Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Cryptic N° 25,823 by Arachne

Posted by PeterO on December 19th, 2012


Given the ingenuity of the constructions, I think a lot of work must have gone into this puzzle. Thank you, Arachne.

1. Group of officers, heads of naval detachments (7)
COMMAND A charade of COMMA (‘,’) plus ND (‘heads of Naval Detachments’).
5. Old Scotsman’s colourful project (7)
PREDICT An envelope (‘ful’) of RED (‘colour’) in PICT (‘old Scotsman’).
9. Nice way of saying Arachne’s somewhat vacuous and a bit wet (5)
MOIST A charade of MOI (‘nice way of saying Arachne’) plus ST (‘SomewhaT vacuous’).
10. It might drop me, if uninitiated in its use (9)
TIGHTROPE ‘[i]T [m]IGHT [d]ROP [m]E’ with the first letters dropped (‘uninitiated’) &lit.
11. Expert on land usage cultivating margins, too (10)
AGRONOMIST An anagram (‘cultivating’) of ‘margins too’.
12. Privileged American used to be attracted to power (4)
WASP A charade of WAS (‘used to be’) plus P (‘power’). THe definition is White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.
14. Of sound mind, ultimately buffered by stout optimism (12)
SANGUINENESS SANE (‘of sound mind’) with its last letter inserted in (‘ultimately buffered by’) GUINNESS (‘stout’). A novel construction.
18. Inspecting, unannounced, what teenagers get up to in bathroom? (4-8)
SPOT-CHECKING Definition and literal interpretation.
21. Top copy with illiterate’s signature (4)
APEX A charade of APE (‘copy’) plus X (‘illiterate’s signature’).
22. Damn it, Twitter, you embody fatuousness! (10)
NITWITTERY Am I missing something? It seems to be a hidden answer, except for the doubling of the first T. Or is it just saying that NITWITTERY contains ‘twitter’?
25. Party line developed into mutual exchange (9)
INTERPLAY An anagram (‘developed’) of ‘party line’.
26. State occasion making a mint (5)
THYME A homophone (‘state’) of TIME (‘occasion’). I was surprised by the definition ‘mint’, but Chambers gives one of the meanings of that word as any labiate – which covers thyme.
27. This team makes you tea (7)
28. Qualified agreements to rework endless subsystem (3-4)
YES-BUTS An anagram of ‘[s]ubsyste[m]’ missing both ends (‘endless’).
1. Struggle to disentangle 16 down (6)
COMBAT A charade of COMB (‘disentangle’) plus AT (the answer to 16D is ASTATINE, which, as Paul told us the other day, has chemical symbol AT)
2. Relating to fast, tailless fictional bloodhound (6)
MAIGRE MAIGRE[t] (Georges Simenon’s detective, ‘fictional bloodhound’) missing the last letter (‘tailless’).
3. Ace tenant merrily taking possession of duke’s house (10)
ATTENDANCE An anagram (‘merrily’) of ‘ace tenant’ plus D (‘duke’).
4. On reflection micron’s a tiny amount, in fact (5)
DATUM A reversal (‘on reflection’) of MU (‘micron’) plus TAD (‘a tiny amount’).
5. Bouncer quietly getting Oscar to leave club (4,5)
POGO STICK A charade of P (‘quietly’) plus O (‘Oscar’) plus GO (‘leave’) plus STICK (‘club’).
6. Destroys country house, top to bottom (4)
EATS SEAT (‘country house’) with the first letter moved to the end (‘top to bottom’).
7. Admirer‘s agreement to marry — but not yet (8)
IDOLATER A charade of I DO (‘agreement to marry’) plus LATER (‘but not yet’).
8. Wrongly enter hairdressing establishment offering health treatments (8)
TRESPASS An envelope (‘dressing’) of SPA (‘establishment offering health treatment’) in TRESS (‘hair’).
13. Interest as founder returns to old place (10)
REINSTATES An anagram (‘founder’, as a verb) of ‘interest as’.
15. Freedom fighters beleaguer ill-assorted internees (9)
GUERILLAS A hidden answer in ‘beleaGUER ILL-ASsorted’
16. Radioactive element, which is used to lower cholesterol in casualty (8)
ASTATINE An envelope (‘in’) of STATIN (‘used to lower cholesterol’) in AE ( Accident and Emergency, hospital department, ‘casualty’).
17. Disturbed Harry Lime’s last day (8)
MOLESTED A charade of MOLEST (‘harry’) plus E (‘LimE‘s last’) plus D (‘day’).
19. Copper said goodbye (3,3)
SEE YOU A homophone (‘said’) of CU (‘copper’, chemical symbol).
20. Where French children learn to core fruit (6)
LYCEES LYC[h]EES (‘fruit’) with the middle letter removed (‘core’).
23. Sardonically mentioning carefree fellow (5)
WRYLY A homophone (‘mentioning’) of RILEY (the life of Riley, ‘carefree fellow’).
24. Perhaps the elder Turgenev gets noticed periodically? (4)
TREE Alternate letters (‘periodically’) of ‘TuRgEnEv’

42 Responses to “Guardian Cryptic N° 25,823 by Arachne”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Peter and Arachne for a real workout!

    I think you have to retain the capital N in Nice for the parsing of MOIST – MOI is intended to be read as French for “Arachne”, I presumed. Otherwise, it’s not particularly “nice.” ;)

    I think you may be right that Arachne has got caught in her own web in NITWITTERY.

    Interesting that the Guardian has abandoned the rule about repetition of solutions with ASTATINE, particularly since it’s hardly a common word. No complaints from me, though, as I needed all the help I could get!

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks Peter. Full marks to Arachne, for having me four or five short before my time ran out (won’t spend all day on these) – many novelties which you mention, and enough doubt sowed by the extra T in 22a to make me suspect more special tricks.

  3. Paul says:

    Interestingly yesterdays times had ENDLESSLY using exactly the same trick as ENDLESS today.

    I never even noticed the extra T in NITWITTERY. I’m sure it is meant to be just a hidden answer.

  4. muffin says:

    Thanks PeterO and Arachne
    I didn’t finish – missing MOLESTED and ENDLESS – and needed this blog to explain several others. Some very obscure constructions, I thought.
    I’m not surprsied at the two I missed. Where is the definition in ENDLESS? Isn’t “MOLEST” and “MOLESTED” very little different?
    I did like NITWITTERY (also not noticing the extra T), but my favourite was WRYLY.

  5. Thomas99 says:

    ENDLESS is an &lit. – or I suppose you could call it a cryptic definition. Anyway, the whole clue is the definition. “Endless [=”this”] team makes you tea”.

  6. Gervase says:

    Thanks, PeterO.

    I really enjoyed this puzzle, with its many ingenious clues. I hadn’t noticed the doubled T in 22a, which may be a result of the crossword editor not 18a.

    I agree with NeilW that MOI is a way of saying Arachne in Nice (in 9a), which was one of the clues I marked, together with 1a, 5a, 14a, 27a, 8d, 23d, 24d – all teasingly constructed.

    And a welcome return for element number 85, both in long and symbol form, after so short an absence.

    Thanks a lot, Spider Woman.

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks PeterO and Arachne

    An excellent blog of a delightful puzzle – my only tiny qualm was like Muffin’s re molested but it seems OK on reflection given the double use of Harry.

    I completed it correctly but did not notice all the refinement or the extra T in 22a.

    A fine array of cluing devices and a lovely light touch with too many ticked clues to mention them all. I particularly liked 1a 14a

  8. Median says:

    Clever stuff, Arachne! Like molonglo @2, I was a few short before I ran out of the time I was prepared to give today. Thanks, PeterO for explaining. I particularly liked COMMAND and SANGUINENESS.

  9. Eileen says:

    Thanks, PeterO, for the blog.

    I’ve nothing to add, really, to Gervase’s comment: my tick list coincided exactly with his, with the addition of 15dn, for the excellent surface [but I always have to check that spelling of ‘guerillas': it looks so wrong, considering the derivation].

    I’m another who didn’t spot the extra T.

    Many thanks, as ever, Arachne, for a splendid puzzle.

  10. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I enjoyed this one, but it was chuffing hard. Enough easyish clues to get you going, but there were a few I really struggled with, especially in the NW corner. MAIGRE is perhaps a bit obscure, but now MOIST has been explained, it’s clever, with a nicely self-deprecating surface. SPOT-CHECKING, YES-BUTS and SEE YOU were my favourites today.

    We haven’t seen Arachne for a while, so I was thinking she might have taken early retirement. Thank you to her for the puzzle and to Peter for a fine blog.

    (I’m another who didn’t notice the NITWITTERY error.)

  11. chas says:

    Thanks to PeterO for the blog.

    I had been unable to parse ASTATINE which is terrible considering that I am one of those needing to take a statin every day! :(

  12. Dave Ellison says:

    I must remember the usage of Nice – it gets me every time.

    Thanks, PeterO, for several explanations – but what is MAIGRE?

    I found this tough today. My COD – 19d SEE YOU.

  13. Rowland says:

    Mistake in NITWITTERY and Guardianism in 5@, but this compiler is trying to have fun while still writng in a good style I feel. I enjoyed it.


  14. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Dave, MAIGRE in this sense was new to me too. It’s the French word for ‘thin’ or ‘skinny’ and that’s how I guessed it; but it refers also to food that is acceptable to eat during a Christian fasting period, hence ‘relating to fast’. As I said above, perhaps a bit obscure for a daily cryptic.

  15. Tom Hutton says:

    I don’t like to nict pict but of course a Pict is not a Scot by definition.

  16. xjp says:

    Unfortunately the extra t was the first thing I spotted and undermined my confidence, which was a pity. But by the end confidence was regained. A great puzzle. Two exceptionally good puzzles in a row. Paul must look to his laurels.

  17. PeterO says:

    Tom @15

    The clue does not define Pict as a Scot, but as a Scotsman – a native of Scotland (and incidentally Chambers gives that as the first definition of Scot also) – so I think ‘old Scotsman’ is a quite accurate definition of Pict.

  18. Derek Lazenby says:

    In “nitpickers annonymous”, so many didn’t spot the extra T? I’m shocked! Especially as it seemed obvious to the class dummy. :D

    What I still don’t get is attendance = house. I’ve tried lots of online sources and can’t find it there. The nearest I can guess at is theatrical, but whilst house and audience can be interchanged (e.g. the house/audience applauded) you don’t say “the attendance applauded”.

  19. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    What a superb puzzle,this took me as long as an easier Azed!
    Packed with great clues,my favourites were ‘command’, ‘endless’, ‘reinstates’ and ‘attendance'(for its subtle definition) and best of all ‘moist'(moist is sometimes used as a term of approbation for a lady).
    Last in was ‘molested’ because, like muffin, I was doubtful and also thought molest = harry is rather distant but all is excused in return for this greatly enjoyable crossword.
    I did spot the ‘t’ problem in 22ac,toyed with ‘dimwittery’ for a while, tried lots of anagram alternatives and in the end fell back on the coward’s ruse: it must be an error!

  20. Stella says:

    I’m another who didn’t spot the extra T, but I was quite distracted this morning, anyway, and found this very hard to get into. Once I’d finished, and having noted a few of the novel devices, I suspected there might be something more to this, which lack of time precluded me from exploring.

    I’d never heard of “statin”, so 16d was a guess, and I didn’t fully understand 9 or 12ac until coming here, but I take my hat off to the spider woman – a tour de force from one of our few lady setters!

  21. Mikes says:

    As a master of interest, the Chambers iPad App allows for a double T in 22ac.

  22. Gervase says:

    Derek @18: I didn’t consider ‘house’ = ATTENDANCE to be remarkable, but you’re right that it isn’t explicitly listed in the dictionaries. The words are more or less synonymous in certain phrases relating to theatre audiences: a ‘poor house’ or a ‘full house’ certainly describes the attendance.

  23. GeoffreyMM says:

    ‘Guerrillas’ should certainly have two Rs, being the diminutive form of Spanish guerra, ‘war’

  24. Eileen says:


    But that alternative spelling is in all my three dictionaries: I was simply expressing surprise @9 that it was so.

  25. Stella says:

    Hear,hear, clap clap!!

  26. Robi says:

    Difficult, but solvable with electronic assistance.

    Thanks, PeterO; I’ll give Arachne a way out for 22 in that twitter can equal ‘witter’ – that gets rid of the extra ‘t’ although it’s not then an ha [although I thought ‘embody’ in any case was a containment, rather than, a hidden indicator.] I agree with NeilW @1 about ‘Nice’ [in France.]

    I liked the teenagers in the bathroom – it led me, mercifully, to ‘spot’ and not to some other habits. ;) Strange that there is both SANGUINENESS and ‘sanguinity.’ Who uses which, when?

  27. Mark B says:

    Good puzzle.

    Re. 22ac-Dam means enclose so that’s damN IT TWITTER You…

  28. Andy B says:

    Re: 16 down, although Molested is the right answer I think that Fomented also works. Count me in as another who didn’t spot the extra T in 22 across.

  29. gf says:

    I too missed the extra T in 22ac but have since thought Arachne probably meant ‘Damn, I Twitter you embody fatuousness’ which is if anything a better surface. Maybe a Guardian misprint.

  30. AA says:

    There’s no extra ‘T’ in 22ac. It’s Dam n + it and twitter you embodies (contains) wittery.

  31. Paul B says:

    Oh, no it isn’t.

  32. Cosafina says:

    AA @ 30: How many Ts do you count between the two Is of NITWITTERY? I count one.
    And how many between the two Is in DAMN IT TWITTER YOU? I count 2: one at the end of IT and another at the beginning of TWITTER.

    That’s what everyone is on about.

  33. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Since Paul B has introduced us to panto season … Hello Boys and Girls!

    It doesn’t matter how you try to justify NITWITTERING – Cinderella went to the ball, and this is a Grauniad balls-up.

  34. slipstream says:

    Good puzzle. I enjoyed the wordplay for COMMAND, but I am astonished that I pulled MAIGRE from some dust-covered attic space of memory.

  35. Brendan (not that one) says:

    Another great crossword. Took some time though. Not helped by the error in NITWITTERY which I got almost instantly and assumed the extra T was an error!!

    However I had posited ROYAL for 26ac with little confidence but as no other answers were forthcoming this hindered the solution of 13d which in turn made me question NITWITTERY!!!!!

    Anyway it all came out in THYME :-)

    Arachne’s best so far in my opinion. I suspect as previously suggested by gf @29 that 22ac is a simple Grauniad typo in the clue. Easy to slip through proofreading as the number of solvers who didn’t even notice it testifies!!

    Thanks PeterO and Arachne

  36. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Here’s another one who didn’t see the mistake in 22ac.
    Perhaps, the editor didn’t see it for the same reason – I don’t know.

    Although it was (I would almost say, of course) a clever puzzle, we found it a bit of a slog today. Sorry M’Dear. Just blame it on us.

    One of the three clues we didn’t get (TIGHTROPE) was really outstanding.
    But I wasn’t happy with 27ac (ENDLESS). The construction is fine, but unlike Thomas99 I do not see something &Littish here. I see what Arachne wants to achieve with the use of “This”, but for me it doesn’t feel right.

    As to 14ac, I had the same feeling as you, PeterO: a novel construction. Only to find a similar device in today’s Loroso puzzle in the FT (24ac: “Drivers surrounding head of Irish police as roads in Antrim are opened (9)”, lacking a definition (which is “The Master” :)).
    Great minds think alike, don’t they?
    In this respect, I won’t say anything about 1ac, because it still hurts …. :) [not: :(]

    And now I have to complete an difficult equation: six + … = 7.

  37. Derek Lazenby says:

    Gervase, sorry, I got distracted, I meant to reply ages ago. Thanks for the HU, I can see the sense of that.

  38. rhotician says:

    Collins gives house as a synonym for attendance. It does not give attendance as a synonym for house. It treats gate similarly.

  39. rhotician says:

    27ac ENDLESS is not &lit, it is just lit. ‘This’ to indicate the solution is more commonly clued as ‘____’.

    Azed slip archive gives lots of genuine &lits which use similar devices. It happens that the latest competition asked for clues to PICAROON(!). The first prize winner used ‘____’. The second prize went to D.F.Manley(!) who used ‘me’ instead.

  40. stiofain says:

    Maigret got a mention in the quick today too.

  41. Trebor says:

    TIGHTROPE really was magnificently clued.

  42. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Arachne and PeterO

    A very tough nut this one that took a number of sessions to complete – and only finished the WASP early this morning ! A bit harder because A usually gives quite a good start with slightly easier clues but not this time for me at least.

    Missed the parsing of both 10 (which was brilliant) and 16 (which I don’t think I would ever have worked out). Also missed the extra T and surely it must have meant to read “Damn, I twitter you …” – made fir two well hidden run-ons. Seems to be a spate of clever hidden clues of late!

    Well worth a prize spit for mine. Well done spider …

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