Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Christmas Prize No 25,826 by Araucaria

Posted by bridgesong on January 4th, 2013


A characteristically allusive and wide- ranging puzzle for our Christmas delight, with much to appreciate in the 21 x 21 grid.  As one might expect there was considerable ingenuity in some of the wordplay, and the surfaces were uniformly excellent.

The Shakespearean reference was, appropriately, to The Winter’s Tale, and several characters from the play featured in the puzzle, along with its most well-known stage direction.  However I do have some quibbles and would appreciate suggestions in case I have missed something.  


1 OTHER WORLD Thrower thrown into former heaven (5,5)
*THROWER in OLD.  An anagram and an insertion, but easy to guess.
6 TWICKENHAM Indefinite number repeated — about £1000 — for amateur sport centre (10)
K in TWICE N, HAM; Twickenham is the home of English Rugby Union – and was once proudly amateur.
13 CAR DRIVER Motorist’s message with flower (3,6)
CARD RIVER; a beautifully simple piece of misdirection.
14 SANDPAPERED Sunday opening with French pontiff and cardinal smoothed over (11)
S(unday) AND PAPE, RED.  A straightforward charade.
15 LEE RAIL Make a face and be sick — over here best? (3,4)
LEER AIL; the same device as in 13, although the phrase itself is perhaps less familiar.
16 STALE Unoriginal opening to short story (5)
S(hort) TALE
17 PERDITA Sadly I 38 with 35 Sicilian raised as 27 (7)
*(I DEPART).  Perdita is the daughter of Leontes, King of Sicily,  in The Winter’s Tale and is abandoned as a baby on the coast of Bohemia.
18 OXUS Beast (American) that doesn’t go to sea (4)
OX US.  Research (i.e. Wikipedia) shows that the Oxus is the old name for a river (now Amu Darya) which no longer reaches the (Aral) Sea.
19 PENANG Girl keeping grannie in Malaysia (6)
20 RETAINED Kept being precipitated, holding space traveller (8)
23 CONSPIRACY THEORIST I’m sure there were plots to be formed to cover up stealing the gold (10,8)
PIRACY (stealing) THE OR (gold) in CONSIST (to be formed).  A very clever semi & lit clue.
29 See 38
30 WHISKY SODA Cocktail mixer like this during another day (6,4)
31 EXIT PURSUED BY A BEAR Direction of the 7 16 with one extra variant, including nearly clean baby dressed in leather (4,7,2,1,4)
(PUR(e) *BABY in SUEDE) in *1 EXTRA.  A complex clue for the most famous stage direction of all.
35 LONG LOST Nothing for one in preliminary selection — haven’t had it for ages! (4,4)
0 for 1 in LONG LIST.
38,29 DEPART PADDINGTON 31: leave London for the West Country (6,10)
Trains for the West Country from London depart from Paddington Station, and Paddington was the name of the eponymous bear in Michael Bond’s series of children’s stories.
40 LIMB Member without water supply due? Well I’m blowed! (4)
Hidden in WELL(LIMB)OWED.  An unusual twist on the standard hidden clue.
43 RAG DOLL Cat for newspaper girl, a cheap toy (3,4)
A simple charade, but I don’t see what “cat for” adds to the clue.  Thanks, Carmel, for explaining this.
44 NO-WIN Just arrived in store — hopeless situation (2-3)
NOW IN.  Again, I don’t see what “in store” adds to the clue.
45 YAOUNDE Retiring for good, pupil leaves English school for African capital (7)
AY(rev), OUND(l)E.  Yaounde is the capital of Cameroon; Oundle is an English public school.
46 ZYMOTICALLY Blitz ending, the wise talked about witticism on one visit in relation to infectious disease (11)
(blit)Z, MOT (as in Bon mot) 1 CALL in YY(2 ys sounds like wise).  I freely confess to searching the dictionary for a word which would fit the crossing letters, and then working out the wordplay.
47 CRUCIFIED Most science fiction with coarse, slightly twisted cover is given a terrible time (9)
(s)CI FI in *CRUDE.
48 LYSISTRATA Greek play, sly one, exposed layers of feminism (10)
*(SLY 1) STRATA.  I’m not quite sure what “exposed” is doing, unless it’s the anagram indicator; if it’s not, then “play” is doing double duty.
49 METHUSELAH Indulgence in unsuitable liquor — note, it didn’t shorten his life! (10)
METH, USE, LAH.  I’m not entirely happy with this parsing, because meth suggests methadone or methamphetamine, rather than methylated spirits, which is what I think Araucaria is referring to. And “use” is not enclosed by “meth” as the wording of the clue would suggest.  Anyone got any better suggestions?
1 OSCILLOSCOPE Colossi left floundering manage with electronic test instrument (12)
2 HARLEQUINADE Columbine’s setting with 60% of aquilegias — harden off (12)
*(HARDEN AQUILE).  In commedia dell’arte, Columbine is the sweetheart of Harlequin.
3 REREAD Study again before entering the cooler (6)
ERE in RAD(iator).
4 ORVILLE WRIGHT Pioneer in the air or 6.50 Grade correct (7,6)
OR VI L LEW (Grade) RIGHT.  Lew, later Lord Grade, was the uncle of Michael Grade (himself now Lord Grade).
5 LARISSA Novel heroine goes topless in Greek city (7)
(C)LARISSA.  Clarissa was an early (1748) epistolary novel by Samuel Richardson.
7 WINTER When beginning to bury time? (6)
W(hen) INTER.
8 CAP-A-PIE Competent to have return of one penny rather than pound fully covered (3-1-3)
CAPA(bl)E, with PI inserted, both the insertion and the letters omitted being reversed.  Cap-a-pie is from Old French meaning covered from head to foot.
9 EMPORIA Sovereign dropping sovereign (first one) at shops (7)
EMP(er)OR, 1A.
10 HERMIONE Queen of 7 16, being solitary, didn’t finish one (8)
HERMI(t), ONE.  A nicely misleading clue, with “didn’t finish” referring back to “hermit”, not forward to “one”.
11 MIDLANDS Heart of the country cares about dead American city (8)
12 ESCARGOT Householder is French, carrying load (8)
CARGO in EST.  I like “householder” as a definition, and of course ESCARGOT is a French word.
21 SPHINX Quizmaster doctoring around hospital unknown (6)
H in SPIN, X.  In Greek mythology the Sphinx was a monster that devoured those who could not correctly answer her riddles.
22 TECHIE One with the skill to break the ice (6)
24 CROCUS Reptile taking first persons’ flower (6)
CROC(odile), US.
25 RASPBERRY BUSH Disapproval shown to ex-president should bear fruit (9,4)
A simple charade; I thought raspberries grew on canes, but apparently there is also such a plant as a raspberry bush.
26 SKYLAB Cross between husky and Labrador in space? (6)
(hu)SKY LAB(rador).  Skylab was an early space-station.
27 BOHEMIAN GIRL Opera of the second class, hardly original, going over the edge (8,4)
B(second class) HEM in *ORIGINAL.  The opera is usually known as La Bohème.  Thanks for the correction, Rhotician.
28 HAIRS BREADTH Very little space for food — I thrash wildly about (5,7)
32 SIDEWAYS Rules about fish in byroads? (8)
IDE in SWAYS.  I’m not happy about the definition here, as though “side ways” might mean byroads, “sideways” does not – which may explain the question mark.
33 FLORIZEL Match for 17 flourished at last in the window (8)
FL(ourished), Z in ORIEL.  Florizel is Perdita’s suitor in The Winter’s Tale.
34 ENDGAMES Almost loveless marriage within tribe — directions for closing stages (8)
END(o)GAM(y), ES.  I think “almost” signifies the dropping of the last letter, and “loveless” the omission of the O.
36 LEONTES Put Christmas back for 10’s man (7)
SET NOEL (all rev).  In The Winter’s Tale Leontes is Perdita’s father, and Hermione’s husband.
37 SOLACER Sun on tree should cheer one up (7)
39 PANACHE God takes suffering with style (7)
41 ANKLET Low-down ornament showing insect eating up deer (6)
ELK(rev) in ANT.
42 TOBIAS Jug fully given to prejudice (6)
TO BIAS.  A pedant might point out that Toby jugs are never referred to as Tobias jugs.


24 Responses to “Guardian Christmas Prize No 25,826 by Araucaria”

  1. Carmel says:

    Re 43ac – rag doll is a breed of cat.

  2. drago says:

    Thanks Araucaria and Alberich.
    Re 49 “Indulgence in unsuitable liquor”= “meth use” is non-cryptic, but you are right that ‘meths’ is what comes to mind.
    In 48 I think ‘exposed layers’=’strata’ and ‘play’ is doing double duty indeed.
    In 43, maybe ‘cat for’=’cattily’, disparigingly?
    With you on 34, which had me stumped.

  3. drago says:

    Fascinating, Carmel. A floppy cat.
    And thanks bridgesong, I should have said.

  4. rhotician says:

    The Bohemian Girl and La Boheme are different operas, the former being, as indicated in the clue, of the second class.
    It does, however, feature the aria I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls, much recorded.
    Joan Sutherland’s version is awful. Jessye Norman’s is better. Enya’s less operatic rendition is altogether the most charming.

  5. Diffident says:

    I very much enjoyed the crossword, and thanks, bridgesong, for the blog.

    I thought that 48A counted as a rather nice &lit given the subject matter of Lysistrata…

  6. chas says:

    Thanks to bridgesong for the blog. There were a couple where I had the answer without understanding the parsing.

    I found it difficult to get started on this one, but once I did then I found it fairly steady going. However I was beaten by Bohemian Girl :(

  7. DuncT says:

    Thanks bridgesong. I think the pedant at 42d would be missing the point – jug=toby, toby fully=tobias – so just an indirect reference to the answer.

  8. tupu says:

    Thanks bridgesong and Araucaria

    A very pleasant holiday diversion. The transfer from Shakespeare to Michael Bond and Paddington Bear was delightful.

  9. Marie Morris says:

    Why can’t I find the solutions to No 25,826 in the printed edition?

  10. fearsome says:

    thanks Bridgesong and Araucaria
    I took ages to get my last one Larissa
    I parse 42d as Jug = Toby then fully -> Tobias
    Marie @9 I think the solution will be printed on Monday

  11. Matt says:

    Good, enjoyable puzzle. Fun clues, good variety, well-worked theme that didn’t give too much away, or require too much in the way of inside knowledge…

    But. Part of me wanted something more. Perhaps I have been too spoilt in the past by double grids, alphabets, etc, but the puzzle did not live up to my anticipation.

  12. bridgesong says:

    Marie @ 9: the original print edition promised that solution and winners would be published today (4 January) which is why I scheduled the blog to appear today. Winners’ names were posted online yesterday, but it looks as though the Guardian has forgotten about the solution. Good job this site is here to make good the deficiency!

    Thanks all for your comments; I have made some amendments to the blog. I feel particularly stupid about Bohemian Girl – I just assumed that it was an English version of La Boheme.

  13. Aztobesed says:

    Apologies if I am repeating someone I have not read – but the Bohemian girl could also refer to Perdita who is exiled there and eventually falls for Florizel who is a Bohemian prince.

  14. bridgesong says:

    Aztobesed @ 13: yes, see the clue to 17 across, which makes the reference explicit.

  15. Aztobesed says:

    I invoke my pre-emptive apology, Bridgesong, I didn’t spot it. I also failed to thank you for your thorough breakdown of the clues, which I now remedy.

  16. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, Bridgesong.

    You forestalled me with your response to comment 13. The clue for 17ac is even more clever because, [apart from the reference to 38ac] at a stretch, LONG-LOST is a translation of PERDITA.

  17. Marie Morris says:

    Thank you to Fearsome and Bridgesong for replying. I am a complete novice, and this blog is excellent!

  18. Coffee says:

    Am I the only person who went -briefly-down the garden path with 2D, aquilegias being columbines, botanically speaking? Very clever mis-direction. And me a would-be thespian!

  19. bridgesong says:

    Marie, the annotated solution is now available on the Guardian website.

  20. Uhudla says:

    No Christmas puzzle in the Gdn Weekly, so I went online. How happy I was to see Araucaria, who never appears in the weekly any more. After scanning his clues, I spotted OSCILLOSCOPE, then Orville Wright, then went to work with a will. Something that never happens when I am faced with a Picaroon or most Pauls.

    Had to look up the characters of a Winter Stale, as well as African capitals beginning with Y (no way could I have parsed that). Last three to go in were ???GAMES (till I realized the clue was tribal marriage and not loveless marriage), LONG LOST (with Shakespeare, thought could be LOVE LOST), and LEER AIL. Favorite clue was ESCARGOT. Appreciated reference to Skylab, as I am old enough to remember when it crashed.

    One advantage of the prize puzzle is that — like the printed puzzles — there are no “Check” or other buttons to lead me into temptation.

  21. Giovanna says:

    Belated thanks, Araucaria for a super puzzle and bridgesong for some super parsing!

    Been too busy to do do the puzzle till now but what a treat. I was looking for chimney sweepers and golden boys and girls in the Winter’s Tale theme!

    8d, Cap-a pie, reminded me of Horatio’s description of the ghost of Hamlet’s father as being armed cap-a-pe.

    Happy Epiphany to anyone who is reading. My tree etc. stay up till after the last feast of Christmas.

    Giovanna x

  22. John Jarvis says:

    Could someone please explain the derivation of the two letters “AY” in 45a. The parsing indicates “good” or “for good” but I can’t see a connection.

    Happy new year to all!

  23. bridgesong says:

    John @22: ay, or aye is defined in Chambers as “ever; always; for ever”. This is close enough to “for good” in my view. The usage is denoted as being Northern or archaic; it typically can be found in the poems of Robert Burns.

  24. John Jarvis says:

    Ah so. Being both somewhat Northern and archaic, a should ha’ ken. Cheers.

Leave a Reply

Don't forget to scroll down to the Captcha before you click 'Submit Comment'

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

five + = 12