Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,961 (Puck)

Posted by diagacht on March 18th, 2010


An interesting themed puzzle with some tricky clues. The special instructions refer to different rules for 13 and 15, and that is the way in to the theme.

1,16D LONDON BRONCOS: LONDON (author) + BR (lines) + ON + COS (Greek Island, Kos); former rugby league team
4 CORSET: C (Cornwall initially) + (d)ORSET (heading away from county)
9 WASP: WAS (lived) + P (quietly); rugby union team, Wasps; a hornet
10 HARLEQUINS: H (hospital) + ARLES (place in France) holding QUIN (one of five); rugby union team
11 ANNEAL: ANNE (Queen) + AL (AL(l) short)
12 SARACENS: RACE (people) in SANS (abbreviation of sanatoriums); rugby union team
13 GREAT-AUNT: G(o)RE (blood losing ‘o’, nothing) + A TAUNT (a jibe)
15 SEXY: X (times) in S(ur)(r)EY (‘ur’ (ancient city, mentioned in Genesis) and ‘r’ (right) leave).
16 BEAR: a kind of cryptic definition. Refers to rugby league team, Bradford Bulls, and the opposite of a bull market is a bear market.
17 AT THE MOST: anagram of SOME THAT + T (time)
21,18 ROCHDALE HORNETS: anagram of HANDEL ORCHESTR O (replace A with O, ‘ring for a’); rugby league team
22 RIBBED: RIB (make fun) + BED (bottom, as in sea bed)
24 ACCENTUATE: ATE (worried) around anagram of ACNE CUT
25 SALE: SALE(m); a rugby union team
26 SETTER: anagram of TREES + T (Titania’s crown, first letter)
27 ISOMER: O (love) in (I (one) SME (enterprise, as in Small Medium Enterprise)) + R (right)
1 LEARNER: (E (English) + ARNE (composer)) between L and R (left and right hands)
2 NAPPE: almost NAPPE(d)
3 OPHELIA: hidden in catastrOPHE LIAr
5 O HENRY: anagram of E (first letter of eroticism) and HORNY; pseudonym of William Porter
6 SOUR CREAM: cryptic definition
7 TENANCY: TE (ThE vacant, missing middle) + NANCY
8 ARMS AND THE MAN: anagram of DRAMA HAM SENT + N (new)
14 ABASHMENT: A BASH (one party) + MENT (intended, homophone) [corrected]
19 STELLAR: STELLA (refers to Stella McCartney, fashion designer) + R (runs)
20 CASTLE: Man refers to chess piece; take ‘Ford’ away from CASTLEford, a rugby league team
23 BESOM: anagram of MOSE (most MOSES) and B (baskets originally)

60 Responses to “Guardian 24,961 (Puck)”

  1. Eileen says:

    Many thanks for the blog, diagacht.

    I just loved this one, even though – or perhaps especially – because it took me quite a while after getting some of the themed answers to see that they were nothing to do with sexy great-aunts – a real penny-dropping, laugh-out-loud moment!

    I’m a 15 person myself, so hadn’t heard of 1,16 – and, of course, spent a while trying to fit Byron in – but it all fitted together eventually.

    There were many great clues – as often, too many to mention, really, but I just loved 26ac, surely one of the most devious clues for SETTER that I’ve seen, with another of Puck’s apt references to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. I thought 19dn was very good, too and the HANDEL ORCHESTRA near-anagram was very clever.

    Very many thanks, Puck, for a highly-entertaing puzzle – I’ve forgiven you already for the non-appearance of Tigers! :-)

  2. rrc says:

    I think there are other rugby terms as well as the ones mentioned saracens rochdale hornets

  3. Orange says:

    Loved this one,once the penny dropped after wasp and Harlequins! Makes living in Warrington all worthwhile – was hoping they would be in though (as my football team was in Saturday’s crossword!)

  4. Martin H says:

    This was all a bit esoteric. Got into the theme quickly enough from Wasp and Harlequins, but drew a blank on references to 13 and 15. Presumably they are aficionados’ terms for RL and RU; perhaps someone could explain them – I can’t be the only one in the dark. Tried googling them but the results were predictable.

    Otherwise quite gettable.

  5. diagacht says:

    15 and 13 do not refer to the clues but the number of players in union and league

  6. Martin H says:

    sound of penny dropping

    puts tea-towel over head

    you never know though – rugby people can be very strange

  7. liz says:

    Thanks, diagacht. This one beat me. I got about halfway through, and finally guessed that it would be about rugby league and rugby union after getting HARLEQUINS but with very little knowledge of the sport decided to call it a day.

    26ac was a fantastic clue, though! And after reading the blog, I can appreciate the ones I didn’t get.

  8. molonglo says:

    Good blog, Diagacht. Got the theme after 20 minutes via the quin in 10a, but it took another hour and, annoyingly, needed Google. Rugby league is tedious enough as is without the obscurities like 1a,16d which I gather is a defunct team. Gave up on 16a, worried over the “ate” in 24a and finally rejoiced with 26a.

  9. cholecyst says:

    Brilliant! I fell for every misdirection. So, because I’m now in a bad mood, may I point out the typo in 14 dn (shld be ABASHMENT) and also say that 10 ac is not strictly accurate because Harlequins play both League and Union at the top level? Grrrr.

  10. Berny says:

    Slight typo – 14 D is Abashment, not abasement, as you make clear in your breakdown

  11. Eileen says:

    Also, 14dn: MENT is a homophone [‘verbal’] of MEANT

  12. Shirley says:

    Can’t wait to see a reaction from JimboNWUK to this one! If he hadn’t heard of Sam Allardyce yesterday he has no hope today!
    A brilliant puzzle – we thought Lytton Strachey looked quite good for 1 down until the penny dropped.
    Thanks Puck

  13. Shirley says:

    Sorry 1 Across!

  14. Bullfrog says:

    Shirley,that was my laugh out loud moment (on getting Wasp & Sale) — picturing JimboNWUK hitting the roof after his rant yesterday about sports references!

  15. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I’m still not sure what this was all about even having seen the blog, so like others am saving my entertainment for JimboNWUK’s contribution later. Shall we open a book on WHAT PERCENTAGE OF HIS COMMENTS WILL BE IN CAPITAL LETTERS?

  16. Kathryn's Dad says:

    And btw Eileen at no 1, we always knew you were a sexy person, but there’s no need to flaunt it here …

  17. Eileen says:

    KD, I latched on to that – too late! – soon after posting and was hoping it had escaped notice! :-(

  18. Jim says:

    Hopeless for an American.

  19. Kathryn's Dad says:

    If I had been more of a gentleman, Eileen, I’d have spared your blushes. Quickly, before Gaufrid catches us, how was your panto, dahling?

  20. Richard says:

    This was far too difficult for me, I’m afraid.

    On the positive side, I did get O’Henry even though I’ve never heard of him.

    I’d never have associated sour cream with “best”.
    I’d never have picked “London” from all the hundreds of thousands of possible “ones who wrote”.
    As for man = castle….
    Ford with a capital ‘F’ was an unfair deception. There’s no capital F in Castleford.

    Pity. It’s been a good week so far.

  21. Tom Hutton says:

    A very good crossword as far as the clues went.

    I completed it without having a clue about the relevance of 15 and 13 as I was misdirected to think about the clues and not the numbers…and this confusion reigned even after I realised that 15 referred to Union and 13 to League clubs. One up to the setter.

  22. Eileen says:

    KD [sotto voce]

    It went as well as I hope yours did – very much appreciated by our audience of friends and well-wishers, for whom it’s all the more fun if / when things go wrong. [And – I shouldn’t tell you this – as it was ‘Treasure Island’, I had to wear a grass skirt and embarrass my grandson!]

  23. Grumpy Andrew says:

    I was hoping for a cryptic crossword today and instead all I got was A Question of Sport.
    Rochdale Hornets? Who? What?
    And to solve this you don’t just need to know obscure rugby teams, but former teams as well (1a).
    Load of balls.

  24. Mr. Jim says:

    Given how many complaints there were yesterday about one football-themed clue, I’m surprised more people haven’t moaned about the (albeit non-spherical) ball games here. “13 and 15 have different rules” was nicely cryptic – League and Union do indeed have different rules to each other.

    Thanks to diagacht for clearing up London Broncos and Nappe, and to Puck for what for me was very enjoyable, even though I know nothing about rugby.

  25. Bullfrog says:

    Richard@20 — I’d never have associated sour cream with “best”.
    “best” = cream, “off” = sour.

  26. Richard says:

    Thanks, Bullfrog.

  27. Bullfrog says:

    No problem, Richard. I assumed that your other comment about castle = man was exasperation rather than a request for clarification….

  28. Richard says:

    Indeed, Bullfrog.

  29. Richard says:

    I concede that Man = ‘Chess piece’ is in the dictionary. However, this of course begs the question as to whether this logic would make Queen = Man acceptable for setters to use!

    P.S. I was similarly exasperated by Job = Book (as in book of the Old Testament) recently.

  30. JimboNWUK says:

    To Bullfrog @14 — screwed it up and flung it across the train carriage once I realised the theme — and even more annoyingly it didn’t mention the best RU team in the country (so I’m told) who are from my home town oop north (not that I am interested but CUH!). All I know about them is it causes humungous blimmin traffic jams locally when they play at home so I have to take a different route to Morrisons. Hmph.

  31. Kate says:

    Although I had Wasp, Harlequins, Sale and Saracens, my interest in sport (on a scale of 1 to 10) is about minus 5 million, so I never made the connection with rugby. The great aunt misdirected me so much that I was thinking 21,18 was a reference to some kind of Greek ladies of ill repute: Archende Harlots or something (since I didn’t have 16d or 20d, and still hadn’t got 24a at that point)!

  32. JimboNWUK says:

    Hum… it seems that Saints are a Rugby LEAGUE team… shows how much I care after over half a century of living here.

  33. Richard says:

    Given that the solution to 15 was ‘SEXY’, clueing SALE as ’15 dirty French’ might have been more fun…
    …especially as I would then have got it!

  34. walruss says:

    Again I think this setter does QUITE well!! But not in the very top ‘league’.

  35. William says:

    Full marks to anyone (particularly diagacht who blogged) who unravelled this one.

    I was in the identical position as Kate (31). I was so dispirited with making no sense of GREAT AUNT & SEXY that I gave up before the penny dropped.

    Jolly clever puzzle, Puck, but rather glad there are not too many at this level.

  36. don says:

    Quite right, Walruss – not one of them in the Magners League!

    I can imagine why people would have been as put off by this theme as I and others are put Orff by obscure composers, but I thought it was an excellent crossword, while being misdirected by sexy great aunts. Thought of ‘Sale’ and ‘Wasp’, but it wasn’t until I got ‘quin’ with the other crossing letters that the light shone for me. A Bradford Bull caused great delay until it had to be ‘abashment’ and finally, the best of the lot,’setter’.

    Can anyone explain why ‘not quite’ = ‘al(l)’ please?

  37. Brian Harris says:

    Once we’d cracked the references to 13 and 15, the rest was fairly straightforward, despite not knowing all that much about Rugby. We guessed a couple of teams. There was quite a bit of head-scratching going on before we figured this out, though, and some of the clues were very hard to deconstruct at first glance… 16ac for example.

    26ac is a truly inspired clue, given that “Puck” is the setter.

  38. don says:

    Sorry, ‘quite short’, I meant.

  39. Martin H says:

    Hi don – Yes, I was not sure about ‘quite short’. It must be the sense of ‘quite’ as ‘entirely’, as in ‘quite enough’, etc.

  40. Paul (not Paul) says:

    I was getting slightly annoyed at one point that Puck was having a dig at Rugby League, describing it as an Great Aunt and Rugby Union as sexy! Maybe he is.

    But I’ll forgive him for putting Rochdale Hornets – not an obscure RL team in this house – into a cryptic.

    Defeated by Castle and Corset (I filled in Dorset when I had all the crossing letters). I always forget the man = chesspiece reference.

    Plenty of tough clueing – ate = worried, for instance, so I was very pleased at this near miss.

  41. TC says:

    Could someone explain the significance of 13ac and 15ac, please ? (And I am a big rugby fan.)

  42. TC says:

    No, don’t. Please. Just got it. I managed 4 clues today including 13ac. I think that’s me done with the Guardian.

  43. Davy says:

    Having got GREAT-AUNT straight away, I thought this was going to be easy. How wrong I was. I struggled to complete about half the puzzle and it was only when I got HARLEQUINS that the rugby theme became clear. I even thought previously that it was something to do with the ides of March which would have been fitting. Surely one of the answers must be Caesar. Wrong again.

    However, this was an enjoyable puzzle and all credit to Puck for its creation. I thought CORSET was brilliant
    and ROCHDALE HORNETS was an excellent nearly anagram. I also considered Lytton Strachey for 1a/16d but his surname was just too long.

    Failed on 16a, 27a (never heard of SME) and 20d (an obscure clue compounded by the capital F of Ford).

  44. G Williamson says:

    Ridiculously obscure to the extent that it is pointless as a fair puzzle. You would have to be a total public school rugger bugger tw*t to have heard of these clubs…

  45. diagacht says:

    Once again we are circling around the ‘theme’ problem. Whatever the theme, it is easiest for people who know something about the theme. Today it was rugby, next time it might be films or national trust houses or computer parts; the ease with which we tackle the puzzle is directly related to the extent of our knowledge of the theme.

    I don’t think a theme is a problem but the clues have to be fair, allowing for a solution even if you’ve never heard of Harlequins (or whatever). To my mind, Puck was fair today but he was not simple. Perhaps he went close to the edge but – at least for me – he never went beyond.

    Mind you, although not a product of the public school system, I had heard of these teams.

  46. rrc says:

    I have no interest in sport whatsoever, but I have heard of all the rugby teams mentioned.

  47. Bogeyman says:

    GWilliamson (44) is wrong. Rugby union may well be a sport in some parts of England that has strong connections with public schools (though not in Cornwall and Devon), but rugby league is a game with very strong working class roots, mainly in the north of England. To attribute some kind of class snobbishness to Puck is simplistic and misleading.

    Having said that, to resort to now defunct rugby league teams (1,16) does seem somewhat arcane, as other bloggers have said! I still finished it though!

  48. Paul B says:

    IMO themes are good so long as most people in the target audience are likely to know them, or are likely to feel they ought to know them even when they don’t. International Rugby Union is one thing, but like others I suspect club rugger and anything at all to do with League is pretty deep, maybe too deep for a daily read in large part by (pseudo-) Southern Jessies who spend(or would do were they nearer) too much time on the South Bank. And – say – not enough time in the gym pumping iron, and training whippets or pigeons.

    I used cheat a lot on this, through attention deficit mainly, but also because I couldn’t be bothered: I wasn’t engaged by the theme, really. Not exactly open to new ideas I know, but that’s how I felt about the latest offering from a setter who, still for me, stands on the brink of being one of the Groaniad’s best.

  49. Martin H says:

    The question of what’s a fair theme is interesting. “Fair, allowing for a solution even if you’ve never heard of….”, diagacht. OK: ‘Rochdale Hornets’ from an anagram with a substitute letter is certainly ‘close to the edge’ – without crossing letters impossible I’d say. I got it, but probably only because at some time I’ve heard the team mentioned on a radio programme, or seen it out of the corner of my eye when binning the sports page of the Saturday paper. London Broncos was just about gettable from the clue, as was ‘bear’ after seeing the market reference and the crossing letters and thinking, ‘Right, Bulls looks like a plausible name for a rugby team.’ I don’t mind having to think like this to solve the odd clue. You sometimes learn something interesting this way, and if I didn’t like words simply for themselves I wouldn’t bother doing cryptic crosswords anyway. But……well, not too often please.

  50. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thanks Diagacht for your wise words (#44) and for the blog, which btw did nót explain GREAT-AUNT and SEXY – “words” that are still unclear to me after reading all the posts. Of course, I see that today’s theme was Rugby, but then, can anyone tell me what it means? Even our friend Google doesn’t bring me any further than Sexy Rugby League. And is Saracens or Harlequins then “a sexy”?

    I thought “Ducks” would be the ultimate theme, but this one stumped us completely. Not sure how to find ROCHDALE HORNETS when you’ve never heard of them, especially when it crosses BRONCOS and the rugby-related CASTLE. Yes, it was an anagram – nice to see the Handel/orchestra combination, but the ‘ring for a’ was not really elegant – made it an ugly surface.

    In our after-work session we got about 60% of the solutions.
    To be fair to Puck, many of them were quite (which in this context is nót the same as ‘all’ :) ) good.
    Indeed, the loudly praised 26ac (SETTER), the splendid 15ac (SEXY), 4ac (CORSET), 1d (LEARNER) – there’s Arne again – , the Paulian 22ac and 5d, the nicely hidden OPHELIA and the elegant McCartney clue.
    I even liked the cryptic definition of 6d (SOUR CREAM).

    Sometimes people are very critical about an ellipsis, and I can join them this time.
    I don’t see any logical link between 26ac and 27ac whatsoever.

    I agree with Richard (#20): LONDON for ‘One who wrote’?
    Even if it’s technically right, it is still a bit poor.

    Why does the clue of 2d (NAPPE) contains the word ‘through’?
    And in 23d (BESOM) we read ‘revolved around’. Isn’t that too much? Wouldn’t ‘revolved’ be enough? Now it’s unjustly misleading, because we were thinking of putting something (in reverse) around the letter A.

    A lot of good clues today, but I want to forget this crossword as quick as possible.

  51. stiofain says:

    Sil as I see it the special instructions have nothing at all to do with clues 13 and 15 merely that they are the numbers in rugby teams and this is a bit of misdirection.
    I didnt enjoy this much not being a rugby fan and didnt like the use of obscure teams and even defunct ones.
    I seem to remember this theme being done much better a few years ago in a prize xword where all 16(?) of the top league were clued.

  52. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thanks Stiofain, for the explanation
    (well, Diagacht himself did it earlier too, in #5, as I see it now).
    But then saying “Different rules apply to 13 and 15″ referring to numbers of players??
    No thanks (that is, for me).
    As I said, some clever cluing, but I want to forget about it now.

  53. crikey says:

    I don’t like Rugby, and had never heard of some of these teams, but that just made it all the more enjoyable. The clues were fair, and the answers were gettable from the wordplay, plus a bit of lateral thinking. Isn’t that what these crosswords are all about? I like to learn a thing or two every now and then… What I’m trying to say is that I think it’s irrelevant whether you like or have heard of any of these teams. It’s all part of the unravelling.

  54. Hairy Scot says:

    When I started the online version at 2pm NZ time I did not see any special instructions!!
    Where they perhaps put in later??

    Eventually twigged it after getting WASP and ROCHDALE HORNETS.

    Thanks for the blog Diagacht

  55. Neil says:

    Too late now!
    But I liked this crossword puzzle because I had to think to be able to finish it. However, down here where I come from, there used to be serious football and then there was village soccer, with a round ball, played by bank clerks, shop assistants, skilled artisans (and me, as it happens). Football had fifteen players on each side and was played with an oblate spheroid, mostly by ‘horny-handed sons of toil’. Perhaps most significantly it was played to a set of “Laws”, not “rules” and, I believe, still is. I am vaguely aware of an aberrant thirteen-a-side, rather stilted, form of this game which is played, I’m told, north of the south midlands city of Bristol, possibly to a set of “rules”.

  56. Arthur Hay says:

    No complaint with Puck at all, but I know a dark alley where I’d like to meet whoever chose this puzzle for the international “Guardian Weekly” crossword. Still got all but half a dozen, including “broncos” & “hornets”, thanks to the “wasp”, but who or what is a “rochdale”? Grrr.

  57. Maureen Rogers says:

    … equally difficult from Australia – although league and union are national sports here. I thought of broncos but could not work out why the Brisbane Broncos would be in a UK crossword!
    I got most out with some google crossword solver help but never worked out the significance of 13 and 15

  58. maarvarq says:

    Also from Australia, and also not a r*gger b*gger, I struggled with this one and the significance of the theme until I guessed Rochdale as the correct possibility from the crossing letters, Googled “Rochdale Hornets” and saw the light. I finished the puzzle but also wish not another one like this for a while.

  59. PeterS says:

    We know that football teams have 11 players, so “13” and “15” meant nothing to us. Gave up after a week at around 50% done.

    Always great to read this blog, though.

  60. rfb says:

    I did manage to get about 80% without help, and the clue for the theme was very clever when the penny dropped.

    BUT I agree with Sil (#50) – I’d like to forget this. And like #56, I got this via the GW and I agree with him completely (even though I’m from the UK originally). This was much too parochial for an international audience.

    I also wonder with #36/#38 why ‘quite short’ is AL(l). I thought it might be AL(most).

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