Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,178 – Puck

Posted by Andrew on November 26th, 2010


Puck is always entertaining, and sometimes quite tricky, and this was certainly a lot of fun. I found most of it not too difficult, but the NW corner held me up for a while at the end, There’s a bit of a theme in this one, revealed in my comment on 1,2dn.

9. ELIZABETH Bess – short for Elizabeth – is hidden in puB ESSex, and the full name breaks down into two other shortened versions, ELIZA and BETH. Also, Essex was a favourite of Elizabeth I, so I suppose that makes her an “Essex girl”.
10. LARGO LARG[e] + O
11. FIGHT I in FGH (3 neighbours from the 26 letters of the alphabet – nothing to do with 26ac) + T[o]. Very clever!
12. ABOUT TURN ABOUT (“on”, or regarding) + TURN (go)
13. SUSS OUT US SOU[p] in ST[ore].
14. TRIVIAL T + (RAVIOLI less O)*
17. AMBER Double definition – girl’s name and traffic lights, though it’s Red and Amber that’s “ready to go”. Most drivers seem to have forgotten that the Highway Code says that amber means “stop”, not “put your foot down in an attempt to get through before they change to red”.
19,25. ROEBUCK ROE (eggs) + BUCK (American money). I initially put ROE DEER here, hoping that I’d find an explanation for the DEER part later. Instead I got into trouble with 24 and 28 across and had to reconsider..
20. THREW Homophone of “through” (connected on the phone)
21. SPOUSAL (SOS PAUL)*. A fellow setter gets a name-check.
22. MEMBERS M + [dec]EMBER + S[hotgun], with a surface referring to “shotgun weddings” of pregnant girls.
28. SONIC Double definition – Sonic the Hedgehog of video game fame, and travelling at the speed of sound.
29. LEASTWISE ALE’S* + (STEW IS)*. “In the US” indicates that LEASTWISE is (mostly) an American usage (of which there are a couple of other examples – 24ac and 8dn, for example)
1,2. SELFRIDGES “Sell” + FRIDGES. Other department stores to be found in the puzzle are BLOOMINGDALE’S, JOHN LEWIS and SEARS & ROEBUCK (have I missed any?) , and there’s also DEPARTMENTAL.
3. DARTBOARDS DART (river) + BOARDS (where people act), and dartboards are “targets for missiles” in a local (pub).
5. THROTTLE A very nice double definition
6. FLAT Cryptic definition – the flat (sign) is a character in musical bars that lowers the pithc of the note it precedes.
8. JOHN Double definition – the Gospel of John (“book”), and American slang for the toilet (“smallest room”)
13. SEARS Hidde in houSE ARSon
15. INTIMIDATE I N TIM + I DATE (date=”see regularly”)
16. LEWIS (W ISLE)*, &lit – Lewis is the northern part of the combined island of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides,
18,26. BLOOMINGDALE’S BLOOMING (flourishing) + DEALS*.
23. ÉCLAIR Odd letters in EaCh LoAf I tRy. The definition recalls the famous humorous version in Chambers: “A cake, long in length but short in duration..”
24. LASS [g]LASS
27. SHED Hidden in yeS HE Does, and Shed is another setter of Guardian crosswords.

33 Responses to “Guardian 25,178 – Puck”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Andrew. Surprisingly (disappointingly?) easy for a Puck, with even the theme very obvious. I don’t think you missed any.

    I agree with you that the NW was the tricky bit.

  2. Monica M says:

    Thanks Andrew,

    Even if you both thought this was quite easy, for some of us lamebrains, solving a Puck puzzle is cause for a blooming celebration … he usually sends me mental, but once I was able to suss out the theme I really hit the throttle. (sorry couldn’t help myself).

    Thanks for the explanation of LEWIS, my knowledge of Hedridean geography is not a string point.

  3. molonglo says:

    Thanks Andrew, esp. for the BESS in 1a and for parsing 13a. Some Puck clues are first rate, like 11a. 1,2 were also good to get, at the end. But apart from the many easy ones there was 12a which was lame and the mentioned 13a which was too cutesy altogether.

  4. sidey says:

    Thank you for the explanation of Elizabeth, way beyond me.

    I was a bit surprised that two of the thematics were given as whole answers. I suspect editorial interference.

    Many department stores have been replaced by out of town SHEDs.

  5. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Andrew, I enjoyed this – which has not always been the case with Puck.

    I’d never heard of SONIC as a hedgehog and, even though I settled for ELIZABETH, I missed the BESS bit.

    Thank you also for your timely post.

  6. Dad'sLad says:

    Thanks Andrew,

    This was fun. Like others NW was last to emerge. ‘Elizabeth’ penultimate, provided with four crossing letters by my 8-year old daughter!

  7. rrc says:

    Enjoyed this with quite a few smiles and ahah moments

  8. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Andrew.

    I just love your idea of Elizabeth being an Essex girl – I’d missed that!

    Dad’sLad – ‘out of the mouths of babes…’ 1,2 really made me laugh: when I took my then seven / eight-year old granddaughter to the newly-opened Selfridges in Birmingham and asked her what she thought of it, she replied, ‘Amazing! – I thought they only sold fridges’.

  9. Michael says:

    Thanks, Andrew for your explanations. Am I alone in guessing ‘Foggy’ for 11 across? He was one of three neighbours up in the Dales wasn’t he?

  10. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Andrew. Got stuck with SELFRIDGES in the NW corner, but otherwise managed it. As you say, quite a few Americanisms in today. Like sidey, I would never have parsed ELIZABETH in a month of Sundays, so well done!

  11. Michael says:

    My apologies, I’ve just looked up Holmfirth and it is a fair distance from The Dales. My geography is sketchy north of Oxford.

    Like others I got Elizabeth having seen Eliza and Beth, but I totally missed Bess.

    3 down was the one I couldn’t solve; because of the ‘Y’.

  12. Derek Lazenby says:

    Hmmm, despite fuzzy brain state, I got to within 6, then asked the wife for help, then immediately managed to see all bar 2 of them for myself! Nothing like a bit of pressure to add focus!

    Michael, I always had the impression the lads were in the same area but without being neighbours.

    I too started with ROEDEER, but the check button cleared the last four letters, so I wasn’t held up.

    The Chamber’s Word Wizard gives LAME BRAIN as two words, not one. I suppose one of the paper lie sheets, sorry, dictionaries, will say otherwise (probably the same company demonstrating inconsistency yet again).

    Add me to the list, got it without seeing BESS.

  13. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and Puck

    A very good blog and an enjoyable puzzle.

    I missed Bess but saw Eliza, Liza and Beth. The link with Errol Flynn also crossed my mind.

    I noticed Sears at the end but oddly failed to go on to Roebuck et al.

    Some good clues inc. 10a nicely misleading at first, 11a, 3d.

    Sonic hedgehog is apparently more complicated. Wikipedia claims it is one of three proteins (the others are Desert Hedgehog and Indian Hedgehog). “Sonic hedgehog is the best established example of a morphogen as defined by Lewis Wolpert’s French flag model—a molecule that diffuses to form a concentration gradient and has different effects on the cells of the developing embryo depending on its concentration.” see
    I imagine this is not a spoof?!

  14. Stella says:

    Thanks for the link, tupu. Why on earth would they choose the hedgehog as the archetypal mammal?

    I didn’t see ‘Bess’, either. Well done, Andrew. Thanks for your informative blog. I solved 8 and 16d so far apart, 8 being my last in, that I didn’t see the connection. I really must make a mental list of synonyms for ‘toilet’ :)

    I enjoyed this, which isn’t always the case with Puck.

  15. Uncle Yap says:

    Wow ! Andrew, another excellent midnight effort, downloaded, solved, blogged and uploaded in 66 minutes … that is impressive. I think I should hand over the Usain Bolt label to you.

    For some obscure reasons, I had WINE CELLAR for 1,2 and that really delayed the north=west corner. Otherwise, a good work-out.

    See you soon, Andrew

  16. Eileen says:

    For anyone still agonising over yesterday’s 6dn, I’ve posted the outcome on yesterday’s blog.

  17. crypticsue says:

    Probably my quickest ever time for a Guardian crossword. Really enjoyed the theme.

  18. tupu says:

    HI Stella

    Don’t want to go too far off topic. They cause drosophylla embryos to be ‘prickly’ it seems.
    The sonic hedgehog is named after the game character. See under discovery in the Wiki piece.

  19. James G says:

    was Eliza Doolittle an Essex Girl…!?

  20. Bryan says:

    James G @ 20

    Naw – She was a Cockney!

  21. muz says:

    Thanks Andrew

    Excellent blogging

    I parsed 9a as E[ssex] LIZA BETH – one of my first in, after spotting the hidden BESS.

    Really nice puzzle, and my first Puck.

    Tupu, @18 developmental biology of drosophylla is full of great names for proteins; things like frazzled and bedazzled. Then there’s a whole list of things to do with seven-less, believe it or not.

  22. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew. Really enjoyable puzzle. At first I thought this was easier than the usual offering from Puck, until things slowed down a bit. Found the NW corner tricky, despite getting 9ac early on (though I miss the BESS part of the wordplay).

    I was another one toying with ROE DEER and I’m sorry to say I missed 8dn altogether, for which I could kick myself. Too much turkey last night, probably ;-)

    And I failed to look beyond Selfridges and Bloomingdales to spot the rest of the theme…

    Thanks, Eileen, for clearing up yesterday’s 6dn muddle.

    Derek @ 12. It’s good to have you back!

  23. Mick H says:

    Some great clues here – I guess 4,22 must have been done before, but it was a very neat treatment, and 16 was a clever idea.
    9ac reminded me of the old nursery rhyme:

    Elizabeth, Liza, Betsy, and Bess,

    They all went together to seek a bird’s nest;

    They found a bird’s nest with five eggs in,

    They all took one, and left four in.

  24. Daniel Miller says:

    Excellent – and witty too! Liked quite a few clues: Fight, Amber, Roebuck, Selfridges, John – lovely surfaces to many of these.

  25. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Tupu’s link @ no 13 may well not be a spoof, but I think the clue is just referring to our little cartoon friend.

    And if I may put in a late effort for this week’s pedant prize, the fruit fly is actually Drosophila, or more precisely Drosophila melanogaster, which has served biologists for several decades in genetic research. Its name comes from the Greek, meaning dark-bellied dew-lover; Eileen and tupu knew that already, but it’s probably news to the rest of us (unless of course I’m dumbing down Guardian crossword solvers, in which case apologies and have a good weekend …)

  26. cholecyst says:

    Clever stuff and good fun – apart from 27d – SHED. Very easy to spot for regular solvers but very unfair for the occasional visitor.

  27. tupu says:

    Hi K’s Dad
    Thanks and sorry, I meant to check the spelling. I feel bad about this because some of my best friends, while not actually fruit flies themselves – I think – do spend a lot of time among them.
    I expect you are right re old Sonic here. As noted @18, the morphogen (I imagine this is a ‘form controller’) is named after the character (but his little friends are named after proper hhs). I seem to remember this question of form development processes was a major interest of Alan Turing.
    :) Ah well. One lives and learns and, hopefully, forgets. What would life be like if all we learn from x-words actually stuck?!

  28. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I was only teasing, tupu, as you know. But one thing’s for certain – we’ll learn more from crosswords than we will from Sudoku. Have a good weekend.

  29. tupu says:

    Hi K’sD
    You are right re Sudoku. I can solve one and if I meet it again shortly after, I can easily walk straight past it without realising we’ve ever met. I am actually quite good at them and have learned a lot about how to do them, but I have yet to find any wider application of this useless skill. :) At least with crosswords I can bore my non-solving friends (and some solving ones too) by talking about them.

  30. Stella says:

    Hi, tupu and K’s D,

    I know it’s late, but I’d just like to say that, if I hadn’t found my forte in linguistics, I might have become a genetisist. Structure and how to use/manipulate it has always fascinated me, hence, probably, my facility to decipher anagrams.

    And thanks for the explanation about prickly things.

    I tell number-shy people that a sudoku is a two-dimensional Rubik cube

  31. Dave Ellison says:

    Stella @30, you should really tell them numbers are largely irrelevant in sudoku – any set of 9 symbols would do.

    tupu @ 29. Your “useless skill” could be enjoyable tested in killer sudoku – try the one in Saturday’s Guardian for starters. They are a combination of Soduko and Kakuro and do require considerable aritmetic skills.

  32. tupu says:

    Hi Dave
    Thanks. I have a regular go at them and am mostly though not always successful. Of course numbers do matter in them.

  33. enigma says:

    Delightful Crossword. No French refences. Quite a huitre.

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