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Today Puzzle #599

Puzzle No. 599 – Tuesday 29 October

Throughout my time, you've seen me
In my very many forms.
You feel my absence and my presence,
In the heavens: in your home.
As the king's, I'd hide from sight
A noble’s prize — or two;
When little, fiery or of life,
I'd liven any do.
When cool, I can be solid,
And I'll stand you 'til I crack
Or 'til the heat's turned up,
And then I'll drag you down, into the black.

What am I?

Today's #PuzzleForToday has been set by David Baynard, a PhD candidate at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

Click here for the answer

I'm water.

Throughout my time, you've seen me
In my very many forms.

Liquid water, snow, ice, clouds, condensate.

You feel my absence and my presence,
In the heavens: in your home.

Rain and sun, flooding and drought.

As the king's, I'd hide from sight
A noble’s prize — or two;

Aqua regia (King's water) is a mixture, comprising one part nitric acid to three parts hydrochloric. It is named for its ability to dissolve noble metals: specifically, gold and platinum. During WWII, the Nobel prizes of Max von Laue and James Franck were hidden by dissolution in aqua regia and stored on a shelf in the laboratory of George de Hevesy. The chemist (soon to become a Nobel laureate himself) recovered the solution after the war, and the medals were recast.

When little, fiery or of life,
I'd liven any do.

Aqua vitae (water of life) is an old term for high proof alcohol. It has provided the names for many spirit drinks, such as eau de vie, acquavite, and akavit. Whisky, too takes its name from the Gaelic for water of life (uisce beatha).
Vodka translates from Russian as 'little water'.
Firewater is a nickname for alcohol.

When cool, I can be solid,
And I'll stand you 'til I crack
Or 'til the heat's turned up,
And then I'll drag you down, into the black.

Ice — in particular, on a lake.

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