Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24375/Gordius – ance upon a time

Posted by ilancaron on April 29th, 2008


This was hard work – with some answers really belonging in an advanced weekend puzzle — I found myself pulling out Chambers more than zero times, which is too many for a daily. I only fully understood the pair of 19 and 24 once I’d completed the puzzle — probably since I didn’t grow up in England in the 80s.


1 INDIA – kind of hidden in “IN DIAmeter”. I assume INDIA really is 1500 miles in diameter at its widest point.
8 TERMINAL CANCER – somewhat topical given the recent T5 debacle at Heathrow I suppose.
10 REGUL,ATE=rev(ETA, luger) – ETA’s our (Spanish) separatist movement.
12 I,MBALANCE=(can blame)*
17 A,DEPT – I suppose no need to hint at the abbrevation of department because…?
19 LAD(IE)S – yes, LADIES are people.
21 SEREN[e],DIP – yes I somehow knew that serendipity was derived from SERENDIP which was related to Ceylon somehow…
24 GREEN,HAM,COMMON – ref. the (women in the) 80’s movement to close down US nuclear bases on UK soil.
25 CARDITIS – groan. Inflammation of the heart.


1 INTERMINABLE – def is “endless”. Not sure about the wordplay.
3 AMIEL=email* – ref. Conrad Black’s wife who is Lady Barbara… is “server” a good anagrind?
5 AN,CE – had to check this in Chambers. CE is our “establishment” and it’s how northerners might say “once”. At least once upon a time.
6 CANTAB,A,NK – Chambers says it’s a “strolling singer”.
7 REEST – I think this is an inversion that went wrong since else it’s an indirect anagram of steer for beef.
9 BOTTLE OPENER – first letter of BOTTLE is B…
13 LATTER END – and last letter of LATTER is R, though I would have preferred this to have been BITTER END given the beer ref.
20 DORS,A – hard clue: ref. Diana DORS (apparently a prewar sex symbol). And it’s Latin for “backs”.
22 ENO=rev(one),RM – another hard clue: RM for Royal Marine for “jolly”.
23 SHUT[e] – ref. Nevil SHUTE who wrote about Alice Springs and he’s missing an E which 13 defines.

33 Responses to “Guardian 24375/Gordius – ance upon a time”

  1. Berny says:

    Wouldn’t bother getting up for today’s puzzle!

  2. jetdoc says:

    Is there an error in it, or have I made a mistake?

    A ‘lady’

  3. Andrew says:

    I don’t think so – but I did have some quibbles about a few clues:

    1ac – “hidden” with superfluous words (used to make an &lit surface, but still…)
    8ac – dubious cryptic def
    2dn – weak double def
    7dn – indirect anagram

    and 24ac definitely needs at least a question mark to justify its use of “19”…

  4. jetdoc says:

    I have a clash between 12a and 13d.

    7d isn’t really an indirect anagram, is it? It’s just STEER reversed.

    … and perhaps I should sign myself ‘A lady?’

  5. manehi says:

    12, 13 – Had same clash at first I think – (BITTER?) – but there is an alternative that makes sense. “…and finish” is the whole of the def.

  6. Andrew says:

    I had REEST for 7d, so not quite a reversal.

    12ac: IMBALANCE
    13dn: I think this is LATTER END, but it’s another rather unsatisfactory one.

  7. diagacht says:

    Isn’t 7d REEST (as in to cure). If it is then this is presumably an indirect anagram of STEER. And if that is the case then is this a little odd?
    I have to say, I haven’t finished this puzzle as I seem to operating on a different wavelength (that, of course, is not the setter’s fault)

  8. muck says:

    13dn: I never thought of ‘bitter end’ which would be nice if it fitted. I have ‘letter end’, but Andrew’s answer sounds marginally better.

    Now given up and waiting for someone to blog this puzzle.

  9. Tom Hutton says:

    “Latter end” goes with 12ac as I have it, but I was left with reest which I can’t make into cure at all. Also i agree that 1ac looks odd. Everything else works but only if you take 8ac on trus.

  10. Tom Hutton says:

    Sorry about my typing when I look at it. My fingers are not working properly. The last word should have been

  11. Andrew says:

    Tom: Chambers confirms that REEST means “cure” (as in curing bacon, fish etc)

  12. John Ridge says:

    5dn ANCE – I can’t find this in the OED. Is it a Collins word?

  13. John Ridge says:

    6dn CANTABANK is in the OED, but it’s defined as a singer on a bench (“banca”) in a tavern. So definitely not strolling…

  14. Andrew says:

    ANCE is also in Chambers – Northern form of ONCE.

  15. Eileen says:

    Some rather poor taste here, if I’m right with 8ac – and as for 19ac…!
    I think 23dn suggests ‘letter end’ for 13dn. This clue, together with 20dn, since it’s not the usual take on ‘Diana’, went some way to redeeming this puzzle for me.

  16. tuck says:

    3dn is ‘Amiel’ – Baroness Barbara Black, Conrad Black’s wife – anagram of email. Is server an anagram indicator that has been used before?

  17. tuck says:

    Serendip, apparently, was what the Persians called Sri Lanka

  18. tuck says:

    1dn inter – plant and what can be dug up – minable

  19. Eileen says:

    Ilancaron; ’13ac’ seems to hav sneaked in from one of your earlier blogs. 15ac = A-BOUT

  20. Geoff says:

    13d: I had LETTER END as well (eventually, after also trying BITTER END, which would have been a much better solution, given the tie-in to 9d). But checking Chambers, only LATTER END (= final part) is listed, so ‘finish’ does double duty as definition and charade instruction word.

    Agree with Tuck’s explanation for 1d, which I thought was a great clue. I got 1a and 1d at first sight, so thought the puzzle was going to be a cinch, but was deceived! I had great difficulty with top right corner – ANCE and REEST escaped me, and it was a long time before I saw TERMINAL CANCER, because the clue doesn’t contain a proper definition. ‘Medical effect of unrestrained airport development’, or something similar, would have been fairer, while preserving the wordplay.

  21. Andrew says:

    Diana Dors was hardly a pre-war sex symbol – she was born in 1931 and her first film was in 1947.

  22. muck says:

    13dn: my guess, Geoff and others, is that Gordius originally had ‘bitter end’ but couldn’t get 12ac to fit!

  23. Dave Ellison says:

    A kind of Guardian Knot then, Muck

  24. manehi says:

    If “imbibence” were a word it might have fitted nicely.

  25. Paul B says:

    Rubbish puzzle from a setter who’s usually rather good, imho.

    And once again it’s Guardian Poor Taste Alert, after a couple of recent clues had the potential to be interpreted as racist.

    As someone who’s recently clued ‘radiation sickness’ I suppose I should be careful, but perhaps thanks to Troy Kennedy Martin (Edge of Darkness) rather than George Bu(ll)sh(it) or Tony Bliar, not all that many people tend to die from it. Obviously the same cannot be said of ‘terminal cancer’, and I imagine anyone affected would not care to be reminded of it in so trifling a manner.

    So, insensitive and careless editing, plus some unnecessarily tough words as others have said – pretty much one after the other – in the above.

  26. Berny says:

    Given the volume of discussion then why did we all bother – this was a case of terminal 5 syndrome – maybe Hugh ought to go back to the Falklands or wherever he went – a case where the editor ought to apply some critical faculties. This carries the circuitous far too far!

  27. Berny says:

    One further comment.

    I do enjoy Gordius’s puzzles and have referred to him as ‘gorgeous gordius’ but this is a case of ‘gorblimey gordius’.

  28. muck says:

    Posts by ‘Paul B’ and ‘Berny’ above. Are these OK?

  29. ACP says:

    The puzzle was good except the disappointing finish of REEST and that corner.
    BITTER END did seem to be the original intention.
    And so it was.

  30. Chris says:

    I completely agree that “terminal cancer” should not be clued in what is after all supposed to be a light-hearted diversion.

  31. Kamintone says:

    My first reaction to this puzzle was “appalling”, but that’s perhaps a bit harsh. It was nevertheless a sub-standard effort which suggested that Gordius was working frantically to meet a deadline. I can see no justification for REEST at all.

  32. Cruciverbophile says:

    This comment’s a bit late but I’ve only just done the puzzle. Gordius has the potential to be one of the best Guardian setters and often comes up with some astounding clues. I feel he lets himself down on occasions by some blatantly unfair clueing (and I don’t mean minor infringements of Ximenean rules, with which I have no problem). This crossword contained a few examples of this, as noted above. I agree with Paul that a light-hearted reference to terminal cancer has no place in any puzzle and the editor should have picked this up along with the more dodgy clues. There are times when one wonders whether the Guardian crossword editor actually exists at all!

  33. Gordon Roy says:

    All comments about 7d Reest being a rubbish clue and a poorly indicated anagram of Steer are totally incorrect. Reest has two meanings 1. To cure, as was pointed out, and 2. To gripe or complain about something. To beef about something is to complain about it.

    It is a perfectly good double definition.

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