Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,938 – Puck

Posted by Andrew on February 19th, 2010


Another very tricky puzzle to finish off the week. The many cross-references and multiple-entry answers made it hard to get started, and even after getting some of the key answers it didn’t get much easier, not helped by the fact that I was only vaguely familiar with 21/19/10/23. Nevertheless, a lot of sound and clever clueing made it enjoyable and rewarding to persevere with.

1,25. PATRICK STAR PA TRICKS TAR, and SpongeBob’s best friend
5. FLAUNT [s]UN (topless star) in FLAT (uniform)
9. BULLDOZE BULL (male) + DOZE (homophone of “does”, femaile creatures)
12. ALCOHOL ABUSE Anagram of ([s]CHOOL + A) + BUS in ALE
15. EXACERBATE AXE< (cutback) + (BE[er] CRATE)*
22. SLEEPING PILL (SINGLE EP)* + PILL, and it “helps you [to get] out”
26. IN KIND Hidden in chINK IN Defence
27. INSOLENT IN (batting) + SO (very) + LENT (fast)
28. EARNER [w]AR in RENE<
29. SPENSER PENS in S[h]E[r]R[y]
1. PUBS PH (public house) occurs in both orPHan and elePHant. I’d like this better if the AN wasn’t duplicated too.
2. TILE A “way over the top of fence” is a STILE, which, topless, is a TILE, I.e. a hat.
3. INDULGED Anag of GIN + [c]UDDLE[d].
4. KAZOO OZ A in OK (“agreed!”), all reversed.
6. LOQUAT QUA[rtered] in LOT. I knew that Lot was Abraham’s nephew, but I’ve never heard of this fruit, and QUA as “partly quartered” is very Araucarian.
8. THE TEMPEST THET[a] + anag of SEPTEM[ber]. 1-20 is two-thirds of September – outrageous but clever.
11. BOTTOM Double definition – Nick Bottom was “one Puck made a fool of” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by giving him an ass’s head.
16. BIKINI BIK[o] + [m]INI. Bikini Atoll was a nuclear weapons testing site.
18. FILLMORE ILL M in FORE (warning shout in golf). Millard Fillmore was president of the USA 1850-1853
21,19,10,23. SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS SPONGE (cake) BOB (cut, as in hair) SQUARE (out, unfashionable) PANTS (rubbish). American cartoon series, set in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom.

52 Responses to “Guardian 24,938 – Puck”

  1. sidey says:

    Good grief, commercial television children’s programming? Puck’s found something worse than soccer to fill a crossword with.

  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Andrew for this, especially for explaining 1dn which fooled me completely, even when I could see the answer from the crossing letters. I spent ages trying to make something of Babar (Bar Bar?) the Elephant, probably because of the children’s theme of the key clue!

  3. beermagnet says:

    “Yeah! I’m a Boogey-booger” “Rock!”

    Being overly familiar with Spongebob and his manic crowd due to having a couple of under-tens at home, (and secretly liking the innocent madness), I got 21/19 10/23 quickly after getting Bikini. But then got stuck because I was trying to fit other Spongebob characters like Squidward, Plankton and Mr Krabs into the linked clues. Only when I twigged Bikini characteristics (the Topless clue) did the rest follow.

    This will be a marmite puzzle – some will love it – I did.

  4. Simon G says:

    After yesterday’s puzzle, which I attached with great gusto pausing only to raise an eyebrow at a couple of the solutions, I thought a more measured pace might be better for today’s attempt so I adopted the pace and more languid approach of a saunterer and thus spent some considerable time failing to understand a number of the clues as my knowledge of Spongebob thingy is as non-existent.

    Still, the slow and meandering approach did give me time to reflect on the numerous problems we all face with the revised Grauniad crossword site and to wonder whether we’re not all victims of some hackery…

  5. molonglo says:

    Pleased with myself for solving it all without aids – but the vague bell ringing of 21, 19 did help. Skipped over that clue’s weird ‘located in’ last bit. Failed to fathom 2d’s bracketed query and the logic of 5a. Thanks Andrew for clearing those up.

  6. Jim says:

    Never come across this obscure TV animation, which made this a hard crossword. It did not help that other clues were difficult.


  7. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I like Marmite, as it happens, but this one … not for me.

  8. Ian says:

    Thanks very much Andrew for the explanations, especially 1dn and 5a, both entered correctly but without ant real understanding.

    As has already been acknowledged, the clueing was pretty much exemplary allowing the solver to piece together readings into suitable answers.

    SBSP became apparent only after getting the connected clue 1,25(by luck) and then googling to see who the hell Patrick Star might actually be.

    This work by Puck contains several clues that deserve recognition, notably 20ac, 28ac & 11dn.

    Is this setter normally classed as ‘Difficult’?

  9. Stella says:

    Having consciously avoided watching Spongebob, I only cottoned on to this one by looking up Bikini in Wikipedia, and stumbling on the location Bikini Bottom.

    Having cleared up that mystery, though, this was quite fun.

    I liked 12a and 15a, maybe because they work around my favourite drink? 😉 /d was clever, too. Did anyone else see any irony in “in a hole” being “up a gum tree”?

  10. Bryan says:

    Thanks, Andrew, I hated it!

    Please correct your spelling of SPONGEBOB SQAUREPANTS.

  11. Bill Taylor says:

    Brilliant! I’ve never watched Spongebob Squarepants but I love Puck’s wickedness in taking it as his theme. Like NeilW, I was sure Babar was key to 1dn. Once I had “bulldoze,” “pubs” became obvious but I didn’t see the logic until Andrew explained it. Overall, though, I’m still smiling — and I must now watch at least one episode of the show. I feel as if I know some of the characters.

  12. liz says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    I don’t know this cartoon, but I have heard of the character. My route in was the same as Ian’s — I got Patrick Star, then googled. Less satisfying than working it out, somehow. Missed 13dn, despite having s-i-e that should have suggested ‘shire’ straight away.

    I loved the definitions for 22ac and 28ac!

    Didn’t see the wordplay for 1dn or 8dn, so thanks for the explanations. Pretty fiendish all round I thought, harder than a lot of Prize crosswords.

  13. ringo's voice says:

    Can anyone explain why ‘sherry regularly’ equals S, E, R as they are the first, third, and fifth letters? Doesn’t ‘regularly’ more accurately define the evenly numbered letters in the word?

  14. Tom Hutton says:

    Bizarre crossword. Far too elaborate for my taste.

  15. Derek Lazenby says:

    Not for me this one. Oh well, time to make the dogs dinner so I’ll go do some choppery.

  16. Ron says:

    Did anyone else spot that The Tempest was first performed in 1611 – was this just a coincidence?

  17. TC says:

    Couldn’t agree more with comment No 1. Beggars belief.

  18. Uncle Yap says:

    I solved this together with Dr G and both of us have never heard of SpongeBob and SquarePants but with a little bit of googling and wikipedia-ing , we managed to crack all the clues. and our cod must be 1Across with its all-so-correct charade

    Puck was most creative with his definition of earner as one that’s waged

    A cracker of a puzzle .. I enjoyed this very much. Bravo ! Puck!

  19. JimboNWUK says:

    Unentertaining in the extreme…. Cryptic crozzys are supposed to be an adult pastime so I wouldn’t expect to be asked to know about big ted little ted bungle zippy zebedee florence dougall andy pandy the woodentops bagpuss rentaghost pipkins thundercats transformers bananaman hong kong fooey peppa pig la-la po clangers or ANY OF THE OTHER MILLIONS OF STUPID CHARACTERS IN KIDS CRUD THAT IS FOISTED UPON US!!!

    I assume GrumpyAndrew is too apoplectic to put fingers to keys.

  20. Grumpy Andrew says:

    JimboNWUK@19, actually not feeling too bad because so many other people seem to feel the same way about this dismal effort, which brings some comfort. Little I can add except the observation that the Guardian has clearly abandoned any pretence of quality control.
    Spongebob chuffing Squarepants. Incredible.

  21. John says:

    Far too clever clever for my taste too.
    “Ball” for PILL is odd, and I don’t get how “no-no” eliminates only the “n” in 13 dn.
    And with that I’m off to indulge my usual Friday evening glass of malt.
    On second thoughts I think I’ll just drink it.

  22. Gareth Rees says:

    “Ball” for PILL: Chambers says, “pill¹ n … a ball, e.g. a cannonball, tennis-ball, or (in pl) billards (facetious)”

    “No-no”: I think “no” clues the letter N (as in Y/N for yes/no), so “no-no” means “no no”, that is, remove the N. Chambers doesn’t have N for “no”, though, so this is maybe a bit obscure.

    “Sherry regularly”: Chambers has the self-referential definition “regular adj … placed, arranged, etc at regular intervals in space or time” so it could clue any set of regularly spaced letters, here SER, but legitimately also HRY. (You occasionally see every third letter from a phrase clued in this kind of way, and very occasionally even wider spacing may be used.)

    I enjoyed the different ways the theme was used, and the chain from SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS to BIKINI BOTTOM to TOPLESS to all the words clued using TOPLESS as an instruction in the wordplay.

  23. Matthew says:

    No complaints from this cartoon junkie, but I can feel for the detractors: now you know how up a gum tree we poor Americans feel when confronted with a puzzle jammed with, say, cricket terminology.

    John: I still see sportswriters occasionally use “pill” for “ball”; but it could also refer to balls of lint, i.e., you need a lint remover when your sweater pills.

  24. Martin H says:

    No, I don’t get no-no either, but ‘pill’ for ball is quite normal, at least it was when I was at school.
    An enjoyable puzzle, a bit convoluted, but OK it all worked out, although ‘topless’ began to sound like a cracked bell after a while.
    I think that Jimbo #19 complains too much – he’s clearly a bit of an expert on these things.

  25. Mark H says:

    I agree with much of the above, tooh me ages to get into this, not familiar with the cartoon so had to resort to a little cheating to get a toe hold. Thanks for the explanations to “pubs” and “The Tempest”, the wordplay was a touch too clever for me.
    So looking back over the week, I found Rufus the easiest, Araucaria and Paul of similar difficulty, Brummie quite a bit harder and Puck impossible.

  26. Gaufrid says:

    John & Martin
    ‘No.’ and ‘n’ are both standard abbreviations for ‘number’ so ‘no-no’ could be either remove/exclude no or n.

  27. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Jimbo at no 19, I’m with you, but methinks thou dost protest too much. Now if Puck were to have a theme on the Clangers, I’d be entering SOUP DRAGON as my first answer straight away. What the clue would be I will leave others to muse on, since there’s clearly little more to be said about this puzzle. Or maybe not; it’s not seven o’clock yet.

  28. drunclejohn says:

    I have a sort of marking system for Guardian setters and I see Puck started at 2 out of 10, then rose through 4 to 6. For me this crossword puts him right back to 2! Who does he think Guardian readers are? Shall we have to name the TellyTubbies next?

  29. Bill Taylor says:

    I can only speak for myself, but I’m not a Guardian reader. I live in Canada and do the crossword on-line. And if a setter wants to make the TellyTubbies a theme, that’s fine with me. I’ll either solve it or not solve it. I didn’t get today’s theme for quite a while, nor was I au fait with the references, but I figured them out. I like themed cryptics but I’d hate to fully understand every theme every time. So the TellyTubbies? Bring ’em on!

  30. beermagnet says:

    Naming the Tellytubbies? Surely no-one here would have trouble with that.
    Assigning them their colours and/or size might be a bit trickier.
    Naming the Tweenies – now there’s a challenge.

    Anyway, now I’m home and can access YouTube (many websites are banned at work) I find I misremembered the Spongebob song – it’s Goofy Goober, (Rock!)

  31. Bill Taylor says:

    I’m a Goofy Goober, you’re a Goofy Goober, we’re ALL Goofy Goobers…..

  32. Radchenko says:

    Is it because it is half-term that every puzzle this week has been a bit on the tough side? Multiple hours over multiple sittings, and even then only got within 3 or 4 of finishing them.

    Any themed puzzle is going to be difficult if you don’t know it; and I don’t see that animated pre-teen mind-numbers (even one than winds up the god-botherers) is any different from stars of b&w or coastal towns. I think the fact that the clueing has generally been of a very high standard makes it ok; and there is at least one self-satisified 12-year old out there who helped her dad with the crossword.

  33. Anna says:

    I have been lurking on this blog for some time and just love it. Also just started to doen load current puzzles as the printned variety are about a month behind here in OZ, Loquat is a fruit that grows here in OZ. It is a bit larger than a grape, has yellow flesh and a hard brown seed. Taste is a bit like a banana. Keep up the good work. I need explanations for the localised cultural clues.

  34. Martin H says:

    Thanks Gaufrid

  35. stiofain says:

    Radchenko says
    “and there is at least one self-satisified 12-year old out there who helped her dad with the crossword.”
    Good point Radchenko I remember my kid enthusiastically helping me with Araucarias (I think ) Harry Potter outing a few years back.
    I didnt mind the theme as all the clues were fair and I liked the way it expanded into the mini themes.
    These cross referenced themes really show up the bad redesign of the online version having to scroll down to see all the clues at once.

  36. Dave Ellison says:

    Seriously hard getting the theme today. 1 clue solved after 8 mins, 2 after 32 mins, 27 after 88 mins! And that was as far as I got.

    I, like many others here, had never heard of sbob thingy, nor did I know Abraham’s nephew. 2d (which was one of the clues I didn’t solve) was my way in – “over the 17″ suggested TOP; and when I eventually got 27a and 29a, I got 17 24, which helped with some of the others.

    16d BLACK ACTIVIST was KING and X and CARMICHAEL for a while, none of which helped.

  37. Bullfrog says:

    I can’t believe the whinging sourpusses around here. I’ve no particular knowledge of Spongbob Squarepants but I managed to work it out. I also did Azed this week and had to come up with Ivermectin, Ochidore, Euscara, Pterygoid, Chiragric and Nocake (to name but a few), none of which I’d encountered before. But do you know what? I exercised my brain and increased my sum of knowledge, and I don’t care if that knowledge encompasses children’s cartoons, drugs for river blindness or obscure languages — I learnt something new while doing a crossword. Get over yourselves!

  38. Mr Beaver says:

    Bullfrog: hear, hear! I’ve never seen SBSP, but it’s impossible not to have seen references to him (or it?). Good fun, and why not?

  39. Alex says:

    Agree with the comments at #29. I never have and never will see the cartoon, but know it exists. As long as the clues are fair it seems to me that a setter can take whatever they like as the theme. It’s not obvious to me that some themes are appropriate (rather than simply conventional) and others inappropriate.

    This was a hard puzzle to get into, in part because of the complex interlinking of the clues. But having got through it I was left admiring the craft involved. So enjoyed it very much.

  40. Derek Lazenby says:

    Mr Beaver you are wrong, it is not impossible, I had never heard of this before today. Like any other subject discussed on here, some one somewhere will never have heard of it no matter how famous one thinks a particular reference maybe.

  41. Bob says:

    Loved it! I got to SBSP via Sponge and Bob, which made it pretty obvious. Then the highlight of the day was my 11yo daughter telling me that Spongebob’s friend is called Patrick (1a) “but has no other name”, but then confirming that he does, and it’s Star. 16,11 and 17,24 continue Puck’s tendency to naughtiness, which is nice.

    To those who object to the use of a cartoon character as theme: part of the pleasure of doing the Guardian cryptic is having one’s cultural horizons extended a bit.

  42. sexiesal says:

    One of the best
    In my top 10

  43. Will Mc says:

    Mr Beaver, it is not impossible, because Derek has never heard of anything he has never heard of. What he has never heard of includes books, films and rock and/or roll, any reference to popular culture and the general world about him – he has heard of trains and science though. Why do setters insist on not consulting him before they compile a crossword?

  44. stiofain says:

    dont forget dogs will mc

  45. Will Mc says:

    Dogs will indeed mc. Very nasty if you step in it.

  46. Derek Lazenby says:

    Will Mc? Why are you such a nasty foul mouthed idiot? Your comment was not only uncalled for and unecessary, but completely inaccurate.

  47. Mr Beaver says:

    #46 😀 😀 !

  48. Peter Mabey says:

    I’d heard of Spongebob – he’s appeared as a lookalike in Private Eye a couple of times recently. However, I only identified him by solving 1ac. & googling. Although Bikini Bottom were among first solutions, it needed a bit of Wiki investigation to discover relevance (after completion of puzzle).

  49. Will Mc says:

    I may be an idiot, but I wasn’t foul-mouthed. You ****.

  50. ernie says:

    One of the few Grauniad xwords I managed to complete – with help from a ‘missing letters’ xword solver and the priceless info from Google that Bikini Bottom SpongeBob. All within 24-hours! First attempted was 11dn: I (wrongly) expected an I/we reference from ‘Puck’. As others have commented, kids know a LOT of stuff: it helps to be a teacher and a grandfather! Thanks for the blog Andrew: especially 1dn and 5ac as #8 Ian says. Some sympathy with #13 ringo, and agree with #37 Bullfrog (but not so vehemently!).

  51. KG says:

    I hope someone reads this.

    We got a bit of home time from the hospital and this morning we had sunshine streaming in through the window as we had breakfast and did what we enjoy – doing the crossword together. Back in the pile was this Puck – usually OK I thought.


    Patrick Star. Friend of 21 19 10 23.


    The future might be yours Puck, but this has no place in our present.l

  52. KG says:

    Hey Bullfrog (1960’s Ref – d’geddit).

    Good luck with the chemothearapy drugs that you will already know by name from your delight in the obscure.

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