Posted by Eileen on September 22nd, 2012
From the Guardian Alan Connor’s ‘Meet the Setter’ interview with Puck:
‘What do you think goes through a solver’s mind when she [sic] sees that it’s a Puck puzzle?’
‘I can only guess that there is a wide range of reactions, from “Oh good, that’ll be fun” to “Oh Puck!”‘
Quite right! This was, for me, a Prize puzzle worthy of the name – Puck in his playful, Puckish mood and yet still not too fiendishly difficult, I think.
In the same interview, Puck said. “Setting crosswords is very different from a clue-writing competition where one clue and solution exist in isolation. I’m always looking to produce a set of fair fun clues using a wide range of devices rather than outstanding clues in their own right. I hope that the crossword ends up as more than the sum of its parts.” I think Puck certainly achieves his own goal in this puzzle [and has produced some outstanding clues in their own right into the bargain].
I’ve tried but I haven’t found any ninas or curled-up creatures or their equivalent this time. The highlight for me is the brilliant pairing of /ellipsis between 5 and 6dn – stunningly good. There may be other things I haven’t spotted [I've been caught out by this setter before!] but, as it is, I thought this was an excellent puzzle – and certainly fun! Very many thanks, Puck – I really enjoyed both the solve and the blog.
1 Environmentalists such as Ethel Merman and Thomas Hardy? (4-7)
What on earth could these two have in common, I wondered, and laughed out loud as the penny dropped that they both have a tree hidden [hugged] in their name [ethEL Merman / thomAS Hardy] What a lovely way to start a puzzle!
9 Disconcert Arsenal without using wingers, gaining victory in Europe (7)
[g]UNNER[s] [nickname of Arsenal, minus first and last letters - without using wingers] + VE [victory in Europe] – great surface!
10 Return of ice in one point three times as slippery? (3-4)
reversal [return] of KILL [ice] in EEE [point - three times]
11 Aid for tourists in Edinburgh’s good online reading material (9)
GUID [Scottish - Edinburgh's - 'good'] + E BOOK[online reading material]
12 Spike Milligan, finally covered in for good (5)
N [last letter - finally - of Milligan] in PRO [for] G [good]
nice ‘lift and separate’ – and there might be a reference to Spike Milligan’s famous epitaph
13 Weapon available from around threepence (4)
hidden reversal [around] in thrEEPEnce
14 One making declaration in a counter-revolutionary fashion (10)
anagram [revolutionary fashion] of IN A COUNTER
16 Strange I should tan poorly (10)
anagram [poorly] of I SHOULD TAN
19 Body establishing English broadcasts, originally (4)
initial letters of Body Establishing English Broadcasts for a nice &lit
20 Desirable but unattainable ladies, mostly out to lunch (5)
anagram [out to lunch!] of LADIE[s] [mostly]
21 Before returning toilet roll to soft bit of furniture … (9)
anagram [roll] of TO SOFT before reversal [returning] of LOO [toilet
23 … heads for mugs of no-good drinks (7)
there's a lot going on here: a double definition and wordplay as well: NO G [no good] GINS [drinks] – and, of course, a noggin is a drink, too
24 Fairy ring finally seen where moon is nearest to us (7)
PERI [fairy] + GEE [last letter - finally - of rinG]
25 Spooner’s cursed pig will cheat (11)
Spoonerism of Sworn hog’ll
I don’t usually like these but we’ve had some good ones lately, including this one – and what a great new word to learn!
1 Measure of stress that can be absorbed by three nestlings about to take flight at last (7,8)
anagram of THREE NESTLINGS + [fligh]T
2 Right one, hiding in central point in nest (5)
R I [right one] in EYE [central point - as of a storm]
3 Ring in when dancing includes party dance (7)
O [ring] in anagram [dancing] of WHEN round [includes] DO [party]
4 One getting in a pickle from using her Kindle (7)
very nicely hidden in usinG HER KINdle – e-books again!
5 Golfer circling edge of hole is … (8)
The ubiquitous crossword golfer [Ernie] ELS round [circling] LIP [edge of hole] + IS – a superb surface – and a genuine ellipsis!
6 … in soft enough ground, accepting initially even the error exiting the trap? (4,2,3,6)
SLIP OF THE TONGUE
using the ellipsis, we have to take LIP from the previous clue ['edge of hole is ... in' and put it in SOFT, then it's an anagram [ground] of ENOUGH round [accepting] the initial letters of Even The, to give an amusing definition and a play on [sand] trap, which I believe is a golfing term: a really brilliant pair of clues, I think
7 Person who can’t spell anoints new members of old sect (13)
MUGGLE [in the Harry Potter books, a non-wizard - 'person who can't spell'!] + anagram [new] of ANOINTS for this unlikely-sounding old sect that I fortunately remembered from my A Level History
8 Breakfast item in pub’s left one entering complaint: “Is hard to swallow” (7,6)
EGG [breakfast item] in BAR’S [pub's] + L I [left one] in BEEF [complaint]
15 Liberal’s surprisingly more gutsy (8)
anagram [surprisingly] of LIBERAL’S
17 Removes tension from simmering feud, overseas area excepted (7)
US [overseas area] in [accepted] anagram [simmering] of FEUDS
[Edit: this is utter nonsense! - please see comments 5 and 9]
[I just wanted to say how [very] often I’m exasperated by hearing on the news about a tense situation being ‘diffused’!]
18 Car horn very good in snow, oddly (7)
COR [horn] + PI [very good: to forestall the frequent queries, 'pi' is a short form of 'pious', now a Chambers entry in its own right, meaning 'obtrusively religious, sanctimonious'] in odd letters of S[n]O[w]: I confidently wrote ‘COR [horn]‘, thinking of ‘cor anglais’, then was surprised to see that it wasn’t in either Chambers or Collins, except in that combination
22 Childless male, shortly to produce child (5)
SP [sine prole - childless] + ROG[er] [male shortly] – an amusing clue to finish with