28834 Probably would puzzle a monkey.


Do you know, I thought this was relatively easy, at least until I submitted when I found I had entered a plausible but wrong answer, misunscrambling an anagram. 14 minutes is quick for me, especially on a blogging night. I think the main issue was that in many clues, the definition yielded quite readily, especially given the numeration, and of course I paused to work out the, sometimes quite complex, assemblies of the wordplay. Given that 4 across is a very well known and respected name in historic crossword circles, I wondered if the style of clues reflected his, or even if the grid contained some of his originals. Regulars of a Manchester newspaper may know better than me. “New” makes a bid for stardom.

Definitions underlined in italics, explanations are mostly my version of plain English.

1 Brightness shown by English in old Welsh county briefly (5)
GLEAM – GLAMorgan is your old Welsh county, and still the Welsh First Class County Cricket team, and actually still existing as the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff. Welsh aficionados may wish to develop this theme with actual facts. Regardless, insert an E(nglish)
4 Tree harsh old American disposed of in a song (9)
ARAUCARIA – Now I know this, and how it’s spelt, because of Reverend John Galbraith Graham MBE, setter for many years of the Grauniad Crossword, who picked the name because it’s the monkey puzzle tree. Here, it’s RAUCOUS for harsh minus the O(ld) US, set inside A ARIA, a song.
9 Sports club employee: no good? He delivers (9)
ROUNDSMAN – Ours used to deliver milk in the Jurassic era of the Fifties. GROUNDSMAM, but no G(ood)
10 Twangy start to accompaniment disturbing northern girl (5)
NASAL – The first of Accompaniment within N(orthern) and the random girl Sal
11 Novelist’s crazed beast caught between two similar crossings (4,5,4)
FORD MADOX FORD – Grandson of Ford Madox Brown, the Pre-Raphaelite artist, whence presumably his mildly bizarre name. Crazed beast is MAD OX, sandwiched between two similar (identical?) crossings, FORD and FORD
14 Couple taken in some time after retirement (4)
ITEM – Reverse hidden in soME TIme
15 Poor American lad losing heart, like some senior councillors (10)
ALDERMANIC – An anagram (poor) of AMERICAN plus a heartless LAD
18 Aristocrats, small number moved by current sign (10)
NOBLEWOMEN – Small number is No, moved by current BLEW, sign OMEN
19 Celebrity using half of capital touring India (4)
LION – Half of LONdon with NATO India inserted.
21 Untried bridge-player with drinks in antipodean state (3,5,5)
NEW SOUTH WALES – An untried, NEW bridge player SOUTH W(ith) drinks, in this case ALES. Well done if you paused to parse.
24 Tenor taking break with daughter (5)
DRIFT – D(aughter) in front of RIFT from break
25 Peculiar to a big lob, it’s essential to the score (9)
OBBLIGATO –  An anagram (peculiar) of TO A BIG LOB. A musical must disguised as a cricket comment. Other sports are available.
27 Girls originally employed in banks look at ornamental gem (6-3)
TIGERS-EYE – Are there unornamental gems? Anyway, Girl’s first letter contained in TIERS from banks with EYE for look at.
28 Travel about carrying small shrub (5)
GORSE – Travel GO, about RE, S(mall) within.
1 Having set up gear, learner cooked, entertaining new sweetheart (10)
GIRLFRIEND – RIG from gear, reversed (set up), L(earner), FRIED from cooked containing N(ew)
2 Coin once used in City University (3)
ECU – EC is the postcode of the City of London. Add U(niversity). The notional single European currency before the adoption of the euro.
3 Frenchwoman’s mother in West? (6)
MADAME – Mother is DAM, and West gives you MAE, the bawdy and  voluptuous film actress. Or a lifejacket.
4 Toothless type in drama oddly having the Italian look (9)
ARMADILLO – An anagram of DRAMA plus IL, Italian for the, and LO for look.
5 Seize woman not fully identified (5)
ANNEX – A charade of ANNE X, possibly the Boleyn girl when keeping her identity secret was necessary.
6 Deceive a few about source of mulligatawny soup (8)
CONSOMME – CON deceive, SOME a few plus the first letter of Mulligatawny, which is a curry favoured soup.
7 Highly populated like Lincoln? Not initially (11)
RESIDENTIAL – Abe, of course, without his P.
8 Supporter missing start of political gathering (4)
ALLY – The start of a RALLY goes missing.
12 Songbird enveloped at first in brightly-coloured flags (4,7)
REED BUNTING – The first letter of Enveloped in RED for brightly coloured and BUNTING, little flags.
13 I manage to catch CO and son overturning electron camera (10)
ICONOSCOPE – I COPE, or manage, containing CO and a reversed (overturning) SON. I reinvented this early device.
16 Celebrate wildly, being suitable for putting up (9)
ER(L)ECTABLE – An anagram (wildly) of CELEBRATE. So not  CELEBLATE, then, but an easily assumption to make from the definition.
17 Main feature of gundog, away in Scotland for first time? (8)
SEAWATER – A gundog might be a SETTER. Replace the first T with AWA Scots for away.
20 Like flying birds circling new canvas sunshade (6)
AWNING – Flying birds are AWING, insert (another) N(ew)
22 Bracing air a person found round most of animal park (5)
OZONE – A person is ONE, set round two thirds of ZOO
23 Time to get up and do the press chief’s job (4)
EDIT – Tide and time can be interchangeable, so take the TIDE version and reverse (get up)
26 Reportedly next in line’s bearing (3)
AIR – Todays soundbite, HEIR for next in line sounds this way.

85 comments on “28834 Probably would puzzle a monkey.”

  1. Not hard at all, but not a bore either. SEAWATER seemed the most complicated to parse.
    I had to check, and found that ARMADILLOs have “cheek teeth,” just usually not incisors or canines.
    If I read you right, I have to ask how in the world CELEBLATE is “plausible”? I can’t find that word anywhere. I’ve probably misunderstood…

    1. Z means that to get ELECTABLE, which some solvers entered, the anagrist would have to be CELEBLATE.

  2. 24 minutes for this one which I found quite easy especially aided by some write-ins such as NEW SOUTH WALES. One hardly needed to look further than ‘antipodean state’ and the enumeration.

    The writer at 11ac may be a problem for some but fortunately I knew him from the Parade’s End series of books adapted for TV about 12 years ago.

    NHO TIGERS-EYE or ICONOSCOPE but the wordplay was kind.

    Left to my own devices I would have spelt OBBLIGATO with a single B (the valid alternative) as BB always looks wrong to me, but the anagram left no room for doubt as to what was required here.

    1. In Italian, a double letter indicates a small pause and emphasis on the letter, as in tutti or spaghetti.

      1. The eternal conundrum for those who’ve learned Italian or lived in Italy: knowing that it’s ‘correct’ to pronounce these double letters by holding the sound, yet also being aware that to do so in the Queen’s Road, Peckham will make you sound as though you are engaging in mockery of the highest sort.

            1. I don’t think there is any real debate about the prononciation of ‘spaghetti’ though, any more than ‘Paris’.
              The other Italian one that creates real confusion is ‘bruschetta’.

  3. I enjoyed this much more than yesterday’s finishing in under 20 minutes which is really fast for me. NHO ICONOSCOPE and had a hard time believing there was such a word as ALDERMANIC.
    I think 2dn refers to the old French, originally gold, coin. Thanks for the blog: there’s a typo in 9ac BTW.

    1. Aldermanic is a familiar world to those involved in the City of London – OK I know that may be 0.1% of the people reading this! – as one of the two Sheriffs of the City is usually also an alderman and if so is known as The Aldermanic Sheriff.

        1. I think so, yes. And with all the fine dining in the City and Livery companies, the Sheriffs are quite often both Aldermanic and aldermanic.

  4. 18:01
    Several biffs–ITEM, ALDERMANIC, NOBLEWOMEN, GIRLFRIEND–all parsed post-sub. FORD M (I read his trilogy ages ago, can’t remember a thing) and NSW were gimmes from the enumeration alone. DNK ICONOSCOPE; it’s not in ODE, but the E-J dictionary which pops up when I hit the ODE button again comes through, as it often does: it’s an obsolete gizmo from the early days of television. Like Jack, I was happy to have the BB/GG question settled for me (unlike Jack, I never know how to spell it). Some rather wretched surfaces, like 25ac and 16d.

  5. … underneath him steady Air, and striding
    High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
    In his ecstasy!
    (The Windhover. Any excuse.)

    20 mins pre-brekker. Neat and tidy. No ticks, crosses or Mers.
    But I did the same as our excellent blogger. eLectable.
    Ta setter and Z.

    1. Please keep ‘em coming, Myrtilus: he’s my favourite poet too, and this one of his best. (So no excuses necessary)

  6. 35 mins, so quick for me BUT… could never get the unheard of tree, so looked it up. Perhaps I’m not so Jurassic as I think I am!

    Quite enjoyable with some nice anagrams and a fair bit of complex wordplay. ALDERMANIC is a bit of an odd word.

    Thanks z and setter.

    1. Several characters in C.P. Snow novels develop “aldermanic paunches” as they mature to middle age and become more prosperous.

  7. Ha ha I made exactly the same mistake as the blogger putting electable! Except for that I “finished” in 24 minutes with LOI the Araucaria which took me several minutes at the end to work out, it’s one of those things that I had vaguely heard of once I worked it out.
    Thanks setter and blogger

  8. I wrote in “electable” too. 27:20 for a good puzzle apart from that. Overwhelmed by LION for a moment thinking “surely I don’t have to find half a random capital?” but it was ok. I liked SEAWATER

  9. 30:22
    I spent ages on the unknown tree only to be another who fell foul to ELECTABLE.

    I must start checking anagrams rather than just thinking “that looks about right”. I won’t though, nor will I proofread before submitting. You can’t change who you are.

    I thought there was a bit more meat on the bone today but I’m expecting a gearshift tomorrow.

    Thanks to both.

    1. ARAUCARIA (John Graham)’s first ever clue for the Manchester Guardian was “Establishment cut to the bone? “(8,5): SKELETON STAFF.

  10. 27 minutes with LOI ICONOSCOPE, vaguely remembered when all crossers were in place. A pleasant puzzle. COD to AWNING, just so I can swank. We are a two awning household.. Three would be gross. Thank you Z and setter.

  11. Did this in 10′ but like our blogger, had banged in ELECTABLE.

    FORD MADOX FORD flew in, though I have no idea who he or she is.

    Thanks z and seawater.

    1. He was Ford Maddox Hueffer until he was 46, when he changed his surname to Ford, one reason being to lose a German name for an English one. His novel The Good Soldier appears on several lists of greatest novels but when I read it I couldn’t see any reason why.

      1. I loathed THE GOOD SOLDIER, but laughed when FMF was revealed as the answer. Great clue. This puzzle was too difficult for the likes of me. Will take my place in the Lower Fourth tomorrow.

  12. Another sub-30 solve for me, though the SNITCH shows that this was on the easy side. A nice, solid puzzle where the obvious biffs were counterbalanced by the hard-to-remember tree and the clever COD for SEAWATER.

  13. 27:41 for me, with several groans along the way due to my failing to perceive some pretty obvious ones in retrospect: GIRLFRIEND, NOBLEWOMEN and ICONOSCOPE (I had a severe case of ‘swimming letters’ staring at this one).

    LOI was LION. Celeb not the first definition that sprang to mind there.

    The ‘RAUC’ in ARAUCARIA came to me eventually, even though there was nothing else it could be. I quite liked COD SEAWATER.

    This seemed fairly straightforward. Are we getting set up for a stinker tomorrow?

  14. 11:23

    Slowed myself a bit by biffing ALDERMANLY which is a word.

    My other problem was not knowing the first “bit” of F Madox F. Using “similar crossings” is a bit naughty I think. As words, FORD and FORD are blooming identical, not similar. With fairer cluing I’d have got that a lot quicker. That made GIRLFRIEND my LOI.

    As a crossword fan it’s always a pleasure to see the word ARAUCARIA. I’m a bit taken aback that a few solvers above didn’t know the tree and its cruciverbal association.

    1. I also initially has ALDERMANLY, which (like ELECTABLE) feels a much more likely word than -IC.

  15. 12.43, with a similar sense of dread as kapieto at the capital at the end. Bit of an eyebrow at ‘celebrity’ for LION. It’s in Chambers, but I’ve never seen it used as such.

    As others have said, pretty gentle. Are we being lulled into a false sense of security…?

    Thanks Zabadak and setter.

    1. The commonest example would be as in ‘literary lion’. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered another one.

      1. I’m sure that Boltonwanderer will remember that Nat Lofthouse was referred to as the lion of Vienna after a famous performance for England. Also in football the Celtic European cup winning team of 1967 were known as the Lions of Lisbon

        1. See my avatar. The Lion of Vienna himself. At the Prater Stadium, Vienna in 1952, having already got one goal and with the score at 2-2, he received the ball in his own half from Tom Finney, ran the length of the pitch and scored for us to win what had been billed the match of the Century. One side of the pitch was filled with Russian soldiers, the other British Tommies. This picture is on the journey home after us winning the Cup in 1958. I first saw him play in early 1953.

          1. I’ve never come across a ‘literary lion’! The Lofthouse example seems more like ‘hero’ than ‘celebrity’ to me, although of course they’re somewhat connected.

  16. About 40′ for me not including various interactions from builders, which may probably have helped actually. NSW a write in as others have said as was ALDERMANIC with the give-away LD. Some others took a bit more time, not quite on wavelength, though I think FORD-M-FORD would have come earlier if clued as “identical”. Thanks Zabadak and setter.

  17. 15 minutes.

    Hadn’t heard of ARAUCARIA (sorry Penfold!) and I’m pleased I managed to parse it; agree that ‘similar’ in 11a is a bit off when the same word is used twice; TIGERS-EYE was an unknown that went in from wordplay and checkers; not really familiar with a REED BUNTING and ICONOSCOPE but both sounded plausible; didn’t parse SEAWATER so thanks for the explanation; avoided the trap with ERECTABLE.

    Thanks setter and blogger.

    FOI Gleam
    LOI Araucaria
    COD Drift

  18. 24 mins. Took ages to see ARAUCARIA, and it would have helped if I’d not lifted and separated ‘political gathering’, thinking we were looking for a P to remove. My brother lives next to an ARAUCARIA forest in Chile, so I know them well.

  19. 16:41. Pleased to hear that my home state was a write-in. I recall Tamil Nadu (population 72 million) being dismissed by some as unnecessarily obscure, so you never know.

    Solid start but ground to a halt until I realised the two-letter beast could be an ox. That gave me ANNEX and helped to assemble the half-remembered tree.

    Thanks Z and setter.

  20. The écu was also an early coin in France. 24 minutes with no great problems. Enjoyed CONSOMME and SEAWATER, my LOI. ICONOSCOPE I also reinvented, but the wordplay helped.

    1. The French were very pleased with themselves for engineering that the precursor to the euro, with the seemingly harmless and technocratic name ECU from “European Currency Unit”, should echo their old coin the écu, and they were not happy when the rest of Europe forced the abandonment of the name for the much less resonant euro when the single currency came in, not least because while the Ecu could only be pronounced one way, the Euro is variously pronounced Oiro in Germanic countries and Evro in countries further east.

      They got some measure of compensation from being allowed to call the currency’s small unit, which is officially and in all legislation called the cent, the centime in France.

  21. 20 minutes. I thought ALDERMANIC looked familiar and I see that its most recent appearance was only a couple of months ago on Dec 11th last year. The blogger was vinyl1 who noted it as a “semi-chestnut”. It was described in the (admittedly only 3 out of 90) comments as “dreadful”, a “chestnut full of worms” and “ghastly”; wonder if it’s the same setter back for more compliments!

    I didn’t know ICONOSCOPE but the wordplay and crossers left little room for doubt. Otherwise not too many problems, though I was glad not to be snared by the superficially plausible ELECTABLE.

  22. Had everything except the NHO ARAUCARIA at 18 mins, but gave up at 30. Might have figured it out if I’d stared at it longer, but lost interest.

  23. Dnf. Defeated by the harsh clue at 4 across. Another ELECTABLE and another OZOOE typo.


  24. 16:35 – glad I didn’t have to work out ARAUCARIA from the cryptic, though I immediately thought of rauc for the de-tailed raucous. ICONOSCOPE was assembled from the unlikely pile of components and my assumption that MADOX was spelled with two ds was ditched by the time I got to X. Otherwise all hunky d.

  25. DNF at 30 with the tree unsolved. I liked this less than others did and thought the SEAWATER clue was just weird. NHO the camera or the bird but never mind, we move on, thank you Z, help much appreciated.

  26. I actually opened this puzzle by mistake, as I was trying to click on the QC (my normal milieu), and then I had done 3 or 4 of the first few clues before I realised it was in fact the 15×15. So I thought I would persevere, and eventually managed to finish the puzzle in about ½ an hour – fast for me. I needed aids for Araucaria (and the blog to parse it), and also to check that Ford Madox Ford (put in from checkers and wordplay, but NHO) was in fact a real person, but other than that it was all done and parsed OK. Questionmark though over Celebrity = Lion, which seems only a loose connection, and NHO Iconoscope (but the wordplay left no real option). But I will take a rare completed grid, all green, however one gets there.

    Many thanks Zabadak for the blog

  27. It seemed to get very easy towards the bottom.
    4a never saw the RAUCoUS.
    3d MADAME never parsed correctly. I just took MA and DAME as a term used in westerns, which was a poor idea compared with the right answer.
    8d ALLY, never found the rALLY.
    17d SEAWATER failed to locate the awa and missed the se(t)ter, just because I was zooming along and didn’t look very hard.
    I am sure many of the NHOs are forgottens as everything has been in previous Xwords, like M-D-M, the iconoscope and tigers eye.
    Am happy with LION=celebrity as in lionising as a well used verb.

  28. A fairly rapid finish for me in 29.15, but the last five of these were taken up by 4ac and 8dn. Eventually ALLY came to me, but only after I finally abandoned the idea that the word was derived from a five letter word without the letter P. I then finally managed to carefully construct ARAUCARIA from the cryptic direction.

  29. It would be John Graham’s 103rd birthday on Feb 16th. (Araucaria). I remember his name being celebrated in crossword clues when he died in 2013, pretty sure in the Times.
    I usually do the crosswords days later so don’t join in the comments, but thank you everyone, they are always entertaining.

  30. Cheated by double-checking ARAUCARIA was actually a tree and revealing the NHO LION. Also needed some help parsing SEAWATER and NOBLEWOMEN – thanks Z. Liked ANNEX and the Italian look in ARMADILLO.

  31. Am I the only one who saw ERECTABLE immediately? Can’t quite fathom all the confusion about voting. (Though it didn’t help that I initially put it in misspelled as ERECTABE into the wrong light at 17 dn. Doh!) COD was ANNE-X. Deliciously deceptive surface.
    Re: consonant-doubling, Arabic has a neat trick of indicating it via a diacritic ‘shad-da’. No need to repeat the letter itself. Like Italian, you must actually sound the doubling (as in ‘fish-shop’ or ‘red devil’).

    1. Bengali has a minimal separation in the pronouncing of double consonants, as in ad[-]da, a lovely word meaning simply getting together and enjoying conversation, maybe the odd song or telling of a poem or tale, whatever, what Anglophones might well call ‘hanging out’, which completely misses the treasured side of something ordinary.

      1. Nice word to have. I’ll try and remember it. Sounds a little like the sense of the Irish ‘craic’.

    2. It’s just that electable seems more familiar, possibly through its un- version which gets applied to politicians of all parties. Erectable seems like an oxymoron applied to IKEA wardrobes!

  32. 21 min., last in the damn tree which took a while to get (back) to. Started off with a reed warbler for some reason. All a bit one-two-clunk.

  33. 17:34 but another with a careless ELECTABLE. Topped it off with another careless biff, ELDERMANIC. Drat! Thanks setter and Z.

  34. 10.20 so I’m guessing there are some very impressive times recorded today. Nothing very daunting or exciting, though I did have a tremor when I got a pink square. But I did know the answer and thick fingers had recorded seawater as aeawater!
    One of the downsides of not using a pen and paper.

  35. 24:13 but…

    ELECTABLE here too – had six letters already in E___TABLE so only needed to enter three more – at least I’m not alone 🙂 Had forgotten ARAUCARIA (though couldn’t have definitively told you what its more familiar name was) – really though, whoever thought that something presumably in Latin that nobody would ever remember was a good name for a tree?

    1. But all trees and plants have botanical Latin names. The oak is Quercus Robus to a botanist…

  36. My LOI, after an endless time staring at it, was NOBLEWOMEN where I couldn’t decipher the cryptic and couldn’t see the word though it should have been obvious enough and it was clearly Noble-something. Everything else was both solvable and parseable, ranging from the ingenious ARMADILLO to the gimme – NSW or F Madox F. Enjoyable apart from the one I couldn’t see…

  37. 8:46. Steady solve, jumping around the grid a fair bit.
    Not only do I remember the great ARAUCARIA, I have one of his puzzles hanging on the wall of our downstairs loo. My wife commissioned it, and it includes numerous clues referring to our kids and other features of our life. A super birthday present.

  38. Our blogger wonders if there might be some of ARAUCARIA’s old clues here. I haven’t checked, but I’d guess not. I seldom got anywhere with his crosswords, though I always enjoyed unravelling them once the solutions were published, but today’s offering in The Times was a breeze which blew over in 18 minutes. (Actually, The Guardian didn’t put up much of a fight today either. I must be having a good day.)

  39. I looked up armadillo and it has loads of teeth. So though the parsing worked I couldn’t figure out the definition part.

  40. I also fell foul of ‘electable’. It would have been a good clue if only the anagram fodder had been right.

  41. A very rare finish for me, in 20:26. Very pleased with that and loved ARAUCARIA (though would never have worked it out from the word play had I not known the tree).

    Thanks for the witty blog, Z.


  42. Came across Ford Madox Ford recently because he appears in Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. He was a literary mover-and-shaker around the time of the first war. If I remember correctly, he helped promote the Imagist poets — one of whom, Richard Aldington, is buried near chez moi in Sancerre. Easy puzzle. 12’30”.

  43. Slightly disappointed to DNF after 56mins but as I’ve NHO AZAUCARIA and didn’t know RAUCOUS meant harsh, I was never getting that. Also NHO REED-BUNTING but got there via the reed-warbler and reed-banners which went when I remembered TIGERS-EYE. Also NHO ICONOSCOPE or that flying birds are awing.

    On the other hand, happy to dredge up FORD-MADOX-FORD for a crossword I did some months ago where I went for a middle name involving a -FOX !!! All in all, fairly pleased to almost complete

  44. 17 mins or so for me but unfortunately was also in the ELECTABLE camp (‘clever definition’, I had thought when filling it in).

    As a student some friends and I would have a go at the Guardian crossword and we were always happy to see the name Araucaria, knowing there would be some fun clues. After a break of 30 odd years I’m very glad to have rediscovered cryptic crosswords a year or so ago.

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