Never knowingly undersolved.


Posted by Eileen on November 7th, 2008


I’m sure there’s a witty title that could be given to this very ingenious and entertaining puzzle, with its themes of days and British pop but I found the puzzle itself challenging enough!  There are a couple of clues that perhaps Andrew or someone else can help explain more fully.

[  ]* = anagram

< = reverse


9   OPPORTUNE: OP PO R TUNE [AIRE  homophone of AIR]
10 OTAGO: hidden answer – quOTA GOod
12 RESTART: RES[TAR]T – rest as in snooker, I presume.
13 DUETS: TUESD[a y]*
14/16 WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES: [the mini-theme of the puzzle]: [A DANCE DEFY KARMA AS THE WIFE]*
21 FIGHT: TGIF< round H [first sign of hiccuping]
22 PONTOON: this is the first clue I need help with
23 BRITTEN [British composer [1913-1976]: BRIT[ish]  – a subgenre of alternative rock, which emerged in the early 1990s, characterised by bands such as Oasis and Blur + TEN
24,20 BLACK MONDAY: [MOBY DICK ANAL]* minus I [symbol for current]: 19th October 1987, the day when stock markets around the world last crashed.
25 ULULATION: NO 1 TA LULU < : this has been one of my favourite onomatopoeic words since I first came across it in its Latin version used by Virgil to describe the sounds of the Trojan women when their city fell.


1  SOUTH DOWNS: SOUTH [DOWN] – like this clue – ‘S [bridge player – potential bidder] : the South Downs are a range of hills in South East England.
2  EPHEMERA: [another lovely word!]: EP HEM ERA: an excellent surface reading, I thought.
3  TRADES: hidden answer – exTRA DESk
4,11: RUBY TUESDAY: [BUY A RUSTY D[atsun] E[state]]*: Rolling Stones song from 1966
6  GOSSAMER: [OGRESS + A + M]* [yet another favourite word]
7  DAMASK: D[istrict] A[ttorney] MASK: DAMASK is a fabric of silk or linen, usually, with a pattern woven into it, which takes its name from Damascus, where it originated
8  MOST: M[onday] [SO]* T[uesday] The surface reading made ‘to’ [and the question mark] essential, and so Puck is excused!
15 SWEETENING: this is the other one I need help with.
18 NIGHT AIR: dd
21 FRIDAY: T[hank] G[od] / G[oodness] I[t’s] F[riday]: [FAIR D[a]Y]* – ‘vacation’ means DRY is ’empty’ – very neat.
23,20 BLUE MONDAY: [BUY ME AN OLD]*-‘fashioned’ makes a great anagram indicator: BLUE MONDAY – a song released by the British band New Order in 1983

27 Responses to “GUARDIAN 24,540 / PUCK”

  1. grunos says:

    22across pontoon. somert to do with needing 21 in pontoon, and pontoon being a bridge. don’t think it relates to 21 across.
    15 down sweetening. top of singles “s”, making number 1, “weeing”! around ten

  2. mhl says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. I really enjoyed the musical theme in this puzzle – lots of fun.

    For 22 across, I think the joke is that it’s an overlapping double definition: pontoon is another name for “21” or vingt-et-un, as well as being something one might fight over (in the temporary military bridge sense).

    I’m also stuck on how the subsidiary part of 15 down works.

  3. mhl says:

    Oops, sorry Grunos – I spent too long writing my message. I suppose you’re right, it’s just “21” and “across over this, perhaps”.

  4. Andrew says:

    Grunos has beaten me to it! 21ac is very clever. As Eileen says, a very enjoyable puzzle, though I was confused by not finding a few more days of the week there…

  5. Eileen says:

    Thank you both. I don’t know how I missed the ’21’ in 23 ac. I taught my grandchildren how to play Pontoon!

    But I’m really kicking myself over 15dn: I was the one who put Uncle Yap right re ‘Number one tube network’ a few weeks ago – and that was a Puck puzzle, too!

  6. conradcork says:

    re 14/16 I am a bit concerned. I have the sheet music to this 1934 song and the title is ‘What a Diff’rence a Day Made’. Why did Puck take two liberties with it?

  7. Martin says:

    Surely 22 ac is “pindown” – which brings a wrestling bout to an end (“fight over”) – not “pontoon”?

  8. Andrew says:

    Conrad: there are versions of the title with both “makes” and “made” – has “makes” in its Hall of Fame list, for example – though “made” seems to be more authentic, and all versions have “diff’rence”. (This kind of thing is often done in song lyrics to get the right number of syllables for the music.)

    Martin – I guessed PINDOWN too, for the same reason, but I think PONTOON works better.

  9. Eileen says:

    Conrad, I found this on Wikipedia:

    “What a Difference a Day Made” is a popular song originally written in Spanish by María Méndez Grever (a.k.a. María Grever), a Mexican composer, in 1934. Originally, the song was known as “Cuando Vuelva A Tu Lado”. The English lyrics were written by Stanley Adams, made famous by Harry Roy & his Orchestra. It was published in late 1934. The song is in the Bolero romantic style and it is also known as “What a Difference a Day Makes”.

    I remember the Dinah Washington 1959 version, which did have the latter title.

    Martin, I didn’t know that word and it certainly sounds a plausible alternative. I’d put in ‘pontoon’ as being the only word I knew which fitted, and resorting to the ‘cheat’ button, I find that that is the answer given.

  10. conradcork says:

    Thanks, Andrew and Eileen. One lives and learns (well, lives anyway).

  11. beermagnet says:

    1D Can someone please explain to this bridge ignoramus why 1 Down is SOUTH DOWNS rather than, say, NORTH DOWNS?

  12. Eileen says:

    Beermagnet: the only reason I put in SOUTH DOWNS was that, to my shame, I wasn’t aware of the North Downs. [I, too, only know bridge terms from crosswords.] After more Wiki-ing, I find that the North Downs are also a range of hills in South East England and, after again pressing the Cheat button, SOUTH DOWNS is the answer given.

    It’s not often that we get two absolutely equally valid answers. I suppose, if it were a prize crossword, you could feel a bit annoyed if you’d gone for the ‘wrong’ one.

  13. Andrew says:

    I think it was in Don Manley’s book that I read that in the early days of crosswords there was a type of prize puzzle where some (definition only) clues were deliberately ambiguous: he gives the example “A yellow addition to food”, with crossing letters ?USTARD. Perhaps they used “Range of hills” = ?O?T?DOWNS too…

    By the way, there’s a programme on cryptic crosswords on BBC4 next Monday, featuring Don M and Colin Dexter.

  14. mhl says:

    Or could it be that the bidder means the opening bidder, who (if I remember correctly) can’t end up being north, since north is dummy? It’s been a long time since I last played bridge, so I’m a bit hazy on the rules and terminology.

  15. Andrew says:

    Nice try Mhl, but the the opening bidder *can* end up as dummy.

  16. mhl says:

    Actually, I realise that’s nonsense. Ignore me :)

  17. C G Rishikesh says:

    Andrew says: “I think it was in Don Manley’s book that I read that in the early days of crosswords there was a type of prize puzzle where some (definition only) clues were deliberately ambiguous…”

    If I remember right, this type of crosswords was published in Titbits in the Fifties. I referred to it as “lottery crossword” in another thread yesterday.

  18. Eileen says:

    I was so taken with the surface reading of 2dn that I omitted to include the definition; EPHEMERA are insects that, in their winged state, live only for a day.

  19. C G Rishikesh says:


    Anent your comment against the solution at 25a:

    I too often remember where and when I first came across some of these beautiful words.

    Take ‘coruscate’, for example.

    That was when I read ‘The Coral Island’ (by R. M. Ballantyne) as a boy of some 16 years.

    The prescribed book was a simplified and abridged version that did not have the above-mentioned word but I always went in for the original!

  20. Roger Murray says:

    Found this hard to get into but really enjoyed it once I did. Another good week for me, thanks to all on the blog for your commitment to helping those of us who are relative newcomers to this lovely form of entertainment. To other apprentices I say stick with it, the rewards are worth it and it does get easier(well apart from Enigmatist!)

  21. Eileen says:

    A rather discursive comment to finish [?] with but many thanks to all who helped out today. A week ago, Don talked about ‘do-it-yourselfers’ as opposed to ‘bloggers’. After this, my third blog, I still consider myself in the first category. Blogging is huge fun – but absolutely terrifying! – and it’s great to know that there’s all that support on hand.

    On 27th October, Puck [the one with a penchant for ‘micturitical’ clues] identified himself as a setter who does read the blog. If you’re out there, Puck, I’d be really pleased to hear your definitive explanation of 22ac. I’m grateful for all the suggestions but still can’t quite see how it all hangs together. Many thanks for a really enjoyable puzzle.

    I’ve been mentioning some of my favourite words today. My favourite of all is SERENDIPITY, which was, incidentally and quite irrelevantly, the name of the robot dog in Tom Tom [?] which my children watched on children’s television. It’s the word I apply to my discovery of fifteensquared, for which I’m eternally grateful. Thank you, Roger, for your comment: it’s absolutely true that it does get easier – as I have found, after a lifetime of crossword-solving, since contributing to this website.

  22. Eileen says:

    PS: How could I have forgotten to say? – Guardian solvers may not all have picked this up from the Independent crossword thread but today is the second anniversary of the fifteensquared website. Many congratulations and huge thanks to Neil!

  23. Puck says:

    Eileen, thanks for the blog and I’m glad you enjoyed some of the solution words as well as the puzzle itself!

    In reply to your query in regard to 22ac, my intention was two definitions for Pontoon: “21” as twenty-one, another name for the card game; and “across over this, perhaps” referring to the bridge. Of course,the inclusion of “21 across” in the surface reading of the clue was mischievously intended to mislead solvers to interpret the clue as “Fight over this, perhaps”. As has been suggested above, people have fought over pontoon bridges, but that was not my main intention and I would not consider it fair on its own, as there are doubtless many other things and places fought over that have seven letters.

    Apologies to all for the two possible solutions to 1dn. I myself never spotted ‘North Downs’ as a possibility and somehow this also escaped the usual checks and edits.

    Finally I would like to add my congrats too to 15squared on its anniversary.

  24. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Puck, for taking the trouble to reply: it’s good to hear from you.

  25. don says:

    I’m surprised, Eileen, you seem to accept without comment ‘across over this, perhaps’ as a suitable clue for ‘pontoon’. I’ve tried to put the phrase into a sentence (‘I walked across over the pontoon; I acrossed over the pontoon), but can’t make a sensible sentence. I think ‘pindown’ would have been a much fairer answer.

  26. Eileen says:

    I don’t think I’ve a problem with this, Don. I’m taking it as across = over this.

    My difficulty was with the 21: I’d heard Pontoon called Vingt-et-un but, surprisingly I now realise, not 21.

  27. Ingrid says:

    Scene: A River Bank

    How did you arrive here?

    I got across over this (points) pontoon.

    They embrace.


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