Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,727 – Puck

Posted by Uncle Yap on June 16th, 2009

Uncle Yap.

dd = double definition
cd = cryptic definition
rev = reversed or reversal
ins = insertion
cha = charade
ha = hidden answer
*(fodder) = anagram

I found Puck such a delight to solve although I do have misgiving about the parochial slant for a puzzle that travels round the world. Preston (10A) is hardly a city (was there not a time when a place can only be called a city if it has more than a million residents?) and Prescott is hardly well-known outside the UK. We all know Manchester United and Arsenal and Chelsea and Liverpool but Sheffield Wednesday and The Owls? The Pussycat’s companion is better known.

1 BANANA Ins of NAN (Indian bread) in BAA, baa black sheep (bleat)
4 BENDER Cha of BEND (curve) E (east point) R (river)
9 CONVENIENCE FOOD CONVENIENCE (water closet or loo or gents) + ins of O (duck) in F (first letter of Fields) OD (overdose) What a creative use of “WC Fields” a cricketing hero of yore
10 VIOLET *(to live)
11 PRESCOTT Ins of COT (somewhere to sleep) in PRESTON minus ON (city when not working or on). Very lame def like defining Smith as carpenter (I am sure you will be able to find a carpenter with this surname) Probable allusion to John Leslie Prescott, former Deputy PM during Tony Blair’s time; but now an ordinary backbencher.
12 CHAMBERS Ins of MBE (honour) in CHARS (charladies or dailies)
14 SATURN Cha of SA (sex appeal or it) TURN (go)
15 CANNED dd The answer to 9 is “food (partly) prepared before sale so as to be ready, or almost ready, for the table” and I suppose most canned food are almost ready for consumption
18 ENTIRETY Ins of RE (Royal Engineers or serving men) in ENTITY (thing)
21 GRAF SPEE Grafs sounds like graphs (charts) pee (???)
22 OLDIES *(soiled)
24 FLUSHING MEADOWS Flushing (like a water closet) Meadows (Fields)
Tennis fans will readily identify the site of the US Open in Queens, NY. Another very creative (nay, inspired) use of “W.C.Fields)
25,26 CLOSET QUEENS Cha of CLOSE (near) T (last letter of defeat) QUEENS (area in NY where Flushing Meadows is)

1 BOORISH Ins of OOR (rev of KangaROO, jumper) in BISH (error)
2 NAVEL rha. I am reminded of “What does the Pope do in his bath-tub?” Answer: “Contemplating the problems of the unemployed” I wonder whether Dave Allen ever cracked this ….
3 NANETTE What a delightful but oblique allusion to No, No, Nanette that famous musical comedy
5 EXCEEDS EX (former) CEEDS (sounds like seeds, fancied players at, say, US Tennis Open)
6 DEFECATOR Ins of A (first letter of army) in DEFECTOR (deserter)
7 ROOSTER Ins of STE *(set) in RO & OR (other ranks)
8 HERPES Ins of R (first letter of ram) in *(sheep)
13 MANIFESTO Cha of MANIFEST (show) + O (first letter of off)
16 ACRYLIC *(Lycra) IC (first letters of in crop)
17 DEPRIVE Ins of PRIV (privy or closet minus last letter) in DEE (fourth letter of the alphabet)
18 EMERGE Ins of ER (Elizabeth Regina or a queen) in EM + GE (MG)
19 THOREAU This was my last clue as I really cannot parse the answer. Back to nature is, I think, the letter E which when added to AUTHOR and then with the thor element brought to the front to give  Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) , an American author who became very interested in nature in the twilight of his life.
20 THE OWLS *(hols wet) Nickname of Sheffield Wednesday, a football team in UK.
23 DODGE Remember the fairground bumping car attraction, Dodgem?

41 Responses to “Guardian 24,727 – Puck”

  1. chunter says:

    Hi Uncle Yap,

    Preston became a city in 2002. (London is the only city with a population of more than a million. Birmingham’s is slightly less.)

  2. Dawn says:

    Thanks for the blog but I really couldn’t get going with it at all today. I thought W.C. Fields was an actor many years ago – My Little Chickadee with Mae West I think.

  3. Eileen says:

    Hi Uncle Yap

    Re 21ac: Spee is pronounced ‘Spay’ or, rather, ‘Shpay’ so the [near] homophone is ‘graphs pay’.

    Re 9ac: dawn’s right: were you thinking of WG Grace? :-)

  4. RichardSmyth says:

    Hi. I think SPEE in GRAF SPEE is pronounced ‘spay’, so ‘prove an asset’ = pay.

    Think ‘original’ is the anagram indicator in 19. So *AUTHOR + E = THOREAU. I struggled to figure that one out too.

    Oh, and I think Dawn is right about WC Fields (as opposed to WG Grace…).

    Thanks for the blog. Good puzzle, I thought.

  5. Duggie says:

    Is there a theme here, what with so many references to bathroom activities in answers and clues. Isn’t that why John Prescott’s there?

  6. cholecyst says:

    Re Prescott: Well spotted Duggie! He’s in because of his expenses claim for multiple loo seats.

  7. cholecyst says:

    Re the lavatorial theme – have just twigged Chambers (chamber pots) is probably another.

  8. Dave Ellison says:

    Enjoyed this – just the right degree of difficulty to keep me entertained.

    19d is also an &lit, I think. original is probably the anagram indicator, as Richard says, and I assume Thoreau is one of the earliest back-to-nature bods. I did struggle with Walden several years ago, but it joined Milton on the pile.

  9. Al Streatfield says:

    Found the No, No, Nanette allusion incomprehensible.

    Isn’t BANANA a fruit rather than a 9(i.e. CONVENIENCE FOOD)? Perhaps it was a mistake and they meant 4 (the answer to which is BENDER, a banana-kick being something that bends).

    Didn’t like PRESTON or THE OWLS on the grounds that they are rather parochial, as has been suggested…

  10. Al Streatfield says:

    Found the No, No, Nanette allusion incomprehensible.

    Isn’t BANANA a fruit rather than a 9(i.e. CONVENIENCE FOOD)? Perhaps it was a mistake and they meant 4 (the answer to which is BENDER, a banana-kick being something that bends).

    Didn’t like PRESTON or THE OWLS on the grounds that they are rather parochial, as has been suggested…

  11. teesween says:

    In defence of Puck – it should be remembered that the puzzle appears in a British newspaper produced primarily for British people. If the outside world has grown fond of it, it is as it is and not made easy for those in Kuala Lumpur, or anywhere else.

  12. Uncle Yap says:

    Fair enough, but the preponderance of replies from USA, Canada, Australia,South Africa, Malaysia, etc etc (where Times, Guardian and Telegraph puzzles are syndicated all over the world and all the year round) should have prompted British compilers that they should be catering for worldwide audiences and not just the commuter from Syndenham Hill to Temple (that was the route I took to attend Peter B’s splendidly organised pub-do one day in May 2009)

  13. John says:

    “Such a delight”?? I hated it. Full of inaccuracies and obscurities.
    6 dn – “in case of deserter”? What’s case for?
    17 dn – “dee” as letter D?
    18 dn – “em” and “ge”? What’s that all about? Does “ge” = G? Why not “gee” as in “dee”?
    And the “shortly” is plain wrong.
    19 dn “original” as an anagrind?

    Al: 3 dn is an allusion to No No Nanette where “nose” sounds like “noes”. Not surprised you found it incomprehensible.

  14. teesween says:

    Uncle Y, surely your first words, “Fair enough, but the preponderance of replies from USA, Canada, Australia,South Africa, Malaysia, etc etc”, prove my point.

  15. brr says:

    A quick point on Sheffield Wednesday (The Owls). They might not be a modern day giant, but they are one of the oldest professional clubs in the world.

  16. JimboNWUK says:

    WHY should the setters cater for a global audience?? If you want to have a go then do so but do not bitch about local knowledge… I would not complain to an Indian producer that his Bollywood films were “too ethnic” nor the producer of god knows how many US sitcoms that the humour was “too american” — if you want to play then live with it and stop moaning.

  17. Brian Harris says:

    I really enjoyed this today, especially all the lavatorial references. (There were a few I didn’t pick up until I read this – eg how Prescott fits in with the theme). BTW, I didn’t think 11ac was a lame clue at all – >99% of UK readers will know who Prescott is. He’s something of a notorious figure over here, and I don’t think you can criticise an English newspaper for referring to him in their crossword. Ditto the Owls. There are frequently many more obscure and non-UK references in the Guardian crossword, and it’s a slippery slope to demand an ‘internationals-friendly’ set of answers. Thoreau, for example, is hardly a popular author over here.

  18. NeilW says:

    JimboNWUK – Sorry, I don’t agree. Surely we can seek the middle ground? As a UK graduate living overseas for too long, I should have the best of both worlds – but no! I solved 25,26 before 24 so, for me, the “location” was Queen’s Club, apostrophe or not – the tournament coming right before Wimbledon! Clever Uncle Yap got that one right although the reference is to the US. At the same time, “The Owls” had me completely stumped.

    Isn’t the answer, in this day and age of globalisation, to expect a good depth of worldwide ‘parochial” knowledge? Often enough we see Cockney rhyming slang clues interspersed with Aussie and American slang and why not? (See 1dn today!)

    Even confining clues to the English language doesn’t count – how many times do we see references to European words/locations?

  19. NeilW says:

    By the way, Uncle Yap, if you’re still awake, I always understood an English city to be one in which there was located a cathedral.

  20. John McDonald says:

    I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about – all the crosswords routinely expect a knowledge of British slang (e.g. chars for “dailies” or cleaning women. Or abbreviations for people in the armed forces “RE” “RA” or “OR” – none of which are common to other English speakers).

    Also, with the Internet affording access to newspapers from around the world, there is no reason why a person should not know about John Prescott, and, indeed, every other leading politician in the Labour Party (and the top Conservatives also) after the recent expenses scandal. In fact, John Prescott featured in several news stories a couple of years ago when he was found playing croquet at Dornywood rather than running the Government in Tony Blair’s absence.

    In fact, Puck’s puzzle is very international – expecting the solver to know about Indian bread, the names of the New York boroughs, Henry David Thoreau, the original “back to basics” author, makes of U.S. Cars and the names of German battleships. So it should come as no surprise that he expects you to know the nickname for Sheffield Wednesday, or the city of Preston, or the Australian slang for a kangaroo, etc.

    John McDonald

  21. NeilW says:

    John McDonald – my apologies for my poor exposition: blame it on the late hour here in Indonesia. Your point is mine exactly.

  22. greyfox says:

    John McDonald is spot on. All you Australian solvers would obviously have spotted the 1 and 4ac. link. A ‘Banana-bender’ being a Queenslander. An obscure connection with 25/26 ac. perhaps?

  23. Ygor says:

    As a US solver, I want to weigh in on the side of keeping the British local content in these puzzles. I got both Prescott and The Owls, and it’s likely that I learned about them from previous cryptics. It’s more fun to tune in to the language and culture of another country than to preen about filling in every square.

  24. Fred Dowson says:

    NeilW, a city is a town that has a royal charter as a city. It is a common misapprehension that cities need cathedrals.
    Sunderland was granted a Roayl City Charter in the Queen’s jubilee year although its major church is a minster, rather than a cathedral.

  25. don says:

    “Even confining clues to the English language doesn’t count – how many times do we see references to European words/locations?”


  26. Neil says:

    I really don’t understand any of the complaints above and appreciate all the lucid refutations.

    I thought this one of the very best, cleverest, and most amusing puzzles I have tackled recently. I chuckled at the 9 lavatorial references (yes, I am a Brit!) and the 5 with some sexual reference. I’m pretty sure a more careful analysis would find some more of each that I’ve missed (like ‘banana bender’, thanks greyfox: I got the ‘bender’ part). The last two I wrote in were 20d which couldn’t be anything else, with the anagram and crossing letters, though here in southernmost Devon I know nothing of Sheffield (except steel, once upon a time). The other was ‘Thoreau’ which proved deducible and checkable.

    Lighten up people! This was one of the really good ones.

    ‘Tis said the actor/comedian, W C Fields, was found reading the Bible on his deathbed. When asked why, he said: “I’m looking for loopholes”. (You need to do it in the voice for best effect).

    Al #10: eggs have also been described as a convenience food.

    Where’s Derek? I look forward to his reasoned irascibility. Or Eileen, with her beautifully balanced views?

  27. Neil says:

    Plymouth, too, is a city without a cathedral as, I believe, is Brighton and Hove. There will be others!

    Chunter (#1): did I misread you saying that Birmingham has a population of fewer than 1million?

  28. chunter says:

    Neil: You read it correctly! See, but note that it says ‘The population statistics refer to proper city zones, not metropolitan areas.’

  29. Jim says:

    As an American, one of my delights in learning to solve British crosswords has been the immense increase in my knowledge about all things British.

  30. Mister Sting says:


    I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it. I thought it was magnificent.

    3dn No No Nanette is certainly a blast from the past, but it did give us ‘Tea for Two’.

    In 6dn ‘deserter’ is being used as a case – it encases the a.

    17dn/18dn – ‘Dee’ ’em’ and ‘gee’ are standard spellings of the letters. They are every bit as legitimate as Greek letters, such as ‘pi’. ‘Shortly’ applies to ‘gee’ – hence ‘ge’.

    19dn is beautiful, with the whole clue acting as both definition and subsiduary indication. ‘Original’ can mean ‘a new form of’, as in ‘an original book’.

    Not to be too horribly parochial, but cryptic crosswords are terribly British things. They are full of cricketing terms, the monarchy (and specifically Elizabeth Regina – God knows how setters must pray that she’s immortal), various corps of the UK armed forces, etc. In any case, I was expected to drag ‘Flushing Meadows’ out of the cobwebbed recesses of my head. Even ‘The Owls’, who were strangers to me, were presented in what I’d consider a just fashion.

    Huzzah for Puck!

  31. Mister Sting says:

    A little extra note on cities. The boundaries of the ‘City of London’ – a quick Wikicheck informs me – “have remained almost constant since the Middle Ages”, and has a resident population of less than 10,000. It’s obscenely pedantic of me, I’m sure, but it seems hardly fair to limit the measurement of city populations by prescribed city zones, perverse though that sounds. Otherwise you’d be excluding me from my own, dear Glasgow.

  32. Mister Sting says:

    …and IT has a resident population…

  33. Dagnabit says:

    Count me as another US solver who agrees completely with Ygor and Jim.

    I too missed Derek, especially with CHAMBERS as an answer in today’s puzzle! By the way, could 12a also be a kind of cryptic definition, since Chambers Dictionary is “honoured” by this “daily” newspaper as one of its official reference sources for crossword answers?

  34. Puck says:

    Many thanks for the blog, Uncle Yap. I hope your misgivings didn’t spoil your enjoyment too much. No parochial slant was intended. Indeed the puzzle originally sprang from its American components (in particular Flushing Meadows and WC Fields) and then seemed to take on a life of its own with an unfolding of criss-cross themes and a mix of cultural references.

    Thanks too for other comments. The Prescott link to the WC theme strand via his loo seat expenses was a happy coincidence, as I set the puzzle prior to that news coming out. ‘Banana bender’ was intentional, linked to its two definitions in the Urban Dictionary (Queenslanders/homosexuals), although the first of these is its common usage. For banana as a convenience food, try Googling ‘banana convenience food’.

    In hindsight, Preston=city was perhaps a little unfair since it is such a recent addition to the list.

    And Neil at #26, thanks for reminding me of that WC Fields quote. Love it!

  35. Sil van den Hoek says:

    When solving this crossword late afternoon, we didn’t really enjoy it. But to be fair, looking back at it, it was a good one.
    The only thing I ‘struggle’ with (and maybe, because I am a foreigner) are several abbreviations. I know, Dee Em & Ge(e) are legitimate, but they do not work for me, because they are a bit like filling up squares. RO & OR are unknown to me. Probably my mistake, but I couldn’t find them in ‘standard’ crossword abbreviations lists. The same with SA (= it). According to my dictionary it can also mean: Sexual Assault … and many many more things. That is, in fact, what I would like to say. It looks like ANY combination of two letters can be used as an abbreviation, but is that what we want?
    Nevertheless, a good crossword.
    Finally this, I do not know a thing called No, No Nanette.
    But I do understand the clue perfectly well now.
    The question is: should there be a reference to what No, No Nanette actually is? Something that we call ‘a definition’, or is this musical ‘general knowledge’?

  36. Paul (not Paul) says:

    This was not a good crossword.

    It was the biggest bag of washing the guardian has published in months.

    I can’t begin to start to whinge about obscurities and innacuracies.

    off to bed. Bah!

  37. Paul (not Paul) says:

    In fact, the more I read it the worse it gets.

  38. Neil says:

    Sorry Eileen! Scrolling back, there you are at #3, gentle as ever.

    Well! What a jolly, polarised discussion this has been!

  39. JimboNWUK says:

    John Mac at #20 sums it all up quite succinctly and although my original acerbic comment may not seem like it I share his point of view entirely! I thought it was a good ‘un and was even impressed with myself at getting Graf Spee on first reading!

  40. Brian Harris says:

    @Puck. Super stuff. Really enjoyed the creativity of all the clues. Thanks.

  41. gsgeorge says:

    Thanks Puck for a most enjoyable morning….. I needed 3 Scotches and 30 minutes to solve it.

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