Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize 25,837 / Araucaria

Posted by Eileen on January 12th, 2013


I have blogged some pretty difficult Araucaria puzzles – and this one, as it happens, was not one of them – but this preamble, I think, must be the most difficult I’ve had to write and it has gone through a number of redrafts during the week, while I’ve been waiting for some mention of the elephant in the room, which only emerged here on Friday morning.

I reckon to tackle the Prize puzzle first thing on a Saturday morning and, if I’m blogging it, to do that as soon as possible afterwards, while it’s still fresh in my mind. Just as I was about to solve this one, I read Eric Westbrook’s newsletter, with the sad news of Araucaria’s cancer. At first, I was so shocked that I wanted to leave the puzzle till much later – but then felt moved to do it immediately, to feel some kind of contact with the setter who has been such an important part of my life for over thirty years and who for so many of us, I know, epitomises the Guardian Crossword.

I’m afraid there may be some readers who only do the Saturday puzzle and so may not have been aware of Araucaria’s illness, news of which he revealed in the puzzle published on Friday,11th,
which evinced scores of comments from regular contributors and also dozens of people whose names I didn’t recognise, or hadn’t seen for quite a long time, providing a wonderful testimony to a great man, whom most of us have never met but yet have so long regarded as a very dear friend.

In the nearly five years since I serendipitously stumbled upon 15², there has never been any indication that Araucaria reads our contributions but I’ve always cherished the hope that he does – and, in that hope, I send him my thanks and prayers and lots of love.

For an Araucaria – especially a Prize – it turned out to be a pretty straightforward puzzle, with a colourful theme – with surprisingly few references to confirm / links to provide, so a fairly gentle introduction to the new year.


5 Insignificant river in 2
PO [river] in TINT

6 Strong river in 2
OB [river] in RUST
I googled ‘Ob, river’, with very little confidence, but there, of course,  it was!

9 Country setter has 2 briefly after 11
ME [setter] + CO [colour {very!} briefly] after XI [11]

10 Repercussions from breaking bow in 2
anagram [breaking] of BOW in BLACK

11 Tremendous acceleration in 2
G [acceleration] in HUE

12 Controlled strictly, say (I meant heartlessly) in 2
EG [say] + I ME{a}NT in RED

13 Fundamentalist belief of Zionist, sadly beheaded in 2
anagram [sadly] of [z]IONIST [beheaded] in CREAM

18 Bullied by French beast holding one in 2
BÊTE [French beast] round [holding] A [one] in BROWN

21 Vocalisation of friendship, when separated
double definition: we have to separate ‘friend ship’ to arrive [eventually!] at vocalisation of dog [man’s best friend] and the alternative spelling of barque [ship]

22 Minor annoyance demands slight reduction of cost in 2
PRIC [slight reduction of PRIC{e}] in PINK

23Wanting too much from edition in 2
ED [edition] in GREY

24 Cover over books of empty talk maybe from 10
HAIR [cover] round OT [Old Testament – books]

25 Humbug puts silver in 2
AG [silver] in BLUE
a new [French] word for me


1 Contrive to energise with change of polarity
anagram of ENERGI[s]E with the S changed to N [change of polarity] – so either ‘contrive’ or ‘change’ is doing double duty

2 After poisonous gas, look black and go red
CO [carbon monoxide – poisonous gas] + LOUR
I always have to be reminded that LOUR is an alternative spelling of ‘lower’

3 Driver to test the golden isle
MOT [test] + OR [golden] + MAN [isle]

4 South African city bar renovated in 2
anagram [renovated] of BAR in DUN

5 Bound to be busy
double definition, with a Rufusian flavour

7 Just the thing to let one travel
double / cryptic definition – likewise

8 Married criminal’s misplaced article: take leader off for disastrous decision
A BIG[a]MIST [married criminal] with the A misplaced + [t]AKE [leader – first letter – off] – lovely construction

14 Primate’s go slow providing appetiser
APE [primate] + RIT [abbreviation for musical direction ritenuto – a sudden slowing down, or ritardando – with diminishing speed]] + IF [providing]

15 Drown in beer mugs, possibly
anagram [possibly] of BEER MUGS

16 Spirit of anger enveloping one
WRATH [anger] round [enveloping] I [one]

17 Crossing game
double definition – a further reminder of Rufus

19 American deer to hand back for Italian one
reversal [back] of PAW [hand] + IT [Italian] + I [one] for this American deer, another new word for me

20 Slight problem for horse, say, in river
GG sounds like [say] gee-gee [horse] in NILE [river]
I hope there won’t have been too many of these today.

19 Responses to “Guardian Prize 25,837 / Araucaria”

  1. Paul B says:

    Well, I know what you mean. You’ve spelled his name wrongly in the title page by the way, and the date of his revelatory puzzle is also incorrect. It’s as if you might have preferred all this not to have happened!

    And, in that case, join the club, though all good things must come to an end. Thank you for a(nother) great blog of a(nother) great St A puzzle.

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks Eileen. Your preamble as much appreciated as the blog. Yesterday’s tributes to the greatest setter of all were most moving. This wasn’t a formidable example of his (no more than Paul’s the previous Saturday) – 12a eg led straight to the theme. But the parsing was typically testing and prolonged the enjoyment. HOT AIR last in.

  3. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Eileen. I fall into the category of your third paragraph so I did not know and I am so sorry to hear the sad news.

    4 led straight to the theme for me and 21 was my last which did take quite a lot of time.

    The wapiti is well known in this part of the world and is also the name of a Westland biplane in service between the world wars.

  4. Eileen says:

    Thank you,Paul B – corrected now. And apologies to all in advance for any other typos.

  5. bridgesong says:

    Eileen, thank you for your sensitive preamble. It can’t have been easy to concentrate on the puzzle.

    And thanks for explaining BARK; I had entirely failed to parse it.

  6. Bertandjoyce says:

    Thanks Eileen for the blog – we enjoyed this prize puzzle but weren’t sure about the parsing of BARK. We came up with your explanation as well although it seemed a little awkward.

    We fall into the category of finding out yesterday about Araucaria and if he does read the blog we would like to say how sorry we were to hear the news. We’re glad we didn’t read the Newsletter as it seemed more appropriate to learn about it gradually as the crossword unfolded.

  7. timon says:

    Thanks Eileen. Polished this one off fairly quickly with bridgesong but were stumped by 21a. I’m sure he got it later. Isn’t it odd how one can read a clue ina new way after even a relatively short pause.

  8. tupu says:

    Many thanks Eileen and Araucaria

    A most touching preamble to the blog. It cannot have been easy to write!

    I enjoyed this puzzle in my ignorance of what was to come. The theme was very well handled and some clues were particularly good, e.g.13a, 21a, and 8d.

    In your parsing of 25a, ‘hue’ seems to have slipped in instead of ‘blue’.

  9. Stella says:

    Thanks Eileen, especially for the parsing of BARK, which I only got htis morning.

    I’m afraid your emotions got in the way a little, with the slip mentioned by Tupu and also @12ac, where your underlining includes “say”, which is actually part of the wordplay.

    Congratulations on what must have been adifficult blog to write.

  10. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the corrections, tupu and Stella. I have no idea how HUE crept in!

  11. Robi says:

    Another cracker from A. who, I hope, has many more to come.

    Thanks Eileen; I thought I spotted another mini-theme: with CREATIONISM came A BIG MISTAKE, HOT AIR, BROWBEATEN, REGIMENTED, TINPOT, NIGGLE. I think this was probably all intended [or am I dreaming?, :roll: ] which makes the puzzle an even better tour-de-force.

    Thanks for the help with BARK; I didn’t see the ship thingy.

  12. Eileen says:

    Very late up this morning, I have only just picked up my paper, to find Araucaria on the front page:

  13. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen
    Yes. But their headline says 18 across in my edition.

  14. DuncT says:

    Thanks Eileen – I can only echo all the sentiments in your preamble. I read the unwelcome news this morning just as I was settling down to do Friday’s puzzle, which made for a strange and sobering experience.

    Very best wishes to Araucaria, and hoping for many more colourful crosswords still to come.

  15. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu

    So, I see, does mine – I didn’t notice. Good old Guardian! [Maybe they deecided to follow Araucaria’s lead and announce it in the way that came naturally. ;-) ]

    [I’ve just been out to see ‘Les Misérables’ – wonderful!]

  16. JohnF says:

    Eileen–thank you for posting the link. I’m new at this–so just a year of Auracarias. Still, I’ve learned a great deal from him–and now a lesson in grace. What an extraordinary man!

  17. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Araucaria and thanks Eileen for a sensitive blog and the link.

    I’ve done this puzzle today and was glad that it wasn’t one of the fiendish ones after yesterday’s shock.

    My husband laughs at me for “Just the ticket”! I shall now do some serious crowing!!

    God bless.

    Giovanna xx

  18. BASIA says:

    It was a very sad crossword to do but “well done” A for commpiling a crossword with clues to tell all your followers about your sad condition. That was a clever but poignant thing to do.

    Thinking of you


  19. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Araucaria and Eileen

    Only looked at this one today and after getting GREEDY, the theme became apparent and the rest opened up until coming to BARK. Nice to see your more straightforward version of the parsing – I took the vocalization to indicate a homophone of BARQUE for the ship and used the phrase ‘close as the bark to the tree’ to define friendship. Funny how we can over complicate some things!

    A very sensitive and heartfelt introduction Eileen, which echoes the sentiment of all of us who have been touched by this man.

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