Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Prize25,742 / Puck

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)
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

27 Responses to “Guardian Prize25,742 / Puck”

  1. Biggles A says:

    Thanks Eileen for an insightful explanation. I found this rather difficult. Not being a devotee of JK Rowling I had never encountered MUGGLE and even now find it is more generally indicative of inferiority than directly applicable to spelling. Never having heard of MUGGLETONIANS either 7 was something of a problem for me. I never did account for the final ee in 24.

    I think a noggin is a drink container rather than the contents.

  2. exscouse says:

    Shouldn’t the answer to 25 ac be “HORNSWOGGLE”?

  3. grandpuzzler says:

    An inadvertent typo, I’m sure.

    Thanks Puck and Eileen. Loved TREE-HUGGERS.


  4. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen. There does seem to be something else going on, or else I am chasing shadows. Last Saturday, I spent longer on this after solving trying to see the significance of all those double letter combinations, mostly in the across clues.

    Taking the across clues:
    1 EEGG
    9 NN
    10 EELL
    11 OO
    13 EE
    19 EE
    21 OOOO
    23 GG
    24 EE
    25 GG

    Maybe that’s the limit of the Nina, just all these doubles but it would be amazing if somebody very much cleverer than me could point out a deeper significance…

  5. PeterO says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen.

    Will there be a prize for the most inventive definition of hornsnoggle?

    17D looks like a blog written at some remove from the solving – surely it is DEFU, an anagram (‘simmering’) of ‘feud’ + S[a]ES without (‘excepted’) A (‘area’); since the result is palindromic, the ‘over’ does not affect the cryptic interpretation.

  6. Eileen says:

    Oh dear – this is what I’d call a ‘rude awakening’ – except that you’re so polite, NeilW! How on earth can I have missed that? I don’t think there needs to be any further significance – it’s clever enough to have done it. [But then you [I] never know with Puck …]

    exscouse – grandpuzzler is right, of course: because the word was unfamiliar, the typo didn’t leap out at me at the final check – amended now.

    And, of course, PeterO is right, too: : as you can see, when I came to write the blog, I read ‘excepted’ as ‘accepted’ – inexcusable.

    Biggles A – re NOGGIN:
    Collins: 1 a small quantity of spirits; 2 a small mug; 3 the head;
    Chambers: a small mug or wooden cup; its contents; a measure of about a gill; a drink [of beer, spirits, etc; [inf] the head.

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Puck

    Hard in places but very clever and some extremely good clues. I particularly liked 4d, 6d, and 15d.

    Re 6d, I assumed (as no doubt others including Eileen did) that ‘trap’ here refers to ‘mouth’ as well as to bunker.

    I had to guess/work out 1a, 25a and 7d. Thanks Eileen re 1a – I missed the hugged trees and moved on in a bit of a rush with vague ideas about songs and novels.

  8. Biggles A says:

    Eileen. Sorry, quite so.

  9. r_c_a_d says:

    Thanks for the blog. Quite a few took me a while to parse after “getting” the answer.

    Loved TREE-HUGGERS too.

    In 17d I think the “over” of overseas means above, not reversal; this being a down clue.

  10. Eileen says:

    Re 17dn: I was in such a hurry to correct my glaring error that I didn’t read PeterO’s comment properly: r_c_a_d’s version makes better sense to me now.

    [My brain was obviously AWOL when I wrote the blog comment – I haven’t even got the right letters for the anagram!]

    I shall be going out shortly, until mid-afternoon: I hope there won’t be too many more causes of embarrassment when I get back.

  11. NeilW says:

    By the way, Eileen, reading your preamble, have you come across the significance of the phrase (mostly in football) of an own goal?) 😉

  12. Paul8hours says:

    Sorry, a nonsense Phrase like sworn hog’ll has no place in a cryptic crossword clue, especially clueing a word new to me and a few others. Apart from that, good fun thanks P&E.

  13. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    I wrote ‘not too bad’ at the top when I had finished. Some of the blog and posts above made me reconsider and the late realisation of the hidden trees in 1ac might just raise that to a ‘quite enjoyable’.
    “error exiting the trap” is an excellently misleading definition and the ‘golf’ link just makes it better.

  14. Puck says:

    Thanks Eileen for the excellent blog, and to others for comments.

    NeilW@4 (and Eileen@6), you mean you didn’t spot that you can rearrange all the double letter combinations (including the ones from the down solutions that you didn’t mention: LL, GG, GG & LL) to give a well-known interchange between desperately befuddled cruciverbalists?

    – GOOGLE “EEL”
    – “EEL”?
    – “EGG”

    Seriously though, no hidden armadillos or Nina this time. I started off just thinking HORNSWOGGLE would be a fun word to clue. Then I thought it’d be fun to make all the perimeter solutions include GG. And that was to be the extent of it, but grid fills started to throw up other double letter combinations, so I thought it would be fun to have as many double letter combinations as possible in symmetrically placed solutions. Initially I was sticking to GG, OO, LL and EE but one NN crept in somehow.

    Whatever, it was fun to set and I’m glad that most seem to have found it fun to solve also.

  15. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Eileen, for the explanation of 1a. I finished this but I thought I couldn’t understand 10a nor 18d either.

    Are KILL = ICE and SCORPIO = CAR so well known they don’t merit further explanation? I must confess I had heard of neither association.

  16. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Puck, for dropping in and, again, for the puzzle.

    “NeilW@4 (and Eileen@6), you mean you didn’t spot that you can rearrange all the double letter combinations (including the ones from the down solutions that you didn’t mention: LL, GG, GG & LL) to give a well-known interchange between desperately befuddled cruciverbalists?”

    Erm, no, I didn’t – funny, that!

    Hi Dave Ellison

    I came across KILL = ice in a fiendish Bannsider clue for my home rugby team, LEICESTER, which made me remember it.

    I didn’t know the car but the wordplay was clear and a quick google confirmed it:

    I thought it was just my ignorance of Us slang and cars, so I didn’t pass it on. 😉

  17. Eileen says:

    Sorry – US slang

  18. Puck says:

    Hi Eileen,

    As your wiki article explains, the Ford Scorpio was also a UK model from 1994-98 which got fairly bad reviews on looks alone and ended up being voted as the third worst N-registered car (1995-96) to own in the UK from a Top Gear survey of 120 cars.

    And I was joking about the “well-known interchange between desperately befuddled cruciverbalists” but perhaps you realised that already (I couldn’t quite tell from your comment in response).

  19. Eileen says:

    Hi again, Puck

    It’s so hard to get the tone right, isn’t it? I was joking too. of course. 😉 [I’m not doing very well today!]

    And re the car: by US slang I meant ice = kill.

  20. RCWhiting says:

    Dave E @15
    Yes, I was very hesitant about ‘ice’. Then I remembered all the Peter Cheyney (sp?) novels I read in my youth. Did he use it?

  21. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Puck, for putting me out of my misery.

    Actually, in the half hour or so that I spent playing with the double letter combinations, I’d got about half way to solving your riddle – certainly Google and “egg” were in in my plain text decipherment of the “code”, although “eel” was discounted as it formed part of one of the answers. There was a five minute dalliance with the GGs as well – thought we might be going racing but the absence of TT scotched that. I didn’t mention the couple of down clues @4, although they were certainly part of my code-breaking efforts, both interlaced in numerical order and tacked on at the end of the across doubles. Finally there was a brief burst of activity trying to tie numerical sequences together for the clue numbers related to the double letter combinations.

    All of this was less fun than it sounds! Obviously, Eileen was right about an own goal but it was scored at my end of the pitch. You see what you started with that armadillo? :)

  22. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Puck and Eileen
    A seriously good puzzle that had me spending nearly more time parsing than doing – even so, I missed the ‘hugged’ trees, the GEE as G, my unresolved SPRIG and the parsing for 6.
    In 6, I had interpreted it as:
    An anagram of ( [S]OFT ENOUGH E T) with the logic that SLIP was doing double duty as the anagrind, the exiting trap was the S (as in plumbing).
    Good fun nevertheless …

  23. RCWhiting says:

    Sorry, Neil, but all I can say is “buGGer oFF”.

  24. RCWhiting says:

    I guess most of you, like me, really enjoy a good anagram.
    My favourite for years has been the classroom =schoolmaster.
    However, yesterday on Radio 4 (The News Quiz) Sandy Toksvig came up with a beauty which is also topical.
    I know some of you have very sensitive ears so I will just say that it is (Kate Middleton)*. It is so unlikely that I immediately had to write it down and check its validity.
    Hint: bare bird T.

  25. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Whoa, RCW, not even Paul would go that far ….. :)

    BTW, I want to echo all positive comments on Puck’s crossword which was one of his best so far (that is, as long as I’m around in Crosswordland).
    Very nice, Eileen, to cite from Puck’s interview with Alan Connor, as when it was published, I thought: that’s how I feel about crosswords and (in my case, occasionally) setting them, too.
    Anyway, back to RCW!

  26. NeilW says:

    RCW @22, iNNovative but uNNeceSSarily aGGreSSive coMMent about iNNocent aTTempt to flaTTer seTTer.

  27. Pedro Aka Oak says:

    Thanks Eileen
    Got the tree huggers answer but had no idea why! Now I know!

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