Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,004 / Puck

Posted by Gaufrid on May 7th, 2010


Apologies for the late appearance of this post but the scheduled blogger appears to have gone AWOL.

A fun puzzle, which was slightly different from the norm, with a number of linked clues that each had a single definition provided by another answer.

16,17,14,15 DISCONTENTED was the single definition which needed to be interpreted as ‘not content’ for the upper half of the grid and ‘having no contents’ for the bottom half as indicated by ‘unhappy over here after vacation down under’ in the clue.

8 FED UP  FED (US agent) UP (on horseback)
10 BORED  OR (men) in BED (retired)
12 GRUMPY  G (good) RUMPY (casual sex)
13 GREAT TIT  *(TARGET) IT (Italian)
16 DECREES  DEC (year-end) REES (Welshman)
19 WAKENED  W (with) A KEN ED (couple of boys)
22 SEND DOWN  SEN (nurse) DD (large breasts) *(NOW)
25 VACANT  CAN (container) in VAT (another {container})
27 EMPTY  MP (£10) in *(YET) – £10 = 1000p = Mp
29 CORED  CO RED (fellow revolutionary)
30 ABANDONED  A BAND (group) I (one) D (‘d)

1 VIZIER  VIZ (magazine) IE (that’s) R (right)
2 BESSEMER  BESS (female) REME (engineers) reversed – Sir Henry Bessemer, English engineer and inventor
3 HARDLY  L (50) in HARDY (writer)
5 VEG OUT  VEG (greens possibly) OUT (not allowed)
6 HUMERI  UM ER (hesitation) in HI[p]
11 MEGA  ME (setter) GA[ga] (half-mad)
16,17,14,15 DISCONTENTED  DIS (underworld) CON (criminal) NET (catch) reversed TED (chap)
18 EGOS  hidden in ‘reggaE GO Straight’
21 ENTEBBE  ENTE[r] (no right to go in) EBB (go out) reversed
23 EXMOOR  EX (former) MOOR (African)
24 DUTIES  alternate letters in DoUbT dIvErSe
25 VERONA  hidden in ‘riVER ON Arrival’
26 NOSHES  H (horse) in NOSES (conks)

49 Responses to “Guardian 25,004 / Puck”

  1. Bill Taylor says:

    Thanks for stepping into the breach, Gaufrid. But fun? Anything but! I felt rather grubby after completing this one, with its nudge-nudge schoolboy smuttiness. Did Puck expect us to snigger behind our hands at some of his clues?

    I take issue with a few of the others, too:

    10a “men/OR” yet again? Two days in a row, in fact. Give us a break.

    27a I see where £10 is 1,000 pennies, i.e. MP, but that was working backwards after I’d gotten EMPTY. Not a good clue.

    20d An obvious anagram but again very poorly clued. ESCALLOP is not a
    “clam dish” in the food sense (nor is an escallop a clam) so perhaps Puck is using “dish” instead of “shell.” But a clam shell isn’t necessarily scalloped and, either way, “escallop” would be the wrong word.

    26d Since when was “h” an acceptable indicator for horse?

    This anniversary week seems to be ending the way it began – in disappointment. Roll on tomorrow. . .

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the blog, Gaufrid. This was pretty tough going for me until the penny (partially) dropped about the linked clues. It took me a while to realise the significance of DISCONTENTED. I found it very enjoyable, and satisfying to finish, though commenter s on the Guardian web site seem to disagree.

  3. Andrew says:

    Bill – to answer one of your objections, H and horse are slang terms for heroin.

  4. NeilW says:

    Thanks Gaufrid.

    Bill, sorry but I love Puck’s style – like Paul, I’m always confident that I will get there in the end and, personally, I have no objection at all to a bit of smuttiness – especially when it’s mostly in the mind.

    H = Heroin = Horse.

  5. Bill Taylor says:

    Of course they are, Andrew! That was stupid of me. Okay, I withdraw that one — the rest stand.

  6. Daniel Miller says:

    Sorry Bill I cannot agree. This was a sparkling crossword – quite difficult, challenging, interesting and rewarding. I enjoyed it from start to finish with several amusing moments and I congratulate Puck on some splendid surfaces.

    Firstly the first five across answers: Miserable, Fed-up, Pissed off, Bored and Grumpy – reminding me as they down of that famous news reporter stuck in a downpour.. some of these clues were a delight…. Pissed off was so well formed (when you think of someone being Peed off and clearly also being “mostly despising”). Bored – you might also be fed up and “in bed”; Grumpy (as some old men are .. and the use of casual sex for “rumpy” – Excellent!!

    Send down – an elegant clue “now sadly put away” – perhaps many wouldn’t want the nurse to “put away” her large breasts… but the answer is “put away” (in prison). SEN-DD-OWN. I admire the Use of English and the way in which Puck has led us astray with this one. Excellent!!

    Then we look at the final quintet: Vacant, Empty, Heartless, Cored, Abandoned – all elegantly stitched together, consecutively clued – exceptionally good setting I would say. The clue to Empty – very very good as £10 suggests, initially LX.. but no, you have to admire the MP as 1,000 pennies.

    Moving to the down clues – all very straight forward once you are in tune – but equally enjoyable Old Fogy, Veg Out, Mega (splendid clue).

    One of the better midweek crosswords. Thoroughly enjoyable.

  7. Bill Taylor says:

    Thanks also to Neil. I have no objection to smut, either, as long as it’s cleverly done. I find Puck’s brand simply childish and contrived. Today, it helped ruin what could have been quite a clever crossword.

  8. Gaufrid says:

    Re 20dn One of the definitions for ‘clam’ in Chambers is “a scallop or scallop-shell” and ‘escallop’ is given as a variant of ‘scallop’ in both Chambers and Collins. Collins defines ‘scallop’ as “a scallop shell or similarly shaped dish, in which fish, esp shellfish, is cooked and served” so I see no problem with this clue.

    As Andrew has pointed out H = heroin = horse and this is a device that is used quite regularly in wordplay (as is men = OR).

  9. liz says:

    Thanks for stepping in Gaufrid. I enjoyed this, unlike Bill, although it took me a while and I needed help to get 1dn (up late last night or rather this morning, not firing on all cylinders today).

    I enjoyed the use of linked clues (linked for once!) though I failed to spot the double meaning of DISCONTENTED.

    Also did not see MP=£10 in 27ac and don’t know whether to think this is overly contrived or clever. My quibble is with ESCALLOP = clam dish. Escallop can be scallop, according to Chambers, as well as the dish, but a scallop is not a clam.

    Overall, though, I though it was good fun.

  10. NeilW says:

    Although, Gaufrid, in Bill’s defence, it does seem in the last week or so that OR = men has had almost a daily outing. (Sorry don’t have time to trawl through the last ten days’ puzzles.)

  11. Bill Taylor says:

    I’m an Oxford man myself, Gaufrid (figuratively, not literally! My origins are strictly northern-working-class-kicked-out-of-school-at-an-early-age) so I’ll bow to Chambers and Collins. offers dozens of dictionary definitions, not including Chambers and only Collins Pocket English Dictionary, which doesn’t have this definition. But I withdraw my cavil.

    I still hated the crossword, though!

  12. liz says:

    Sorry Gaufrid. Our posts clashed and I see you have been more thorough than I was. Quibble withdrawn!

  13. sidey says:

    I hope we get a Rufus on Monday.

  14. tupu says:

    Many thanks Gaufrid. A taxing and sometimes amusing puzzle, harder than the last several. At least the … clues were well connected in this one. I don’t mind too much seeing the answer and then wondering why, as happened on a number of occasions here. I may be just suffering from ‘election shock’ but its only while writing this that I have suddenly got the point of ‘after vacation down under’. Clearly there are limits even to my schoolboy mind.

  15. Gaufrid says:

    I’m not trying to defend the use of men=OR but, when writing clues for a puzzle, setters will not know when it is going to be published nor what will be in other puzzles at around the same time. The fact that it has been used several times recently may well be followed by a period when it doesn’t appear at all.

  16. mhl says:

    Thanks for again standing in, Gaufrid.

    For me this was a nice example of a crossword that I found far too hard for the amount of time available, but really enjoyed (and admired!) after seeing the answers. Some good groans, if you see what I mean.

    I was rather hampered by assuming that the linked clues each were defined by the surface of the subsequent one, after a couple that seemed to weakly fit that, and also by guessing that ESCALLOP might might be a clam dish…

    Anyway, I’d definitely like to see more puzzles from Puck in Guardian – inventive and entertaining stuff.

  17. NeilW says:

    Gaufrid, no problem with OR = men. I was just remarking on the coincidence of this particular device appearing with great regularity of late. Agree with you that this is of course entirely random. I’m no conspiracy theorist!

  18. Brian Harris says:

    Enjoyably taxing and fiendish in places today. The linked synonyms were a nice touch… always good to see a setter attempt something a bit different. Some great cluing, and lots of eureka moments when we (eventually) solved various clues, which is definitely a good sign in a crossword. This, and yesterday’s, make a pleasant albeit brain-aching change from the Rufus-level puzzles.

  19. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Gaufrid, but I was sorry that yet again you have had to ride to the rescue.

    Sadly, I am among those who hated this and, after cheating, I am so glad that I had thrown in the towel.

    It’s puzzles like this that make me think that I should take up a more grown up hobby. Maybe knitting? Or lace making? That is if it’s OK for a handsomely rugged man to participate in such.

  20. Mister Sting says:

    Oh, I am such an oaf!

    There I am, getting terribly annoyed, and I’m staring at lights the answers to which describe my state…

    And there was a mention of Viz (which recently had this top tip:
    “A ladder turned upside down can be used for climbing down off things.”

    Really, I should have had more faith – I feel that I wasted this one.

    22ac makes me snigger.

  21. Grumpy Andrew says:

    Haven’t been here for a while, mainly do the Telegraph’s crossword now (despite the paper’s poisonous politics) but I bought several papers today and this did nothing to make me want to return to the Guardian.
    Quick question, and sorry if the answer is obvious to more veteran solvers, but how does or mean men?

  22. Bill Taylor says:

    OR = other ranks. But, as Walruss points out on yesterday’s blog, “other ranks” does not necessarily equate to men. It could be women. Whatever the case, though, it’s included in clues far too often.

  23. Rishi says:

    DD is bra cup size. To expect us to derive those letters from “large breasts”, though such a bra might hold them, is ridiculous. Also, doesn’t the paper have a policy of avoiding phrases like PISSED OFF in its crosswords?

  24. Paul B says:

    Other ranks, i.e. not the nobby officers. Therefore men. I think the complaint (as made elsewere, I see) is that an additional step is required to get from the one to the other.

  25. tupu says:

    Oh dear! My schoolboy mind is after all worse than I thought. I had assumed the shape of the two capital Ds might be involved!

  26. Rishi says:

    tupu at #25:
    Shape of two capital Ds? You’re missing some vital points.

  27. Paul B says:

    Our posts crossed, Rishi, but I agree with you about DD. I think there’s a thin dividing line between genius and insanity that Puck is straddling just for now, as this device would appear to demonstrate, but let him keep ‘em coming.

    As to The Guardian’s latest charm offensive (oxymoronic or wot) I am none too impressed, but as it doesn’t target any unfortunate or vulnerable groups I guess the only valid complaint would focus upon the issue of subtlety.

  28. Bill Taylor says:

    I’m sorry to be posting so much on today’s blog but Rishi @26 illustrates my point perfectly — his comment about two capital Ds is a little risque. But it’s witty! That makes all the difference.

  29. tupu says:

    Bill Taylor 27. Rishi’s comment @26 is indeed witty as you say, and it certainly amused me. But I suspect it is in its quick-fired spontaneity rather than its actual content that its wittiness resides. It is hard to see how a setter can demonstrate this quality as a redeeming feature.

  30. Bill Taylor says:

    I guess that depends upon the quality of the setter, tupu. Certainly, many of these crosswords, day to day, display a great deal of wit and humour. If Puck is unable to incorporate that into his risque clues, then I’d rather he lost the risque element. Without wit, it simply becomes, as I’ve said, schoolboyish smut.

  31. tupu says:

    re 30. Perhaps so. To be fairer to Rishi I should have perhaps said “its attractiveness mainly resides”. Returning to Puck, I think 16, 17, 14, 15 is, for better or worse, one of the cleverest bits of ‘lavatory humour’ I’ve encountered.

  32. scarpia says:

    I loved this one,ok ‘OR ‘might be overused but I think DD was a great device and ‘thousand pennies’makes a refreshing change from ‘politician’ for MP.
    H for horse I’ve seen before and I do remember one setter(Paul I think)using’rugby posts ‘for H.
    Not always keen on linked clues but I thought these worked well and added to the difficulty of the puzzle.
    All in all,good smutty fun!

  33. Ian says:

    Thank you Puck for your tour de force to brighten up my day. Thanks also to you Gaufrid for stepping into the breach.

    Though somewhat easy after the theme is patently obvious after getting the first two across clues, it was more than compensated by the wit and general humour of what was put before me.

    An excellent piece of grid construction to facilitate ‘Discontented’. Standout clues were ‘Mega’,
    ‘Grumpy’ and ‘Noshed’.


  34. morpheus says:

    the conspiracy theorist in me wonders whether we might have got a different crossword had the exit polls not said what they did last night?

  35. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Yes, we found all the crucial answers (to start off with VACANT), but we didn’t make the link between the 5 ‘over here’ and the 5 ‘down under’ with DISCONTENTED.
    Thanks to the blog I get it now and I must say, in a way quite clever [although we associated the use of PISSED OFF a bit with minds that still have to grow up, just like the GREAT TIT that was the mirror word of SEND DOWN with its DD’s (large breasts)].

    While solving we thought, where are the definitions in some parts of the clue cycles?
    Yes, I see it now, in 16,17,14,15 but … Puck is not really consistent.
    In the ‘down under’ half there are definitions: in 28,29,30 but not in 25 and 26 [even if you read the cycle as a whole]. And what is the “that’s” doing there in 25ac? Pointing out that there’s another one in 27? But then he’s not making a similar transition from 27ac to 28ac.
    More or less the same for the upper cycle.
    The word “for” in 7ac is the link to 8ac which flows into 9ac through “that’s”, but then it stops. Or does Puck want “as some men are” not just to be the definition for 12ac, but for all of them? As I said, I think there’s a bit too much inconsistency [which annoyed us].

    Two more technical remarks about this crossword:
    – We thought “hesitation” in 6d is not fair for UM ER, as these are two hesitations.
    – In 30ac “I” gives us “one”. Normally it is the other way around: “one” being the definition for “I”. But then that “I” is the letter version of the number 1. When you think in the opposite direction, the “I” in the clue should stand for “1” which for me doesn’t work [but as my PinC said: dear boy, that’s how it is nowadays]. Even if this is only a minor thing, for me it doesn’t feel right.

    The conclusion must be that there was a lot of thought put into this puzzle.
    Yet, we didn’t really like it.
    A clue like 18d (with its hidden EGOS) that tells us: “Partial to reggae? Go straight for I-and-I”? It must surely be possible to find a more natural surface than this nonsense?
    In the end it was all a bit like ‘casual sex’ (see 12ac).
    Not really satisfying :).
    [but then I’m probably one of these ‘old men’ (see 12ac) :)]

  36. Carrots says:

    A struggle….but worth it. Some excellent surfaces and novel ploys (e.g. MP = £1000p). I just wished Puck had an impish streak along with his (?) slightly risque one. ESCALLOP as a variant of SCALLOP has led to some confusion on both French and Italian Menus with Escallop du Veaux as a prime example.

  37. Mister Sting says:

    Sil van der Hoek @35 ‘I-and-I’ is a Rastafarian term ( The surface works well.

    Also, Rishi @23, ‘double Ds’ are large breasts – the size is of the breast as much as of the cup. The phrase is not entirely unknown among… well, among people who need specific vocabulary to discuss mammary glands. So entirely new to me, then.

    I’m hoping for ‘HUNG OUT TO DRY’ to be clued in the next few days.

  38. Tokyo Colin says:

    Thanks Gaufrid for stepping in once again. The blog appeared after my bedtime so I went to sleep still not sure what to think of this.

    It is a good thing this is very late and I apologise in advance, but I wonder if anyone else thought that in 22ac ‘put away’ might be an anagrind for ‘sadly now’. I Googled ‘LADY SNOW’ and was shocked to find a large-breasted porn starlet. I was relieved when it didn’t fit the down solutions. But am still wondering if Puck laid this trap for me and others. ‘sadly now’ is not required in the clue and also seems a bit contrived in the surface.

    I hope we have some genteel literary references today.

  39. Bill Taylor says:

    Glory, hallelujah! It’s Saturday (in Toronto, anyway) and Araucaria has come through for us! (Now all I have to do is figure him out…..)

  40. FumbleFingers says:

    Oh dear! I must be a real innocent! I didn’t get BESSEMER because I’d stupidly put TICKED OFF instead of PISSED OFF, so I didn’t pick up on that (slight) coarseness.

    But apart from that (sort of) one that I now know I didn’t see, I’m unaware of anything ‘smutty’ about what I thought was a very refreshing puzzle.

  41. FumbleFingers says:

    Sil @35
    I don’t suppose you’ll read this, but…

    My “smut detector” doesn’t go off at GREAT TIT, and I’m not even an ornithologist!

    VACANT and EMPTY don’t need definitions because they match the 2nd sense of dis-contented literally and commonly. The others are more figurative and don’t normally occupy the same semantic space, so Puck helps us out with definitions. Inconsistent? Just helpful where needed, IMHO.

    Um… Er… it’s just hestitation… erm… it could go on much longer without needing to be pluralised!

    Reggae singers DO actually come out with “I and I” (or “Aye-and-aye” as I hear it) quite often. I have the phrasing on several records, and I’m now stuck with earworm by a particular track from “I Jam Man”.

    “one” frequently substitutes for “I” – well, one could hardly say it never happens, surely? I realise “one” would often be interpreted as “you” there, but let’s face it, it could just as well be “we”. Or “people”. One becomes vague…

    Returning to my original point, I can’t see that any of your criticisms stand, Sil

  42. FumbleFingers says:

    One wonders if ONE should be defined as a “no-particular-personal pronoun”…

  43. Gaufrid says:

    Tokyo Colin
    “’sadly now’ is not required in the clue and also seems a bit contrived in the surface.”

    ‘now sadly’ is required. It provides the fodder and anagram indicator for the OWN in ‘down’.

  44. Sil van den Hoek says:

    FumbleFingers (#41), I’m still there.

    I am afraid my ‘smut’ detector did go off when seeing GREAT TIT in a distant combination with ‘large breasts’, and I found it amusing.

    I withdraw my criticism on the reggae clue – did already after seeing Mister Sting’s post (#37).

    Re “I”=”one”, of course, I know that it’s common ground.
    But 9 out of 10 times, it is “one” in the clue and “I” in the solution [and not the other way around, as it is here].
    I still think that the “I” in these 9/10 cases stands for a ‘letterfication’ [nice word, isn’t it?] of the number “1”.
    And – I’m sorry, but maybe my problem – I am still not convinced by transforming “I’d” into “one had” [so, the other way around], even though I fully understand your reasoning. If you are right, the identity “I”=”one” has two different explanations, depending on from which side you start. Could be, but doesn’t fully work for me.

    “VACANT and EMPTY don’t need definitions because they match the 2nd sense of dis-contented literally and commonly. The others are more figurative and don’t normally occupy the same semantic space, so Puck helps us out with definitions. Inconsistent? Just helpful where needed, IMHO”

    Well, that is a way to look at it – and it didn’t stand in the way of solving, but in combination with (apart from the surface (?), superfluous) words like ‘for'(in 7ac) and ‘that’s’ (in 8ac and 25ac), it made it all a bit ‘improvised’ for me.

    I am not arguing about the cleverness of it all – as I [or ‘one’ (but not me) :) ] said, I can see the thoughts Puck put into this crossword and I appreciate that.
    But – as it sometimes is – I am (or better: we were) not on his wavelength.
    My post was more to express this than to criticise the setter or his brainchild.

  45. Tokyo Colin says:

    Gaufrid #43. Yes, of course. Not sure where my brain was when I wrote that. I seem to put my foot in it each time I post here. Will go back to solving and lurking for a while.

  46. Sil van den Hoek says:

    And, FumbleFingers,
    we [and to be honest, especially I] made life too complicated regarding “I”=”one”.
    If you see “I” as a Roman numeral, then life is as simple as it can be.
    And it works both ways.
    So, let’s forget about my initial unhappy feelings.

  47. Bob says:

    A very late blog, because I enjoyed this one so much that I kept coming back to it at intervals until I finished it. The significance of 16-17-14-15d never dawned on me until I read the blog, though I knew I was missing something in the clue.
    Classic Puck: naughty, very clever, sheer delight. Keep ‘em coming, and don’t fret about the 12a bloggers.

  48. Huw Powell says:

    Although I gave up with 8 clues unsolved, I also admire the intricacy of the theme or gimmick here, which EMPTY pointed me towards, already having VACANT and CORED and HEARTLESS. Not many words fit _M_T_, and once I caught the 1000p trick, I was “in”. Then I spent a lot of time trying to come up with words that mean FULL for the top half. While I had DISCONTENTED I never caught on the rest of that clue and how it completed the descriptions of the trick sets.

    I ended up with a basically empty NW corner, with TICKED OFF penciled in.

    I never would have figured out “conks out” = NOSES, but I did have NOSHED written next to the clue.

    Lots of fun in the end, and thanks for the blog!

  49. FumbleFingers says:

    Sil van den Hoek (#41),

    Apologies if I seemed contentious. I guess the key point is that although I really enjoyed this Puck puzzle, it seemed to me quite a few posts here reflected negative attitudes. I just got a bit carried away taking potshots at anyone who didn’t praise it to the skies.

    I’m much heartened by the even more recent posts from Bob & Huw above. In particular it’s good to know I’m not the only person on the planet who wrote TICKED OFF instead of the (less correct?!) PISSED OFF.

    If every crossword were of this calibre that would suit me fine. Even more so if they were all of this difficulty level (i.e. – the level where on my own I can usually solve most of each puzzle, and sometimes all of it).

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