Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24239/Gordius – tough but fair?

Posted by linxit on November 20th, 2007


I see that a lot of you took advantage of the chance to comment on this beforehand, so I’m glad I left the placeholder message this morning. As it turned out, I was able to finish it inside the 15 minutes I was able to snatch at lunchtime, and now have half an hour to spare to post it before facing the M40 tonight.

Quite a few ‘difficult’ words combined with some groan-inducing wordplay, but nothing really unfair unless you’re strictly Ximenean.

5 I,BERIA – the Soviet cop is Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, responsible for the death of tens of thousands during Stalin’s rule.
6 ALL,ICE – another name for the European shad. I just knew it was a fish.
9 (c)YCLE,PT – I already had the C and the T when I first looked at this clue, so the answer came to me quickly. I didn’t know it meant “called” before but I knew it was a word.
10 EARL(GRE=erg rev)Y – “About to” seems to be superfluous here, unless I’m missing something. [ Which I worked out eventually – see comment 16 below. ]
12 MA(SON)RY,BIT – great wordplay here, pregnant woman = SON inside MARY.
13 BROKEN HEART – reverse cryptic, OK being the heart (i.e. middle) of “broken”.
18 BRA(INST,OR)M – INST = “this month”, BRAM is Stoker’s christian name.
23 GLINKA (alking*) – Mikhail Glinka, the Russian composer.
25 L(IN)EAR – I suppose the play’s well-known enough to be referred to by only half its name.

3 CLARE,N(unnery),CE – CLARE is a poor girl because the Poor Clares are an order of nuns. Duke of Clarence is an extinct title first created in 1362.
5 IN,CO,ME – “infirm” = IN,CO. Many would disapprove, but you get used to it…
7 E, LEG IT – never heard of the word, but LEG IT for “run” has been used a lot lately, and I had both crossing E’s which gave me enough confirmation to be fairly confident.
8 NESSUN DORMA – apparently a homophone for “Nissan Dormer” – i.e. Dormobile, made by Bedford in the 1960’s. Quite possibly the worst homophone clue I’ve ever seen, but maybe the idea is that tributes don’t always sound like the real thing!
14 KE(STEVE)N – mayor for KEN (Livingstone) is quite common lately. I’d heard of the town, now I know what county it’s in!
20 ME,GRIM – is a severe headache.

26 Responses to “Guardian 24239/Gordius – tough but fair?”

  1. Berny says:

    My quibbles with the usually ‘gorgeous gordius’, without giving anything away, are:

    9A Is it fair to use Middle English words?

    5D The synonym for ‘infirm’ does not appear in Chambers

    20D There seems to be a spelling mistake in the online solution to this clue!

    However did like the clever clueing of 12A and 14D


  2. Barbara says:

    Re 5dn:
    This was a little sneaky. If you read it as “in firm setter”, you’ll get the cryptic wordplay.

  3. Barbara says:

    20dn. Perhaps the ‘spelling mistake’ is just a typo.

    13. I’d like an explanation of the wordplay for broken heart.

  4. Comfy Settee says:

    I thought 9ac was a tad difficult, but whether it was fair or not depends on how you define fair? One could argue that, if you were able to get the answer, it was solvable and therefore fair (I think a certain setter whose name begins with A might have this point of view?!). However, I would certainly not have got it without a dictionary, which put the crossword out of the “can be solved on the train” category for me….

  5. Fletch says:

    Barbara, I think the idea of 13 is OK is the heart of broken.

  6. Shirley says:

    5d The solution is INCOME not infirm. In CO=firm as in Company, and the setter is ME.

  7. Shirley says:

    12 AC – Can someone please explain why the answer is MASONRY BIT?

  8. beermagnet says:

    Because MARY has a SON inside her

  9. muck says:

    Thanks for the hint that 9ac was ‘middle english': got it now. I have often wondered what was the point of all those y-words in Chambers.

  10. Al Streatfield says:

    Re.5dn: don’t like INFIRM= INCO…

    Making cryptic play from a single word seems to me a no-no, unless it is signposted in some way. How about “infirm” in italics or, of course, inverted commas…?

  11. Comfy Settee says:

    linxit – well done for finishing inside 15 mins – very impressive. It took me half the bl**dy day, but that’s just me…!

    I too thought NISSAN/NESSUN was fairly atrocious…

    I had presumed that the ‘about’ in 10ac was the RE in EARL GREY, and therefore not superfluous – am I missing something?

  12. Paul says:

    ‘Nessun dorma’ (‘None Shall Sleep’) is an aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot, and is one of the best known tenor arias.

  13. Fletch says:

    I don’t see anyone asking Paul so why are you telling us?

  14. Dave Ellison says:

    EARL GREY is EARLY (in good time), with G (for work) with RE, over, in it.

    I couldn’t get 4 down – what is it?

  15. Will says:

    4 down is SINGLY. I didn’t get it either, I looked it up online. This crossword gave me a 20 down.

  16. linxit says:

    Dave, I can’t see any justification for G=work. An ERG is a unit of work, reversed (over) inside EARLY for “in good time”. I think I see where “about to” comes in now though, as in my original interpretation, “in” was doing double duty as an insertion indicator and part of the definition of EARLY.

    I think it should be read as “in good time” (EARLY) is about (i.e. around) “work over” (ERG reversed) for tea (the definition). A bit convoluted!

  17. Dave Ellison says:

    Yes, I see now, Linxit. In my joy to have solved this one I (too quickly) read the g as gravity, which I associated with work, and didn’t bother checking further.

    Thanks, Will, so obvious now!

  18. Geoff says:

    I agree with your final explanation of 10ac as ERG reversed in EARLY, linxit – this way, the clue is fair without any missing or ‘double duty’ words.

    This puzzle was rather a contrast with yesterday’s, wasn’t it?

    I knew the word YCLEPT (pops up in Chaucer) but the spelling ALLICE was new to me (it is more usually spelt ‘allis’) and I only solved the clue after getting 24ac. ELEGIT defeated me entirely!

    14dn: KESTEVEN – this is not a town, but one of the three administrative subdivisions of the traditional county of Lincolnshire (the others being Lindsey and Holland) – analogous to the Ridings of Yorks.

  19. ilancaron says:

    Thought this was pretty difficult. I’m assuming that the wordplay is SING,L[a]Y?

    Had to look the Nissan thing up — don’t think they’re sold in the US (??)…

    And (religion not being my forte) doesn’t immaculate conception imply that MARY did not have a SON inside of her?

  20. linxit says:

    Not that it has to be that Mary, but surely immaculate conception implies that she didn’t have Joseph inside her 9 months earlier!

    You got the wordplay right for SINGLY, and I think the US equivalent of a Dormobile would be an RV of about 50 years ago (if such a thing existed). Have a look here for some pictures.

  21. Geoff says:

    The ‘immaculate conception’ was of Mary, not of Jesus – the Roman Catholic doctrine that she was herself conceived without any trace of ‘original sin’.

  22. linxit says:

    Blimey, so it is! I’ve always assumed that “immaculate conception” was just another way of saying “virgin birth” and referred to Jesus. The Wikipedia entry says that’s a common misconception (ho ho).

  23. SteveM says:

    15 minutes, eh? Even with the solution blogged I’m still having trouble! Please, could someone tell me why INST = “this month” (18ac)?

  24. linxit says:

    I’ll quote from Chambers as their definition is far more eloquent than mine would have been!
    inst. abbrev: instant, ie the present month (used in formal correspondence).
    One you either know or you don’t, I suppose.

  25. Geoff says:

    INST was formerly used in official business correspondence to mean ‘this month’ (‘Re your letter of the 17th inst….’). For possible future reference – you never know when they might pop up in a crossword – the other abbreviations in the set are ULT (last month) and PROX (next month).

  26. SteveM says:

    Thanks both – I’ll file that one under ‘easy once you know how…’

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