Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,524 / Puck

Posted by Eileen on January 5th, 2012


After the delightful Arachne yesterday, another welcome post-Christmas present to off-set the foul weather, in this quite challenging and entertaining puzzle from Puck. The characteristically witty and ingenious cluing provided a number of smiles and ‘aha’ moments along the way, making this a really enjoyable solve. Many thanks, Puck.

[I have a couple of queries but I’m sure help will be readily at hand.]


8   LEMONADE: A[dvertised] in LE MONDE [French newspaper]
9   IREFUL: REF [whistle-blower] + U[nion] in IL [Israel – International Vehicle Registration]
10  LAOS: O [duck] in LAS[s]
11  ECUMENICAL: U [turn] + MEN [people] IC [in charge] in E[astern] CAL[ifornia]
12  LEEWAY: E{v}E [‘discontented’! apple-picker] + [t]W[o] in LAY [set]: the definition is ‘play': a beautifully constructed clue
14  EVENTUAL: EVE [here’s the apple-picker again – but this time as ‘the day before’] + anagram [cooked] of TUNA + L[ake]
15  LETTUCE: ETT [part of [j]ETT[y] in anagram [different] of CLUE
17  ETHANOL: anagram of ANOTHEL [‘another’ with r[ight] changed to l[eft]  [‘one side to the other’] – a lovely surface
20  LEAD-FREE: I can’t quite see the wordplay here
22  ASSAIL: [w]ASSAIL [drinking song] minus [taking off] w[oman]
23  LAVATORIES: LAVA [hot stuff] TORIES [blues] giving a synonym for 2dn – a real laugh out loud clue!
24  FOIL: FO[e] [enemy] + I [one]  L[eg]?: I couldn’t find L as an abbreviation for ‘leg’ in my dictionaries but I may not have looked carefully enough – it has been known! [Unless it’s from LBW, which doesn’t seem quite fair.]
25  LEGACY: I can’t quite see this, either: EGACY is hidden reversed in emptY CAGE – but where does the lion come in – or the L come from? Surely not as an abbreviation?
26  EPIDURAL: anagram of I’L[l] READ UP: nice definition: ‘number available for hard labour’!


1   LEGALESE: G[overnment] ALES [drinks] in LEE [general]: I almost said at 12ac that it was good to see LEE not clued as general – Puck has more subtle ways of introducing this crossword favourite – another nice surface
2   LOOS: O [love] in reversal [upshot] of SOL [sun]: reference to the Battle of Loos, a WWI engagement
3   LAMELY: M[ale] inserted between [inter] two cities: LA and ELY – another very good clue
4   LEGUMES: GUM [tree] in LEES [grounds]
5   LIFE-BELT: anagram of BILL and FEET: it makes a change to see Bill appear in his own right and not as AD or AC.
6   LEVIATHANS: anagram [on the loose] of TEAL VANISH
7   LUSAKA: L[iberal] [I’m used to this L abbreviation!] US [American] AKA [alias]

There do seem to be a lot of answers beginning with L: have I missed something?

13  WITHDRAWAL: anagram [arranged] of RI [Rhode Island] +WALT W[hitman] + HAD
16  CARBOXYL: CAR [vehicle] + BOY [young man] L[eft] around [outside] X [ten]:an unfamiliar word [and meaning of ‘radical’] for me but the cluing was impeccably straightforward: Chambers: ‘carboxyl: the radical COOH’
18  ORIGINAL: reversal of GIRO [dole payment] + [f]INAL [last]
19  DECIBEL: this took a long time. I thought I would be on safe ground with Byron but it turned out to be scientific again, rather than literary. I found from Collins, on checking the definition of DECIBEL, that its abbreviation is ‘dB’ [sic] which is a ‘piece’ of [lor]d B[yron] so I think its ‘dB extended’ to give ‘a measure by the sound of things’
21  ENAMEL: ENA [[girl] MEL [boy – but it can also be a girl!]
22  ABSEIL: anagram of IS ABLE; this one made me smile, too.
24  FOUL: double definition

37 Responses to “Guardian 25,524 / Puck”

  1. Tramp says:

    Nice blog Eileen and a good puzzle; managed to do most of it before leaving for work. There are Ls around the perimeter of completed grid.

  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen. Tramp’s beaten me to the pattern! The unintended consequence was that were an unusually high number of vowel crossing letters which didn’t help with some of the trickier ones.

    I thought 20 was just a joke – Top LEAD followed by “what biofuel certainly isn’t” FREE.

  3. scchua says:

    Thanks Eileen for the blog, and Puck for a challenging puzzle.

    The first pass was hopeless, and CARBOXYL was the toehold in, and every subsequent one was hard-fought! But rewarding when one discovers the beauty of each clue’s construction. The same few that you have questions about:

    L for leg? Perhaps from cricket with LBW, say.
    L for lion in LEGACY? Or is it just a hidden reversal – but there’s that “by” interrupting.
    LEAD-FREE: Top=LEAD, and biofuel isn’t FREE, but so isn’t everything else.

    Just those few, but perhaps there’s something brilliant to be unearthed?

  4. NeilW says:

    25 is a little bit naughty – you have to omit the connector “by” so then it’s a straight reversed ha.

  5. NeilW says:

    Sorry, scchua, we crossed.

  6. Blaise says:

    In 25, I think you have to take the “by” as meaning “next to”, which then makes the reverse embed explicit: emptY CAGE Lion.

    In 20 “Top” is “lead” and (I’m guessing) that even if you grow and distil your own beet biofuel has its hidden costs and therefore isn’t “free”. But I’ve probably missed something…

  7. Blaise says:

    Ooops, triple-cross!

  8. Allan_C says:

    Re 24a I think L is used generally as an abbreviation for ‘leg’ in cricket – not just in ‘lbw’ but, for example, in ‘l-b’ for leg-bye.

  9. NeilW says:

    20 – another thought. Is this the same device as the Lord Byron clue? ToP biofuel has inside it Pb, the symbol for lead!

  10. Eileen says:

    Thanks, everyone.

    That explanation of LEAD-FREE had occurred to me – I should have just gone with it.

    I’d also thought of ignoring the ‘by’ in 25ac but couldn’t justify it and, as I said in the blog, I don’t like the idea of L coming from LBW.

    Thanks, Tramp, for pointing out what should have been the obvious! I only noticed that all the down clues seemed to be beginning with L when i wrote the blog. I didn’t think to look back at the grid!

    But I can’t see the point of it, except to emphasise that L has proved to be my bête-noire in two places today!

    I’ve just seen your latest comment, Neil. I had been trying to do something with Pb and I see it now: ‘top biofuel’ isn’t lead free! Thanks! 😉

  11. Eileen says:

    Apologies, Allan_C, for seemingly ignoring your point. Your example still doesn’t give L as leg by itself, and, as I said, I can’t see it in my dictinaries.

    [It took me long enough to get used to ‘leg = on’! 😉 ]

  12. Paul B says:

    Bloody L.

    That plumbum gag is a nice thought, but perhaps not articulated as well as it could have been – which could be the case with two or three of the examples here. I found the clueing bitty, somewhat unreliable, and plagued by some unsatisfactory linking material (for example ‘to’ in 11, ‘leading to’ in 23).

    And like everyone else so far, I don’t get the abundance of perimetrical Ls. But I’d like to.

  13. Bertandjoyce says:

    An enjoyable lunchtime solve. We noticed the perimeter which helped us complete the puzzle but we needed to check here for help on a couple of clues. Thought that lead-free was a really clever clue!

    Thanks Eileen and Puck.

  14. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Puck

    I found this quite hard but enjoyable.

    Many pleasing clues (once solved!) inc. 8a, 12a, 26a, 2d + 23a, 3d, 4d, 6d, and 19d.

    As is often the case I missed some ‘hidden treasures’ such as the Ls and the Pb in top biofuel. In the latter case there has been discussion of how costly it is to produce and I let it be at that.

  15. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. Maybe my brain has yet to get into gear this year, but I struggled with this. Missed 16dn and 19dn…along with the perimeter Ls.

    All very ingenious!

  16. Geoff Anderson says:

    As usual, Puck has served us a ‘plate’ful of goodies. As for the dodgy abbreviation, Puck is a playful setter, so he was probably pulling our l(eg). Finally, I have to say that solving this grid was the closest I’ve found to being in ‘ell.

  17. apple granny says:

    Thanks Eileen for the blog. We found this pretty challenging – failed to notice the “L”s round the edge, and failed to understand why it was “leeway” for 12a, “leadfree” for 20a and “decibel” for 19d., even though these all seemed the likely solutions. It’s always encouraging to see that we struggle on the same clues as everyone else. But it was good fun to tackle, and we loved some of the answers.

  18. Mr. Jim says:

    I found this one pretty tricky — struggled with the first 8 or so clues, then spotted the L thing which made it an awful lot easier. I still needed 23A to get LOOS despite having LO_S (a surprising number of letters will fit there!)

    thanks to Puck and Eileen for explaininy LAMELY — I thought it was [MALE]* + LY, but then LY would have to mean intercity, which I couldn’t make it do. Also put in DECIBEL without understanding why.

  19. chas says:

    Thanks to Eileen for the blog.

    I felt that Puck was being unfair in 8a saying newspaper without indicating it was a foreign paper. I tried Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Sun etc without making any progress.

    On 26a: I’ve forgotten how many times I have been caught out by ‘number’ meaning that which makes you numb :(

  20. ChrisChunders says:

    A tough one, this puzzle. I didn’t (and still don’t) like 20ac; the ‘pb’ doesn’t preserve the upper case p to give the symbol for the element lead, whereas in the similarly-clued 19d the cases of d and B are cleverly maintained. I’m not sure about the phrase lead-free either; being a cyclist I wouldn’t really know, but don’t drivers use unleaded rather than lead-free petrol?

    And I didn’t spot the Ls either: I hate it when I miss those emergent grid phenomena!

  21. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    Unfortunately this one defeated me – after struggling for more than an hour I eventually had most of the grid completed but I couldn’t get anywhere with the NW corner. Not spotting the Nina didn’t help. of course. I wasn’t on Puck’s wavelength at all today.

    For me, this was the most difficult Guardian puzzle for many months (and ‘can’t do’ = ‘no like’, I’m afraid. Sorry, Puck).

  22. amulk says:

    Thanks Eileen for a nice blog. I actually spotted the L’s round the perimeter quite early and so was able to fill in a lot of the answers, albeit without full understanding in many cases. Now I’ve seen an explanation of 20ac, I think it’s a superb clue, although 19 dn does not quite work for me. As an aside, in response to one of Puck’s literary themed puzzles, I asked why crosswords were full of literary themes but never, say, organic chemistry. I wonder if carboxyl was in response to that. If so, I should say I actually know nothing about organic chemistry, I just mentioned that as a random topic. I’m just glad I did not talk about Guatemalan history! :-)

    Regarding the L’s, I wonder if it’s Pucks 50th birthday today? If so many happy returns. Otherwise, well have a drink anyway for nice puzzle.

  23. Puck says:

    Many thanks for the blog Eileen, and to others for your comments.

    I had thought that the perimeter Ls might have been spotted quite quickly, making it a rather easy solve – apparently not!

    The Ls themselves were, I confess, a setter’s conceit. Today’s puzzle is my fiftieth Guardian cryptic/prize puzzle and I fancied doing something aptly different to celebrate reaching that milestone. I hope there will be many more puzzles to come, and that you will enjoy solving them as much as I enjoy setting them.

    And yes, in hindsight, perhaps leg=L is perhaps unfair as it’s not in my reference books as a standard abbreviation on its own rather than as part of lbw (leg before wicket) or lb (leg bye). I don’t know how that slipped through the net (no pun intended).

  24. Puck says:

    amulk @22,
    We crossed! You were almost there with the Ls, but not quite. Thanks for the drink offer – have one on me too for my 50th.

  25. Eileen says:

    Hi Puck

    Thanks for dropping in – much appreciated.

    You’ve forestalled me: I was just writing a reply to amulk saying that I’d looked you up in Michael Curl’s ‘Who’s Who’, to check re your birthday. I find that it’s a different milestone this year and I look forward to seeing what you’ll do for that. 😉

    Anyway, many congratulations on your 50th puzzle – thanks for this and all the others and here’s to many more. I’m all the more sorry I didn’t spot the Ls!

  26. Giovanna says:

    Thanks Puck for a challenging puzzle and Eileen for explaining it.

    23a was an absolute gem and 26a made me smile when I spotted the silent b.

    Like many others, I spotted the abundance of ls but not the nina, which would have been a great help!

    Congrats on your 50th, Puck! Keep them coming.

    Giovanna x

  27. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    This was a cracker which just beat me as I failed to spot ‘decibel’.
    I got ‘leeway’ as ‘play’ until Eileen solved the cryptic for me.
    Staggeringly, looking now at the grid, I failed utterly to notice the Ls.
    I used Blaise @6 for lead-free but the Pb alternative (or equally valid) parsing was a brilliant clue.
    Great challenge, great fun, let’s have more like this.

  28. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Puck and Eileen. I am looking forward to the C-word one.

  29. Tony says:

    Surely the leg side is the left side, and left commonly abbreviates to L.

  30. Martin P says:

    I’ve been a professional sound engineer for thirty-three years and could not see dB in Lord Byron…

  31. mismanager says:

    Tony @29

    For a left-handed batsman, the leg side is on the right – field positions are defined with reference to the batsman’s normal stance at the crease.

  32. Quink says:

    Jeez, that was a beast of a puzzle. My lowest solving in a long time. Many thanks for the explanations. From experience, I never had Puck down as such a killer. Man !

  33. Paul B says:

    The thing about LEG, as the setter generously acknowledges, is that it does not equal L in any crossword reference: and, as given here, it has nothing to do with cricket, which as ‘mismanager’ points out is a more subtle beast than ‘Tony’ imagines.

    Also, there is no Nina in this puzzle, which instead has some extra information, unfathomable in today’s case, supplied perimetrically. As it turns out, the added info signifies a milestone for Puck, and well done to him for reaching it.

  34. Fallowfield says:

    The road to L – another puzzle hamstrung on a ‘good idea’. Clues which boiled down to ‘guess what I’m thinking’ as solutions followed by ‘guess which letter to leave out’ – or in this case, guess what letters are supposed to mean – indications.

    No doubt clever, but amusing? GSOH on this site – I worry.

  35. Maxine from Oz says:

    Probably too late again….(This crossword appears in our paper today 18th Jan). I’m guessing from the entries above that the clue in our Canberra Times for 18a which reads ‘Top biofuel isn’t a sort of petrol (4-4)’, is a different clue from the original in your Guardian??

  36. Eileen says:

    Hi Maxine

    The clue is actually 20ac but that’s the one we had, too:

    Top biofuel isn’t a sort of petrol (4-4)

    Have you read the comments, as well as the blog? It took us a while to get there but NeilW finally explained it at comment 9. 😉

  37. Maxine from Oz says:

    Thanks Eileen… I missed the explanation. And BTW thank you for all your very helpful blogs.

    I really enjoy all the comments and find them extremely helpful especially for the more obtuse (for me) clues.

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