Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,151, Gordius: Dulcinea of Patmos

Posted by michod on August 9th, 2007


Apologies for late posting. I’ve been off work, but looking after my 11-month old niece who has asthma and chicken-pox, which didn’t seem to leave much time for blogging – now I remember why my 30s were such a crossword desert!


5. A STRID(e).

9. STAR TOFF. Not hard, but pleasing.

10. PAT MOS. I know about Stirling Moss, but was/is Pat Moss a racing driver too?

11. E LECTORS. Interesting one – I like cryptic definitions with wordplay, but this one feels a little indirect somehow – ‘… make the signs of the times’ = they make Xs.-, i.e. on ballot paper.

12. A(CE)DIA. Had to look this one up, though I was sure the opera would be Aida – it always is, as Peppermint Patty told Charlie Brown about x being 7 in algebra.

18. CONSUM(MAT)E. Put down meaning put away, i.e. eat.

23. PRIESTL(e)Y. Ref J.B. Priestley.

24. H(ER)ONS. Not that keen on the definition here – ‘having considerable bills’, which surely defines an adjective, something like ‘beaktastic’.

25. BARE FOOT. I.e. just about a foot in length. Discalced means without shoes, per Chambers.

27. DERRIERE (hom (London(Derry Air)). I’m guessing this refers to an actual song called the Londonderry Air, hence ‘old’. Otherwise why should Gordius weigh into the Derry vs Londonderry row.


1. DOSSER. Not sufficiently cryptic definition. A dosser and a person of promiscuous sexual approach both sleep around, but for different reasons.

2. ATABEG (teabag*). One of those words you remember from crosswords past.

4. BEFORE TIME. A pretty good oxymoron, when you think about it.

6. S CAR CITY. Nicely concealed definition (where there’s little).

7. RE ME DIAL. The definition’s a bit vague – ‘sort of treatment’ – and I didn’t realise ME were soldiers too – Mechanised Engineers?

13. MAS TERRACE. I like the word division, though perhaps lesser requires quotation marks to distance the sentiment from the authorial voice.


16. UNIVERSE. Cryptic def. But does the universe hold all, or is it all?

17. DULCINEA. (CLUED IN A*). Ref Dulcinea de Toboso, Don Quixote’s idolised true love. If you haven’t read it, do.

19. VEN E’ER. Sort for venerable.

20. ST ROBE.


10 Responses to “Guardian 24,151, Gordius: Dulcinea of Patmos”

  1. Shirley says:

    10AC Pat Moss was Stirling Moss’s sister and was a rally driver as opposed to a racing driver. Very unusual for women at that time so she was quite newsworthy.

  2. muck says:

    7ac: REME= Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (I didn’t have this either – I was trying to make MEDIAL= face)

  3. mark says:

    Sorry but can I clear up a point of principle from yesterday that’s really bugging me.

    21A was ACHILLEAN and the last response to my query then seems to suggest that the clue was, in effect, cryptic then the definition and then another cryptic where both cryptic bits were whole (if you see what I mean).

    So we got a definition buried between two separate but complete of themselves cryptic sections…..!

    Give me strength. Every time I think I’m getting soemwhere with this game yet another rule or convention that seemed to hold good is overturned.

    So I should never just assume then that all clues have a cryptic and straight definition part? Do these exceptions happen often or so rarely that it’s not worth worrying about?

    Thanks if anyone can shed light.

    Please note that I have not cast any aspersions against St Araucaria – I know I would be cast out into the wilderness

  4. radchenko says:

    I sympathise in one way Mark, having been done over completely by Achillean, fathomed, and postgrad in yesterday’s Araucaria, and only completing half of today’s Gordius. But I think one has to accept three things.

    First off, I think of solving a crossword as a bit like playing a game of Mornington Crescent. In other words, there are all sorts of conventions and guidelines (really meta-rules) about “playing” the game, but the central conceit is that there are no actual rules, there being no actual game.

    Second off, to compensate for that, the best setters have learnt the art of losing this “game” gracefully. That is, there is no fun in setting a crossword no-one can solve. This is a bit like those role playing games: if you’ve ever played one with a Dungeon Master determined to wipe out the party, it’s no fun, the best DMs present a solvable challenge. So however arcane the clue, the intention is always to be “fair”. The gripes only start when definitions are misleading, connections are tenous, construction has superfluous components, etc., some of which is of course rather subjective because…

    Thirdly, in determining “fairness”, there are two dimensions of variation, in both the setter and the solver. It seems to me that the guys who do these blogs and provide the explanations for the clues I cannot get (and I am duly grateful for the demonstrations of how they work) can probably fill in the grids quicker than I could complete one if I was copying the answers. Similarly there is a big variaiton in the setters. I think the point is to be aware of one’s own limitations, appreciate the skill of the setters (and accept they will occasionally “do” you), and in that context just enjoy one’s participation in the “game”.

  5. Michod says:

    I think Mark’s complaint about ACHILLEAN (clue: Yarrow with name of hero a cold reduced to spare) is fair. A clue doesn’t have to be just def + wordplay, you can have more than one definition, or more than one set of wordplay to liven things up. But the convention that the definition comes either at the beginning or end of the clue is generally respected, so it’s reasonable to expect to find it there. But as Radchenko says, it’s only a convention and we shouldn’t assume that an unconvential setter will always abide by conventions.
    Personally, I’d accept the breach of convention if the
    end result was worth it, but in this case you have to work quite hard to unravel the surface meaning, never mind the clue itself!

  6. Testy says:

    I’m not sure that I would view the fact that the definition generally comes at the beginning or end of the clue as being a convention and so it should not be something that setters ought to feel obliged to adhere to.

    Rather it is a function of the fact that clues more commonly consist of just 2 elements, def + wordplay, and so the definition will naturally fall at either the beginning or end.

    A couple of examples are &lits and cryptic definitions. In both these cases there is just one element does double duty (providing both the straight definition and wordplay or providing the straight definition but in a cryptic way). So the straight definition effectively falls at the beginning, middle and end of the clue!

    I don’t have any problem if setters want to provide more than just the normal two indicators, generally just the straight definition and subsidiary indication. And if, for example they give 2 subsidiaries and a definition, then I don’t see why we should expect them to put the definition anywhere in particular.

    It may not be common practice but it is certainly still fair.

  7. Ali says:

    I think that Mick hits the nail on the head here when he says ‘unconventional setter’.
    Araucaria puzzles are never straightforward and it seems to me that he is being afforded much more latitude with his wacky, Libertarian style these days. He’ still hugely entertaning, but some of his clues are borderline impossible. I’ve finished more Listeners than Auracrisas in the last 3 months.

    I guess I’m a Ximenean at heart, but would argue that this was a fairly bad clue overall, not least because the ‘a cold reduced to spare’ wordplay is needless padding. I have no issue with unconventional clues, cryptic definitions, &lits, etc, but they do at least make use of the whole clue. It strikes me that the answer here can be found without needing to read the whole clue, which renders the last 5 words totally unneccessary. I concede that the same could be said of triple definition clues, but surely double wordplay clues are pushing it a bit for a straight daily cryptic, even by Araucaria’s own outlandish standards.


  8. Testy says:

    Strictly speaking only the straight definition is absolutely necessary but it’s the addition of the cryptic elements that make this style of crossword more fun and challenging than standard “quick” crosswords. If Araucaria, or anyone else, wants to include extra bits that add a further dimension to the puzzle then why should we complain (providing of course that the clue is still fair, well written and entertaining).

    Vive l’evolution!

  9. mark says:

    Thanks for those replies – it’s nice to know that others share these occasional frustrations.
    Radchenko, thanks especially, I loved the comment about the speed of some blogger/solvers. I also am very grateful for these postings but can’t resist a gentle dig:

    ” Sorry for late posting today. The washing machine flooded the kitchen and I hadn’t realised it was my turn to pick up the kids from school. Luckily I found today’s puzzle fairly straightforward and solved and posted it in the 5 minutes between manually controlled wash and spin cycles………”

  10. muck says:

    Shouldn’t comments on 15sqd relate to a specific puzzle? There are other sites for more general discussion eg

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