lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ode to Joy

The Guardian Prize puzzle's solution was published yesterday and now I can talk about it.

It's not as though the entire cryptic crossword puzzling world is hanging on every word of mine, but many people do 'Google' for crossword clues, so it would have been unethical to blog about this before the solutions came out.

Araucaria loves me. I have been dying to tell the world about it.

He knows I exist and blog; he said so (very much like the Beatles, yeah, yeah, yeah!) when he compiled a clue that featured me.

Oh, oh, oh. I hugged myself and spent a delirious minute revelling in it, before I let reality intrude.

I know Araucaria doesn't know me, of course, and that clue certainly didn't have anything to do with me. But, still and all, one is allowed to fantasise.

The twenty-second of July this year is etched bright in my list of special days. I solved the Guardian Prize puzzle in half an hour. I wasn't timing myself as such. You can't do that, with Araucaria, or any of the compilers in the Guardian crossword stable, not with the Saturday puzzles and certainly not on any day with some of them. Oh, you may do so, at your own peril and at the risk of feeling silly later.

I knew how long it took me to solve the puzzle because I had to answer the door once. While it disturbed and broke my concentration, the break enabled me to crack the last two that seemed impossible.

Over the years, I have become rather attuned to Araucaria, Bunthorne, and Paul. and I solve them quicker than I can solve Taupi, Enigmatist, Brummie or Shed. Don't let's talk about them. Not just now, okay? This is an Araucaria moment.

As is usual in Prize puzzles, there was a clue that ran to most of the grid.

6,7,8,2,18,1: Funny thing afoot- shy vernal youths go contemplating girls: Thus (in catalectic trochees) poem by 19 unfurls (2,3,6,1,5,4,5,7,5,2,8,2,4)

19 across, by the way, was: Poet and boxer Benn not initially included (8) Tennyson
Tyson with Benn, without the b inside Tyson.

I solved it by serendipity: even if one doesn't know one's Tennyson, but is well up one's Wooster and Wodehouse, it leaps out at you. And the old dear actually made it easy, so far as the big clue is concerned. It's a huge anagram, of course. And the kicker is that 'unfurls' is the anagram indicator, not 'funny.'

The thing to do when faced with a huge quotation the compiler is inviting you to figure out is to sweat the small stuff. Figure out the small two or three letter words in between, or assign an arbitrary 'it' or 'the' or 'and'; then see what transpires.

But I didn't have to do all that, because vernal youths and Bertie Wooster more or less hammered the solution into my subconscious already, Tennyson notwithstanding.

"In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love."

But there were other little gems to solve and fill in before I could say "Yes!" and pump my fists and celebrate.

11 across: Leave bird, understood? (3,2) Got it
Go tit, heh!

15 down: No charge for accommodation for Yeats? (9) Innisfree

20 down: New as new as new city (7) Swansea.
It is easy, just break it down.

Hey, Lahar, listen up. You will like this one.
4 down: What stops one making Close bat? (8) Obstacle

5down: 4 to listener makes spike get bigger (6) Earwax
This took me sometime to figure out- obstacle to listener or ear? Is it a homophone or a homograph?

27 across: Left like godmother at christening? (7, 3, 4) Holding the baby
No need for explanation, once you get it.

12 across: Greek leader soon holds willing number (9) Agamemnon
The second m is the joke, game in anon, but you have to add a number.

21 down: Heard pair preserve bird (6) Toucan
This is a homophone; the sound of two with can, as in preserving.

24 across: Administration taking notes (5) Staff
This is a homograph.

26 across: Posh gear for prisoner outside a capital (9) Caparison
Complicated but simple really, as Captain Haddock says. Con outside a + Paris.

26 across: V is for volunteers in prospect (5) Vista
This requires some practice. TA is crossword shorthand for Territorial Army.

13 across: Vibrating outside line in tiresome style (8) Tryingly

And here is the clue Araucaria compiled for me.

22 Across: Bird needs a fight to have fun (4,5) Lark about.
Araucaria knows about me and reads my blog. He said so!

In your dreams, Lali.



Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

How, how, how do you do this? I've tried and tried and failed accpeting that word games are not my forte, much as I love words. I'm quite pathetic at Scrabble too. Surprisingly, I hate numbers but am super at Minesweeper.

4:24 pm  
Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

*accepting. gah.

4:25 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Hi MM. It gets easier as you keep at it. When I started doing crosswods some 23 years ago, I used to celebrate if I solved three or four in a day. Now I mope when I can't complete them quickly. How time flies!

Do keep visiting.

4:45 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

PS. You play Minesweeper? What's your best time? Mine is 111 seconds. :-)

5:06 pm  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

The mind boggles. Truly it does.

@MM- You need a corkscrew mind like Missus Em's for this.

5:46 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

No, Rajesh. This is how you say it to really convey the stupefying awe:

Ze ma-eend, eet bow-ggels!

Okay, whatever. Sheesh, Lali. I'm off to throw myself off a building.

6:13 pm  
Blogger Lahar said...

I got 6 or so. Superb stuff. Where do you get the grid? Or do you pay 25 pounds and subscribe to it?

And I'm geeky enough to have a 94 at Minesweeper ;) and 28 and 4 in the easier ones!

6:38 pm  
Blogger db said...

@ Lalita:

All your posts interest me, but for the crossword ones .. Oh how I wish my verbal skills weren't so retarded !!

7:01 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rajesh- Child, you embarrass me.

Rimi- No, darling. Don't do it. Thou shalt get there by and by.

Lahar- Sigh. I subscribed when they went that route. What to do, I am a junkie only. :-) I even blogged about it.

But 94? I am impressed. Perhaps I can say age hath its privileges? For my age, it's a wonderful time record. 25 and 5 for the easier levels. Ha!

Ram- Don't sell yourself short, there is a dear.

8:41 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

This is brilliant, Lali. I am sure Father Graham will love you when he reads this.

I particularly liked the he said so bit. Esoteric, but fun for us old fogies.

11:14 pm  
Blogger db said...

@ Lalita:

Words thoughtfully heeded ..

1:38 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ash- Us old fogies? Us old fogies? US OLD FOGIES? Who are you calling an old fogey? Is this a new method of suicide?

Ram- Good lad. ;)

7:21 am  
Blogger Siva Sivaaa said...

MAD COW disease: Mutually Assured Destruction- Consequence Of War. The world is mad, so read my blog and chill. :D

I do. I do. And I'm going mad, after reading all the crossbones..oops..crossword stuff from a crossword junkie :p

2:23 pm  
Blogger Priya said...

First I thought I shall just read and quietly leave. But then the incestuous circle as it were, would have been left incomplete. So, I'm off to follow Rimi. Feel like a retard after reading this, really. More of "2 make frndsip" kinds posts for us philistines, please:P

2:27 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Siva- *lifts a sardonic eyebrow* Come now. If this was a techie problem you'd solve it in minutes. Look at it as a series of instructions, and figure out the solution. Simple. :D

Priya- One 2 mk frndshp post, coming up, ma'am. *salutes briskly*

3:16 pm  
Blogger Raj said...


"Bertie Wooster more or less hammered the solution into my subconscious already". The last thing one would suspect Wooster of doing.

But,wow anyway.

3:01 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Raj- I know, the things one remembers for years on. And I can't recall where I left my spectacles, so I am squinting at the monitor now. The vagaries of memory!

3:38 pm  
Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

Best time at expert level is 120. Others 35 and 5. Hmm, looks like I have a long way to go before I catch up with Lalita and Lahar. But what, you guys must spend even more time than me playing Ze Game! Incredible!

BTW, did you know J K Rowling is a Minesweeper fan and her best time is around 90?

10:33 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

MM- You don't say? JKR is superfast then. My times hover around 120, mostly, too.

The thing is, I use MInesweeper as a substitute for contemplating my navel. It helps when I am thinking something through, arranging thoughts or deciding how to say something.

2:53 pm  
Blogger Asheesh said...


You are really amazing. I have knon some great cross word geniuses but you top them all. As for myself I am really pathetic at the cryptic may say that the tubelight never lights up.I wish you write a blog giving some general directions...(if there are any).

5:06 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Asheesh- Hi.

I do talk about how cryptic clues are tackled but if I wrote a detailed tutorial it would bore most of my readers to tears, I'm afraid.

Let's talk further.

7:12 am  

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