Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,193 / Puck

Posted by duncanshiell on December 14th, 2010


Uncle Yap commented yesterday that he is currently in Sri Lanka and may not have access to an internet terminal, so a substitute blogger takes the Guardian spot today.  We have still got snow on the ground in Jedburgh, but I guess Uncle Yap having had his fill of British snow recently, will be happier in Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

I’m still learning about Guardian crossword setters.  A little bit of research shows that Puck’s puzzles have attracted a wide range of comments in the past, so I shall be interested to see what today’s offering generates.  

I enjoyed it – it took me just under 40 minutes to complete it.  The more complex wordplay follows the style I find most interesting, namely builidng up the answer from the less obvious constituent parts, although there did seem to be a surfeit of clues usuing lots of initial letters.

I don’t think I have seen a ‘/’ used as part of a word length indicator before.  I must admit that I just assumed that it was a Guardian typo.  I was wrong – Chambers indicates that the answer to 5 down is indeed written with a ‘/’.

There were a few words that I got from the wordplay and had to check in the dictionary to ensure they were right, or even existed – TUSSORE, NITERIE and OBS/GYNAE

There are one or two words I have come across in other crosswords recently – ENNOBLE, and YAHOO. Crosswords tend to be the only place I come across these words.

I thought the surfaces to the clue for BELLE DE JOUR and INERTIA were a bit strained., but generallly the surfaces were OK.  There was good misdirection in places and varied use of the word ‘doctor’.

Overall, an interesting start to the day with some knowledge of physics, fabrics, social issues, music, sport, cinema, psychics, history, medicine and cookery required .  As ever, I learnt a bit more whilst writing the blog and researching some of the answers.


Wordplay Entry
1 M (maiden) contained in (hid in) (FISSION [cleavage] + first letters of [leads to] BOOM OR BUST)   FISSION BOMB (explosive device)
9 Hidden word (part) in OPEL BONNET reversed (needs putting back) ENNOBLE (elevate or distinguish; raise up)
10 Anagram (to be altered) of TROUSERS excluding (away) R (right) TUSSORE (a fawn coloured silk from wild Indian silkworms)
11 Anagram  of (made) of  (ME [setter] + T [time] + SHERRY) RHYMESTER (poet)
12 Hidden word (occupant) in POSSIBLY A HOODIE YAHOO (a brutal or boorish lout who possibly wears a hoodie) &lit
13 KENYA (country) excluding the first letter (topless) K ENYA (reference Enya Brennan [anglicised version  of the full Irish spelling], soloist and one-time member of Clannad)
14 B (book) + A + SEB (reference Lord Sebastian Coe) + ALLER (French [overseas] word for ‘to go’) BASEBALLER (US sportsman)
16 EVENT (incident) excluding the middle (heartless) E containing (A + anagram of [gruesome] SCENE) EVANESCENT (fleeting or passing)
19 AIRMAN (aviator) excluding first and last letters (lacking wings) IRMA (female name)
21,8 Anagram of (playing) JODRELL and the first letters of (taking the four tops) BANK EVERY EVENING UNLESS BELLE DE JOUR (1967 film starring Catherine Deneuve; a more recent Belle de Jour was an [in]famous blogger in the earlier part of this century)
22 ERE (before) + CT (court) + the first letters of (initially) NAKED EMPEROR STAYS SILENT ERECTNESS (being up)

L (Liberal) + anagram of (when ordered) THE GIN

LIGHTEN (cheer up)
25 PRESENT (gift) with the first four letters PRES (part) reversed (taking back) SERPENT (Devil; tempter)
26 TELE (TV) + KIN (family) + E (English) + SIS (sister; relative) TELEKINESIS (the production of motion at a distance by willpower or thought alone; psychic ability)


Wordplay Entry
1 Anagram (when adapting) of THEY [omitting [pointlessly] E [East; point of the compass]) and BAN GAY FLINGS FANNY BY GASLIGHT (old film [1944])
2 SALE (a town that was historically [old] part of Cheshire, but now adminstratively subsumed into the metropolis of Greater Manchester) containing B (bishop) SABLE (black)
3 Even letters of (nothing odd here) LION ZEBRA TAIGA (Is TAIGA a pun on TIGER?  TAIGA, I discover, is a marshy pine forest covering much of subarctic N America and Eurasia. Perhaps not the natural home of the LION or the ZEBRA?) INERTIA (lack of activity)
4 EIRE (Ireland) + TIN (can) all reversed (set up) NITERIE (a night club; a good place to booze and bop)
5 Anagram of (out in) GABON YES OBS/GYNAE (the branch of medicine dealing with obstetrics and gynaecology)
6 (CREE [native American people living in Montana] contained in [in] ELP (reference Emerson Lake & Palmer, a progressive rock trio, most successful in the 1970s]) all contained (wearing) BROTHER’S (relative’s) BROTHEL CREEPERS (a man’s soft shoe with thick crepe sole)
7 HEARS (tries) + first letter of (taking lead from) ELECTRIC HEARSE (vehicle)
8 DE JOUR (see wordplay at 21 across, above) DE JOUR
15 Anagram of (doctor) PLEASED containing (about) T (model) PEDESTAL (support of a column, vase, bust etc)
16 MB (Bachelor of Medicine, doctor) contained in (used in) an anagram (cooked) MEAL EMBALM (preserve)
17 Anagram of (dresser) KITCHEN CHETNIK (A Serbian resistance fighter against Turkish rule in the 19th century, and against occupying forces in both World Wars)
18 IN (home) reversed (returning) + ELS (reference Ernie Els, South African golfer) + E (ecstasy) + N (no) NIELSEN (reference, probably Brigitte Nielsen [Danish actress] although Google’s first hit is on Connie Nielsen, another Danish actress.  Films are not my strong point)
20 A + S (second) + SET (TV) + first letter of (top) SHOW ASSETS (reference asset-stripper [one who acquires control  a company and sells off its assets for gain])
23 TAR (sailor; Jack [Tar]) + STRAW excluding  RAW (if it is cooked, it is not RAW) reversed (up) TARTS (food items)

26 Responses to “Guardian 25,193 / Puck”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, duncanshiell for an impeccable blog and Puck for another very entertaining puzzle. I think I spent as long working out the wordplay for a few of these as I did filling in the entire grid!

    Like you, there were the same new words but, in each case, they were clued in a very fair manner, with the difficult wordplay reserved for the easier vocabulary. Excellent construction all round!

  2. NeilW says:

    By the way, you didn’t mention the theme of prostitution/brothels…

  3. NeilW says:

    …the obvious ones plus, at a stretch, “Irma La Douce”

  4. Duncan Shiell says:

    NeilW @ 2,3

    I think calling it a theme is stretching it a bit although the more I look at the entries…… The reference to the Belle de Jour blog was a nod in that direction. However, the last time I blogged a Guardian crossword there was a long debate about the approriateness of certain words (or themes) so I chose discretion over valour this time.

  5. Martin H says:

    Tough and enjoyable, with some very crafty and skilful wordplay. The obscure words in NE were, as has been said, available from the wordplay, but the fact that they crossed didn’t make them any easier.

    I’m not keen on ‘No’ = N, nor on ‘gruesome’ as an anagram indicator, but I’m aware that I’m spitting into the wind; Dylan Thomas a rhymester? John Ashbery? – but these are small gripes about a good puzzle.

    Thanks for another exemplary commentary duncanshiell.

  6. Trundle says:

    Too convoluted for my poor addled brain this morning but there were some lovely clues which made me smile. Gave up with about half to go and came here to settle my cruciverbalist demons!

    But I think 18d probably refers to Leslie Nielsen who died at the end of last month and was notable (mostly) for spoof comedies.

    Thanks for the impeccable blog Duncan … now I can get on with the rest of my day.

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks duncanshiell for an excellent blog and thanks puck

    I found this pretty hard. I had to check Enya, ELP, tussore, obs/gynae and niterie though I did get them all which is a tribute to the clueing.

    I got tarts but missed the parsing. A nifty clue!

    I was too busy concentrating on individual clues to notice the theme though it is clear enough once mentioned.

    :) Overall I begin to wonder where I’ve been all these years!

    I enjoyed 1d, 9, 21,8, 23 (in retrospect), and 25.

  8. tupu says:

    ps also had to check chetnik.

  9. Stella says:

    I don’t think so, Trundle, since the clue refers to an actress – which led to my asking myself “who’s she?”, and finding there are at least three of them!

    Thanks for the blog Duncan. I have to work on my blogging style, as I never manage to make it look as neat as yours (or others’ :))

    I found this tricky, with a large number of obscure answers, particularly as, like you, films are not my forte, and I’d never heard of 8d.

    I chuckled at a couple of clues, though: I found 3d ingenious, and I think the point you make in the blog is precisely Puck’s intention – obviously, there IS something odd there :).

    Another one I particularly liked was PEDESTAL, for the misleading, and entertaining, surface reading.

  10. Trundle says:

    Thanks Stella. Of course you’re right … see what I mean about my addled brain!?

  11. malc95 says:

    Thanks duncanshiell for informative blog.

    I agree with Stella about Leslie Nielsen – “and don’t call me Shirley”.
    Thanks for explanation to 23d which I couldn’t justify.
    All in all, a great morning’s entertainment

  12. Robi says:

    Thanks duncanshiell for an excellent blog. Struggled a bit with this one, but made it in the end. Thanks for explaining the wordplay in 6d and 23d, which I didn’t really understand. Missed the theme – what a sheltered life I must have led, although I do remember seeing ‘Belle de Jour.’

  13. scarpia says:

    Thanks Duncan.
    Super puzzle from Puck.
    Only got 2 answers on first run through,but once on Puck’s wavelength all fell into place nicely(with a few check letters).I also like the style of complex wordplay,not a CD in sight!
    Top clue for me – TARTS,a clever device.

  14. NeilW says:

    Duncan, at least let me call it a mini-theme. Both of the long answer film plots are also related.

  15. Peter Capell says:


    Hi. Had got everything except Chetnik and had no more time so looked at this site. Annoyed not to get the anagram. So thanks and my congrats on a typically well written piece. I hope all is well and have a good Christmas and NY. Peter

  16. enitharmon says:

    My head is spinning a bit after this one. Puck being a very mischievous little sprite today!

    Apropos brothels/prostitution: Both of the films directly cited are set in and around brothels (I fancy Belle de Jour refers to the 1967 Luis Buñuel film with Catherine Deneuve as a staid housewife who takes a daytime job in a brothel. An excellent film!) Irma, as in Irma la Douce, fits the pattern too. I’m not going to comment on ‘erectness’.

  17. muz says:

    Thanks duncanshiell for a thorough and entertaining blog!

    Not my favorite setter, and not my favorite puzzle, but I got through with copious use of the check button (but no google, I was on a train). Simply too many charades of one- to three-letter particles for my taste.

    I have not fact checked this, but I remember from somewhere that “taiga” is one of only two word in the English language to come from Siberian – the other being “tundra”.

    BTW, Telekinesis is also a band from Seattle (on record just one guy; Michael Benjamin Lerner, but they tour as a three-piece). Check them out if you’re into catchy, quirky little indie-pop songs. A long way from Enya and ELP, I know…

  18. Stella says:

    In all, there are about ten or eleven clues linked to brothels and such, either in the wordplay or in the answer.

    The actress refered to may be Asta, the erotic nature of whose 1910’s films led them to be censured in the US.

  19. Will Mc says:

    Whichever of the acting Nielsens is being referred to, I don’t think any of them is famous enough to be just clued as ‘actress’.

  20. walruss says:

    This was okay, and there were nice bits as Duncan says, but perhaps like him I got that ‘nearly but not quite’ feeling about it. Not quite in the Guardian top league for me.

  21. Abby says:

    Connie Nielsen? Brigitte Nielsen? Both pretty famous, though sort of at opposite artistic ends.

  22. Sil van den Hoek says:

    We thoroughly enjoyed this crossword, no mistake about that.
    But I (more than my PinC) do understand what walruss means @20 when he says ‘nearly but not quite’.
    Puck’s puzzles are clever, but some of the cleverness is a bit contrived (like in 11ac or 1d).
    There’s just not the ultimate lightness like in a Paul, whose clues are sometimes written in a similar style.

    That said, we qualified the device in SERPENT (25ac) as ‘novel’, or at least as unusual.
    We liked the trick in TARTS (23d), but it is very very Libertarian and we don’t think The Times would have given it a chance.

    Not sure whether ‘taiga’ (in 3d) was intended as a homophone for ‘tiger’. I suspect Puck couldn’t find something for T?I?A in the Book of Animals, but we did see ánd appreciate the ‘wit’ of taiga/tiger.

    NIELSEN (18d) being described as an ‘actress’ has already been criticised enough, but I think ‘actor’ would have worked better (although some might have have questioned the surface then).

    ENYA (13ac) is – in our opinion – a great clue.
    How concise can it get?
    [we didn’t even think of Dolly Parton, or is that non-PC?]

    As someone who does some compiling in his spare time, I was a bit surprised by Puck using the same device (taking many initial letters) in three clues: 1ac, 21/8 and 22ac, although the Four Tops idea was splendid!

    We did find the film in 1d, but we had never heard of it – indeed a long way from … um, Emerson Lake & Palmer and the like, who go quite a long way back themselves :).

    All in all, I think we could call this crossword a kind of ‘dynamic’.
    As I said before, we thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Yet, a long time ago, I described solving a Puck prize puzzle as travelling on a bumpy road, and today there was a similar feeling.
    But we reached our destination where there was an inn where we had a pint or two.
    Thanks Puck!
    And Duncan, of course!!

  23. Carrots says:

    After 40 minutes I had put in three….and sank half as many pintas at lunchtime to get them. Guesses galore and working backwards to parse them got me within half-a-dozen answers of the goal posts. These had to wait until I got home to plunder Duncan`s excellent blog.

    I normally enjoy Puck`s puzzles which usually use the full repetoire of devices and cover a broad range of subjects and themes, but this one offered little wit, no “Hah!” moments and substituted obscurities (FISSION BOMB/TUSSORE/NIGHTERIE/ENYA/OBS-GYNAE) for other words in more common parlance with witty clues. I didn`t much care for this one though: all hard work and no light relief. Sorry!

  24. Eileen says:

    I’ve held back from commenting all day, because Puck is among my favourite setters, but I now find myself able to echo Carrots’ comment. I was disappointed in this and consoled myself with the reminder of my favourite Enya track, which I offer as bedtime music:

    Sleep well!

  25. Bob says:

    I loved this – typically Puckish theme and surfaces. 6d I got, before I had the theme, simply from “shoes”, 2 crossing letters, and the fact it was by Puck. I guess he appeals to my schoolboy sense of humour.

  26. Huw Powell says:

    I found this puzzle quite enjoyable, although rather difficult (as you can see by the time lapsed!).

    I had just under half of it finished when I hit a brick wall, although I had some useful scribbles in the margins (like Cree/pers and various kinds of bombs). But after mostly finishing Araucaria’s Christmas prize and setting it aside, I came upon this once more in my stack. Attacking it again today, I slowly managed to add in one more clue, then another, then another…

    I had to look up at least eight answers or parts of answers to verify their “reality”, and that’s not counting the Radio Observatory, since what it is wasn’t part of the path to the answer.

    But I must say, no matter how hard any given clue/answer was, once answered, it became clear that the clue was scrupulously fair. All except TARTS, which I needed Duncan to explain, and it, also, is equally tight.

    So thanks for at least two different enjoyable solving sessions, Puck, and a very nicely explicated blog, Duncan!

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