Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize 25,526 / Araucaria

Posted by Eileen on January 14th, 2012


Looking back through the archives, I see that, lately, I [and others] in blogs of Araucaria Prize puzzles have commented  that they were over rather too quickly. I remember a time when an Araucaria Prize crossword would occupy a good part of Saturday, with perhaps a couple of clues taking a day or two longer to decipher. I really don’t think that it’s a case of me getting so much better at solving! Many of the clues here are very straightforward charades and / or insertions, with just a couple of more obscure clues that took a bit longer to think about. I can’t even find any outrageous liberties to defend, which, as a fully paid-up Araucaria fan of several decades, I’m quite used to doing! A pleasant enough solve, nonetheless.


1 Choose to keep quiet time in smoker’s assembly (4,4)
PICK [choose] around [to keep] P [quiet] ERA [time]

5 Sailor to accomplish his aim (6)
TAR [sailor] + GET [accomplish]: a very easy charade, which I’m sure I’ve seen very recently

9,10,12 Programme of talent-spotting, being rubbish? (8,3,3,5)
Cryptic definition, referring to the hugely popular TV programme ‘Strictly come dancing’, familiarly known as ‘Strictly’ and ‘[strictly] for the birds’,  meaning rubbish

13 Painters etc in suitable accommodation (9)
ART MEN [painters etc] in APT [suitable]

14 Celebratory explosive devices put in sack — barmy! (12)
FIRE [sack] + CRACKERS [barmy]

18 In the centre, order to repair a model of the statue that came to dinner (12)
OM [order {of merit}] + MEND [repair] + A T [a model] in CORE [centre]: the definition is ‘the statue that came to dinner’, referring to the finale of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’, where the statue of the Commendatore accepts DG’s invitation to dinner, then drags him off to Hell when he refuses to repent. [I think some setters might have been content to use ‘commendatory’, with the fairly obvious charade to clue it, to fill this space. 😉 ]

21 Annoyed about combining styles? (9)
CROSS [annoyed] OVER [about]: Collins: ‘[of music, fashion, art., etc] combining two distinct styles’

23 Provide joke with point (5)
E[ast] [point] + QUIP [joke]

24 Priest turned farceur sought by alchemist (6)
ELI [priest] + reversal of RIX [ Brian, farceur]
Two of Crosswordland’s all-time favourite characters in one clue!

25 Person from Riga in unpleasant surroundings — is it Brussels? (8)
LETT [person from Riga] in VILE [unpleasant]: this town in Charlotte Brontë’s novel of the same name, which is semi-autobiographical, is generally thought to be identified with Brussels, where Charlotte went to teach.

26 Strong possibility that you could start? (6)
MIGHT [possibility?] + Y[ou]

27 Time Rugby Union’s Tiger played with genuine resolution (4,4)
T[ime] + RU [Rugby Union] + anagram [played] of TIGER: hurrah for the namecheck of my home team!  😉 – this has to be my favourite clue [nice surface, too] – and, of course, the classic John Wayne film


1 Don’t go to the Pays Bas without a translator (4,2)
Anagram [translator] of PAYS B[a]S minus one ‘a’

2 Proper way to specify delegated correspondent (3,3)
Anagram of PROPER and an abbreviation of per procurationem [by delegation to; through the agency of] used when signing letters etc on behalf of someone else

3 On holiday the setter’s been far from dominant (9)
RECESS [holiday] + I’VE [setter’s]: yet another simple charade

4 Bird is captured — where? — in Italy (8,4)
COLLARED [captured] + DOVE [Italian for ‘where’] – and another, made a little more complicated by the need for translation

6 A place for such as 4 in the rigging (5)
A LOFT, where you would find doves [4dn] or pigeons

8 Learned work on pacts needing little change (8)
A little change made to the end of TREATIES [pacts]

11 Barker puts pile of stones on land register (5,7)
CAIRN [pile of stones] TERRIER [land register]: we quite often have discussions about the use of ‘on’ in both across and down clues. Araucaria is rather wanting to have his cake and eat it:  here, ‘on’ means ‘before’ and in 3dn it meant ‘after’!

15 American playwright about to receive into the Church of England a French one (9)
[Eugene] O’NEILL [American playwright] around R [receive] in CE [Church of England]: Pierre Corneille (1606 – 1684) was a French tragedian

16 Jewellery and stuff, including English food (3,5)
ICE [jewellery?] + CRAM [stuff] around [including] E[nglish]: I’m well used to ICE = diamonds in crosswords but the leap to jewellery is a rather big one, I think

17 Dominant monkey to get large gin cocktail (8)
IMP [monkey] + OS [large] + anagram [cocktail] of GIN

19,7 Watch American gun being used in Britain by king that’s no agriculturalist (6-8)
HUNTER [a type of watch] + GAT [American gun] + HERE [in Britain] + R [king]

20 Optimistic — don’t come in yet! (6)
double / cryptic definition: woe betide the singer / instrumentalist who comes in too soon!

22 Satirist, one of the 12 (5)
double definition: Dean Jonathan, who wrote ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and one of the 12ac [BIRDS]

23 Responses to “Guardian Prize 25,526 / Araucaria”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Eileen. I think you are right, most of this one was pretty straightforward though I did have to enlist Google to confirm 15,18 and 25.

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen. Yes, a comfortable hour over lunch for this, with Google for later checking. Needed all the crossing letters before 18a fell into place, only then recalling having seen Don Giovanni in Naples – in 1965! Despite your help I don’t quite get 20d. I couldn’t find a definition in 25a – just the cheeky hint that the capital of Belgium was trifling, but later (as you point out) saw the clever linkage –

  3. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    I agree entirely with Eileen’s assessment.
    I do not follow opera but since commendatory didn’t fit I assumed the other.
    Rather disappointing for a Saturday.

  4. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    Certainly not a difficult puzzle in terms of its clue construction, but I enjoyed this one for the scope of its references: Mozart, C Bronte, French playwrights and popular culture – and quite a few smiles along the way. I am always pleased when I can finish a crossword without recourse to external aids, which was the case here, fortunately.

    As far as I am concerned, the word ‘on’ can quite legitimately mean either ‘above’ or ‘adjacent to’, and I like puzzles where the compiler uses words in more than one sense in different clues.

  5. sidey says:

    While COMMENDATORE is rather simple from the charade the reference to the opera is definitely unfair as it can’t be confirmed by any of the usual reference books. It was pretty difficult to confirm with google.

    Other than that a rather vanilla effort.

  6. crosser says:

    Thank you , Eileen, for your very helpful explanantions.
    The only one I didn’t get was 20d and, although I understand now, I don’t think the clue is fair. It can be perfectly correct to “come in” on the upbeat, depending on the music!

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Araucaria

    An excellent blog as usual with a very fair assessment of the puzzle.

    Like some others I had some difficulty with Commendatore (which I stumbled upo while checking commendatory)and Villette (which I had to check), but I was pleased to get Corneille unaided. I rather liked 4d, 19d, and 20d.

  8. Shirley says:

    Sidey – In addition to Mozart there is a play by Pushkin based on the Don Juan legend called The Stone Guest. Perhaps if Auracaria had used these words instead of the statue who came to dinner it might have been clearer to non opera buffs!

  9. chas says:

    Thanks to Eileen for the blog. I did not initially understand the Brussels reference in 25 but I do now.

    I finished this one about mid-afternoon. My memory says that in previous times I did not finish until some time on Sunday – so I agree that it feels easier.
    I also remember the days when I could solve no more than half the clues so my crosswording skill has definitely improved!

  10. r_c_a_d says:

    Thanks for the blog. I thought I might finally complete an A here without resorting to reference material but buckled on 18 and 25a.

    Incidentally, I wonder where the expression “something for the birds” comes from? I knew it, but was surprised to find that a couple of friends did not.

  11. Ian W. says:

    Commendatore was the first word that leapt to mind when I read “statue that came to dinner,” so I was pleased to see that it fit the grid, but I thought it could have been more cryptic. There’s no pleasing everyone, of course.

  12. cholecyst says:

    Thanks, Eileen. I, too, have been an Araucaria devotee for years. And like you I find his puzzles seem to be getting easier but I suspect that the truth is, I’m getting better at solving them. Solving crosswords is about the only skill that improves with age (in my case at least)!

    sidey @5. Did you try Grove?

  13. sidey says:

    Grove is not on my bookshelf cholecyst, and there is no indication in the clue that it’s anything to do with opera. It could be a reference to just about anything really.

  14. RCWhiting says:

    cholecyst @12
    That paragraph sums up my view exactly.
    I think it is partly that as time passes one accumulates general knowledge without any conscious effort.
    I enjoy talking to my grandaughter and understanding how her knowledge of much of the world is read or heard whereas “I was there.” (Max Boyce)

    BTW, the definition of unfair is not “something I do not know”.

  15. Robi says:

    r_c_a_d @10; you might find this interesting

    Thanks Eileen; as you say, reasonably straightforward apart from ‘the statue that came to dinner.’ I’m better with ‘the tiger who came to tea!’

  16. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the smile, Robi – I love that one, too! 😉

  17. sidey says:

    BTW, the definition of unfair is not “something I do not know”.

    Not at all RCWhiting. I encounter things I don’t know all the time in crosswords, that’s part of the fun. What is not fair about 18 is the reference that is meaningless if you don’t know the opera AND the is not the vaguest hint what sphere of knowledge needs investigating to confirm the reference.

  18. RCWhiting says:

    If you were to ask Shirley or Ian W. I am sure they did not find it meaningless because they did know it.
    I did not know it but that doesn’t make it unfair.

  19. sidey says:

    Oh for goodness sake, Shirley and Ian recognised the reference, fine, they know the reference.

    I solved the cryptic construction easily, it’s not a difficult clue.

    However, “the statue that came to dinner” needs to be looked up somewhere if it is not recognised.

    Now, where to start looking for that reference in the average solver’s library? Could it be a quotation? It’s not in the ODQ, a fairly standard work that people may be expected to own. It’s not in my version or the online version I can access through my library membership.

    Now, could you please suggest the next book that an average person might have that they should look in? Grove? Not on the average bookshelf I’d bet. And is it indexed as well as the ODQ to find such a reference? I doubt it. Unless you know otherwise.

    I am saying no more as it was yet another mistake to criticise Araucaria in the Guardian threads.

  20. PS says:

    Thanks to all for helping me advance another tad up the learning curve. I had to wait for the very helpful blog for an explanation of my guess at COMMENDATORE — thanks Eileen.

    As to Eileen’s assessment and RCW @3 and #14, cholecst #12 :-

    I know just how very much that I have enjoyed and improved my solving skills by lurking on this blog for some years. The group defined by those using this website may also be improving in a collective way. Also, the use of the Internet, which is becoming more sophisticated, can speed up a solution. The danger of such assessments as that by Eileen and adverse comments on Thursdays crossword set by Qaos may be,as I see it, to influence whatever forces control the difficulty of the crossword to make them much harder. Those of us who have to struggle a little more, the young and other newcomers may be discouraged instead of getting a boost.

  21. RCWhiting says:

    PS, I understand your point entirely.
    The only thing I would add is that the Guardian cryptic is not the only daily one available.
    When I was much younger and exposed daily to a wider range it was generally thought that the G.provided the hardest test.
    So learners could maybe try the Torygraph occasionally.

  22. Thomas99 says:

    Setters always have to assume a minimum of cultural knowledge – high, low and everything in between – and the most famous event in Don Giovanni, particularly the one alluded to and enacted ad nauseam in a famous oscar-winning film, is hardly too obscure. Or did I miss the world ending?

  23. RCWhiting says:

    Well Thomas, I have never seen Don Giovanni or any opera and I have no idea which film you are referring to…….I still think the clue was not unfair.

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