Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize Puzzle 25,796 by Araucaria

Posted by PeeDee on November 24th, 2012


I enjoyed this one very much, sort of middling in difficulty I would say.

The crossword does not have theme as such, more of a game of word-association. The idea of France/French seemed to be somewhere at the centre and it wandered around from there. Something like this…

I’m sure I have never come across a clue containing the word fissiparous before either.  It was worth it for that alone!    Of course protean and portmanteau are lovely words too but I knew those already.  On the flip-side I think splittism is really quite ugly, I’m not keen to memorize that one at all.

Thank you Araucaria.

Hold the mouse pointer over any clue number to read the clue.

1 CUSTOS SCOUTS* anagram=at sea
4 FIASCO double definition – a fiasco is a type of Italian bottle with a round bottom wrapped in a wicker basket
9 FURNITURE POLISH FUTURE  (coming) round R (royal) NI (Ulster) and then POLIS (constabulary, Scottish spelling for police) H (hard) – definition is ‘French shiner’, french polish
10 INSTEP IN STEP (marching)
11 See 19
12 BLACK EYE LACKEY (minion) in BE – definition is the solution to the following clue… ‘shiner’
14 SHINER ER (The Queen, famous corgi owner) following SHIN (bone)
15 ALKALI A L (learner, pupil) and KALI (Hindu godess associated with death) – chalk is an alkali.  I don’t think chalk is a very good example of an alkali, it is only weakly soluble and is not very alkaline.  Update: ‘piece of chalk’ is chALK, which is an abbreviation for alkali, so we get a confirmation of the definition.  Very clever from A.
18 FACE MASK ACE (champion) inside (entertained by) FM (Field Marshal) with ASK (to request)
21 EMIGRATE sEMI (half, topped) GRATE (fireplace)
22 INFORM IN FORM (doing well)
24 SELF DISCIPLINED (SPLENDID LIFE SIC)* – ‘to achieve’ is to be read as ‘used to achieve this result’, an anagram hint rather than an anagram indicator
25 EALING GALE* around IN – Ealing Studios
26 ODDS ON ODD (unusual) SON (issue)
1 CHUNNEL CHannel tUNNEL (whats taken on visit to France) missing ANNE (queen) and LT (lieutenant) – ‘chunnel’ is an example of a portmanteau, made by combining two other words.
2,16 SON ET LUMIERE SO (like this) NET (catcher) and LURE (decoy) round M1 (a road) E (east) – a French word meaning ‘light show with music’.  M1 for ‘road’ will not be liked by some.
3 OCTUPLE COUPLET* – definition is &lit
5 IMPETUS I’M (the setter is) PET (favourite) US (American)
6 SPLITTISM MISS* anagram=wayward holding P LITT (letters page) – fissparious means ‘reproducing by fission’, splittism is ‘advocating the withdrawal of a group from a large central body’.  I can’t give a really good explanation why P LITT is letters page.  LITT.D is Litterarum Doctor ‘a doctor of letters’, so would P.LITT be ‘a page of letters’?
7 OBSCENE The River OB in Siberia and SCENE (situation).  I initially thought expecting us to know the names of Siberian rivers was going a little too far, but the Ob turns out to be the 7th longest river in the world, so fair enough.
8 TRIPLE L (fifty) in TRIPE (nonsense) – less than half an octuple
13 CHANGEFUL CH (church) with FUn (a lot of the letters of) in ANGEL (spirit) – protean means variable, readily assuming different shapes
16 See 2
17 ITALIAN NAIL (fixer) AT I (first) all reversed – Italy is found next to France
18,23 FRENCH FRIES Dawn FRENCH (actress & comedienne) with FRI (day, short form) ES (east, south points of the compass) – definition is… ‘chipped potatoes’ solution of the following clue
19,11 CHIPPED POTATOES A TOE (single digit) inserted into CHIPPED POTS (damaged vessels)
20 SURGEON SURGE (sudden increase) ON (happening) – someone who cuts for a living
23 See 18


19 Responses to “Guardian Prize Puzzle 25,796 by Araucaria”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, PeeDee.

    I completely agree with you but there’s an additional approach to ALKALI: Piece of chalk = ALK for a pupil = A L a = I, def destroyer (which an ALKALI, like an acid, certainly is.) A very clever clue.

    I didn’t get any further than you on the PLITT question.

  2. Biggles A says:

    Thanks PeeDee. I thought it was toward the more difficult end of the scale. With 15 I initially took ALK = a piece of chalk + AL = a pupil + I = one or a. That left me wondering whether ALKALI is necessarily a destroyer (of crops maybe)and I reached the same explanation as you. I can’t quite see however what purpose is served by PIECE.

  3. Biggles A says:

    We crossed NeilW. I didn’t have a problem with 6 but I guess the clue would have been better written ‘page of letters’, as PeeDee indicates.

  4. exscouse says:

    I noticed that this was the second Araucaria prize puzzle in succession that had a former Guardian crossword setter as a solution. Custos was a setter for many years and probably the first one that I managed to solve.

  5. molonglo says:

    Thanks PeeDee – agree with all your comments, and the breakdown of 15a. Along with your selection at 6d, I don’t see myself using CHANGEFUL either.

  6. chas says:

    Thanks to PeeDee for the blog. You explained a couple of cases where I had the right answer without knowing why.

    I did not think of chalk as an alkali so I was puzzled by that. I did know of KALI as a destroyer so the solution was obvious.

  7. R_c_a_d says:

    The annotated solution has A L KALI for 15a so I’m afraid the rather weak alkali was the chalky definition.

  8. NeilW says:

    chas @6, I wasn’t suggesting that PeeDee’s parsing was wrong, just that reading through the clue in the other direction maybe explains the use of “piece of chalk” which, I agree, is otherwise a strange choice as an example of an alkali…

  9. PeeDee says:

    I know just where NeilW is coming from. It is typically Araucarian that he picks definitions that have some link or nod to another clue (or another part of the same clue in this case). I think it is also typically Araucarian that his classical and cultural references are more apt than his references to science and technology.

  10. PeeDee says:

    One could also link chalk to chunnel as the channel tunnel is driven through chalk.

  11. tupu says:

    Thanks PeeDee and Araucaria

    I enjoyed this one. The word I had misconceptions about was ‘protean’ which I somehow thought of as ‘ancient’ rather than ‘changeful’ but it had to be that and a dictionary check put me right.

    I took P and Litt simply as abbreviations but like the P.Litt (cf B. Litt) idea.

    With Alkali I started as NeilW but changed my mind as soon as I saw the Kali connection. Its almost as If A could not decide which clue he wanted. On the other hand I am not sure I agree with PeeDee @6 re A’s ‘science’. I remember a clue about anteaters and edentates in which he had clearly and remarkably taken on board modern reclassifications of the creatures concerned.

    Lots of good cluing. I liked 9,18, 26a,1d, 2d, 18,23, and 20d.

  12. tupu says:

    ps Thanks PeeDee by the way for your excellent chart.
    NB there seems to be a typo in your spelling of ‘fissiparous’. I think I have come across this word used outside biology more or less as a synonym of ‘fissive’ without clear reference to ‘reproduction’.

  13. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, PeeDee. I love the chart :-) Excellent diagram of the setter’s (and solver’s) thinking!

  14. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    I rated this a good Saturday puzzle.
    Plenty to think about.
    Favourite was 1d.
    Last in was ‘alkali’. Just because something is weakly alkaline does not make it acid or neutral, therefore it is alkaline!
    I think A’s thinking is clear: A+L+KALI but since alk. is an abbreviation for alkali he dropped in a secondary cryptic hint. That is why he is so good.

  15. PeeDee says:

    So – while chalk might not be a very good example of an alkali, a ‘piece of chalk’ is certainly a very good cryptic definition for one. Hats off to A!

  16. RCWhiting says:

    A piece of chalk, a likely candidate for over 7 measure.
    (7? obscene not!)

  17. Brendan (not that one) says:

    Nice Saturday puzzle. Reassuringly difficult as the last couple of Araucaria’s prize offerings were a little too easy.

    No problem with the River Ob as I expect not to know all the references for a prize crossword.(That’s where the cryptic cluing and Google comes in :-)) the fact that it is the xth longest river in the world is totally meaningless to me as I don’t wish to know such facts!!!!)

    Thanks to PeeDee and thw big A.

    P.S. Found the chart a little bit of flummery. Surely there was no obvious theme here. All puzzles have similar connections between clues due to the compiler having to fill in the blank grid before deciding upon the clues. This naturally leads to subconscious connections between the words. They are always apparent but not necessarily intended. JMHO! ;-)

  18. RCWhiting says:

    I think MHO coincides, Brendan.

  19. PeeDee says:

    Brendan, the chart is not meant to be taken very seriously. It gets pretty dull writing the same thing week after week.

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