Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian, 24450/Gordius

Posted by mhl on July 25th, 2008


I found this a pretty tough puzzle for my first posting here. There were lots of interesting and satisfying clues, though, and several words that were new to me.

10 [Omitted according to the site’s policy]
11 WASHING DAY: A Spoonerism of “dashing way” (although the pronunciation of “ashing” is different in the two versions…)
12 STACKS: Double definition, as in piles of food or the chimneys on a steamship Thanks to Andrew for correcting this: it’s TACK = “food” in SS (“on board”)
14 VALERIAN: A great clue: Valerian was a Roman emperor and the rest is: VALE = “goodbye” + (RAIN)*
15 ARRAIGN: A + homophone of “rain”
17 ASTEISM: a hidden word that took me ages to spot, meaning polite or genteel irony
20 BARONAGE: “A list or book of barons”, according to Chambers, or a BAR ON AGE
22 MOTION: Double definition: the poet laureate, Andrew Motion and the subject of a debate
24 RITE: homophone of “right”
25 DRIFT: DR + (FIT)*
26 [A simple anagram omitted according to the site’s policy.]
1 COMPUTER: “Put income right” is PUT in COME + R
2 GNAT: The Tang dynasty reversed
3 BEDWAS: Bedwas or BED + WAS
4 PENSIVE: Gordius’s tools are PENS, and “Gordius has” is I’VE
5 ACHILLES: Achilles‘s mother dipped him in the Styx when he was a baby. The subsidiary part is CHILL in (SEA)*
6 ALF GARNETT: Alf Garnett is the reactionary fellow. I think the subsidiary part is ET (extra-terrestrial, or “incomer from elsewhere”) in (FLAGRANT)*
7 INDABA: “Conference” is the Indaba and the subsidiary is: IN with A BAD reversed
13 CHAROLLAIS: CHA IS around (“served with”) ROLL A. This was the toughest clue for me: Charollais is a breed of sheep (and cattle, although more commonly spelled with a single ‘L’ – see the comments below.)
16 GRAFFITO: A lovely clue: the reference is to the writing on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast and RAF = “flyers” FIT = “able” in GO
18 SCOUTHER: “college servant” = SCOUT (in Oxford) + HER. I hadn’t heard of “to scouther” meaning “to toast” before…
19 BENEFIT: BET holding (FINE)*
21 AGENDA: Nice clue: A + homophone of “gender”
22 MODIFY: The “setter, perhaps” that’s brought up is FIDO, with MY = “setter’s” about
24 ROAD: A road is a “way”, and a homophone of “rowed” (not “rode” as I thought at first…)

20 Responses to “Guardian, 24450/Gordius”

  1. Tom Hutton says:

    I think the spoonerism in 11ac is very questionable. Spoonerisms are spoken. Fair to solve though, no complaint about that.

  2. Andrew says:

    12ac – I think this is TACK (food) “in SS” (“on board”), with “lots” as the definition.

    11ac – Tom, I agree: it is definitely not a spoonerism.

    Also not happy about 1dn – income for “in come”: grrr.

  3. mhl says:

    Thanks, Andrew – I’ve corrected 12 across.

  4. John says:

    Some of the Guardian cryptic compilers increasingly use annoyingly obscure and sometimes obsolete words. “Asteism” and “scouther” are examples. Cryptics should be solvable by an averagely educated solver without resort to internet sources
    A note on your rationale of 13 d – “charollais” is a type of sheep. A cow is a “charolais”.

  5. mhl says:

    John: for 13d I was following Chambers (2003) which just has one entry to describe the sheep and cattle with both spellings as alternatives. The OED has a single entry for “Charollais, Charolais” that only refers to the cattle.

    The Google hits for various combinations of “charollais”, “charolais”, “sheep” and “cattle” seem to suggest that the single L spelling is about 5 times as popular for both species, though.

  6. John says:

    Hi again. Ok if I call you “M”?
    Following your links, Wikipedia has “ll” for sheep, “l for cows”, and the respective Societies agree. So that’s what I plump (pllump?) for.

  7. abu bilal says:

    Some great clues in this puzzle I thought. Oral as a hidden homophone indicator in “oral sex” completely threw me, but brilliant all the same. I agree about some of the more obscure words, but hey, this is a brainy occupation isn’t it?

  8. Speckled Jim says:

    What a tough puzzle! Can’t believe Gordius qualifies as ‘medium’ difficulty on the Setters page…! Well done to those who managed to solve it. Back to learning the dictionary for the rest of us!

  9. Shirley says:

    I agree with John and Speckled Jim. Brummie had several obscure words earlier this week as well. We’d never heard of co-inhere. Or even inhere.
    We think that the weekly puzzles can now be more difficult than the Saturday ones.

  10. mhl says:

    John: thanks, I’ve edited that to make it clearer (I hope!) and point to this discussion. (“Mark” FWIW :))

  11. muck says:

    Is Gordius really described as medium difficulty?

    17ac ASTEISM; 7dn INDABA; 18dn SCOUTHER

    All pretty obscure words!

  12. Fletch says:

    Was there a Brummie earlier this week? When? I managed to miss that.

  13. muck says:

    Fletch & Shirley: the most recent Brummie seems to have been July 17 not this week. The frequency of obscure words does seem to be on the increase though.

  14. mark says:

    I agree with John. This gave me no pleasure and I had to give up with little done. Seeing the answers I wish I hadn’t wasted as much time as I did – I would never have got these.

    I think the pleasure comes in knowing for sure when you’ve got the answer – when it suddenly or finally makes sense. Obscure words with less common spellings on top…. And I don’t see a sheep or cattle as a hunk of meat – I like my steak rare but not alive!

    Ho hum

  15. Speckled Jim says:

    Hear hear.

  16. muck says:

    My ancient Chambers only has ‘Charolais’, not the double-L spelling, but I did get it.

    I suspect that the increased numbers of obscure words are from newer, IT-savvy setters using computer searches, rather than from having whole dictionaries in their heads. For example, if you were a setter (which I’m not) and your last light was Z-F-L-. If you changed the Z, you could put in BAFFLE, RAFFLE or SAFELY, all well-known if boring words – but there is an obscure word which fits. So why change whichever word had the Z in it?

  17. mark says:

    In answer to Muck.

    I would have thought that the pleasure as a setter is in finding clues that work beautifully and balancing difficulty with elegance, cleverness whatever. Using an obscure word just becuase it fits your grid is another approach all together.

    Discovering new words is fun but completely obscure words that can only be tracked down on-line….and when the clue isn’t all that anyway…. no thanks.

  18. C & J says:

    It should not be necessary to go on line if the clue can be worked out logically, with the help of a good dictionary – in fact we use 3 different dictionaries and can usually find the right answer in one of them.

  19. smutchin says:

    “I suspect that the increased numbers of obscure words are from newer, IT-savvy setters using computer searches, rather than from having whole dictionaries in their heads.”

    Yes, there needs to be a balance struck, but I didn’t think any of the words in this puzzle were especially obscure. And at least none of them are archaic/obsolete, which in my book is a worse crime than being merely obscure.

    I also agree with Mark – I’ve dabbled in a small way with setting crosswords and to me it is always imperative that the surface makes sense by itself, over and above being a means to finding the solution.

  20. Paul B says:

    I agree with the moaners – there’s no room at all for obscure words, whether or not archaic/obsolete, in a daily puzzle. Most solvers probably cannot readily access a good dictionary, and even if they could, would they bother? I doubt it, as to my mind painstaking checking and cross-referencing are the province of your Listenerite, or similar ultra-determined, fixated type.

    When Gordius has composed his themed daily, or hidden his Nina, then, and only then, does there appear any sort of excuse for the shepherding in of weird ruminants. But, with computer facilities as mentioned above (Crossword Compiler, Tea & Sympathy et cetera) available to most writers, often there is yet a way around.

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