Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Cryptic 25794 Arachne

Posted by scchua on November 15th, 2012


A puzzle with wonderfully crafted clues – I think everyone of them has a clever, meaningful, and often, racy surface, and with lots of wordplay intertwined with the definitions - too many for me to highlight below.  There were by no means any write-ins (for me, at least), but that also meant opportunities galore to savour the clues.  Thanks Arachne.  Definitions are underlined in the clues.  [[Between them, the pictures at the bottom share 2 unidentified links to the puzzle.  Please enclose any comments about them in double brackets.]]

9 Hulk perhaps has delightful woman round (9)

SUPERHERO : SUPER(delightful;great) + HER(pronoun for woman, as in “we saw her”) + O(the round;circular letter).

Answer: Full name: The Incredible Hulk, one of the Marvel Comics characters – big, strong and green, and, not Jolly like the other Green Giant but angry with giant-size anger management issues.

10 Lawgiver’s essentially changed customs of a people (5)

MORES : “Moses”(lawgiver, he of the burning bush and 10 commandments fame) with its core letter(essentially) changed to “r”.

11 Scorching day ahead beginning to indicate what one might wear in India (5)

DHOTI : HOT(scorching) placed after(… ahead) D(abbrev. for “day”) + initial letter of(beginning to) “indicate”.

12 Deputy contracted to act criminally in bank, so they say (9)

REPUTEDLY : Anagram of(to act criminally) “deputy” minus its last letter(contracted) contained in(in) RELY(to bank on;depend on).

13 Soldier omitting element in rude story (7)

PARABLE : PARA(short for paratrooper;parachuting soldier) + “blue”(rude;lewd) minus(omitting) “u”(chemical symbol for the element uranium).

14 Tethering tiny mongrel, rebellious little dog (5,2)

TYING UP : Anagram of(mongrel) TINY + reversal of(rebellious) PUG(little short-haired dog).

17 Forward individuals shun ban on sex as appropriate (5)

ANNEX : “ban on sex” minus(shun) 1st letters of each word(forward individuals).

Defn. and Answer: As verbs, to acquire, especially without permission.

19 Posh female  set (3)

GEL : Double defn: 1st: With a hard “g”, a term for a posh girl (not the Spice one); and 2nd: With a soft g”, to set;congeal, as jelly (gelly?) does.

20 Record time cut in France? (5)

FILET : FILE(a record of stored data) + T(abbrev. for “time”).

Answer: French for a boneless cut of meat or fish, especially steak, the English fillet.

21 Capital‘s articulate observer of squid? (7)

NICOSIA : Homophone of(articulate) “nicker-”(squid in rhyming slang is a quid;a pound sterling, which is also a nicker in British slang) “-seer” (an observer of, not necessarily a prophet).

Answer: Capital city of Cyprus. I reckon Arachne has missed the opportunity of clueing this as “…..articulate observer of what’s underneath” or even “….. articulate observer of Alan Whicker’s”.

22 Love causes changes to reproductive organs (7)

OVARIES : O(the letter that looks like zero;love in tennis scores) + VARIES(causes changes).

24 Rendered  incapable (9)

PLASTERED : Double defn: 1st: In the building trade, to cover a masonry surface with a first coat of plaster; and 2nd: Unable to do anything except falling down and passing out, on account of being seriously drunk.

26 Spiritual symbol at heart of Shinto temples (5)

TOTEM : Hidden in(at heart of) ShinTO TEMples.

28 River pike’s eaten — it’s filthy stuff (5)

LUCRE : LUCE(alternative name for the pike fish) containing(…’s eaten) R(abbrev. for “river”).

Answer: Money, as in the phrase “filthy lucre”, so filthy that sometimes (often?) it has to be laundered.

29 Give romantic account of maiden confined in seething seraglio (9)

GLAMORISE : M(abbrev. for “maiden”) ci(confined in) anagram of(seething) SERAGLIO.

1 You guess the lad finally took drugs (4)

USED : The last letters of each word(finally) in “yoU guesS thE laD”.

2 Support of a bra regularly dispensed with, causing commotion (6)

UPROAR : “support of a bra” minus its 1st, 3rd,…11th, and 13th letters(regularly dispensed with).

3 Masterminds using file to break into Scottish banks (10)

BRAINBOXES : INBOX(a file;folder in a computer in which incoming mail is stored and displayed) contained in(using … to break into) BRAES(Scottish for hillsides;slopes;banks – apparently derived from the same “brow” in “eyebrow”).

4 Wolf circling eastern Galloway? (6)

GEORGE : GORGE(to swallow;gulp greedily, like a wolf – I wonder if Arachne chose the latter because of its meaning as a male with a voracious appetite for the opposite sex) containing(circling) E(abbrev. for “eastern”).

Answer: First name of Galloway, British politician born in Scotland.

5 Careless pathologist got nasty cut in his workplace (8)

HOSPITAL : Anagram of(careless) {“pathologist” minus(cut) anagram of(nasty) “got”}.

6 Must edit filth! (4)

SMUT : Anagram of(edit) MUST.

7 Wanton Italian politician on top of lass (8)

PRODIGAL : PRODI(Romano, Italian politician who was once PM) placed above(on top of, in a down clue) GAL(a variant of girl;lass). A good and racy surface.

8 Originally acquiescent and retiring, like Cinders? (4)

ASHY : First letter of(originally) “acquiescent” plus(and) SHY(retiring;reserved).

Answer: Like the residue of combustion;cinders. By the end of the fairy tale, after she got her man, Cinderella wasn’t acquiescent and retiring anymore, I’m sure.

13 Empty pan to be filled with uncooked seafood (5)

PRAWN : “pan” minus its inner letter(empty) containing(to be filled with) RAW(uncooked).

15 Breach fashionable quarter? (10)

INFRACTION : IN(fashionable;trendy) + FRACTION{an example(?) of which is ¼;a quarter}

16 What fathers losing last of hair may show? (5)

PATES : “paters”(fathers) minus(losing) the last letter of(last of) “hair”.

Answer: The tops of their heads.

18 Can he con jockey? Not a hope! (2,6)

NO CHANCE : Anagram of(jockey) CAN HE CON.

19 Top Gear‘s car race caught in mirror, briefly (4,4)

GLAD RAGS : DRAG(a souped-up car race, not to be confused with cross-dressing) contained in(caught in) “glass”(mirror) minus its last letter(briefly).


22 Oscar heard terrible cry of dismay (2,4)

OH DEAR : O(letter represented by “Oscar” in the phonetic alphabet) + anagram of(terrible) HEARD.

Answer: More genteel way of expressing Oh s**t!, and such like.

23 Caretaker lacking energy to get fit (2,4)

IN TRIM : “interim”(as an adjective, eg. a caretaker;interim government) minus(lacking) “e”(abbrev. for “energy”, especially in physics).

24 Report of setter on Guardian cover (4)

PALL : Homophone of(report of) “Paul”(crossword setter in The Guardian daily).

Answer: Anything that covers or shrouds, including a cloth over a coffin.

25 Message on Twitter is short and sweet (4)

TWEE : “tweet”(a message on Twitter, the online social networking and microblogging service) minus its last letter(is short). I guess the real thing is relatively short, as there’s a limit of 140 characters.

Answer: Excessively sweet or sentimental, which probably ties in with a definition of “twitter”- a short burst of inconsequential information.

27 Submissive male’s squeal of fear (4)

MEEK : M(abbrev. for “male”) +EEK!(a squeal of fear, almost always not uttered by a male, I might add).




56 Responses to “Guardian Cryptic 25794 Arachne”

  1. muffin says:

    Thanks to scchua and Arachne
    I needed your explanation of NICOSIA as I hadn’t heard of “squid” for “pound” (except in the punchline of the old joke “here’s that sick squid I owe you”)
    Very enjoyable.

  2. tupu says:

    Thanks scchua and Arachne

    An enjoyable puzzle, in which I missed a couple of parsings in haste to get on with the day, so thanks for those. In 12a I saw ‘redly’ and wrongly assumed it must relate to banking problems (in fact it is a very clever clue) and in 21 I missed the ‘nicker/squid’ link.

    I also held myself up for a time by putting moses instead of mores.

    I particularly liked 13a, 13d, 23d, and 25d for their neat surfaces and the cunn8ing definition in 23.

  3. Gervase says:

    Thanks, scchua.

    Lovely puzzle from Arachne: not the most difficult of recent crosswords, but full of cleverly constructed clues with excellent surface readings, and great fun to solve.

    Some nice misdirections: I thought at first that the Italian politician was (the rather hackneyed) IMP, and that 22a was (O CAUSES)*.

    Amongst many admirable clues, I starred 11a, 22a, 3d, 5d (my favourite, I think), 7d, 16d, 19d, 23d. Rather a lot…

  4. scchua says:

    Thanks tupu@2 for (indirectly) pointing out my error for 23d. The defn. should of course have been “fit”. Blog now corrected.

  5. Robi says:

    Good puzzle with excellent surfaces as ever with the Spider Woman.

    Thanks scchua; I failed to parse the easy USED, as I was fixated on either ‘D’ or ‘ED’ for the final lad. I tried MOTUS for 10 c(USTOM*)s, which I was convinced for a long time was the answer. I particularly liked GLAD RAGS and NICOSIA, once it had been explained!

    [[Elmer Fudd, Terry Jones in Life of Brian, Roy Hodgson and Jonathan Ross all have trouble with their R's (changed to r.) Not sure about Elaine Dickinson #2 in Airplane or Barbara Walters #6 - I'll have to think some more.]]

  6. Robi says:

    [[Another one..... 'Her (Barbara Walters) impact on the popular culture is illustrated by Gilda Radner's "Baba Wawa" impersonation of her on Saturday Night Live, featuring her idiosyncratic speech with its rounded "R"]]

  7. John Appleton says:

    Enjoyable, with only one real quibble – not keen on U = element; by my reckoning a good portion of the alphabet could be covered that way.

  8. muffin says:

    Only half of the alphabet, on a quick mental count!

  9. Robi says:

    John @7; I thought at first in 13 it was (soder in)* [rude] omitting Li or (older in)* omitting Si.

  10. muffin says:

    Just over half – I missed yttrium

  11. rowland says:

    Some irritating stuff – like her= woman – but lots of good stuff, and much better than the prev two for me. This compiler has more on the way things fit together to my eye.


  12. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    From this setter one expects some delightful and original clues and this puzzle certainly provided lots of them.
    Sadly the great pleasure did not last as long as I hope for from Arachne; this one was much easier than her usual efforts.
    Last in was the cunning ‘pall’.
    Much (short-lived) pleasure from 17ac, 1d, 2d, 5d.
    I think part of the reason for making this too easy was the number of 2-letter enumerations (14ac, 18d, 22d and 23d).
    I thought 5d was brilliant.

  13. Martin in beds says:

    [[I think the Airplane picture is a reference to the autopilot (George) as opposed to Elaine Dickinson. I have nothing else to suggest; are there other Georges?.]]

  14. crypticsue says:

    Thank you to the Editor and Arachne for providing a ray of light and happiness in a very grumpy week. Brilliant stuff. Now back to the grumping

  15. steve says:

    I don’t normally respond to these kinds of show-off sites.


    If you are going to show off, get it right. Airplane – Julie Hagerty. Also stared in the great Lost in America. Who is Elaine Dickinson!?

  16. Trailman says:

    One of my favourite Guardians for a long time. I knew things were going to go well today when BRAINBOXES went in early. GLAD RAGS last: the Top Gear reference had me looking for an excuse to parse ROAD RAGE somehow.

  17. John Appleton says:

    Steve @15: Elaine Dickinson is the character that Julie Hagerty plays.

  18. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Excellent puzzle, but quite a few I couldn’t parse, so thanks for the blog, scchua. Racy surfaces? This is Arachne. In this respect, 7dn and 22ac were my favourites today.

  19. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, scchua and Arachne.

    Very enjoyable but needed explanations for several (14a I thought was (P)UP, so couldn’t see the G; 17a missed the original meaning of “Forward individuals” – pleasant variation on the usual fare)

    I also had MOSES at 10a for a while.

    Steve @15 I read from the tone of your posting you are a clever person, and know all about getting it right; how come, then, you had “stared” instead of “starred”; !? as punctuation; and omitted the [[]], so I needn’t have read your comment?

  20. RCWhiting says:

    Steve @15
    No thanks to you for causing me to read your drivel by omitting the brackets. I wasted ages ‘staring’ at it and wondering which clue you were referring to.

  21. Gervase says:

    Arachne is one of those setters who regularly drops by to join in the conversation. She’s on holiday at the moment, and her internet connection is down, so she might not be able to join us today, but sends her thanks and best regards….

  22. Mitz says:

    Thanks Arachne and Scchua.

    Fun crossword – not easy, but it did fall in steadily.

    My only minor and very pedantic quibble is the homophone in 21d – I would pronounce the capital of Cyprus “Nick-oh-see-ah”, so while I don’t have a problem with the two slang words for “pound” I don’t think that “sounds like nicker” quite works.

    Plenty to love: favourites included 3, 19 and 29, and I agree with RCW (as I seen to very often) – 5 was my COD.

    [[Trouble pronouncing 'r's must indeed be one of the links. It is Michael Palin playing Pontius Pilate in Life of Brian (not Terry Jones, and incidentally Graham Chapman is Biggus Dickus, who had a ludicrouth lithp, in the background of the picture) and he, Hodgson, Ross, Fudd and Walters would all pronounce "tree" as "twee". Wasn't the autopilot in Airplane! called Otto? As I recall it wasn't a speaking part, and Elaine didn't have any kind of speech impediment so I suspect they might be the way into the other link...]]

  23. chas says:

    Thanks to scchua for the blog. There were several cases where I had the right answer without being able to parse the thing.

    On 22a I also tried (O CAUSES)* which gives CASEOUS but nothing else!

    [[I recognised the scene from Airplane and had an immediate mental image of her having to re-inflate the artificial pilot by blowing at an unusual spot.
    The only other people I recognised were the Monty Python team. No idea how these things link to the crossword]]

  24. scchua says:

    Thanks for all your comments (except perhaps for the one from steve aka the-wet-blanket aka who’s-showing-off-now?).

    [[Well done, Robi, Martin in beds, Mitz and chas, you've collectively covered the bases. Elmer Fudd, Pontius Pilate in the Life of Brian as played by Michael Palin, Roy Hodgson, Jonathan Ross and Barbara Walters have/had this difficulty with pronouncing "r" as "w", as in "TWEE" for "tree", medically termed "rhotacism" - coincidentally, or not, one of the 15sq. posters has got the pen name "rhotician". The letter "w" appears only once in the grid, so no question as to the link. Otto the Autopilot in Airplane! was a parody of the real thing, sometimes referred to as "GEORGE".]]

  25. chas says:

    [[scchua I think you slipped up by including me in the list of people who understood the pictures.
    Who is the man in the 4th picture? ]]

  26. SeanDimly says:

    Arachne’s my favourite setter – always clever and funny.
    She got me on 24d though. Setter? That’ll be ‘pin’, as in ‘hairpin’, for example. ‘Guardian cover’? That’ll be ‘g’, in a down clue. Giving ‘ping’ – a report, albeit a rather quiet one.
    So 28a clearly had to be ‘nacre’. There must be a River Nare, and the ‘c’ will be for ‘Corporal’, even though Pike was a Private. And nacre’s shiny.
    Amazing what you can crowbar in when you’re desperate …
    Thank you, Scchua, for your excellent and corrective blog!

  27. scchua says:

    [[chas, that's Roy Hodgson, currently England's football manager.]]

  28. chas says:

    [[Thanks for the info. You might deduce that I am quite uninterested in soccer :) ]]

  29. Median says:

    I’m another of those – including tupu @2 and Dave Ellison @19 – who at first had MOSES rather than MORES for 10. The clue works either way.

  30. MikeC says:

    Thanks Arachne and scchua. Enjoyable crossword and fine blog. As others have said, there are lots of clever and witty clues.
    However, is 10a faulty? I can’t see anything in the clue to indicate whether the definition is “lawgiver” or “customs of a people”. Am I missing something?

  31. MikeC says:

    Sorry, Median, we crossed.

  32. Tramp says:

    Lovely puzzle

  33. Tramp says:

    Lovely puzzle and great blog

  34. Tramp says:

    225 is really slow for me these days

  35. RCWhiting says:

    Mike C @30
    Sorry Mike but it is not customary to indicate which part of a clue is the definition and which is the cryptic device.
    Sorting that out is the skill and fun.

  36. RCWhiting says:

    I should have added that often it is only a crossing letter which settles the question. In this case: prodigal.

    Cou……..ld…n’t ag…..ree m…..or….e!

  37. tupu says:

    Hi RCW (and Mike)

    What you say is in general true, RCW, but in this case there is complete ambiguity which nothing in the clue and only the crossing word ‘prodigal’ can resolve. I have more than once argued that as these puzzles are crosswords, the need for help from crossing words is expectable. But I do not recall seeing a simple assertion before that a clue that is completely ambiguous in itself (whose solution as here depends on a semantically unrelated crossing word) is therefore a perfectly acceptable trick of the trade. This seems a little bit glibly dismissive of Mike’s question to me. However, there may well be different views on this which I would be interested to hear.

  38. jim says:

    I thought that 10A spoiled what was otherwise an excellent and enjoyable crossword.
    I think that all clues should be soluble as they stand. You shouldn’t have to rely on a crossing word to identify the correct solution.

  39. RCWhiting says:

    There are frequently ‘upsidedown’ solutions like smug/gums where you have to wait fo a crosser before writing in the correct solution. The same happens with homophones like pain/pane.
    If jim were correct there would be no point in the ‘cross’of crossword. You might as well write a list of clues to solve with no grid to write in the solutions!

  40. RCWhiting says:

    There are frequently ‘upsidedown’ solutions like smug/gums where you have to wait for a crosser before writing in the correct solution. The same happens with homophones like pain/pane.
    If jim were correct there would be no point in the ‘cross’of crossword. You might as well write a list of clues to solve with no grid to write in the solutions!

  41. RCWhiting says:

    Sorry for duplicate.
    After clicking ‘submit’ a dozen times and getting no response you then get the fatuous comment that you seem to have posted that already. If the software can detect that and inform you why print both?

  42. tupu says:

    RCW @41

    Hi again.

    You seem to be suggesting that such ambiguity is itself a clever trick. Is this correct? If so, I find it an interesting assertion that I have not come across before, as I say. Rightly or wrongly I tend to think of it as a less desirable feature of a clue. In this case, the clever bit is to find two words, Moses and mores, that have the same spelling except for their middle letter. Also let us imagine you solve 7D first. Then there is no skill and fun in sorting it out which rather seems to deflate your point.

  43. nametab says:

    Lovely puzzle; thanks to Arachne & Scchua.
    7d classy. 21ac bit dubious.
    Agree with RCW comcerning reversibles, homophones, clue cf definition.
    Arachne, Paul, Araucaria, Picaroon, Tramp always look-forwardable-to.

  44. Monkeypuzzler says:

    I thought the lawgiver in 10a was Morse, so the Moses/mores dilemma passed me by! Ignorance can be so blissful.

  45. Brendan (not that one) says:

    Good puzzle as usual from Arachne.

    Possibly seemed easier than usual as it follows two stinkers!

    I’m enjoying this week. :-)

  46. engineerb says:

    I have to agree with those with find fault with 10a. My 17 yo daughter is beginning to enjoy cryptic crosswords. I have always said to her that a key difference between a cryptic clue & any other type of crossword is that it will be unambiguous – the answer may be hard to get but once you have solved it there will be no alternative that would fit the bill so well. 10a broke this rule.

    (This obviously doesn’t mean that crossing letters don’t have a role – all of us need a hint every now & then to get us started in a particular clue.)

  47. MikeC says:

    Thanks to all who have responded to my question @30. engineerb expresses my “gut feeling” perfectly. Before going further, I should say that I very much enjoy Arachne’s puzzles. She’s one of the best, imho.

    Having thought about some of the other responses to my post, I do see that it’s a more complicated question than I realised. For example, it’s perfectly acceptable (often fun) to have linked clues where it’s impossible to solve one without the other (I think yesterday’s Boatman included some examples). Araucaria’s alphabetical jigsaws also come to mind. Nevertheless, I don’t think I was completely off-beam – such “dependent” clues certainly add to the difficulty of a crossword. I wonder what view the editors take on this question.

  48. RCWhiting says:

    engineerb @46
    I agree entirely with what you have told your daughter and wonderful to see youngsters getting involved.
    However, ‘mores’ is totally unambiguous precisely because of ‘prodigal’.
    Crossing letters don’t just ‘have a role’, they are an essential part of a crossword – hence ‘cross’.

  49. rhotician says:

    jim @38 thinks that all clues should be solvable as they stand. You only have to go back to Tuesday’s Paul to find clues such as “17 down 4, so an 8 then?”.

    As for rules that is not for us but the crossword editor. Clues that allow of two possible solutions are explicitly disallowed by the Listener Crossword Guidelines. The Guardian currently, and I think traditionally allows, them, within limits. I suspect that the Times does not allow them, but perhaps Paul B will enlighten me.

    As to whether such clues are faulty or unfair that debate belongs in General Discussion. And even there we should bear in mind that de gustibus non est disputandum. (Precise translation in the back of Chambers. Free translation – one man’s meat etc. Or one person’s if you prefer.)

    As for MOSES/MORES I liked it. It has a nice surface, I could write in MO ES and I knew that the missing letter could only be R or S. No sweat.

  50. Median says:

    As the one who made the point – @29 – about 10a working either way, I’ve found the discussion on ambiguous clues interesting. I must admit I found the MOSES/MORES ambiguity unsatisfactory because for many years I’ve worked on the same basis as engineerb @46: the solutions to cryptic clues should be unambiguous, so you know when you’ve ‘got it’. It’s for this reason that I sometimes find cryptic definitions (one of Rufus’ trademarks) irritating: I’ve been able to come up with more than one answer that could ‘fit the bill’, yet mine is ‘wrong’.

    Having seen the comments so far, I’m inclined to stick with my original opinion of 10a: it should have been clearer which way round the clue was supposed to work.

  51. jim says:

    Sorry if I’m late with this.
    By saying that all clues should be solvable as they stand, I was really saying that you have to start somewhere in a crossword. If a setter refers to another clue elsewhere in the grid, s/he is in effect saying ‘You can’t start here.’ I think that’s perfectly fair: you know that the clues are related somehow. That’s not the case with Moses/mores. Crossing letters are useful in finding a solution, but they shouldn’t be essential. Otherwise we’re in Quick Crossword territory.

  52. rowland says:

    No, no. The crossing letters thing is a red herring. All clues MUST be gettable stand alone unless they cross-refer, for me.


  53. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Arachne and scchua

    Enjoyable crossword again which I didnt start till I had conquered the previous two days. Anyway missed Arachne’s usual sting in the tail with this one – only held up with finding GEL = posh girl (which was last in – after thinking that GEL may have been a posh girl’s way of referring to her implants). After a bit of searching was able to find both slang pounds to justify NICOSIA.

    Agree that HOSPITAL was the clear cod – also enjoyed 17 and 23.

  54. Paul B says:

    One for the Swag-Manual though.

  55. Huw Powell says:

    24a = “knackered” spoilt the SW corner for me. I hate DDs, sorry.

  56. Gordon says:

    Hi Scchua
    I know its a bit late in the day, but I also know that you get all comments no matter how late. I just finished the crossword from the Guardian Weekly, hence the delay.
    Your blogs always interest me and I want to add my thanks for many interesting snippets of information from you over the past year or so.
    My reason for adding another comment was re: 25d. I saw the reasoning you have as one explanation, which I only noted after I’d put the answer in using another process. My reasoning was Twitter = T; short = Wee and [cloyingly] sweet = Twee.
    I still like mine better and wonder which Arachne used? Probably yours, I guess, but who knows?
    Best wishes

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