Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24412/Gordius – self-expression

Posted by ilancaron on June 11th, 2008


A clever &lit and near &lit or two made this a pleasant pastime to enjoy alone. As it were. Especially, 16D. Although there’s the obligatory Britclue which escapes me (13A).


1 TRANCE – a good cryptic definition to kick the puzzle off. I automatically start searching for two-letter US state acronyms whenever I see “state” in a clue.
4 A(POST)LES – POST in seal* — a different kind of sent this time (compared to 1A).
10 SOU,BRETTE=better* – good clue given the French surface.
12 THEIC – (ethic)* — I suppose a bit of a pun since someone who’s into tea might be whimsically described as THEIC — I’m guessing the actual meaning is related to theology though. Thanks to Andrew: THEIC really does mean someone who drinks too much tea!
13 PEASE POTTAGE – OK it’s a veggie mess but the rest? “Veggie mess discovered at end of motorway in Sussex”.
17 CONSTR(I/[u])CTION – nice clue: U is our “turn” which is replaced by I for “one”.
20 [s]ENTRY – nice sort of anti-&lit (which I’ve argued in the past should be a new class of clue since the whole thing defines the opposite of the answer…)
25 CANIS,TER[rier] – “part terrier” simply indicating some (contiguous) letters of “terrier”.
26 GNOS=rev(song),IS – rather nice clue: “layabout” is rev(song=lay) and the whole thing literally means knowledge in Greek.


2 AUTOCRAT – having a bit of fun with Henry Ford who had something to do with manufacturing automobiles and was a bit of a fascist or proto-Nazi or perhaps just an isolationist anti-Semitic Republican?
3 CACTI – (a[r]ctic)* anag &lit — my fav type of clue.
6 S(TRATEG)IC – target* in SIC (so).
10 SENIOR SERVICE – fags are just cigarettes here of which SENIOR SERVICE is a brand. No implication that the Royal Navy has more than its fair share of homosexuals.
14 E(PONY)MOUS – def is “named after” — PONY in E,MOUS (a mouse whose back is moved to the front). Rather awkward surface.
16 ONANISTS – a lovely smooth anagram: (no stains)*
17 LES,BIC – Bic is our writer (pen) and I assume LESBIC is the appropriate adjective describing a gay girl.
19 STOLEN – very well hidden in “…bookS TO LENd…” and my last clue.

27 Responses to “Guardian 24412/Gordius – self-expression”

  1. Chunter says:

    Pease Pottage is also a village in Sussex, at the end of the M23!

  2. Andrew says:

    A THEIC really is someone who drinks too much tea – from “theine”, the tea counterpart of caffeine.

  3. Michod says:

    I’m not sure I would have got Pease Pottage had I not driven from London to Brighton for the day on Sunday – I think an answer like this needs more definitive wordplay – how on earth did you get it, Ilan??
    16dn marks another departure… will we see demands for certification of crosswords soon? (“This puzzle contains strong language and scenes of a sexual nature from the start”)

  4. ilancaron says:

    michod asks a fair question…. i got pease pottage given most of the crossing letters and a vague memory of a nursery rhyme involving said veggie mess (which I managed to misremember as Pease Pottage Hot instead of Pease Porridge Hot…). I guess spending the first 11 years of my life in England had an effect after all…

  5. Tom Hutton says:

    Although 10dn is a nice clue for asthmatic old smokers like myself, doesn’t it rather unfairly exclude the younger generation from doing crosswords? Perhaps it is just an old person’s hobby.

    And michod raises a good point about 16dn but then I am a po faced old ******.

  6. Comfy Settee says:

    I had a conversation with a German lady once, who wouldn’t accept my assurances that tea contained caffeine. She insisted that coffee contained caffeine, and tea contained theine. In the end, we looked it up in a German dictionary, which confirmed her story, but added that caffeine and theine were chemically identical. So we both felt a little vindicated….

  7. Fletch says:

    There’s outrage being expressed about 16d on The Guardian’s crossword site. Hadn’t realised people were quite so prim these days, Ilan doesn’t appear to have blinked an eyelid.

  8. Michod says:

    Azed used the word ‘wanker’ a few months back as part of an answer. I can’t remember what the word was, but it had WAN…KER or something on the outside, clued as per Chambers as ‘useless person’. I’m not surprised that using the word in conjunction with the image of stained sheets is proving a bit much for some solvers. Great clue though!

  9. Amnesiac says:

    Not sure it goes as far as “outrage”… I thought 16d was of the sort more usually seen in Private Eye. I hope no-one chose today to start teaching cryptic crosswords to their sensitive young children :-)

    I got “Pease pottage” without knowing either the phrase or the town from crossing letters. I think having “Pease porridge hot” and the bibical “mess of pottage” in the back of my mind did have an effect though…

    I have a feeling that “Senior Service” as a brand died out before I was born, but I’ve still heard of it, probably through references in books and films?

  10. Fletch says:

    Teetotaller worried re. ‘dirt’ imbibed by worthless fellow (12).

    Is that the Azed clue you had in mind, Michod?

    There was also a Paul puzzle some time ago that had lots of rude words hidden in the answers.

    Perhaps people just prefer their smut to be more subtle!

  11. Michod says:

    Thanks Fletch, that’s the one.

  12. Ali says:

    16D is a great clue. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of blue every now and then. Punk used BUGGER in the Indy last week to great effect. Besides, bowdlerisation doesn’t seem very high on the editing agenda anywhere else in the Guardian, so I don’t see why the crossword editor should bother.

    Any ideas when that rude Paul puzzle was? Wouldn’t mind having a crack at that from the archives.

  13. Fletch says:

    Not exactly Ali, no. At a guess, maybe 4/5 years ago?

  14. stan says:

    Take the 16dn word away and how would we ever be able to speak about Boris Johnson ?

    Victoria Wood did a great song that also applies

  15. ilancaron says:

    Stan: wouldn’t 2D be appropriate?

  16. Paul B says:

    ‘Onanist’ is tame in comparison to some recent, IMO rather insensitive Grauniad clues, and I fully support the idea that one’s rudeness should be at least a wee (geddit?) bit subtle.

    The Paul puzzle appearing not so long ago is a case in point, where rude words – very rude words – were hidden in various answers, though no reference was made to these elements in SI. ‘Widow Twankey’, ‘Arsenal’ and ‘Scunthorpe’ all showed up, and were noticed inter alia by some outraged Express or Mail reader, who duly sent in the letter.

    Re Henry Ford, I wonder whether it’s any easier today to find an ‘anti-Semitic Republican': PNAC anyone?

  17. Liz W says:

    I think 2dn is a reference to the fact that Henry Ford was once asked why Ford cars weren’t made in different colours and he said that people ‘could have any colour they liked as long as it was black’.

  18. Steve Banjo says:

    I think 10d might have a double-meaning, one for the public school boys (whether intentional or not).

    Certainly I got the answer without knowing about the cigarettes at all – instead taking “fags” to be the little first-years who have to run around at Harrow and Eton warming toilet seats for the senior boys (hence SENIOR SERVICE).

    BTW If you think 16D is rude, don’t go anywhere near the Private Eye Cyclops.

    Also, a little snipped for you: I was once shocked to attend one of my mum’s university lectures on linguistics, only to hear her go on a long diatribe about the verb “masturbate” to illustrate the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs (it’s intransitive, apparently, even though the vulgar throng might use “wank” as a transitive verb in conversation).

    So there you go.

  19. Dave Ellison says:

    Both 3d and 16 down were brilliant, making me chuckle on the bus to work.
    I’m with Steve Banjo on 10d, looking initially for a public school connotation; I think there was one in the end!

    Am I the only person still not to have got 9ac?

  20. Fletch says:


  21. Eileen says:

    Dave: 9ac: fr-ANTIC

  22. Andrew says:

    9ac: (fr)ANTIC

  23. Fletch says:

    Ali: the rude Paul was no. 22823, 6 May 2003.

  24. Shed says:

    Re 16D, I think the outrage – which I don’t share – is caused by the fact that the ‘rude’ word is there in the clue where one’s children and servants might see it, rather than being hidden away in the answer as in the Paul and Azed examples cited above. Back in 2000, I clued ONANIST as ‘Some reversible faults in an old organ-grinder’ and the editor (the same one we have today) told me his initial instinct was to censor it – though he relented. How times change.

  25. Ali says:

    Cheers Fletch. I’ll have a crack at it later.

  26. James says:

    Henry Ford actually stood as a Democratic candidate in an election for the US Senate in Michigan, though he did try to get selected as the Republican candidate at the same time! Autocrat seems a particularly apt description of a car-making Democrat.

  27. Val says:

    Should anyone have missed the clue for 16d yesterday it was repeated in full today in the letters page. The letter ends, “It makes me proud to be a Guardian reader (4-5, 6). Could anyone elaborate?

    I loved this puzzle, getting all but four of the answers. This is an almost exact reverse of my norm so most rewarding.

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