Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,920 – Puck

Posted by Andrew on April 12th, 2013


A very enjoyable puzzle from Puck, with lots of clever and tricky clueing. I thought 14a was particularly good (after I realised it wasn’t just a cryptic definition), but there were many others I could point to.

There are four plays around the outer edges – I knew all the names (and have even seen a couple of them performed) but I wonder if others will also be familiar with them. All the names are perhaps notable as being, to varying degrees, fairly well-known phrases.

1. HOBSON’S CHOICE Double defintion – a play by Harold Brighouse, and the phrase meaning no choice at all, or “this or nothing”
10. UNIVERSAL Anagram of V NURSE A [f]IL[m], definition “for all to see”, and, as a bonus, the film certificate U stands for Universal
11. GIRTH Hidden in reverse of rigHT RIGht
12. LOOPY LOO (potty=toilet) + P[ott]Y, definition “potty” in the sense of “mad”, so this clue cleverly uses the word in three different ways
13. LAMBASTED LAMB (meat) + AS TED (Teddy Boy)
14. TUESDAY Anagaram of S[olomon] DUE in TAY (river – some water), &lit from the character in the rhyme ‘Solomon Grundy’, who was “Born on a Monday, Christened on Tuesday” etc
16. YTTRIUM RI (Republic of Indonesia) in reverse of [s]MUTTY. Yttrium is one of the rare earth elements
18. SHELLAC SHE + reverse of CALL. Shellac (which I was surprised to learn is a resin secreted by an insect) was used to make the old 78 RPM gramophone records
20. BUCKSAW BUCKS (county) + AW[E]
21. REFECTION FE (Iron) in RECTI (abdominal muscles) + ON (working). I didn’t know this word for a meal, but it’s from the same source as “refectory”, meaning a place to eat.
23. FERMI Reverse of “I’M REF” as a referee, or “whistle-blower” might say. Enrico Fermi was one of the great physicists of the 20th century
24. ERATO Reverse of [p]O[e]T[s] ARE, and Erato is the Muse of lyric poetry, so a “revered female”
26. A TASTE OF HONEY Anagram of SONATA FEET O[nly] Y[our] H[ands] – play by Shelagh Delaney
2. OLIGOCENE Anagram of [p]IECE [i][N [i]GLOO, definition “Period”, the Oligocene being a geological epoch
3. SEEDY SEED (children) on [jul]Y, defnition “sickly”. I suppose “coming up on” can mean “sitting on top of”, though I tried to interpret it as a reversal indicator for a while
5. CALUMNY CALUM (Best, son of footballer George) + NY (New York, the Big Apple). Chambers defines “mud pie” as “an insult” – another new one on me, but clearly related to the idea of “his name is mud”
6. ORGIASTIC Anagram of STOIC + [o]RGIASTI[c]. Lots of these partial anagrams in this puzzle..
7. COROT Hidden in toulouse-lautreC OR OTher
8. QUALITY STREET “Standard” (perhaps as in quality = attribute?) + ”way”. A play by J M Barrie, which the chocolates were supposedly named after
9. THE DUMB WAITER Play by Harold Pinter. Vladimir and Estragon are the main characters in “Waiting for Godot”, so in mime each would be a “dumb waiter”
15. DELICIOUS DELIRIOUS with R[ecipe] replaces by C[hef]
17. INSURABLE Reverse of RU (Rugby Union) in LESBIAN, and an insurable person would be [in the] running for cover
19. CRIPPLE [du]C[k] + RIPPLE. “Lame” and “cripple” have to be read as verbs for the definition
20. BUNK OFF [h]UNK (fit guy) in BOFF (short for “boffin” – not in Chambers, but my children used to use it meaning for a clever or hard-working person or “swot” at school) Thanks to rhotician: actually it’s BOFFIN less IN (“apparently out” = “not in”)
22. FEAST E[ating] in FAST – anagram of FATSO less O=love
23. FATSO [overweigh]T in SOFA with its “parts” SO and FA swapped

31 Responses to “Guardian 25,920 – Puck”

  1. rhotician says:

    In 20dn BOFF is for boffin not in.

  2. rhotician says:

    In 23dn the ellipsis is decorative, unlike in 22 where it is functional. ‘overweight’ is doing double duty. And FASO is essentially an indirect anagram.

  3. rhotician says:

    I liked this a lot.

  4. molonglo says:

    Thanks Andrew. The four plays fell into place – once the penny dropped – with not many crossing letters. But I needed help to confirm 2d, and failed utterly on 5d about george’s son: I guessed something more Columbo-ish. Like you afterwards I learned about the lac bug. All good fun, thanks Puck.

  5. Stella says:

    Thanks Andrew and Puck for a very entertaining puzzle. Unfortunately, I was unfamiliar with the plays at 1ac and 9d, which is a pity especially regarding the latter, as the cluing is delightful.

    I interpreted 11ac slightly differently, as an anagram of RIGHT, indicated by “from”, then “right around” as the definition of what is measured.

  6. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Andrew, for the blog.

    My first run-through produced just one entry but, because I know I always enjoy Puck’s puzzles, I persevered and was well rewarded, as ever. Once I realised that ‘play’ meant just that, and could enter three of them fairly easily [I didn’t know QUALITY STREET] I was fairly well away, although 13ac took longer to see than it should have, because I was fixated on LAM = beat.

    I thought 14ac was just brilliant and I also liked THE DUMB WAITER a lot. ‘Tipsy lovelorn’ is lovely, too.

    Some great story-telling surfaces: 14ac, 25 ac, 25ac, 6dn, 17dn and the &littish 24ac.

    [I interpreted GIRTH as Stella did, but I think Andrew’s is better, although either works perfectly well, I think!]

    Thoroughly enjoyable – many thanks, Puck!

  7. Thomas99 says:

    rhotician @2
    I don’t think 23d constitutes what is meant by an indirect anagram in the Ximenean rules. Other operations on a word not in the clue are, I think, accepted by everyone (reversals, Spoonerisms – another kind of “part exchange”, decapitations etc.). Occasionally you see comments complaining about “indirection” in general but there is certainly no rule against that!

  8. JollySwagman says:

    Re 23d – agree with t99 #7.

    Also if you read “person that’s overweight” as a composite then it’s “finally” of that for T and you’ve got the full surface for the wordplay and the former for the def – or – at a pinch the lot – so we’re somewhere in &lit territory – if not a full one.

    Lovely puzzle – one of the best solving experiences for ages.

    And thanks Andrew for the blog.

  9. Colin says:

    Thanks to Andrew and Puck.

    I also got GIRTH as an anagram but I think Andrew’s interpretation is better.

  10. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Andrew – you definitely got the long straw today

    Splendid puzzle, one of the very best. Excellent clues: cleverly constructed and with really good surfaces. It’s almost invidious to nominate favourites, but I did particularly like 18a, 23a, 26a, 5d, 9d, 17d, 20d – an uncommonly long list. The first play I got was QUALITY STREET (the ‘way’ did it for me, with only the crossing L) which confirmed the theme.

    I was relieved to get YTTRIUM on the first run through; I’m often held up by chemistry clues (despite my PhD, much to my embarrassment). ‘Rare element’ is slightly dubious as a definition: YTTRIUM is often called a ‘rare earth element’, being lumped with the lanthanides, as it is usually found together with them in various minerals. But it isn’t really ‘rare’ at all – it’s more abundant than cobalt and several hundred times more abundant than silver in the earth’s crust (see here). Nice word, though, and just ‘element’ might have been a little vague for a substance that is not exactly familiar.

    Bravissimo, Puck.

  11. Trailman says:

    Thanks Andrew. I needed your help to understand several answers, most notably A TASTE OF HONEY, the first of the plays I’d heard of. Never heard of QUALITY STREET the play, which didn’t help, but I can still recite large bits of THE DUMB WAITER having played Ben in my am-dram years many moons ago.

    Alas I wrote in OLIPOCENE at 2d having mistaken what is to be anagrammed. It sounded right. I’ve heard of OLIGOCENE too.

  12. Charles says:

    What an excellent puzzle! I thought the definition of 23d could also be ‘feast person’.

  13. William says:

    Thanks, Andrew, what a beauty.

    One only yielded on the first pass, which I now take to be a good omen.

    I was being particularly thick on the FEAST/FATSO ellipsis – geddit now, der.

    I thought he sailed a bit close to the derived anagram in some places but all pretty fair on the whole.

    Very nice offering from the wicked fairy.

  14. Rowland says:

    I quite enjoyed this, but as evr some of these Guardian chaps can smash word to bits to try and get some menaing out of them. So it didn’t feel very wholesome or satisfying, rather ‘wordy’. Fave probably The Dumb Waiter for its simple allusion toh the great playwriight Beckett.k.


  15. Valentine Doyle says:

    Curiously enough, both A Taste of Honey and Hobson’s Choice are set in Salford. I thought I’d found a trend, but the other two are nothing like.

  16. David Mop says:

    Many thanks, Andrew, for the explanations.

    These days clues (eg 9d, and 22 and 23d) have become so clever that I have to solve them by guesswork and come on here to find out what they were about!

  17. cholecyst says:

    Thanks Andrew and Puck. I took SEED = “children coming up” in 3 down.

  18. JohnF says:

    Thanks, Andrew. I’d have been lost without. I think “his name is mud(d)” has to do with the doctor who set John Wilke’s Booth’s broken leg.

  19. aztobesed says:

    Valentine Doyle @ 15

    Puck comes from Scarborough, home of Charles Laughton. Quality Street was a 1937 film, which I was convinced fell in his ambit, Hobson’s Choice was one of his of course, and I wondered if he’d been tempted by A Taste of Honey into a kind of James Mason Northern cameo. It all fizzled out but I was convinced for a while that there was a trail…

  20. Derek Lazenby says:

    Shouldn’t the explanation of 6 be anagram of STOIC + [v]iagr[a] and not [o]RGIASTI[c]?

    Is there no definition in the clue for 25?

  21. rhotician says:

    23dn was dicusssed at lunch in my local, The Split Hare.

    It was felt that JS’s venture into ‘&lit territory’ @8 was not a success.
    Charles’s suggestion @12 that ‘feast person’ be the definition solves, in true Araucarian style, both the double duty and ellipsis “problems”.

    T99 @7, on the subject of operations on a word not in the clue, could have added abbreviation, as in ‘student’ for L. It’s debatable whether ‘part exchange’ is more like a Spoonerism than an anagram but in any case it does not answer the question of why the indirect anagram is not ‘acceptable’ when so many other operations are.

  22. tupu says:

    THanks Andrewe and Puck

    Finally solved if not totally parsed after a break.

    Overall, I enjoyed this less than most of those commenting. I did, however, particul;arly like 17d, 20d and retrospectively 14a (I thought it was probably connected with Mr Grundy but did not remember the verse properly).

    Thanks Andrew et al. for help parsing 22d and a couple of others. I was surprised by 23d since I had thought indirect anagrams were out of bounds.

  23. Paul B says:

    For 22, an anagram of 23 as fodder isn’t indirect, but – obviously – you do need to solve another clue before you can do the one you’re interested in, which some people find a bore. But if you’re actually saying this compiler may demonstrate a tendency to overcomplicate, I’d have to agree.

    As to &lit for 23, he’s got to be joking, that JS fellow, but, in terms of paired clues, you’d have to say that there probably are some tipsy, lovelorn, overweight binge-eaters who, after negotiating for the purchase of a perhaps new settee in exchange for the old one plus cash, then break the bloody thing by sitting heavily down upon it, out there somewhere. It’s all this two-for-one pizza, I expect.

    Very interesting piece, I think. Not the sofa. I mean the puzzle.

  24. claire says:

    Wonderful puzzle, requiring some knowledge of the periodic table, physicists, footballers sons, old nursery rhymes, English counties (and carpentry), and, of course, various unlinked plays. As is our Friday ritual, this was done in the pub, post work, as opposed to the more normal kitchen table solving experience, and it was sheer delight. Only failed on 3 down (SEEDY). We guessed that was the answer, but were looking for a reversed word for children – never twigged SEED for children. Doh.

    I note the various minor quibbles about some of the clues – d’ya know what? I couldnt care less when its as delightful as this.

    Anyway – thanks to Puck and Andrew. Let’s hope for a good one tomorrow.

  25. nametab says:

    Delightful puzzle. As usual, previous comments say it all.
    It’s one of the misleading delights of clue construction that ‘unlimited’ (as in 6d) can be interpreted as an instruction to remove or not remove letters.
    Thanks to Puck & Andrew

  26. Drofle says:

    I enjoyed it a lot – like claire, I didn’t think of SEED as children. Lots of clever clues, but in my view Paul’s ‘cancan’ yesterday was the best clue this week.

  27. Eccles45 says:

    You know the groan that greets a very clever pun2? 13a is (for me) a crossword pun and I really did utter an appreciative groan.

    Lots of fun today. Thanks to Puck, and Andrew et al for the 22/23 link which I completely missed.

  28. Paul B says:

    Well, if you’re not too fussy about your tenses, or definitions, I suppose that’s fine.

  29. JollySwagman says:

    Charles @10 and rho later. Yes – I meant to say “person” as a (weak) def but then “extended” by the rest but “feast person” is much better and makes the whole thing completely kosher – which all the clues were – despite their adventurousness.

    Still – having the other ideas floating around enhances the clue – as with many others in this fine puzzle.

  30. Sylvia says:

    Badly lined printout caused problems reading the clues, one reason why I struggled today. And started off with ‘act like tramps’ for 9d, which confused even more. Better luck next time!

  31. Rowland says:

    Too many people have the wind up about 22./23. Just a paired answer that doesn’t work!!

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