obscure) which I got from later googling.

    I liked 9a, 10a, 25a, 1d, and 14d.

  17. waysideginger says:

    Thanks Arachne for an enjoyable puzzle.

    Just like to add that my favourite clue was 11d, although I accept it was a bit obscure I got the reference despite not being born when it happened, and I loved the use of “Footwear”

  18. Strawberry Flann says:

    20 across, Labradoodle reminded me of when I once crossed the road with my sister, and only I made it across!

  19. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Many thanks, Andrew, for a helpful and clear blog.

    Two puzzles in the Grauniad this week from Arachne – she’ll be off to the shops when she’s finished that marathon …

    Gentle enough, but with three or four clues that I really struggled to complete. I loved CHASTITY and also liked HIPPODROME. It took me almost all of the crossing letters to convince myself it was DONKEY JACKET, but then I did smile when I saw it. I don’t think he ‘supposedly’ wore it, Andrew! But he certainly got crucified in the press. It was thirty years ago, so younger solvers might indeed have struggled with it.

    I don’t want to think too much about the alternative clue for 2dn …

  20. Andrew says:

    K’s D – bad wording on my part: you’re right that he wore the offending garment (pictured here); the doubt is whether it really was a donkey jacket – it clearly wasn’t, but Foot was the sort of person who could look scruffy in anything (I can sympathise, being rather of that tendency myself), and having it unbuttoned doesn’t help the look in comparison to the other participants.

    andy smith, re “juniors” – I agree that it would be a weak def. of SHAMPOOERS on its own, but if you read it in conjunction with “head of salon” then it makes more sense.

    Thanks to all commenters, especially Arachne for her kind words. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a setter making the first comment before..

  21. Thomas99 says:

    Andrew and Andy-
    I remember thinking if only Arachne had ended that clue (2d, SHAMPOOERS) with “her juniors?” it would have been brilliant.

  22. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks Andrew for the picture – you’re right, Foot was one of the most brilliant intellects and orators of his generation, but just a war zone appearance-wise. He’s even managed to get his wreath to droop …

  23. Geoff says:

    Thanks for finding the picture, Andrew. Did you notice Geoffrey Howe lurking in the background, looking as if he’s about to give Mrs T a wedgie?

  24. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Some great clues (23d, 9ac, 13d,2d).
    I failed to get ‘Bertha’ and hence ‘trap’. I was aware of the Obama controversy but had not heard the imbeciles referred to as birthers.
    The wonderful (and much maligned) MF’s wife denied absolutely that it was a ‘donkey jacket’ and further that she had very carefully chosen it for the occasion.
    I think 2d is an indication of the subtle but ever-present sexism in crosswords which we males do not notice since the compilers are overwhelmingly male. Ask many women what the word ‘junior’ means and they will think of their frequent contacts with the hairdressing world.

  25. Paul B says:

    They may well, but as published the clue is definition-defective.

  26. Sil van den Hoek says:

    When yesterday, just after midnight, I saw that Andrew’s blog was already there, I thought: How the &*^%$ did he do thát?
    Then the preamble made clear that he rattled through it, suggesting that this might be a very easy crossword.

    While it was indeed less tricky than some previous Arachnes, it was also one of her most consistent – very evenly clued with great surfaces [very important to Arachne], a lot of wit and some clues that really stood out [like the much mentioned CHASTITY, HIPPODROME (one of these, as Eileen said, lift-and-separate clues) and that Dog With Two Heads in 20ac].

    2d was in its current form also very good.
    “I don’t want to think too much about the alternative clue for 2dn … ” (@19). Well, K’s D, Hugh Stephenson didn’t want to think about it too much either apparently. It’s a sensitive world, isn’t it? However, I have an idea that the original clue wasn’t as ‘smutty’ as some might think …. :)
    And, btw, what would become of Paul when the blue pencil would take over.

    There were also some clues that we didn’t like: 12ac (LAP OF HONOUR) and TRAP (7d). The latter only after seeing the solution from Andrew’s fine blog (thx again), because just like RC Whiting we didn’t get that one in combination with 5ac.
    So today’s the day I had something in common with RCW …. :)

    Oh, and I forgot to say that 17ac (ALKALOIDS) is worth a special mentioning too! As is 11d. And 1ac.

    Nice, sunny puzzle.
    Thank you, Arachne, and have fun at your Bottle Party!

  27. Geoff says:

    I took a while to get 2d, but when the penny eventually dropped I was perfectly satisfied with the result. In strictly Ximenean terms the clue is ‘definition-defective’, but in the hairdressing salon context ‘juniors’ = SHAMPOOERS is a perfectly valid ‘semi &lit’ definition. This is the Guardian, after all, where the Inquisition does not hold sway, fortunately for those of us who enjoy some judicious pushing at the boundaries. I thought it was an excellent clue.

    Of course, a clue which consists solely of a single cryptic definition is not Ximenean either, but few commentators seem to object to Rufus for this (except sometimes for the number of such clues which can appear in his crosswords!)

  28. Paul B says:

    Well yes Geoff, I know the Guardian is sometimes a bit lax, but this certainly doesn’t seem to me to be one for the pedants. I’d have left my eyelids to bat themselves had there been a question-mark on the end at 2D, as the clueing-context (your semi-&lit-ness) supports the idea of a junior hairdresser well: but in the absence of same, we have to take the def as strictly synonymous, which of course it isn’t.

    But I for one would still like to know whether or not we were nearly treated to some Arachnidan sham pooers (victims of IBS they are, you’re sure).

  29. Arachne says:

    I expect by now everyone’s left the building, but FWIW “shampooers” were originally “Hairdressers taking unnecessary toilet breaks”.
    Nighty night.

  30. RCWhiting says:

    Brilliant – you know you should have.
    Then it would have been smelling salts out and swoons all over the board.

  31. Paul B says:

    Yes, well there it is. I can’t get the Guardian yardstick though: why would that clue not be allowed when certain others, complained about mercilessly passim, have been? It … is … a … mystery .. to … me.

Leave a Reply

Don't forget to scroll down to the Captcha before you click 'Submit Comment'

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

nine − 3 =