Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize 25,502 / Araucaria

Posted by Eileen on December 17th, 2011


I think Araucaria must be saving himself for his Christmas Special – and that’s something to look forward to! This was a pleasant enough puzzle to solve but there were a lot of easy charades and insertions [8,9,12,19,23ac and 1,6,22dn, for instance] and it didn’t last nearly so long, for me, as his Prize puzzles usually do. There weren’t really any ‘aha’ moments and, altogether, I’m afraid, for me, one of Araucaria’s most loyal fans, it lacked the usual sparkle. The only one that caused any head-scratching / research was 21ac.


1 Catcher accepts unfinished poem: don’t talk to the messenger (12)
TRAP [catcher] round [accepts] ELEG[y] [unfinished poem] + HIST [don’t talk]

8 Little boy sees good solver’s much extended (7)
LEN [little boy – please see comment on 4dn] + G[ood] + THY [solver’s]

9 Popular protest leads to convulsion (7)
DEMO [protest] + TIC [convulsion]

11 She doesn’t say what there is (7)
THERE’S A … but she doesn’t say what! This raised a smile but it’s rather weak, because ‘there’ is in both clue and answer –  but at least we were spared a variation on the ancient ‘Theresa Green’  😉 ]

12 Pet for boy from Barcelona (7)
CAT [pet] + ALAN [boy]

13 Fish has left woodwork at gate (5)
carpENTRY [woodwork] minus [has left] carp [fish]

14 Get in line, say, for game across the Thames (3,6)
KEW [sounds like [say] queue – get in line] + BRIDGE [game]: I would say that ‘across the Thames’ was a rather loose definiton but these seem to be more acceptable these days

16 Go to a museum, perhaps, even if it’s free? (3,1,5)
A not very cryptic definition, which I wasn’t very keen on – or am I missing something?

19 Little one left in tower (5)
BABE [little one] + L[eft]:

21 Slough disposal is after its first during reversion of Indian groom (7)
IS after D [first letter of disposal] in [during] reversal [reversion] of SYCE [Indian groom]
A cleverly-constructed clue – but a little naughty, I thought, since it involves unfamiliar [to me at least] words in both wordplay and solution. The definition is ‘slough disposal’, slough being eg the dead outer skin of a snake and ECDYSIS being the casting off of the same, with ‘slough’ neatly placed at the beginning of the clue, in order to masquerade as the Berkshire town, the wished-for target of Betjeman’s friendly bombs – but the surface doesn’t make a lot of sense! Syce is not necessarily an Indian groom, according to Chambers. Not A at his best, I think – but, there again, as far as I can see, this is the only word that would fit this space – apart from its plural – and I wouldn’t relish the thought of cluing it!

23 Draw a model for area (7)
A + T [the familiar crossword model] + TRACT [area] making a very easy charade

24 Philosopher abandoning both extremes for very noisy derivative (4-3)
SPINO[za]  [philosopher] with ZA replaced [abandoning both extremes] by FF [very noisy]: here, ‘extremes’ means first and last letters of the alphabet, rather than of the word in question, which we’re more used to

25,26 Change round in the morning: phone company books men to deride innocent victim (1,4,2,3,9)
ALTER [change] round AM [in the morning] BT [phone company] OT [books] HES [men – I don’t like this!] LAUGH [deride – which really means to laugh at]


1 Sunburn for man like the ground to a wheel? (7)
TAN [sunburn] + GENT [man] – another very easy charade, with another rather weird surface: the ‘cryptic’ part is clearly explained here

2 Last year’s leaders keep carnivore on spec (7)
LY [initial letters [‘leaders’] of ‘last year’s’] round [keep] OTTER [carnivore]

3 Fellow with divisions in road, reportedly – he gets burnt (3,6)
GUY [fellow] + FAWKES [sounds like – ‘reportedly’ – FORKS [road divisions] to those with non-rhotic accents  ;-)]

4 Submarine detector sounds like small boy (5)
AS [like] + DIC[k] [small boy]: I’m not over-fond of diminutives [like LEN in 8ac] being clued as ‘little / small boy': I think I’m even less keen on a truncated version being similarly clued

5 Beast gets hot on Dutch dam (7)
H[ot] + AMSTER[dam]!
I wonder what Sil makes of this one? 😉

6 Brock’s home was first to be colonised (7)
SETT [Brock’s home, brock being the Old English word for a badger] + LED [was first]

7 Kit’s here, stupid! The man’s a journalist (7-5)
CLOT [stupid] + HE’S PRESS [the man’s a journalist]: this is what I would call a wardrobe – it’s nothing to do with a trouser-press. I didn’t know ‘press’ could mean ‘cupboard’ until I lived ion Northern Ireland, where I learned that an airing cupboard was a hot press.

10 Rule about little room at first needing scrubbing (12)
CANON [rule] around [about] CELL [little room] + AT + I [first, which could be taken as I [first person] or 1 [number one]: this surface was rather more satisfying, with the definition being ‘scrubbing’

15 Successfully? It’s not the end of the world (4,1,4)
double / cryptic definition, referring to things going ‘with a bang’ [successfully] and the concluding lines of T S Eliot’s poem, ‘The Hollow Men':
‘This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.’

17 Language of heart-throb after rise of homework (7)
DISH [heart-throb] after reversal [rise] of D-I-Y [‘homework’]

18 Sticky 6 from Liverpool didn’t finish (7)
VI [six] + SCOUS[e] [from Liverpool]

19 A few lines — got some between the teeth (3,4)
double definition

20 Three bachelors, real weird, that will talk too much (7)
anagram of BBB [three bachelors] and REAL: fortunately, I already had 23ac, because BABBLER was the first answer to spring to mind

22 Capital seat accommodating setter (5)
SOFA [seat] around [accommodating] I [setter]

19 Responses to “Guardian Prize 25,502 / Araucaria”

  1. RCWhiting says:

    Ecdysis was almost my first entry: syce is used often in Azed.
    As someone said the other day, the only obscure words are those you don’t know.

  2. RCWhiting says:

    Excuse my lack of manners:
    Thanks all

  3. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Eileen. You beat me to it, I was going to observe that Aracauria must be saving himself up for the Christmas Special. Most of these answers wrote themselves straight in and I was left with a vague sense of disappointment.

    My last was 21 and I had made it difficult for myself by using ‘sais’ for the Indian groom. I put ‘babbler’ in initially too.

  4. RCWhiting says:

    I, too, thought this rather too straightforward,especially for a ‘prize’.
    I solved 15d without thinking of TS Eliot although when I read your quote it was familiar.
    I do not see what is weird about the definition (not cryptic) of a tangent.It is not an easy term to define allusively, any mention of a circle would just be a giveaway, especially since the cryptic part is very hackneyed.

  5. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eillen. Yes, another straightforward prize puzzle, no aids needed, despite ECDYSIS. Some nice clues, though, including 18d.

  6. molonglo says:

    Sorry Eileen: Eileen

  7. PeeDee says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen. I know what you mean about ECDYSIS, it does seem on a different level of difficulty to the rest of the puzzle

  8. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Araucaria

    Looking over this last night to refresh my memory, I thought it was quite a decent puzzle but I notice that I did not tick any clues as specially good.
    LIke others, I caused myself a little bother briefly by pencilling in babbler but the crossing ‘cliche’ was so clear that one just had to rethink. I also had a temporary difficulty through solving 24a and then writing in Spinoza! (I don’t know if others have been keen chessplayers but it is not as uncommon as one might think to analyse a position, see a move is bad and then play it!)

    Ecdysis was really very hard as Eileen points out. Apart from the word itself and the reversal of the esoteric syce, there was the misleading surface ‘is after its first’. I had to scramble around to get this, and agree with Eileen that clever though it was, it was a little ‘naughty’.

    I did not worry much about ‘pay a visit’ though I agree the opposition of pay and free is not very demanding.

    I quite liked ‘telegraphist’ and ‘cancellation’.

  9. chas says:

    Thanks to Eileen for the blog. Now that I have seen your explanation for 18d it is obvious – but somehow I failed to see it last Saturday.

    I was another who started with BABBLER.

    As others have commented this was not as much of a struggle as we sometimes get from Araucaria.

    A while ago one of his double crosswords had grids which were not exact duplicates but rather were mirror images. His instruction said (my italics) You may wonder why the grids are mirror images plus some more text. Eventually, after I had solved some clues, I realised that an old term for mirror is looking glass :)

  10. Davy says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    I seemed to enjoy this puzzle more than most of you but there again I’m not a fast solver. Admittedly, there were quite a few easy clues but I still enjoyed it. I have ticked a selection of clues and liked ENTRY, ATTRACT (I know it’s easy but a good surface anyway) ,HAMSTER and CLOTHES PRESS which was very misleading. I too was a ‘babbler’ until corrected and ECDYSIS was the last in. I initially looked up ECDISYS and was immediately pointed to the correct word. This is one of the benefits of an online dictionary.

    Thanks Arry and looking forward to your Christmas puzzle already

  11. MaryEllen says:

    Even after recently reading all of Barbara Cleverly’s crime novels set in 1920s India, I still forgot SYCE!

  12. r_c_a_d says:

    Thanks for the blog. I enjoyed this, partly because I didn’t have to keep reaching for the dictionary every 5 minutes as is the norm for me with A. It seemed to be average difficulty for a prize puzzle.

    I didn’t get ECDYSIS until the end; and only because it was the only word that fit. I agree that using an obscure word to point to another obscure word is naughty. But I also concede that some master solvers consider many words common that I think obscure. I only average about one crossword per week.

    I didn’t grasp why “don’t talk” was HIST… and still don’t. Any more elaboration?

  13. Eileen says:

    Hi r_c_a_d

    Collins:’hist: an exclamation used to attract attention or as a warning to be silent’. My SOED says it’s now poetic – I thought it always was!

  14. Wolfie says:

    Thanks Eileen for the excellent blog as always.

    I find myself agreeing for once with RCWhiting. ‘Ecdysis’ was my first one in – a word familiar to me from my degree studies in biology. I didn’t know ‘syce’, but it was pretty obvious from the word-play. Overall, a fairly straightforward solve, with some nice moments. As a Liverpudlian, I enjoyed 18d!

  15. PeeDee says:

    I think it is misleading to describe ECDYSIS as ‘naughty’. It is a fair clue, just more difficult than the rest here.

    One can’t complain both about the crossword being too easy and the clues too hard.

  16. cholecyst says:

    Thanks, Eileen. Re HIST. Don’t know why but was reminded of the chorus to the Lambton Worm:
    “Whisht! Lads, haad yor gobs,
    An Aa’ll tell ye’s aall an aaful story
    Whisht! Lads, haad yor gobs,
    An’ Aa’ll tell ye ‘boot the worm”

  17. Robi says:

    Thanks, Eileen; I was another babbler.

    Re 21, there are not many words (I think) meaning ‘indian groom,’ so I found it quickly, although I didn’t know it. I enjoyed this because I could do it in a reasonable time – I understand it was not hard enough for some, though, as a Prize.

  18. r_c_a_d says:

    Thanks Eileen. I must get a better dictionary: it is on my Christmas list :)

  19. Debbie says:

    Hmm – I’m unhappy. An otter is not a carnivore (2D). It’s a piscivore. I never expected Araucaria to indulge in inaccurate clueing, so I dismissed “lottery” as a possible solution.

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