Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,657 – Araucaria

Posted by Andrew on June 8th, 2012


Most of the clueing here was fairly straightforward, without any outrageous liberties, but the theme (and another mini-theme) made it more of a challenge.

It was quite a test of my botanical knowledge here, with some complicated cross-referencing, and I needed to do some looking up to verify all the connections. There’s a bit of geography too, including a name that I was unfamiliar with at 29dn.

1. SYRINGA RING in SAY. Syringa is the Lilac genus of plants
5. STOW IT S[econd] + TO WIT (that is to say)
9. DISPIRIT IS PI (pi is an irrational number) in DR + IT
10. WEIRDO WEIR (waterfall) + DO (tonic of the scale, as in Do, Re, Mi..)
12. PHILADELPHUS (P SHADE UPHILL)* – the Mock Orange (24,21) genus
17. BAY Three definitions : Bay window, Bay tree and a sea bay.
19. TEA Double definition: “leaves producer” and the US Tea Party ( e.g. this bunch of nutters concerned citizens)
20. BUCKET SEAT BUCK (male) + (TEA SET)*
22. PETER SELLERS PETER (slang for a safe) + SELLERS (merchants). Though best known as a film actor, Peter Sellers started of on the stage
26. DAPHNE PH (pub) in DANE (Hamlet – needs a question mark or “perhaps”, I think). “Daphne” is Greek for “Laurel”.
28,1dn. SILVERSIDE [Long John] SILVER + SIDE (team)
29. CONAKRY CONK (“a blow on the head”, says Chambers) + RY with A in the middle (“with A heart”). It’s the capital of Guinea, I learn.
2. ROSY Double definition: “promising” (as in, “Things are looking rosy”) and rhyming slang for tea (Rosy Lee)
3. NAIL HEAD RAIL HEAD , with N[ew] as a new beginning.
4. ARIEL Homophone of “aerial”
6. TREBLE This is what Uncle Yap would call a “tichy” clue – a choirboy would probably be a treble, and the word is written three times
7. WORTH ABBEY ABBÉ (Liszt became a minor cleric in later life) in WORTHY
11. GDANSK G DAN’S K. Gdansk (former Danzig when under German control) is a port on the Baltic coast of Poland, and famous as the birthplace of the Solidarity movement in the 1980s
14. SEVASTOPOL Reverse of SAVES (delivers) + TOPOL (better known as an actor, especially as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, but also classified as a comedian)
16. LAUREL Double definition: Bay Laurel is a tree; and Laurel and Hardy, film actors
23. LILAC I in CALL, all reversed. Syringa=Laurel as noted in 1ac. In a nice coincidence, “use phone” occurs in both clues to give synonyms that appear in the two words.
24,21. MOCK ORANGE KORAN in (COME G)*. Mock Orange is sometimes incorrectly called Syringa.
25. ONLY LYON with its two halves swapped.

43 Responses to “Guardian 25,657 – Araucaria”

  1. JollySwagman says:

    One of the best Bog A puzzles for ages, and that’s saying something. A bit tougher than usual but completely gettable, especially if you’re a bit of a gardener.

    Apart from the plants I didn’t really notice a theme as such.

    Thanks for the blog Andrew, but I don’t see why it’s necessary to write “without any outrageous liberties”. It’s yet another fine puzzle by the world’s best ever setter – leave it at that.

  2. AR says:

    I think 17ac is four definitions: (Michael) Bay is a Hollywood producer.

  3. JollySwagman says:

    @#1 Bog A s/b Big A of course.

  4. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    Had to thumb through Chambers a bit for this one, not being much of a botanist.

    JS @1, I guess Andrew is referring to comedians as the other mini-theme – PETER SELLERS, LAUREL & Hardy and TOPOL?

    I’ve only ever come across conk as slang for the nose and certainly never heard of CONAKRY – or WORTH ABBEY for that matter. :(

  5. Andrew says:

    AR – I hadn’t heard of Michael Bay, but you could be right about “producer” being another definition. Araucaria is a Cinephile, after all.

    Neil – I was actually referring to the place-names as the mini-theme, but the comedians could count as another one.

  6. Miche says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    I found this a tough one, not being up on horticulture. Also spent a while trying to parse SEBASTOPOL at 14d before realising I had the wrong variant speling.

    9a is a beautiful clue.

    I think “theatrical personality” for PETER SELLERS refers as much to his private life as to his early variety career.

    I don’t think I’ve seen “alleged” as a homophone indicator before (4d). Does that count as an outrageous liberty? I like it. And “Choirboy choirboy choirboy?” made me laugh.

  7. aztobesed says:

    Theatrical can apply to film just equally as stage. Films are still talked about as ‘for theatrical release’ rather than straight to DVD. The two are heavily intertwined in the terms they use.

  8. Le Petomane says:

    Our letter “B” makes the sound “V” in the Cyrillic alphabet. That’s why we call it Sebastopol and they call it Sevastopol. It is their city, after all.

  9. apple granny says:

    We loved this one too. OK on horticulture, and looking at the syringa in bud as I write. Guessed Worth Abbey and googled it – but failed to understand what it had to do with Liszt. Also forgot Rosy Lee, but nevertheless it had to be rosy. 20ac and 6d were fun – as was 22ac. I’d never heard of Conakry, but luckily my husband had – though he couldn’t think where it was. We looked that up. Lovely start to Friday.

  10. Paul B says:

    Lovely puzzle, great solve, and many thanks Andrew for the excellent blog.

    Re somewhat peculiar comments above, ‘of the Baltic’ for some people would not adequately define GDANSK, nor ‘receives hammer blow’ NAIL HEAD, so I find myself in full agreement with the blogger (if I’m reading him correctly) that while some liberties are taken here, there’s no real bone of contention. And it just wouldn’t be St A, would it, without that certain styling people such as yours truly adore.

  11. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and Araucaria

    A good puzzle as others have noted.

    Thanks Andrew for the ‘do’ in weirdo. This was my last in and I was just glad to see the back of it without thinking too hard re ‘tonic’.

    I ticked 5a, 15a, and 8d but might well have added others.

    My first thought for 2d was ‘rose’ (tea is a type of rose) but then it had to be ‘rosy’ (promising) and I stayed a while with the flower idea before the penny dropped re rhyming slang.

  12. Eileen says:

    Thank you, Andrew, for a great blog [and especially for the parsing of 9ac] of a lovely puzzle.

    Some wrong-footing here, with 19ac ‘party’ having nothing to do with ‘do’ and ‘do’ in 10ac not being clued by ‘party’.

    Like others, I had not heard of CONAKRY and only knew ‘conk’ as ‘nose’.

    [I was momentarily beguiled by tea roses too, tupu.]

    There are some great clues here, as ever: my favourite is 12ac, for the ‘uphill struggle’.

  13. Bertandjoyce says:

    We’re sorry to say that we failed to complete this. We’d never heard of Worth Abbey and without the crossing letter we couldn’t work out 5ac. Really liked 9ac though!
    Can’t believe that we even thought about someone called Peter Dealers as a possibility for 22ac!
    Thanks Andrew for the blog. We really needed it today. Thanks Araucaria for the head-scratching!

  14. JollySwagman says:

    @blog 26a i can’t agree that “perhaps” would have added to this clue – nor a QM. Surely Dane for Hamlet has been around often enough – I think this is at least Big A’s second time this year with it. Only hardcore xims insist on blindly following the def by example “rule” and A is above all not a ximenean setter.

    @#10 “St A” etc – condescension noted. Has there ever been a polite ximenean.

    No doubt the intention of endlessly throwing in the word “liberties” is to try to get us all to regard ximenianism as the norm.

  15. Thomas99 says:

    Agree with JS @14 re 26a – because Hamlet is “THE Dane”, not just any Dane – see Uncle Monty in Withnail & I: “It is the most shattering experience of a young man’s life, when one morning he awakes, and quite reasonably says to himself: I will never play the Dane.”

  16. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    This was a delightful struggle, especially the NE corner.
    I am not either a Benedictine nor a great fan of Liszt so it took a while but I got there.
    There were some lovely clues,too many to mention.
    I agree with the sentiments expressed by JS @14. It is a very rare thing to find a lot of disappointing write-ins in an Araucaria composition.
    I wonder what ‘instructions’ he is given by the editor!
    Whatever,I hope he continues to ignore them.

  17. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Andrew and Araucaria

    Another very good puzzle although I had to look up MOCK ORANGE in Chambers as I had never heard of it. Being an apartment dweller for 45 years I am not into gardening.
    SYRINGA is an old favourite of compilers and PHILADELPHUS fell into place.

    I too had my doubts about PETER SELLERS being a theatrical personality considering all of his marvellous early films. I take what aztobesed@7 says as correct.

  18. RCWhiting says:

    Sellers early success was with The Goons which was recorded for the wireless in front of a live theatre audience.

  19. rrc says:

    This was another excellent puzzle, with many smiles en route. Even the greenery didnt prove too much of a distraction or although I hadnt realised so many clues were linked.

    PS I do prefer the blog in this format its so much easier to understand.

  20. aztobesed says:

    From its early days the moving picture industry courted the ‘respectability’ of theatre. The National Association of Theatre Owners in the USA opted for the re British/French spelling even though their members show their films in movie theaters. The studios are full of sound stages, picture stages etc. Sellers wouldn’t have minded being called theatrical in the slightest – even if he’d never played ‘live’ theatre/er. Stoll and Moss were film producers as well as well as theatre builders. The Empire Leicester Square is still a theatre even when its shows are on film.

  21. MikeC says:

    Thanks A and A. This one was hard work – more than one session – but amusing and educational. What more could one ask?

  22. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Araucaria for a highly entertaining puzzle and Andrew for a clear blog.

    I just loved this puzzle, which brought back so many memories of my Sussex childhood and listening to the magical sound of the monks chanting their office at Worth.

    The gardening clues made me smile, too, as one of the first things we were told was that mock orange is really syringa. It is just coming into bloom in our garden.

    Conk made me smile – conking on the head and conk for dying in old films stick in the mind.

    More of the same, please.

    Giovanna xx

  23. Giovanna says:

    Oops! For syringa read Philadelphus!!

    Giovanna x

  24. Paul B says:

    Well, I failed to make myself clear, obviously, in that I really do admire A’s style. Sorry about that, unless of course you were jumping to conclusions, you naughty Swagman. But not to see at least one outrageous liberty taken was, if only a tiny tiny one, a disappointment. Maybe Andrew (the blogger, I mean) felt the same way.

    Have I now become a Ximenian (sic) then? Perhaps I may like to be regarded as one, perhaps not, but until certain changes to format were made, I was seen as a full-on, knuckle-dragging Libertarian in the 15^2 setter descriptions. O alas.

  25. Kjbsoton says:

    Only is not an inversion of Lyon otherwise we found it very easy today

  26. Eileen says:

    Hi Paul B

    You a Ximenian [sic]? 😉

    …and hi Jolly Swagman. I know you’re a fairly recent [and welcome] contributor here and won’t, perhaps, be familiar with our on-going tongue-in-cheek discussion about Araucarian ‘liberties’. Re your comment 1, Araucaria supporters don’t come much stauncher than Andrew [or me!].

  27. claire says:

    To Kjbsoton

    Only is an inversion of Lyon if you take the bottom half of the word and put it at the top, I think.


    Loved this – perfectly doable, even without aids to hand. Didn’t know Conakry, but was confident enough from the clue to put it in and look it up later.

    And as for Peter Sellers, I don’t know how else he could have been described. ‘Comic’ or ‘film star’ would have been too broad.

  28. Allan_C says:

    I fell into the ‘Sebastopol’ trap, too, and wondered why I couldn’t parse it. But further to Le Petomane’s comment @10 B and V sound identical in Spanish (see ). And in Welsh B is frequently mutated to F, which is pronounced like the English V.

  29. Paul B says:

    I was looking for a comeback from the Czech Republic there, but it doesn’t seem likely at this late hour. Is anyone else watching the football?

  30. Wolfie says:

    I too fell into the SEBASTOPOL trap, which made the solution impossible to parse. I must have been thinking of Tony Hancock’s place in Sebastopol Terrace, East Cheam.

    I have some sympathy with Le Petomane’s comment@10 but I will worry if setters generally adopt the practice of using the local spelling for foreign place names, rather than the conventional English spelling – e.g. WIEN for Vienna, BEOGRAD for Belgrade, MOSKVA for Moscow, WARSZAWA for Warsaw, HELSINGFORS for Helsinki etc.

    I was well entertained by this crossword, quirky or not.

    Thank you Andrew for the blog.

  31. morpheus says:

    Bravo Thomas99 @15. That quote always comes to mind when Hamlet is mentioned. Withnail and I: the film which gave us such quotes as “We demand cake and fine wine, we want the finest wines available to humanity” and “Here hare here” – a late flowering of Anglo Saxon poetry? Possibly a theme for a future Guardian crossword?… I won’t hold my breath.

  32. Eileen says:

    Hi wolfie @30

    Sebastopol Terrace rang a bell for me, too, so I googled it, to be reminded that it was the home of Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques.

    It was my life-long hero, Tony Hancock, who lived at 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam! 😉

  33. Wolfie says:

    Thanks for the correction Eileen – my memory playing tricks with me again!

  34. Andy D says:

    Very rarely attempt a puzzle on the day it’s published but we did this one this evening after dinner. Very enjoyable, as always, with Araucaria. Looked up how to spell SEBASTOPOL so found that SEVASTOPOL is an alternative – and the latter parses correctly.

    Loved 6D – well, one of us got it immediately!

    Horticultural theme was fairly easy as we know these shrubs. Araucaria had another similar theme in 25,652 – is this a series to be continued?

  35. JollySwagman says:

    @Eileen #26 Although I am only a recent poster here I have been a reader for much longer and so am, sadly, well aware of the discussions here.

    I’d better not offend Paul B as he seems to have a special dispensation to break all of the rules of this board (even #29 right here) whilst calling others trolls and demanding that they be banned from the board.

    He may well only recently have come down from the trees but the converts are always the worst. If he is not an arch-ximtroll I don’t know who is.

    Since football has been raised I suppose the comparison might be valid that there are those in that game who are best to let their feet do the talking.

    As far as A’s definitions go, the Great Man talks about definitions at 2:05 here:

    so indicating where they do not make an exact match as synonym/case/part of speech etc is quite otiose, even when accompanied by a condescending (or otherwise) “how much I liked the rest of the puzzle”.

    @Paul B – you asked some time ago whether it was possible to search for all a posters puzzles on this board.

    Go out to Google and go: “paul b”

    and see for yourself what light you appear in. “O would some pow’r the giftie …” – glad I’m not your agent.

    There is a long recognised tradition on internet boards that picking on typos means you’ve lost the argument – like mentioning … er y’know that Austrian guy. I did in fact spell ximenean correctly twice in the same post so it was quite obviously a typo. Just such a shame the wretched man’s name has to crop up so often.

  36. JollySwagman says:

    “posters puzzles” above s/b posters’ contributions

  37. JollySwagman says:

    FWIW poster’s contributions – one poster – many contributions

  38. Ripenno says:

    Just one issue with 9 across. PI is not an irrational number. It is 22/7 and so can be expressed as a ratio. If you think about it it is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. These dimensions are real and measurable for a host of different circles, so it must be rational.

    PI cannot be expressed as a recurring decimal, but this isn’t the same thing.

    I solved the clue although I couldn’t parse it anyway, but thought I would point it out.

  39. morpheus says:

    Rippeno @38 22/7 is an old shorthand for PI but it’s only an approximation. You’re right about the ratio of circumference to diameter but you’ll never find a case where both are whole numbers. As PI can’t be expressed as a ratio it is an irrational number- Im sure wiki can give more info.

  40. Thomas99 says:

    Quite right, morpheus: “Perhaps the best-known irrational numbers are: the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter ?, Euler’s number e, the golden ratio ?, and the square root of two ?2″ (wikipedia). We still seem to be terrifyingly mathematically ignorant in this country, so good for Araucaria, for slipping this in.

  41. Thomas99 says:

    Damn! In the preview the symbols all came out beautifully – I assure you the first “?” is indeed the Greek letter pi!

  42. Allan_C says:

    And btw there are better approximations for pi than 22/7. The square root of 9.87 is one and, even closer, 355/113 is another.

  43. RCWhiting says:

    With that misthought you are missing out on one of the great historical stories of mathematics. Try Beckmann’s book for a starter.
    If you remember the amateur search for bigger primes in the 60/70s when PCs became available,well, the search for more decimal places in pi lasted for centuries and led to some amazing stories.
    Incidently a diameter and circumference are measurable (therefore always approximate) but not countable.

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