Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 23,944: Thank Puck it’s Friday

Posted by michod on December 8th, 2006


Is it just me, or have the crosswords been getting harder since we started reviewing them? This one took a good half-hour, with half a dozen or so clues coming quickly, then a slow plod through with one last big heave to conquer the south-west corner.


1. FIREBRAND. FIRE+BRAND. Came very easily, sack as a verb bringing fire to mind first.

 6. SPAM. Nice dual meaning – spam= virtual junk, using virtual rather loosely to mean existing in your computer as opposed to in real life.

11. AMBERGRIS. MARRIES BIG* – I. ‘Shot’ as in ‘shot to pieces’ as anagram indicator.

12. CROATIA. CROA* + TIA. Quite hard. Obviously an anagram of orca, but what about the other three letters, and who was Maria’s predecessor? Ahh, Tia maria the drink. One of several clues with minimal definition – ‘where’ to mean ‘a geographical place-name.

12. CUSTODY. CU’S TOD(a)Y. Copper’s usually CU or PC, the former appears in more words. Nice misdirection, leading you towards ” copper now – a place = suspect” rather than “copper now – a = place for suspect”.

 14. TOAD-IN-THE-HOLE:  DEATH IN HOTEL* around O. Almost topical – shame it had to be oxygen not polonium. Course is a very weak definition for this – surely it”s a dish?

 21. AGRIPPA: GRIP in A PA. One of the last – my knowledge of the Classics is weak, but he was a Roman general.

24. TRENCHANT: Pass. Cutting’s the def, C can be Charlie, but where are the other two?

25. IRATE. (p)IRATE. Ref Long John Silver – shouldn’t it be “e.g. Silver”? 

26. NUTS. Again, I see the def, but not the wordplay.

27.  EXPENSIVE. (E + X + SEVENIP*). Quite tricky to see how you anagram 71p – you have to think of it as 7-1-P to make it work.



2. RONEO. R-ONE-O. Nice clue. Roneos were around in the dark days when photocopiers were cutting-edge and faxes were sci-fi.


4. ADAMANT. Legendary rock/ 80s singer Adam Ant. Best known for the silly highwayman costume, though the first Ants album had a couple of good tracks on it.

5. DEBACLE. BAC(h) IN DE LE. Which is not correct French, of course – it should be DU – but you have to translate ‘of’ and ‘the’ separately.   


8. MOSTYN. STY in MON. “In which pigs are=sty. Flintshire is in North Wales, though technically abolished in the 1972 local government reorganisation and now part of Clwyd, I believe.

9. BRISTOL FASHION. Ref Bristols as rhyming slang for breasts, but ‘order’ as a definition seems weak.

18. LEAFAGE. (A FAG in LEE). Def=”which a tree provides”.

19. NONSTOP. OpinioN ON ST OPhelia. And I thought it was a nunnery reference.

20 .CARTON. CAR + TON. Last one for me – Focus = car, heavyweight = ton, boxer as in someone boxing goods up, so arguably a carton is part of one’s kit. Hmm!

22 Responses to “Guardian 23,944: Thank Puck it’s Friday”

  1. says:

    what the puck? Sorry can’t help with NUTS I don’t see the wp either… something to do with strings?

    Thanks for resolving 20D for me — I ended up with ?A?TON and couldn’t finish. The irony is that I’m renting a Ford Focus at the moment. Pathetic.

  2. says:

    I think it’s TREN(CHAN)T — ref. Charlie CHAN and Philip TRENT who are both dicks (detectives). I knew about Charlie but had to look Philip up.

  3. says:

    There’s some promising stuff here but some of it seems to need good firm editing. Part of the problem for me was “(4-2,3-4)” for 14A on the website, possibly done better in print. “thrown up” in 17A doesn’t seem much good as a way of referring to “fling”, and there’s nothing for the HIGHLAND part. Ironically, Don M’s book uses the same answer to illustrate an “inadequate cryptic definition” which seems to give more help than this clue. The Dicks stuff doesn’t make sense even with the detective knowledge. “Dick Philip hugging colleague Charlie” or something similar seems to work better without spoiling the surface. How “baked” is an anagram indicator (3D) is beyond me.

    Nut: it’s the little ridgy bit at the top end of the fingerboard on a violin or similar instrument, or the held end of the bow. In Collins, so legit but pretty tough.

  4. says:

    I think the reviewer has been extremely generous to Puck, whose crossword has provided this pedant with a feast!

    1ac – is okay.
    6ac – has a good primary definition, but feels to me as if an excuse was needed to get the ‘junk food’ joke in.
    10ac – may not need the question mark.
    11ac – ‘married’ but not ‘marries’ is abbreviated to M. An unforced error, I think.
    12ac – ‘where’ seems insufficient as a definition. It makes the clue sound like some kind of &Lit, or semi&Lit, which it isn’t.
    13ac – is okay.
    14ac – extends to ‘case of’ unnecessarily – and ‘possible’ for the anagram indicator?
    17ac – weakish cryptic definition.
    21ac – is okay.
    22ac – at least this doesn’t resort (as it were) to Retsina
    24ac – Trent and Chan are indeed ‘Dicks’, but the clue’s written to accommodate the surface and not the solver.
    25ac – ‘when’ aids the surface only – and it is the old headless pirate gag!
    26ac – contains obscure reference to instruments.
    27ac – quotes not needed when capitalising the T is fair. What might be unfair is the indirect anagram.

    1dn – does ‘looking okay’ equal LICIT? If it does, then forgive me.
    2dn – okay.
    3dn – ‘a’ redundant – not sure if break truly = breathing space.
    4dn – liked this a lot.
    5dn – it’s that ‘of the’ French thing some compilers think fair.
    7dn – as this is probably an obscure word for most daily solvers, should it really be an anagram?
    8dn – pigs = sty? Not on this farm.
    9dn – another ‘cryptic’ definition.
    15dn – possibly a tad amateurish on the surface.
    16dn – could be tighter: like the nounal anagram indicator.
    18dn – absolutely terrible, the worst element probably being the definition.
    19dn – nice hidden.
    20dn – unfair to indicate CAR with ‘Focus’. Good definition.
    23dn – ‘face’ added for the surface. I like q1 as a thought.

    Maybe this compiler is new to the Guardian. Good sign if so, but there are far better writers eager for a chance.

  5. says:

    8d: “in which pigs are” = STY so looking OK to me.

    17a: As for “throwing up” I thought that ‘up’ indicated up there in the north where the lands are high. But maybe I’m being generous.

  6. says:

    Thanks to Ilan and Pete for clearing upTRENCHANT and NUTS. I agree that the former doesn’t really work and the latter is extremely obscure. If my review was generous, Miss Pedant’s can only be called TRENCHANT, and I accept most of her points. In 11ac ‘married’ is part of the anagram, not an indicator for m, and in 16dn the anagram indicator is ‘accidentally’ – not very good, but not nounal – but even pedants make mistakes, and I vote Miss P is given the next available slot!

  7. says:

    Forgive me, but somehow I don’t think that was the intended reading! In either case I don’t like the look of the cryptic grammar.

    On the Fling, the mighty PB could have missed the ‘up’ (which usually means ‘riding’). I did see it, but couldn’t justify.

  8. says:

    I said that accidentally, Mich.

  9. says:

    The “mighty PB” did miss any Highland connotations from “up”, but doesn’t think there was much to miss in this case. In his speed-solving haste he misses things more often than some folk seem to think.

  10. says:

    Oddly enough, I seemed to get the ‘contentious’ ones quickly enough (17 ac, 24 ac etc). I was stumped by the clues that everyone else seems to have found straightforward – never heard of RONEO or PERGOLESI and had to resort to Chambers Word Wizard and Google. As for CROATIA, the TIA part evaded me until the end when all the other letters were in place- I should drink more!

    As a side note – I notice the Guardian puzzles have been getting quite a few more comments than the Independent ones – in my case, I do not get the Independent so obviously can’t comment on their puzzles. But I wonder if this shows if the Guardian’s ‘rules’ are too lax and arouses more controversy, or if the Independent is too rule-bound and so more ‘predictable’!

  11. says:

    I’d like to think that the Independent isn’t too rule-bound. I’m very keen to encourage innovation, such as Nestor’s “Mesh” using the idea that it’s the way Sean Connery would pronounce ‘Mess’ and Monk frequently asks “Can we try this?” when he comes up with a new device. I’m no strict Ximenean – my main criterion is fairness. A clue can be difficult, but it should be fair. At the same time, I don’t want to homogenise the crosswords and I like to allow the setters to display their individuality.

    Also, I wouldn’t seek to compare my editing style with the good Prof or indeed anyone else. We all have our own ideas, and that’s as it should be, to maintain the individuality of the papers.

  12. says:

    Maybe it’s the Guardian’s readers who are more Cruciverbally Correct, while the Indy’s are a relatively liberal bunch.

  13. says:

    And maybe not!

    Of course it’s always a matter of opinion, but I feel the G needs to pull it together at least a bit. At the moment many puzzles are too loose, and seem to lack a relationship to each other – the kind of communal spirit which IS very evident between the Indie offerings, for some reason.

    Puck gets maybe 4 out of my 10.

  14. says:

    Perhaps the Guardian’s reach is simply far broader that the Independent because it has an online service (hint hint) and thus generates more interest?

  15. says:

    The online service may well make a difference to the number of comments (assuming this reflects no. of solvers). But I think it’s also to do with long-standing tradition. Araucaria in particular got lots of his fans 20-30 years ago, when there was no Independent. In those days, if you wanted thematic 15×15 puzzles, the Guardian was just about the only show in town.

  16. says:

    I hope Puck won’t be put off by Miss Pedant’s remarks, some of which are a little unfair, and one or two inaccurate. Where I come from an anagram is an advisable device for indicating “obscure” words like PERGOLESI.
    Otherwise, “Baked” passes muster as an anagrind with meat least. I agree that some of the clues were a little “loose” but there were enough bright ideas here to suggest to me that with some fine-tuning Puck could become a favourite with many.

  17. says:

    You reckon fgbp? I hated it and assumed it must be another promotion of one of the Quiptic setters.

    Yes, what’s the gen with The Indy ceasing its online service, anyone know?

  18. says:

    Anagrams are definitely UNFAIR for the indication of obscure words, as solvers may not necessarily deduce the letter order – even with some checked letters to help. And with PERGOLESI offering a good number of alternative possibilities, I’m with The Pedantic One on this.

    As to fine-tuning, I think Pete suggested that a Good Edit could have helped this puzzle out somewhat, and I agree with that too.

  19. says:

    Fletch: My understanding is that the Indy stopped having a xwd service because it wasn’t making enough money. Poke around in some comments made noe ortwo weeks ago and you’ll find comments from the editor and a setter with more detail. Can’t remember where the comments are, I’m afraid, and I don’t know a place where you can search blog comments.

  20. says:

    Thanks for the answer Peter. I haven’t done the poking around, I wouldn’t know where to start but what I don’t understand is if The Times and Guardian find it viable, why The Indy doesn’t.

  21. says:

    Quick summary of what eimi said re online Indy: it’s a money-loser.

  22. says:

    Certainly a spot of tighter editing wouldn’t have gone amiss on this, but there were some good ideas. And I admit that PERGOLESI is not the most felicitous choice for “obscure anagram” fodder – if it is obscure: even a near zero in music like me has heard of him, altho’ that may be from doing too many puzzles!
    I’m puzzled a little by the comment that Guardian puzzles need to relate more to each other? How so? But I agree that the Indy is a class act just now.

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