Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,729 – Araucaria

Posted by Andrew on August 31st, 2012


Good fun (with a few niggles) from the Guardian’s premier setter.

The key answer at 9dn was a write-in, giving away the theme of Prime Ministers (all of the recent ones back to Margaret Thatcher Harold Wilson, in fact). I can’t fully explain 17ac and 7dn, and I wonder if I might be missing something in the references to “most of 21” in the clues for Major and Blair

1. SETBACK SET (a number of games, e.g. in tennis) + BACK (support)
5. BAD DEBT ADD (put on) in BE BT
10. LOGO In mathemetics, the logarithm of zero is undefined
11. MORE OR LESS RE (concerned with) + ROLE* in MOSS
12. SHINER Two slightly indirect references, to the flower Black-eyed Susan (shiner being slang for a black eye) and the “nine bright shiners” in the song Green Grow The Rushes, O
13. MILIBAND I BAN (= I don’t allow) in MILD, and Ed Miliband might follow Cameron as PM
16. BLAIR B + LAIR. This and 27,25 use “most of 21” as the definition – rather strange as “most of 21” doesn’t mean “what 21 is most of” – am I missing something?
17. SMILE A smile is evidence of happiness, and MILE is a distance, but I don’t see how to get the S from “Briefly that extra”
19. ANTIPATHY AN TIP (inclination) A THY (solver’s)
23. IGNATIUS IGN (part of design (!)) + reversal of SUIT (be convenient for) A (article)
27,25. JOHN MAJOR Anagram of [gree]NHAM in JO (Scottish sweetheart) twice + R
28. STONING Double definition. Drug users may be “stoned”, thought he drugs aren’t usually described as actively doing the stoning, hence the question mark.
2. EPOCHAL POCHA[rd] (Pochard being a type of duck) in reverse of [tab]LE
3. BROWN I hadn’t heard this before, but a “brown study” is a reverie or absent-mindedness. Gordon Brown followed Tony Blair as PM
4. CAMERON .. as David Cameron did Brown. AMER in CON[servative]
6. APOLLO A POLL (head, as in Poll Tax) + O
7. DOLABELLA PubliusCornelius Dolabella was a Roman general under Julius Caesar, and appears in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Apart from the “dollar” part I don’t see how he’s “heard to favour US currency”
8. BASENJI AS in BENJI (possible familiar name for Benjamin Disraeli)
9. PRIME MINISTER P[age] + ME (setter) in RIMINI + REST*. This was very obvious from the definition “Disraeli etc” – a big help in solving, but with plenty of other PM<s (many less obvious) to choose from it's surprising Arauacaria chose this one, when he's used again in 20dn (and also 8dn). Berlusconi would have suited the surface reading!
15. CALLAGHAN CALL (visit) + GHANA with the last A moved to the front.
18. MAGINOT MAGI + NOT. (I wondered if André Maginot, after whom the defensive line was named, had ever been Prime Minister of France, but sadly not)
20. ISRAELI [D]ISRAELI. See my remarks on 9dn – a bit weak too as the surname comes from the nationality. In fact Benjamin’s father spelt his surname “D’Israeli”

42 Responses to “Guardian 25,729 – Araucaria”

  1. muffin says:

    Thanks Andrew – you’ve explained a couple I hadn’t seen.

    I think you have missed out a T in 19ac explanation (TIP not IP?)

  2. Pete_the_teach says:

    Is 17a a reference to a Scots Mile, which was longer? Bella is Italian.

  3. Shirley says:

    Andrew – Dolabella’s name in the play is pronounced “Dollerbella” so she could be said to be in favour of the US dollar.

  4. Thomas99 says:

    Thanks for the blog. I think there’s a lot here that’s harder than it looked…

    Re “most of 21″, I think both “most” and “of 21″ are synonyms of Major, although we normally think of 18 as the age of majority now.

    7d – I think he’s saying (humorously) Dollar bella – beautiful dollar.

    17a – I took this just to be naughty indirection. S=short/small, i.e. briefly. And “that extra distance” gives mile. I’m not sure about this.

  5. Thomas99 says:

    Further to 4, another commenter on the Guardian site thinks the “most of 21″ thing is just a mistake (presumably 21 being “most of” Thatcher, not the other way round). I suppose that’s possible too, although that would put Blair after Thatcher instead of Major and assume a pretty big error that got past the checkers (he sends them off to trial solvers before submitting them apparently). I’m inclined to stay neutral this time. What do people think?

  6. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and Araucaria

    A relatively easy puzzle to complete despite the slight worries that I shared with Andrew (apart from Dolabella where I came to the same conclusion as Thomas99).

    I have always thought of ‘brown study’ as involving an air of gloominess but I see that not all agree.

    Some very enjoyable clues – I ticked 5a, 11a, 12a, 26a, 8d, and 18d.

  7. tupu says:

    Hi Thomas99

    Your comment seems to make more sense re 25d than for 15d where the same expression is used. I was not too happy with it, but I read most of 21 as the ‘largest i.e. complete version’ of 21.

  8. JollySwagman says:

    Enjoyed this greatly.

    I think 17a is about “going the extra mile” – as Big A has done once again – for me at least.

    12a – not so familiar with the flower – I associated Susan with the song “Pretty Little Black Eyed Susie” – a hit in the early fifties for Guy Mitchell who went on to have a bigger hit with (I never felt more like) “Singing the Blues” – also covered by Tommy Steele – the kind of stuff which dominated the BBC Light Programme before the Elvis/Beatles revolution. The other half of the clue took me a while to twig though.

    Still – all great fun and thanks for the bog Andrew.

  9. Thomas99 says:

    I now think the clues referring to 21 probably do have an error – my parsing doesn’t really work for 15, putting Callaghan before Major not Thatcher. But I’d still be interested in alternative views.

  10. Thomas99 says:

    tupu (7) –
    I hadn’t seen your post but yes, I think in 15 my parsing puts Callaghan before Major (not Thatcher) and that’s what made me change my mind. But then again, with the other parsing we have Blair after Thatcher (instead of Major)! I think you’re basically right but am not really expecting to sort this out completely.

  11. JollySwagman says:

    @T99 #4

    My reading is

    16a the def is “after most of 21″ – ie after MAJOR(ity)
    27,25 the def is “most of 21″ – after is part of the previous wordplay
    15d the def is “before most of 21″ – ie “before MAJOR(ity)”

    So nice misdirection and variation of what at first sight it appears to be a clue reference – only it ain’t.

    You have to get up early to catch this Homer (not me – Big A) nodding.

  12. molonglo says:

    Thanks Andrew, including for the duck bit in 1d. I had the same difficulties you did. My only explanation for the three “most of” clues is that those two words should be imagined as being in brackets. For the Caesar-Cleopatra person I tossed up between ‘billa’ and ‘bella’ – neither found ‘favour’ really.

  13. JollySwagman says:

    Re above – before/after does not necessarily mean immediately before/after.

  14. Thomas99 says:

    My wordplay was slightly different (I had major=most as in “for the most part”/”the major part” and also “of 21″ meaning (a) major as opposed to (a) minor) but it was the having Callaghan before Major instead of before Thatcher that put me off. Maybe it shouldn’t, as we still have Blair after Thatcher, but things just seem to be getting that bit too complicated. It does occasionally happen that setters get things inverted. Azed did something a bit similar some time last year and it turned out it was a mistake. I’ve now thought about this too much to be much use on it.

  15. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Andrew

    Enjoyed this a lot, for its variety of clue devices, although I wasn’t sure about the parsing of a couple (thanks!)and I don’t have a good explanation of the ‘most of 21′ which appears passim.

    It took me a while to get into this puzzle (first in was LOGO!) as the complex linkage of clues didn’t lead me at first to a single keyword; 9dn wasn’t exactly a write-in for me, as I didn’t spot the definition immediately, but I got it from *(REST) and then got going properly. IGNATIUS for ‘saint’ didn’t come to mind immediately, as the best known saint by this name (founder of the Jesuits) is always referred to as St Ignatius (Iñigo) Loyola, but I find that there are others.

    12ac amused me – nice misdirection where ‘one of 9′ is not a PM. Pleasing to see a ‘sign’ that is not Aries (29ac).

  16. Miche says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    The theme came quickly, and I finished fairly fast, but SHINER was frankly a guess, and SMILE still puzzles me (if it’s Scots mile, I don’t think I’ve seen S as abbrev. for Scots before).

    JollySwagman @11 — Thanks. I wasn’t sure what to make of the “most of 21″ business, thinking it was something to do with [T]HATCHER. But MAJOR[ity] makes perfect sense, and is indeed a fine bit of misdirection.

  17. madman says:

    Thanks for enlightenment about ‘shiner': assumed it was a black eye or a fish, but got not further. I remember the phrase ‘by a short mile’ from childhood in Scotland as meaning quite near, which may explain 17. Apart from a sing/plur problem, replacing ‘most of 21′ with ‘most of 9′ makes sense. Can’t get over Disraeli in a clue as well as a linked answer.

  18. John Appleton says:

    I might have missed something in the above discussion, but “most of 21″, which it might lead to MAJOR[ity], doesn’t really lead to JOHN MAJOR. “After most of 21″ seems to be the most likely wordplay. I did have my misgivings about “most of 21″ not really meaning that as a definition, but tupu’s explanation makes some sense.

  19. Robi says:

    Interesting crossword, although I failed completely to parse EPOCHAL and SHINER; DOLABELLA needed some Googling.

    Thanks Andrew; I took the same line as tupu @7 with ‘most of 21,’ meaning THE most of 21 i.e. (t)HATCHER. BLAIR came after (though not directly) (t)HATCHER, but maybe the clever rev. used different meanings for different clues with MAJOR(ity) as JollySwagman @11 in the clue for BLAIR [or maybe not as the (t)HATCHER meaning could still apply.] I couldn’t see the ‘JOHN’ part of 27,25 being defined in the MAJOR(ity) explanation. I doubt that any of this is a mistake by the setter.

    SETBACK took a surprisingly long time to get, not aided by the difficulties with SHINER, then EPOCHAL. I liked the description of my lawn MORE OR LESS.

  20. Robi says:

    John @18; great minds………..

  21. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Like the blogger,I wrote in 9d almost immediately. This did rather spoil the puzzle as a challenge.
    I was delayed a little in the NE with ‘Basenji’, ‘bad debt’ and ‘Dolabella’.
    I agree with JS re: ‘most of 21′ which was a clever misdirection which did not increase the difficulty in solving but did raise the quality of the whole thing.
    Like Gervase I started with ‘logo’, hence to ‘Brown’ and 9d.

  22. RCWhiting says:

    Also like JS, my knowledge of 50s pop is greater than that of flowers.
    I wonder how A. stands in that respect?

  23. Alex Galloway says:

    Might not 7d refer to a “dollar biller”, ie someone who prefers to be paid in US currency?

  24. pipeflake says:

    Put off by 8.Always understood Disraeli’s nickname,[familiarly] to be ‘Dizzy’.

  25. Robi says:

    Maybe in 17, the ‘briefly’ is for ‘s mile as in ‘it’s a mile’ (?)

  26. Nick says:

    7. Sounds like Dollar Bill-er i.e. dollar bill enthusiast. (yes – I know!)

  27. Derek Lazenby says:

    Ok, what I got without knowing exactly why has been covered by all the above. That just leaves the original comment “all of the recent ones back to Margaret Thatcher” which is puzzleing given 15 and 22. “Most of…back to Wilson” yes?

  28. chas says:

    Thanks to Andrew for the blog. You explained a couple where I thought the answer has to be ‘xxx’ but why?

    On ‘most of 21′ I thought [T]HATCHER so assumed I was looking for a PM. I did not understand it but it worked for me.

    A Scots sweetheart is Jo. I hope I remember this for future use, though I’m doubtful.

  29. tupu says:

    Re ‘brown study’ and my comment about the element of gloominess implied, the following (abbreviated) is from OED.

    Etymology: apparently originally < brown n. in sense of ‘gloomy’; but this sense has been to a great extent forgotten.

    A state of mental abstraction or musing: ‘gloomy meditations’ (Johnson); ‘serious reverie, thoughtful absent-mindedness’ (Webster); now esp. an idle or purposeless reverie.

    c1555 Manifest Detection Diceplay sig. Aiii, Lacke of company wyll son lead a man into a brown studdy.

  30. Andrew says:

    Derek, you are of course right. I should have said that the PMs go continuously back to Harold Wilson (at least his 1974-1976 stint, as HEATH isn’t included).

  31. William says:

    Thank you Andrew. Since criticism of The Reverend is not allowed, I think I’m just going to have to leave him out in future. I don’t enjoy his puzzles very much these days and find his clueing just too strange for fun. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was a nice surface to admire but this is not the case usually. “Number of games to support check” for example seems just a collection of words.

    I have nothing but respect for the gentleman but these days I inwardly groan when I see his name. Many appear to enjoy them however, so ‘vive la difference’ say I.

  32. mike04 says:

    chas @28

    This might help you:
    (YouTube: Eddi Reader – John Anderson My Jo).

    I do hope so. It’s one of my favourite songs by Robert Burns.

  33. Wolfie says:

    Thanks Araucaria and Andrew. I found much to enjoy in this crossword despite some eccentric, not to say wayward, clueing (e.g. 17 and 23)

    I assumed that Black-eyed Susan was the love-lorn maid in the 18th century song by John Gay, which features in his ‘Beggars Opera’, rather than the girl in the 50s pop song.

  34. chris says:

    Re 17 across, I think s is short (briefly) for second as in the bible “to go the second mile” Matthew 5 41 If a man compels you to walk with him one mile, go with him two

  35. rhotician says:

    Well done, chris. Can you help on “most of 21″?

  36. vikki28 says:

    Thanks Andrew for the blog and everyone for answers! I’m fairly new to crosswords, and can’t work out how RY = line in 29ac. I’d be grateful for any insights.

  37. rhotician says:

    vikki28, RY is an abbreviation for railway, which is something line can mean. There’s a lot of this two-step stuff goes on with abbreviations in crosswords. One of the most common is L for learner for beginner, novice etc.

  38. vikki28 says:

    Well, as an L, thanks very much rhotician! That had been bothering me all day!

  39. rhotician says:

    re “most of 21″:

    16ac – I’ll go along with most of majority(21) and Major, after whom came BLAIR. That this is a bit iffy is signalled by the ?

    27,25 – In the general election of 1992 JOHN MAJOR won a majority(most) of 21 for the Conservatives.

    15dn – In the twentieth century the UK had 21 prime ministers, of whom Mrs Thatcher served longest(most). CALLAGHAN was PM before her.

  40. JollySwagman says:

    @rho #39 – I like your 27,25 theory.

  41. Paul B says:

    I’m entertained by it too!

  42. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Araucaria and Andrew

    Only picked this one up today and hence very late to blog and will probably never be read – at least recorded. Like most others I enjoyed this and got 9 as a write-in and challenged myself not to look up references for the other PM’s.

    For 17 – interpreted it as [O]S as in extra / oversize with the briefly taking off the O.

    I lazily went down most of 21 meaning THATCHER but think that the MAJOR – ITY argument is better.

    Needed help with parsing of 11 and the 9-song part of SHINER.

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