Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,616 – Puck

Posted by Ciaran McNulty on February 6th, 2009

Ciaran McNulty.

Puck seems to be in a thirsty, miserable mood, with a number of references to drinking / being drunk as well as depression in the clues. Quite a few tricky ones today, I found, that even with all the checking letters took a while to sort out.

(X) = inserted
(x) = removed
* = anagram
dd = double definition


9. AILING. dd. An ai is a type of sloth, so a young one could be an ai-ling.
11. GAS POKER. GASP(OK)ER. A type of firelighter.  Gasper is slang for a cigarette.
12. G-MAN.  Backwards in vietNAM Going.
15. LOTHAIR. L((b)OTH)AIR. Any of a number of Holy Roman Emperors.
16. SIXTEEN.  EXISTEN(tialist)*.  Here is ‘at sixteen’.
18. AULD REEKIE. LIKEARUDE*. Nickname for Edinburgh.
19. EDEL.  EDEL(“weisse”).  Irish form of Ethel.
20. CARPETED. CAR + PET + ED. Rover is a car, a setter is a pet, and Ed is a short name.
22. OOLITE. E.LOO backwards around IT.
23. MENHIR. ME + N + H + IR.


2. DOWN IN THE DEPTHS. Down is feathers, one plumbs the depths.
3. PANTHERINE. EH backwards in TRAPNINE*.
5. MARS. eMbArRaSs.  Neighbouring planet to Earth.
14. WHITE HORSE. Breaking waves are called white horses, as was Silver, the Lone Ranger’s horse.
17. SKID ROW. SKI + WORD backwards.
21. TARP. T(rees) A(s) R(ain) P(romise). Short for ‘tarpaulin’.

27 Responses to “Guardian 24,616 – Puck”

  1. Andrew says:

    Hi Ciaran, in addition to SIXTEEN being at 16ac, it’s also a square.

    I found this generally quite easy, mostly because of guessing the long down answers early on. I’m not sure about DOWN IN THE DEPTHS – is that really a standard expression for “depressed”? Hmm, on googling I see it’s (part of) the title of a Cole Porter song that I’ve never heard of.

  2. Ian says:

    Some fairly unusual words today making it that little harder than normal. All in all characteristically Puck and extremely enjoyable.

  3. Geoff says:

    Bravo Ciaran.

    Nice little theme of discomfiture in the four long down answers. I enjoyed this puzzle a lot for the imaginative variety of clues (I loved ‘What stood up’ = HE and 9ac is very clever) and wide reaching vocabulary. Managed to complete the puzzle without recourse to dictionaries or the net – apart from EDEL, which eluded me.

  4. Andrew says:

    More nitpicking: I know white horses are waves, but is a white horse really a singular wave?

    (despite the nitpicking, I should say I did enjoy this one, despite the gloomy references.)

  5. Geoff says:

    Andrew: I think Puck’s question mark at the end of the clue for 14dn acknowledges that WHITE HORSE is not normally used in the singular to mean ‘wave’. The question mark often indicates that there is something vague or slightly iffy about the def.

  6. Andrew says:

    Ah, fair point Geoff. I was thinking of “Silver” being the iffy part, but it makes more sense the other way round.

  7. John says:

    When did ECONUT become an acceptable word? What does Mr Chambers say, those who have one?
    Is “drunk” really necessary in 7 dn? “Sickly” would have been enough wouldn’t it?
    What’s the meaning of “describing” in 18 ac?
    Enjoyable otherwise.

  8. TwoPies says:

    Thanks Ciaran. 18ac is LIKEARUDE* “around” E.

  9. smutchin says:


    10a – at least “econut” is a very up-to-date term! (cf recent discussions)

    18a – I interpreted “describing” in the sense of “making an outline”, ie “going around the outside of”.

    7d – The use of both “sickly” and “drunk” slightly puzzled me too. Are we both missing something? But the clue works anyway, which is all that really matters.

  10. Geoff says:

    John: I didn’t expect to find it, but my Chambers (1993 edition) does indeed list ECONUT!

  11. Geoff Anderson says:

    ‘describing’ = going around, as TwoPies says.

  12. Tom Hutton says:

    How are you supposed to know that Edel is an Irish girl’s name? Is it fairly common or in some well known work of literature? I don’t even know where you could look it up to check.

    20ac was horribly convoluted for my taste. ‘Perhaps setter’=dog and then ‘dog’=pet is a step too far for me.Once again I put the clue in from the cross letters without real reference to the cryptic.

    22ac was ugly.

    Having said that, there were some very enjoyable clues in this. (Lucky I had read Asterix though.)

  13. Geoff says:

    Agree with the explanations for ‘describing’ in 18ac. A very clever clue: it avoids the ‘in Scotland’ device that irritates so many of our regulars, but puts ‘English’ next to ‘city’, thereby misleading the solver.

    Difficult to imagine Edinburgh as being AULD REEKIE (‘Old Smoky’ in Scots) – even in pre-Clean Air Act days I would have thought that interminable east wind would have dispelled most of the smoke.

  14. John says:

    I’ve heard of “describing a circle”, but always took it to mean tracing the outline or something like that. I suppose my belt “decribes” my waist in a way. All too accurately.

  15. Derek Lazenby says:

    IT would have been easier if had got the big ones early too, but never mind, got there in the end.

    Strangely the first clue I got was a word I didn’t know, OSSICLES.

    20ac, um I thought it was PETE being a short name in side CAD, a self depracating reference to the setter of the puzzle (given the alleged theme) with Rover as the “move it around” indicator. How strange, two totally different word plays in one! I suspect my one wasn’t intended.

    And it was a bit hard work at times (a couple fell to the cheat button, and rather more reliance on tools and guess work than I like), but being the brainless one that is normal for me and Puck.

  16. Ciaran McNulty says:

    Derek – aren’t you missing an ‘R’?

  17. Derek Lazenby says:

    Hah, well spotted. I was using the R of Rover as it was capitalised. Given the devious way some of these guys re-use words I didn’t give it a second thought. That’s the trouble with the Libertine idea, having broken the rules once it makes you see rule breakages where there are none.

  18. muck says:



    Auld Reekie, or Edinburgh; in the distance the castle, but everywhere there is smoke.

    Jpeg images: 467×500 32K, 656×703 186K, 875×937 287K, 1166×1249 437K

  19. Geoff says:

    Thanks for the link, Muck. Tongue was in cheek!

    Smutchin (if you’re still there): Have just done your puzzle “The Hidden Code” which I enjoyed a lot. Found 7 linked clues (6 characters and an object!). Will have a go at the others you have posted links to. I admire your fecundity – must be all those oysters…. BTW, what compilation software do you use/recommend?

    When Paul gets the interactive part of his website up and running we should be able to have these conversations in a more appropriate place.

  20. Dave Ellison says:

    I couldn’t get rid of the feeling of deja vu all through this – has this crossword been given before?

  21. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I initially thought 12ac should be T-MAN, and not G-MAN.
    You can read it as: going back somewhat in “Vietnam”, instead of back somewhat in “Vietnam going”.
    Because of the word “somewhat”, I decided to write: T + NAM (some of it back)
    And the trouble is, a G-Man is an agent, but a T-Man is that as well: a special law-enforcement agent of the United States Treasury, according the Crossword Compiler WordWeb.

  22. don says:

    I should have thought that AULD REEKIE was ’Old Smoky’ in EGNLISH?

  23. don says:

    Having failed to get to Edinburgh today, I also failed to get Auld Reekie, alas.

  24. Paul B says:

    Another slight on ‘Libertarians’ (and presumably ‘Araucarians’) as compared with holy ‘Ximeneans’, this one from Derek, but the closer you look at so-called rules, the harder they get to see. In any case, what are called Ximenean puzzles aren’t always free from ambiguity at the cryptic level, or even – on rare occasions, I admit – fully correct. And the same is true, generally, of non- or un-Ximenean work. But there *are* good and bad puzzles – perhaps that’s an easier, or at least more easily supportable distinction to draw.

    You’re probably not going to get a crock from Puck, who seems most conscientious, but there are more reliable sources …

  25. smutchin says:

    Geoff – thanks, glad you enjoyed it. I use Crossword Compiler, same as Ian Stark, who has used it to put his puzzles online. It’s not free but it’s extremely powerful and versatile (I’ve used a small fraction of its features so far) so it’s good value. Sympathy is also supposed to be very good and both are available as free downloads for evaluation, so it might be worth trying both to see which you prefer (I got CC before I’d heard of Sympathy, so haven’t compared). I think Sympathy is the one favoured by the pros.

    As for fecundity… writing clues is a good way to relieve the tedium of the daily train journey.

  26. Ian Stark says:

    Hmmm . . . I really couldn’t get into this one. Not necessarily because it wasn’t a good puzzle, rather that my mind has been elsewhere the last couple of days. I got about two thirds of the way through before deciding to call it a day. It didn’t help putting in DOWN IN THE GUTTER very early on, reading ‘blue’ as ‘smutty’. I personally found some of the clues a bit fiddly – MENHIR, for example – not sure I’m a fan of using all those abbreviations ME N H IR for a word I have never heard of. My shortcoming, not Pucks.

    Many new words for me – EDEL (hmmm), ECONUT (hmmm again), MENHIR, OOLITE, PANTHERINE, LOTHAIR and AI from AILING. Perhaps a few too many for me to comfortably get through this one without the books (which I didn’t have access to anyway, hence my conceding defeat at midninght!).

    To add to Smutchin’s comment, yes I use Crossword Compiler and, like Smutchin, I have only just scratched the surface. I try and avoid overuse of the anagram finder but it’s a very useful thing to have up your sleeve in the event of brain death! CC has excellent publishing facilities that make producing printed or online versions very easy. I hadn’t heard of Sympathy until I read about it in the previous post! Click on my name above to see the default (I think) online appearance of CC puzzles. I’ve now published a total of seven and I recommend The Realms of Fantasy (if I may!).

    Smutchin – loved your number 7. I got the theme immediately after associating the two most obvious clues with the title – I am not familiar with the theme in it’s original format but I knew the answers from a later rendition (trying not to give anything away to anyone yet to do the puzzle!). The only one I couldn’t get in it’s entirety was the object of the theme. Other clues of note: 16a, lovely; 2d, brilliant! Keep ‘em coming!

  27. mhl says:

    Thanks for the post on this one, Ciaran.

    The word MENHIR will be familiar to anyone who is a fan of the Asterix books – Obelix’s occupation is “menhir delivery man”…

    I thought this was a very good crossword, and the rather bleak theme that Ciaran referred to was quite a nice change.

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