Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,325 – Puck

Posted by Andrew on May 18th, 2011


A tough but very entertaining puzzle from Puck with a couple of cleverly intertwined themes and some very involved wordplay (one of those where you think “this could have been a prize puzzle”). Not all the connections are explicitly mentioned in the clues so there may be some that I’ve missed, not being an expert on the subject of 19ac 22dn and 3dn.

9. DEATH TRAP HATED* + reverse of PART (bit)
10. NATTY T[ree] in [b]AT[h], all in NY
11. SHREW (W[a]S HER)*
12. IRRUPTION (UN PRIORIT[y])*, Y being the “unknown” (as in algebra)
13. JAMMING Reverse of MAJ + M1 (major road) + NG. The definition is “getting stuck”, but Jamming is also a song by 9ac 22dn and 3dn
14. RORQUAL [dive]R + OR + QUAIL less I (“not one”). The Rorqual is a type of whale, so a “big swimmer”
17. CACHE A CH in CE – neatly using two common crosswordisms for “church”
19,18. BOB CRATCHIT The advice is “SCRATCH IT”, and the S=shilling is “changed” to its slang form of BOB
20. DREAD RE (Royal Engineers) in DAD (old man). Linking this with 10ac we get Natty Dread, another Marley song.
21. BRAISED B[rown] + RAISED (bred, homophone of “bread”)
22. MUMMERS M[y] + UMMERS (people hesitating). “Artists masquerading” is the definition
24. RACONTEUR (CRANE TROU[t])*, the ellipsis referring to the next answer
26. TROUT First letters of The River Ouse Until Tickling
28. ARIES [c]ARIES; as an astrological sign it’s the RAM, seen “in the mirror”, i.e. backwards and forwards, in 2dn.
29. THE POGUES (U HEEPS GOT)* – another Dickensian!
1. IDES Hidden reversed in theSE DIckensians, and the Ides was a day in the Roman calendar, hence “24 (ROAM) reportedly”
2. MARRAM MAR[ley] (half of 22dn) + RAM (hit). Marram grass is found on sand dunes
3. THE WAILERS (IRATE WELSH)* – and the group that played with Bob Marley. The words “were they…” link to the next clue
4. CRYING C + [p]RYING (being “nosy”) – and CRYING is what wailers might do.
5. SPARE RIB (PARIS BER[n])*. The feminist magazine publichsed between 1972 and 1993.
6. SNAP A in SNP (Scottish National Party)
8. CYAN Anagram of AND CRY minus DR, the definition being “hue”. We had a similar misleading use of “hue and cry” from Gordius last week.
13,22. JACOB MARLEY COB (nut) in JAM (the “spread” is “out”) + [b]ARLEY. The second Dickensian (both from ‘A Christmas Carol’) -they can swap names to give Bob Marley
15. REDEMPTION (DIRE TEMPO)* + [mcewa]N. Another Marley reference – Redemption Song
16. LIDOS This took me a while to work out: if you remove the LID, i.e. make it “topless”, you get OS= outsize or “for the larger figured person”.
19. BAD DEBTS D in reverse of BED (the sack, over) , all in BATS (mad)
23. EXODUS X (times) + O (ring) in USED*
24. ROAM O in RAM – using a mobile phone abroad is called roaming
25. NOSY N[ew] + OS (Ordinary Seaman) + Y[ardarm]
27. TOSH Hidden in phoTOSHop. Peter Tosh was one of the original membes of the Wailers.

42 Responses to “Guardian 25,325 – Puck”

  1. Ian says:

    Thanks Andrew for an excellent blog.

    A very smart piece of work connecting Dickens with Bob Marley. A clever device by Puck.

    Once the connexion had been made Tosh, Natty Dread, Jamming and The Wailers soon followed.

    Other, unrelated musical solutions included Mummers and the Pogues. The former almost certainly unintended in anmusical context.

    Excellent cluing at 5dn 6dn and 7dn.

    Straightforward but extremely enjoyable.

  2. greyfox says:

    An excellently crafted puzzle. Charles Dickens and Bob Marley make an interesting combo.

    23 dn. ‘Exodus’ is the eponymous song from the album by Mr. Marley. How does he like his doughnuts? “With jam in”.

  3. Mystogre says:

    Thank you Andrew. You filled in the gaps In a number of the clues.

    I found the puzzle fun with the two different sets of references, but my own knowledge was really stretched and I did have to resort to electronic help for a few.

    But all the clues worked nicely.

  4. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Andrew, for an excellent blog of a very clever puzzle.

    It would be invidious to pick out any clues, I think. The puzzle was so beautifully and intricately constructed, combining two such diverse themes [both favourites] – and two examples of ellipses used to some purpose!

    The only unknown for me was RORQUAL, but it was very clearly clued.

    Many thanks, indeed, Puck, for a real treat – I didn’t want it to end!

  5. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you, Andrew.

    The Beatles yesterday in the Indy; now Mr Marley today in the Guardian. I’m more familiar with the former than the latter, so missed some of the nuances today. But it was fun, if toughish, with some clever references between the various clues. And the theme didn’t get in the way of you solving it if you weren’t aquainted with THE WAILERS.

    THE POGUES making a random appearance at 29ac made me smile. Their album ‘Rum, Sodomy and the Lash’ has always stuck in my mind for having a great title, an excellent cover picture, but crap music.

    Thanks to Puck for an entertaining hour or so.

  6. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    I thought this was great fun – tricky but not that difficult so I don’t think it was quite at prize level.

    Thanks for explaining who TOSH was – the answer should have been gettable from Google given the other associations but, for some reason, the penny didn’t drop for me. I did have to check RORQUAL which was new to me but very simply clued.

  7. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Andrew

    This was a typical Puck – many miles outside my comfort zone with a theme that merely bewildered me.

    The only thing I know about Bob Marley is that his image appears on the walls of many cafes in Amsterdam: the ones where they ask you, ‘Which menu do you want?’

    I’d never heard of RORQUAL and probably never will again – I hope.

  8. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks Andrew, and Puck for what I thought was an easier Xword than your usual. I needed explanations for 13d, 4d, 19d and 8d. Did I say easier? Well, the answers went in easliy enough but not all the explanations.

    I couldn’t remember Marley’s first name, so having NICHE at 17a, I put JONAS initially at 13d – google put me right.

    Didn’t know the Marley references, unfortunately, but now you have pointed it out I do recall REDEMPTION.

  9. William says:

    Thank you Andrew, excellent blog to a top crozzie.

    Not really convinced about NATTY at 10a. Isn’t the first ‘in’ superfluous? Not sure how to parse it.

  10. Geoff says:

    Thanks, Andrew

    Ingenious and fun puzzle, with its interlinked themes, which I managed to complete despite being ignorant of much about BM & The Ws apart from their name – the clues work well without all of the references being essential for solving them.

    I couldn’t parse LIDOS, despite spotting the OS. RORQUAL was one of my first entries – we all have some odd items in our mental lumber rooms.

    William @9: The clue works as T (tree’s first) inside AT (Bath, not the outskirts) all inside NY (another city). This is a rather tortuous way to bring in the two Ts, but necessary to make the surface reading smooth.

  11. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks Andrew. Rather you than me, the I did twig to the Marley theme – the other was explicit – and thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle.

    Hi William. 10ac is T(ree) in bATh in NY. That way neither ‘in’ is superfluous, and the first is necessary for the surface reading.

    I’d never heard of The Pogues, but unlike others, it seems, was familiar with RORQUAL. I like nature docs. :)

  12. Stella Heath says:

    Sorry Geoff, we crossed :)

  13. yedrom says:

    A most enjoyable crossword, although it took a while to realise how many wailers songs were there. Incidentally, the Raconteurs are a band as well.

  14. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew for a very good blog of a tricky but well clued puzzle.

    Hard for a modern music illterate like me but got the relevant answers if not all the allusions through the clueing and google. I gather Puck himseld is a musician.

    I eventually saw the Bob/Jacob Marley link-up but have not detected a clue directly suggesting the connection.

    I guessed pogues and had to check.
    I also needed to check rorqual and found it after looking for rorquil! I imagine in restrospect that ‘qual’ and ‘whale’ are cognate words.

    Particularly liked 13,22 down and ‘lidos’. Also the linked 23 and 24d with the double use of mobile.

    Needed Andrew’s help to parse ‘mummers’ properly. I ended up with um + er each following ‘m’ and making no proper sense of ‘people’. Thanks Andrew.

  15. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew. I really enjoyed this, although I found it slower-going than usual and tough in places. I noted the cross-over between Bob Marley and the Dickens theme, but failed to spot the song titles, although I know them very well (and like them very much).

    RORQUAL was also new to me, but fairly clued.

    I liked all the contemporary references — mobiles, Atonement, Photoshop etc.

  16. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Andrew and Puck.
    I thought this was a super puzzle which I found easier than usual for Puck ,only having difficulty with the parsing of LIDOS.
    Very cleverly incorporated theme which was very familiar to me,so probably helped.
    Kathryn’s Dad “Their album ‘Rum, Sodomy and the Lash’ has always stuck in my mind for having a great title, an excellent cover picture, but crap music.”
    The title is taken from a quote by Winston Churchill and the cover is a pastiche of Gericault’s ‘Raft of the Medusa’ and in my opinion the music is fantastic.
    I guessed my musical taste was a tad different to yours when I read your recent comments praisng the syrupy schmaltz of The Carpenters. :)
    Different strokes for different folks.

  17. Geoff says:

    Hi tupu

    The dictionaries all seem to agree that RORQUAL is borrowed from the French, which itself borrowed the word from the Norwegian ‘røyrkval’, itself from an Old Norse word. Here they diverge: Chambers suggests that it means ‘furrowed whale’. SOED suggests that the first element is a specific name for the animal. Certainly, I can’t find anything like ‘røyrk’ in modern Norwegian which means ‘furrow’ or ‘groove’. However, ‘whale’ in Norwegian is ‘hval’. So you are along the right lines, but the bit of the word which is cognate to the English is not ‘qual’ (=kwal) but ‘wal’.

  18. CynicCure says:

    Haven’t commented here for a while but could not let the reference to Bob Marley as ‘modern music’ (tupu @ 14) go unchallenged. The man died 30 years ago (almost to the day, hence presumably this crossword tribute). Maybe modern compared to Mozart, but, say, Lady Gaga?

  19. molonglo says:

    Failed (cheated) only on the 22d Marley, and had no trouble with RORQUAL or LIDOS. But I needed explanation for the shilling changed in the Bob Cratchit clue, and the parsing of 4d so thank you Andrew – and for the Wailer references (Google supplied the Tosh one, but I didn’t go looking for the others).

  20. otter says:

    I really enjoyed this. Surprised myself by finding it less of a struggle than some of the recent, ‘simpler’ ones. Seems to be the way with me. Was helped by the Bob Marley theme. Think you’ve picked up all the links.

    I thought a rorqual was a shark, not a whale. Probably getting mixed up with ‘requin’, which is French for shark. Oh well, they’re both big swimmers, so didn’t fox me.

    Thanks, Puck, for a lovely puzzle. And thanks, Andrew, for a very helpful blog.

  21. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Very enjoyable and quite straightforward.
    However, i got the distinct impression that Puck had not really finished polishing it when it was submitted.
    As Geoff says:
    “Ingenious and fun puzzle, with its interlinked themes, which I managed to complete despite being ignorant of much about BM & The Ws apart from their name – the clues work well without all of the references being essential for solving them.”
    and is mentioned in many other posts.
    The Wailers was in fact hardly a theme at all. Excepting 27d the following were all non-referenced: 10a, 13a, 20a, 15d, 24d and 19a/22d.
    What is a reasonable definition of a ‘theme’?
    Obviously Puck felt that a Dickens theme required a mention in each clue.

  22. Robi says:

    Thanks Puck for an entertaining, tortuous (or should that be torturous?) puzzle; perhaps more so than yesterday’s. I’m obviously not in the same league as those who thought it was easy!

    Thanks Andrew for a good blog. I had heard of THE POGUES, but not in reference to Dickens. I can just about remember RORQUAL, although MARRAM was new to me – is this something to do with marram glacé? ;) I particularly liked IDES, LIDOS, EXODUS, BAD DEBTS and, once explained to me, BOB CRATCHIT (thought it involved *[ITCH].) Pretty obscure reference to TOSH, but Google reveals all.

  23. tupu says:

    Hi Geoff

    Thanks for that. I’ve now been into OED. I think you must be right re ‘val’, ‘wal’, ‘ual’. The French spelling is misleading since the ‘qu’ is actually pronounced ‘kw’.

    The name seems to refer variously to some pretty common finned whales.

    The issue of roots is of course complicated by looking at more than one dictionary! OED connects it ultimately to the Old Scandinavian for ‘red’ but then adds cryptically:

    ‘Since the whales are not red or even reddish, the semantic motivation for the name is unclear. It has been suggested that it refers to the animals as providers of red meat and was originally used to avoid a taboo on mentioning the whales’ name at sea’.

    Such behaviour is not uncommon with large ‘game’ in Northern countries (e.g. bears)I didn’t know whales were so easily fooled. But it may be that simply uttering the right name was a bit like counting your chickens.

    :) While writing, I began to wonder if it is connected to ‘right whale’ but that turns out to be another mysterious ‘kettle of fish’ and is in fact the ‘wrong whale’.

  24. caretman says:

    Thanks, Andrew, for the blog and explaining many of the connections I was unaware of. I could see that there was a music theme but since I knew none of Bob Marley’s music (and the only Pogues cover I know is “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”) I did not catch most of the cross-references. But still solvable, although NATTY took me a long time with only the middle T available as a crossing letter since there seemed to be so many ways to potentially parse the clue. I got it eventually and that made the final two crossing words drop immediately. An entertaining puzzle thanks to Puck.

  25. Davy says:

    Thanks Andrew,

    A superb puzzle from Puck and the first one for ages that I’ve completed without any aids. The clueing was faultless and the only wordplay that I didn’t understand was for LIDOS although it took me a fair while to work out NATTY. Even RORQUAL which I knew was a whale, was easily gettable from the wordplay.

    I totally concur with Eileen’s comment and would nominate this for my puzzle of the year so far.
    Many thanks Puck.

  26. John says:

    I’m not so sure RORQUAL is all that clearly clued. If you didn’t know it, it could equally resolve as RORQUIL.

  27. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Hi Scarpia at no 16. You’re right, if we all liked the same puzzles and music it would be a rum old world. Karen Carpenter may be syrupy, but at least she could sing in tune, unlike Mr MacGowan …

    Anyway, we’d better put an end to this now, before Gaufrid comes out with the lash.

  28. Cosafina says:

    Thanks, Puck, for an excellent puzzle – lots of fun!

  29. tupu says:

    Hi John @26
    Yes (see 14). That’s the path I first went down and found rorqual on checking it in the dictionary.

  30. John says:

    Hello tupu. I missed your first comment but evidently you agree that it is not “clearly clued”.

  31. Eileen says:

    Hi John

    I’m sorry, I really think this is nit-picking. We all know that ‘one’ in crosswords can indicate I or A. I maintain that 14ac is ‘clearly clued’ – to lead to either RORQUIL or RORQUAL! Having to use a dictionary to check which one was correct did not, for me, constitute ‘cheating’ nor detract from the clue – but I expect others may disagree.

  32. tupu says:

    Hi John
    Yes, or at least not unambiguously clued. As I implied in my comment to Geoff, rorqual is probably a better guess if one sees the connection of ‘ual’ (pronounced ‘wal’) to ‘whale’.

  33. chas says:

    Thanks to Andrew for the blog.

    I find myself in disagreement with most of the comments so far: I did not find it a well constructed puzzle and was certainly not easy to fill in. I had heard of Bob Marley and his group. Similarly I had heard of the Pogues as a singing group but knew nothing else about them.

    Far from best crossword of the year I would call it the worst!

  34. Davy says:

    Chas at 33,

    Had you heard of Bob Cratchit and Jacob Marley ?. These Dickens’ characters were the entrance points to the main theme. The Pogues was an answer to just one clue and so no further knowledge was required. Why would you need to know anything else about them ?.
    Could you elaborate on why it was not a well-constructed puzzle ?.

  35. Thomas99 says:

    Eileen (31)-
    I agree. The fact that it’s possible to get a clue wrong by putting in a non-existent word can hardly count against it.

  36. Richard in Strasbourg says:

    Came to this after work and at first though it would be easy. Not at all Thanks Puck, and to Andrew for an excellent blog, especially the explanation of jamming and raconteur. I still have very slight reservations about “a” for adult but overall a very satisfactory challenge. Que ça continue!

  37. RCWhiting says:

    Davy #34
    I think you are saying what I said in #21.
    That is, that The Wailers is not a theme (except’tosh’) and no knowledge of them, BM or the music is required to complete the puzzle.
    All the rest is after thoughts and is why I was confused by Puck’s intentions.

  38. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thanks Andrew, and – as greyfox @2 said – apart from the very well clued EXODUS you spotted them all!

    As others have commented, a splendid puzzle with the Unlikely Pair cleverly interwoven.
    Normally I find Puck’s style a bit leaning towards overconstruction, and although today’s crossword was no exception, we put that aside and enjoyed the puzzle very much.

    After Jacob & Bob turned up (not even that quick), the code was cracked. And the speed of solving doubled.

    As Eileen said, two ellipses that really made sense (and the third one 23,24d was justified by a fine surface).

    Others needed the blog for LIDOS. We did too.

    We especially liked the unusual homophone device in BRAISED (21ac).
    And the constructional use of ‘McEwan’s Atonement’ (in 15d) and that of ‘Uriah Heep’ in 29ac.
    The latter had the THE POGUES as a kind of musical odd one out today, but the surface was of course Dickensian. On top of that it was also clever for another reason: Uriah Heep was one of the most popular British rock bands of the 70s, one that might certainly be associated with a surface like this.

    For a while we thought Puck made a mistake in 7d (ATTITUDE).
    We read it as ‘A TIT’ in (DUET)* and couldn’t get rid of that idea. Therefore we considered that it had to be ‘A TIT’ in (DUEL)* [ so, a typo], but of course it had to be A + [TIT in (DUET)*] – nice clue!

    Many thanks to Puck.
    Ans chas @33, keep your head up!

  39. Eileen says:

    Oops – I miscounted the ellipses!

    [I certainly didn't mean to imply that only two out of three made sense.]

  40. Martin H says:

    I didn’t get round to this until late this evening, and on a first run only found SHREW and IRRUPTION, so I thought it was going to be one to finish tomorrow. But then The Wailers came up, and with so many mentions of Dickens I though there must be a Marley somewhere, and then the rest was pretty straightforward. Not really a theme, but helpful – at least for me – where the parsing was not obvious (NATTY). And, as Eileen has noted, some authentic ellipses. An excellent end to the evening. Thanks Puck – and Andrew for the ram in the mirror.

  41. john g says:

    Really enjoyed this one, but yet again i completed three quarters of the puzzle leaving one quarter completely blank. Is this a recognised crossword phenomenon(quarteritis). I also regularly get within one or two clues of finishing. I feel that i should be better at crosswords by now as i have been doing the grauniads for about 4 years daily.

  42. Abbo4 says:

    As a big reggae fan, I loved this puzzle, so thank you Puck & Andrew. Nice to see the 30th anniversary of Bob Marley’s death getting a nod, albeit a week late. Very cleverly set – as I think the comments above indicate, it didn’t actually rely on a detailed knowledge of the Wailers back catalogue to complete.

    Another possible Marley allusion that may or may not have been intended was a combination of the clues to 14a and 7d which might at a stretch give Three Little Birds (diver, quail, & tit), another Marley song, with the whale that is the answer to 14a possibly providing some homophonic prey for The Wailers…?

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