Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize Puzzle 25,748 by Araucaria

Posted by PeeDee on September 29th, 2012


If there was any doubt that Araucaria is king of the alphabetical jigsaw then surely it has now gone , or nearly…

First a reminder of the instructions: Solutions should be fitted into the grid jigsaw-wise, wherever they will go. The grid’s symmetry allows two possible answers; one pair of French directional indicators in the grid determine which is correct, but the other pair is misleading.

The French directional indicators are NORD SUD, EST and OUEST.  These are so nearly perfectly positioned that it seems almost cruel that one OU has drifted across to the wrong side of the grid and spoiled an otherwise perfect construction.  I think this grid is still a remarkable acheivement regardless.

Having two possible orientations and not many words locatable from initial letters this is not an easy jigsaw to complete.  I would like to say that I came up with some clever strategy for accurately determining where each word went, but in truth I just made some wild guesses to get started and then purely by chance got everything right first time.  It goes to show that you can think too hard about things sometimes.

Thank you Araucaria for a great puzzle to solve and to blog.

A Welsh girl finding work hard (anag) (8)
ANGHARAD  (HARD ANAG) anagram=work – girl’s name
B More or less or else illconcealed? (7)
BROADLY double definition – eg in broad daylight OR* (else=anagram) concealed in BADLY (ill) Thanks to all who pointed this mistake out.
C Instrument for Italian ice cream (8)
CORNETTO either CORNET (instrument) and TO (for) or else a double definition – according to Wikipedia cornetto is another spelling for a cornett.  I don’t really like either of these very much, I don’t think ‘to’ and ‘for’ are synonymous and cornetto as a musical instrument is not in Chambers.Update: cornetto is Italian for cornet (the musical instrument), so this does make a valid double definition.  Thanks to Jim for that.  I am still a bit underwhelmed by this clue since a cornet/cornetto ice cream is literally a cornet/cornetto shaped ice cream.  For me the meanings are much too close to be cryptic, more of an ‘uh’ moment that an ‘aha’ one.
D Take from time being drawn up (7)
DETRACT T (time) CARTED (drawn) reversed (up) – definition is either ‘take’ or ‘take from’
E Wyatt to sharpen hearing aid (8)
EARPHONE Wyatt ERARP and HONE (sharpen)
F Collect food one will need in later life (6)
FORAGE FOR AGE = later in life – definition is ‘colelct food’.  This is almost &lit too.
F Not much weight, say, in bedding (6)
FUTONS FU sounds like (say) “few” (not much) and TONS (weight)- personally I would pronounce futons as  ‘foo-tons’ rather than ‘few-tons’.   Homophones are notoriously personal and I think the crossword world would be a poorer place without them, so fair enough I think.
G Go away and escape — more? (3,3)
GET OUT double/cryptic/literal/obvious definition – is there something really clever I am missing here?  Of course there is “get out more”, but this just seems to underline an already obvious clue.
H Hazelnut, possibly, left out in Ruritanian spot (7)
HENTZAU HAZELNUT* missing L=left – fictional town in the fictional country Ruritania in Anthony Hope’s novel Rupert of Hentzau
I One makes an ascent, then flags (6)
IRISES I (one, Roman numeral) RISES (makes an ascent) – flags are Iris flowers
J Monster that has cooked hare for nothing, by the sound of it (10)
JUGGERNAUT JUGGER (one who has cooked a hare for someone) and NAUT sounds like “naught” (nothing) – definition is ‘monster’
K Monarch gets a deserter to repeat quiet blow with the hand (6,4)
KARATE CHOP K (king, monarch) gets A RAT (deserter) ECHO (to repeat) P (quiet) – definition is ‘blow with the hand’
L Millstream that started way back in stately home (8)
LONGLEAT double/cryptic definition – a leat is a trench for bringing water to a millwheel
M Start of fire contained in motorway’s plant may now be clear of haze (4-4)
MISTFREE F (start of fire) in MI’S (motorway’s) TREE (plant)
N Spooner’s river to dry up, needing provider of manicure (4,4)
NAIL FILE Spoonerism of FAIL NILE or NILE FAIL ( a dried up river) – either way its not the greatest Spoonerism I have ever seen
O Nursery rhyme collector’s work that’s much copied (4)
OPIE OP (work) IE (that is), also much of cOPIEd – Iona and Peter Opie, authors of The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes.  Two definitions for two authors!  Thanks to Miche for pointing this out.
P Spare edges used where no honour is involved (4,6)
Q One who trifles with a pound at £500 to a sovereign? (8)
QUIDDLER QUID ( a pound) D (500, Roman numeral) L (pound) to ER (Elizabeth Regina, sovereign) – definition is ‘one who trifles’.  The question mark hints that £500 has to be taken phonetically rather than literally to get DL rather than LD.
R Chessman that’s new to it? (6)
ROOKIE ROOK (chess piece) IE (that is)
S Black- rather than quickthorn? (4)
SLOE cryptic defintion – the sloe is another name for the blackthorn tree, rather than the quickthorn tree (hawthorn).  The clue plays on the homophones sloe and slow.
T Drink obtained by proxy put into slate (6)
TIPPLE PP (per procurationem, by proxy) in TILE (slate)
U Shark’s turn having greater confidence (6)
USURER U (turn) SURER (having greater confidence) – possibly a loan shark
V Ensure artificial price for gold in case (8)
VALORISE OR (gold) in VALISE (case) – to stabilise the price of something via a Government policy
W City to acquire another’s bottle (10)
WINCHESTER WIN (aquire) CHESTER (another city) – the City of Winchester and a type of bottle used to store dangerous chemicals
X Old monastery amid sex change needs a lot of craft (6)
XEBECS BEC (monastery in France) in SEX* – more than one XEBEC, sailing vessel or craft
Y Return of former oil producer with a Chinese bank (4)
YALU ULAY (cosmetic oil, now branded Olay) reversed – the Yalu river on the border between North Korea and China (so has a Chinese bank and  Korean bank).  Nice definition!  Being pedantic, Ulay (as in Oil of Ulay) was a name invented for a product rather than a company name or the name of a person, plant etc.  Hence Ulay can not really be called a former oil producer.
Y Agreements made easy (4)
Z Keenness with Victorian order to insert member into assembly (7)
ZEMSTVO M (member) inserted in ZEST V (Victorian) O (order) – local government assembly in Russia

40 Responses to “Guardian Prize Puzzle 25,748 by Araucaria”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks PeeDee. Inevitably, my solution was 90 degrees out of phase but I can’t see that there is other than an even chance of getting it right. If there is a logic which ensures the correct choice is made then it has escaped me. I enjoyed it but I have to wonder how long it will be before the stock of Z (and X for that matter) words is exhausted for these alphabeticals. I think the barrel is being scraped.

    In C I thought since ‘to’ and ‘for’ are dative forms it was an acceptable parallel.

  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks PeeDee. I thought the clueing of this was distinctly trickier than I remember for previous araubeticals.

    BROADLY I read as *(OR) in BADLY.

    I thought the GET OUT clue was referring to the phrase, “I should get out more!”

  3. Miche says:

    Thanks, PeeDee.

    BROADLY is *OR (or else) in BADLY (ill-concealed).

    Two sets of wordplay for OPIE – OP (work) IE (that’s) as well as the hidden answer. One for each Opie?

    As for the orientation, I just decided to try FORAGE across and FUTONS down, and see if I came a cropper. Didn’t spot the French cardinal points till quite late on.

  4. Biggles A says:

    If I turn my solution 90 degrees clockwise then the cardinals are correct, Are there more than two possibilities?

  5. Miche says:

    Biggles A: If you turn your solution by 90 degrees, you’ll have a different grid.

  6. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Miche, sure. The point I was trying to get at though is that I have one solution, PeeDee has another and maybe we should give the master credit for yet another which has the cardinals correctly positioned in the same sequence as mine.

  7. Biggles A says:

    Sorry, disregard that. I have read the instructions again more carefully. They could be clearer though.

  8. Paul B says:

    A suggestion, perhaps?

  9. Jim says:

    The C clue: Cornetto is Italian for the instrument we call the cornet. And its also an ice cream of course.

  10. Biggles A says:

    Paul B. I tried but decided I should stop digging!

  11. tupu says:

    Thanks PeeDee and Araucaria

    Mainly straightforward answers and enjoyable but I had problems with zemstvo and xebecs (I tried to hunt out this last but somehow missed it).

    I had a problem re orientation too. I printed out an extra copy and filled it in. I ended up with Nord on the left hand UPPER (northern) side and Sud on the Right hand LOWER (southern) side. Ouest was on the bottom right (eastern side) and Est on the left hand top (wetern) side. I accepted this without trying the superior alternative. It is not completely ‘wrong’ on its own but it clearly much less satisfactory than PeeDee’s correct version.

  12. Stella Heath says:

    Sorry, tupu, I don’t see the difference.

    Anyway, thanks for the blog, Peedee.

    I had to do a fair bit of searching, but managed to complete this on the day, and my solutions went straight in in the correct places – that was lucky!

    Last in was Longleat, which I tried to parse as (River) LEA + T(hat) after LONG, although describing that particular river as a “millstream” is a bit tichy, since it has actually powered a large number of mills throughout its history – but I’d never heard of LEAT :-)

  13. tupu says:

    Hi Stella

    The difference is that in the ‘incorrect’ version nord runs down the side instead of along the top, but is still in the northern half of the puzzle. Sud runs down the right hand side but is nonetheless in the lower southern side of the puzzle. Est runs along the top in the Western side of the puzzle and ouest along the bottom (almost wholly) in the eastern half.

    Unless one is lucky first time, one needs to fill in both solutions. It would probably have been better to do this as one went along.

  14. PeeDee says:

    tupu @13, I think you have an interesting point here. It is not obvious to me that NORD and SUD being at the top and bottom is preferable to them being in their natural orientations (up and down).

    On balance I would still go for the top and bottom approach. If I saw a compass with North on the side then it would seem very wrong, even if the lettering were vertically aligned.

  15. James says:

    I had a guess that the correct solution would involve “nord”, “sud”, “est” and “ouest”, did some playing around to see where things fit (helped by the fact that EARPHONE & HENTZAU were two of my first solutions) and it all fell into place. A clever ides, but one that relies a bit on luck!

    And I never got the Z solution- still never heard of it in fact!

  16. tupu says:

    Many thanks PeeDee. As I said, I should ideally have tried both ways since the less preferable version is not as obviously wrong as the instructions seem to suggest it would be.

  17. Robi says:

    I’m another with tupu’s solution. It looked OK to me when I finished it. I don’t see why there should be one unique solution. Both seem to me to be acceptable. I used the previous tip to list first all the 10-letter, 8-letter etc clues and took it from there. The two ‘F’ clues could only fit in one place, which gave me a start, although, as above, my grid gave FUTONS as an across solution.

    Thanks PeeDee; I needed a bit of help from Google for the less obvious answers. Very enjoyable and satisfying to finish it, although I struggled at times.

  18. Robi says:

    PeeDee @14: ‘On balance I would still go for the top and bottom approach. If I saw a compass with North on the side then it would seem very wrong, even if the lettering were vertically aligned.’

    I take your point but the directions for North and South point vertically and for East and West, horizontally, so one could argue for the ‘less preferred’ grid.

  19. sidey says:

    If there was any doubt that Araucaria is king of the alphabetical jigsaw then surely it has now gone , or nearly…

    Bit of a one horse race you’ve entered him in…

  20. PeeDee says:

    …quite so!

  21. Wolfie says:

    I always enjoy these alphabetical puzzles and I thought this was a particularly fine example of the genre. Purely by chance I completed it in the ‘correct’ orientation. It should be pointed out though that the cartographic convention that North is at the top of a map is purely arbitrary. In the Middle Ages maps were often drawn with East at the top (the famous Mappa Mundi in Hereford Cathedral is a case in point.) So those solvers whose solutions were rotated 90 degrees can console themselves that they were just as ‘correct’ as the rest of us.

    Thanks to PeeDee for the fine blog.

  22. PeeDee says:

    Technically the alternative solution would be reflected in the diagonal, not rotated 90 degrees. Please excuse me, I do need to get out more.

  23. chas says:

    Thanks to PeeDee for the blog.

    I have to confess that I totally failed to see the intended French directional indicators :( What I settled on was EST in winchESTer so I put that one pointing east i.e. horizontal. Sigh. Now that I have seen the proper solution I can admit that Araucaria was absolutely correct – merely cryptic!

  24. Robi says:

    ….’The symmetry of the grid allows two possible solutions. However the required solution has a pair of French directional indicators (NORD & SUD) in the top and bottom lines of the completed grid; and another pair (EST & OUEST) misleading placed in the left and right columns of the grid respectively’…

    So says the Oracle……… [or at least the Annotated Solution!]

  25. mhl says:

    Thanks for the post, PeeDee. We always enjoy the Araucaria’s alphabetical jigsaws, and this was a nice one. (For what it’s worth, we also went with NORD along the north side – it seems more natural to me than tupu’s interpretation.)

    The interpretation of GET OUT that I ended up with was that it was a triple definition: “Go away”, “escape” and “more?”. The lattermost makes some sense if you imagine one person telling a barely credible story, and the other person interjecting “Get out!”, as an encouragement to tell more… I wasn’t exactly happy with that, though :)

    Another small correction – the definition of KARATE CHOP is “blow with the hand”, rather than just “blow”.

  26. PeeDee says:

    Hi mhl, I’ve heard “get away!” as a response to such stories, but I’ve not heard “get out!” before.

  27. muck says:

    I didn’t find this as difficult as at first anticipated.
    Many of the clues were pretty easy to solve (as they should be in an Araubetical).
    As soon as I had NORD and EST in their correct (ie PeeDee’s) positions, all fell into place.
    I can see that Tupu’s alternative orientation almost works, but Occam has the answer.

  28. tupu says:

    HI mhl and muck

    For the record I too prefer PeeDee’s solution and I thought I had made that clear.

    Occam does not work if there is no comparison available, and I did not have one to make because I did not take the trouble to try the alternative when the version I arrived at seemed to fit the instructions. To be frank I think this reveals a weakness in the puzzle – ideally it should have been clearer that the ‘wrong’ solution was wrong. In any case neither possibility is noticeably simpler than the other, so Occam’s relevance is not clear in any case. The ‘correct’ version is more persuasive not because it is simpler but because it just looks better.

  29. Wenlock says:

    I had to resort to a dictionary for ZEMSTVO, but it was otherwise challenging but fun. I have to go with the double definition for CORNETTO because the other implies that a Cornetto is an Italian ice cream, when it is in fact an Anglo/Dutch ice cream with an Italianate name (and an advertising campaign featuring a Venetian singing a Neapolitan song…)

  30. muck says:

    Hi tupu

    As you say, neither solution is definitely wrong
    I found the ‘correct’ version and not yours
    My understanding of Occam’s razor is probably not as good as yours either

  31. PeeDee says:

    Occam’s Razor always seemed uneccessarily complicated to me…

  32. tupu says:

    Hi muck

    It is kind of you to respond.

    It seems that PeeDee is wittily right with his remark in the broad ‘nostalgia isn’t what it used to be’ genre. It seems that William of Occam never used the phrase himself, though he applied the method, and it is not (I gather from Wikipedia) all that clear what constitutes simplicity.

    For what it’s worth, the main idea seems to be that one should generally choose the simpler of two otherwise equally good explanations, though that of course does not mean that the simpler will always be correct.

    I think PeeDee is also right when he implies that the ‘correct’ version here is preferable because it looks more clearly like what we are used to in maps, compasses etc.

  33. muck says:

    Hi tupu
    I was surprised that my throwaway comment ‘Occam has the answer’ @27 got any response
    I always thought Occam said choose a simpler explanation over a more complicated one
    But the *infallible* Wiki (which I have now consulted too) says he never said it
    And there is apparently extensive academic discussion on the meaning of simplicity
    PeeDee’s comment @31 sums it up really

  34. ClaireS says:

    For what it’s worth the clue for D contains a grid direction “up” which implies it should be a down clue. In one of the two possible solutions (given here by PeeDee) it is but in the other it’s an across clue. So, perhaps, strictly speaking wouldn’t work. As I was away from home for this one (and still am) and couldn’t print out an extra grid I created a spreadsheet (yes, I am that sad) so that I could try both possible solutions & see which was correct according to the instructions.

    Overall I found this slightly easier than normal for an alphabet jigsaw as we had to be able to solve a large proportion of the clues (due to the symmetrical grid) in advance. However, the fun from these is in working out how they fit into the grid and it was great fun as ever. Still my favourite crossword type – thanks Araucaria. Thanks to to PeeDee for the blog.

  35. Biggles A says:

    tupu @28. ‘ideally it should have been clearer that the ‘wrong’ solution was wrong.’ Thank you, just what I was trying to say @ 7.

  36. tupu says:

    Hi BigglesA

    I am glad we are in agreement and I’m sorry if I seem not to have paid sufficient attention to your comments.

  37. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    I thought the individual clues were much easier than usual for an alphabetical. However, having all the answers left me with a rather more difficult assembly task than usual. This was largely because the Fs and Ys both had equal enumerations.
    Pace James @15 but although I did finish up with the correct (?peedee?) version I cannot see how the French directions could help until I had plumped for one solution.

  38. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    I thought the individual clues were much easier than usual for an alphabetical. However, having all the answers left me with a rather more difficult assembly task than usual. This was largely because the Fs and Ys both had equal enumerations.
    Pace James @15 but although I did finish up with the correct (?peedee?) version I cannot see how the French directions could help until I had plumped for one solution.
    Hentzau, bec and yalu were new to me.

  39. RCWhiting says:

    Sorry,ignore 37. It happened without my agreement!

  40. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Araucaria and Peedee
    Because I was late to pick up on the special instructions with only 6 clues to solve, I did not find this one easy at all. Took quite a few days of grinding away at the cryptics to get one more, one more until there was enough to start putting them into the grid – and then NORD presented itself so that the instructions clicked and I could get the last two – LONGLEAT and YALU both of which I had not seen before. The other last few included FUTONS, BROADLY, ZEMSTVO and CORNETTO.

    Felt a real sense of accomplishment when finished and was a very good prize puzzle. Needed help with a number of parsings too – LEAT (hadn’t heard of), BROADLY and the BEC part of XEBECS.

    Thanks again A.

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