Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,011/Gordius – very difficult for a Tuesday

Posted by loonapick on February 27th, 2007


Apologies for the lateness of this entry, but I had technical problems earlier today, and have since had to sit through a mind-numbing Property Strategy meeting for a couple of hours.  The delay has nothing to do with the difficulty of the crossword, but if it weren’t for a couple of moments of inspiration and the handiness of an old edition of Chambers, it could have been… 

In my opinion, a weekday crossword should be one that can be solved by your average commuter with no access to reference sources, and with words which are in the public domain, or at least which can be worked out and checked later, if necessary. Obscure words or references should be kept to a minimum to allow difficult solutions to be worked out from checked letters. Gordius is one of the more difficult setters due to the proliferation of hard clues in his puzzles, and this one is no exception. It took me a good 35 minutes and even then I still had four or five answers I had to check with Chambers, and a couple I’m still not sure about.


1 CLONE – 151 = CL one – don’t like “the same as” as a definition.

13 MERIMEE – as in Prosper Merimee (1803-1870), the French author.   He wrote the novel on which the opera Carmen is based.

15 DURANCE – DU(RAN)CE – I may be misinterpreting this, but I believe the setter wants us to consider “arrested” as “ran in”, so that we get RAN in DUCE (Mussolini).   “In durance vile” is an old way of saying “in jail”, especially an unpleasant jail.

18 TWO – (<=owt) – as in Two’s company… 20 ICENI – (nice)*I – the “for” is surely superfluous?

22 ALFALFA – ALF-ALF-A – I can see “boy twice” = ALF twice, but after that, I’m lost.   (Explained below by conradcork, thanks!)

27,14dn AMPLITUDE MODULATION – double def., one of which is cryptic.

30 MUSSOLINI – “homophone?” of “muscle” (“strength in voice”)+ in I(taly) – I know I am generally in a minority about homophones, but surely in this case I am right.  Mussolini is surely pronounced “MOOSELEENEE”, so the homophone doesn’t work.

31 GLEAN – G-LEAN – The G is gravity, a force of sorts.


1 ACID – referring to acid drops (confectionary) and hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD.

3 WEAR – double def.

4 VINOLENT – obscure word, describing one who likes a drink, and if it loses direction (N) it becomes VIOLENT.

6 VANDERBILT – (led vibrant)* – referring to Cornelius Vanderbilt, an American financier that made a fortune on shipping and railways in the 19th century.

7 CHARON – CHAR-ON – the ferryman who carried dead people over the Styx in Greek mythology.

8 IDLE – homophone of IDOL – Apart from being unimaginative, the clue doesn’t read well.   It should read “False god heard not to be working” for the wordplay to make any sense. 13 MAFIA – “starts” Many A Feud In America – poorly disguised and I don’t like the use of single-letter words like A and I in this type of device.

19 OENOPHIL – (hope lion)* – an obscure word for a weekday puzzle, meaning “one who loves wine”.

23 FRAISE – (as rife)* – another obscure word, an archaic word for “commotion”.


26 COMB – C(OM)B – “having teeth” is a poor definition. The wordplay is Order of Merit (OM ) into CB (confined to barracks).

28 INGE – s(INGE)r – referring to William Ralph Inge, who was a professor of divinity at Cambridge and the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral between 1911 and 1934.

29 EDNA – (<=ANDEs)

6 Responses to “Guardian 24,011/Gordius – very difficult for a Tuesday”

  1. says:

    Re 22 across. Medic (over here usually spelt medick) is what Americans call lucerne, or alfalfa.

  2. says:

    I’ve been following this site for a few weeks now and just wanted to say how useful I have found it. I’m newish to cryptics and sometimes the answers are not always enough–especially on today’s Gordius. Best wishes

  3. says:

    I agree, there was a very high proportion of dictionary words and obscure references for a daily puzzle. Took me about 35 minutes, but I was stumped by 15ac and 14 down. I guessed AMPLITUDE, so clearly would have got it with a dictionary, but I was also hampered by having CRATE (CR AT (th)E) FOR 26 ac. I now see it was CRAFT.
    I was also thrown by MUSSOLINI, as I would pronounce the U to rhyme with ‘put’. I think you hear ‘Muscle-ini’ from Cockney squaddies and upper-class officers in old war films, but I’m with the Italian/northern camp on this one. And as for DURANCE, obscurity aside I’m not keen on the combination of an indirect indicator to lead to the wordplay like that. It’s one thing having Ward? (4,2) for ‘DRAW UP’, but this is more like having ‘Department of hospital?’

  4. says:

    PS Welcome to the site Brian, glad you like it.

  5. says:

    I had to use a dict for DURANCE (I saw DUCE but didn’t see how to get RAN inside — thanks), FRAISE – even with (as fire)* I needed to check — I could only think of strawberries), VINOLENT, OENOPHIL and MERIMEE (having never heard of him — nor of INGE for that matter embarrassingly). ALFALFA as medic was quite obscure to me because I’ve only ever eferred to it as ALFALFA – even when it’s in my salad. All in all, a puzzle for a Sat or a Sun.

    Note that in 1A Gordius has hitched himself to Araucaria’s (C, ) wagon.

  6. says:


    Whether or not some people say Muscle-ini it would still be incorrect. At least in my opinion! This isn’t an example of an English word which may be pronounced differently because of local dialects, it is an Italian word and as far as I know is always pronounced MOOSELEENEE. I have checked with as many dictionaries as I can find and they all agree with me.

Leave a Reply

Don't forget to scroll down to the Captcha before you click 'Submit Comment'

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

1 × four =