Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,474/Gordius

Posted by Andrew on August 22nd, 2008


I don’t much like this grid, with its four almost-isolated corners. Luckily there were enough easyish clues in each corner to get me going, though the SE corner held me up for a while. Some niggles on a couple of clues, but quite fun overall, with some amusing surface readings.

dd = double definition
cd = cryptic definition
* = anagram
< = reverse

1 TRAVERSAL A L after TRAVERS Ben Travers (1886-1980), a writer of many farces, of which the most famous is probably Rookery Nook.
9 KERRIA “Carrier” As pronounced by an Australian…
10 STANISLAW (WIN AS LAST)* There were at least two Kings of Poland with this name.
11 PLAGUE P(au)L + AGUE Plenty of apostles to choose from, but Peter and Paul seemed the most likely.
12 BLACKMAIL BLACK MAIL We don’t hear the language of industrial unrest as much as we used to – the reference here is that during a postal strike the unions would “black” (I.e. refuse to handle) the mail.
17 TEN hidden A bit of a naughty one – “illegal” is superfluous here (and could be omitted without affecting the surface too much)
20 ELATION I (=one =21ac) in TO in ELAN Slightly unsound wording I think but clear enough
21 ONE (E NO)<
27 ASPARTAME A SPARTA ME It’s an artificial sweetener.
29 BEGIN WELL dd Obvious when you get it, but hard to spot, I found.
30 ALIENS cd Ex-pats are aliens to the natives.
2 RATTLE dd Sir Simon Rattle is the conductor
3 VENICE VENI CE As has been discussed here before, I don’t like “in Italy” as a definition of Venice. It also seems to be doing double duty to indicate the Latin (or Italian?) “veni”=”come”.
4 RESUME MUSE< in RE It’s always useful to know there were nine Muses – of whom on a good day I can name about three. And RE is a Royal Engineer, another regular visitor to Crosswordland.
6 JELLY BEAN BELLY* in JEAN I don’t really approve of indirect anagrams, but this one is relatively innocuous.
7 PRAGMATIC RAG in PM + (I ACT)* A bit of satire in the surface!
8 MADELEINE cd Only just a cd, though – this is more like a general knowledge clue. It’s a reference to Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, where the taste of a Madeleine cake sets the author off on a long train of reminiscence.
14 ASPEN LEAF AS PEN LEAF Aspens are famous for their quivering leaves, literally and metaphorically.
15 CAMP DAVID CAMP + DAVID Not sure if true Guardian readers would approve of camp=gay. David (slayer of Goliath, later King of Israel) is the traditional (but probably not actual) author of the psalms.
17 TWO OWT< “Two’s company”.
18 NEE NEE(d) A shame to have to break the pattern of having numbers in the three-letter words.
22 NASCENT AN< SCENT “During” seems superfluous here, except as part of the link from the previous clue
24 MALIGN M + ALIGN “Dress” in the sense of lining up troops etc.
26 AMBLER (g)AMBLER Eric Ambler, (1909-1998) was a writer of spy novels.

13 Responses to “Guardian 24,474/Gordius”

  1. Colin Blackburn says:

    I had the same concerns with TEN, VENICE and the grid (and whether gay = CAMP).

    For BLACKMAIL I thought it was suggesting the mail delivered during a strike would be “black mail” since it would have been delivered by blacklegs.

  2. Andrew says:

    Colin, on reflection I think your explanation of BLACKMAIL makes more sense than mine – it matches the grammar of the clue better.

  3. jvh says:

    I thought “veni” was “I came” rather than “come”, and “pragmatic” meant practical rather than “made on the hoof”.

    Also, a kerria bag sounds more South African than Australian to me.

  4. muck says:

    3dn VENICE: I was doubtful too, Jvh, about ‘veni’ as ‘come’ in Italian. However, regular -ire verbs, eg dormire, have the imperative forms ‘dormi, dorma, dormite, dormano’. Although venire (to come) does have some irregular forms (eg vengo, vieni, viene, vengono in the present tense) the imperative is regular, so ‘veni’ as ‘come’ is correct.

  5. Tom Hutton says:

    Ambler and Travers! You really have to be old to do crosswords like this….or have access to reference books.

    I agree about “veni” (I came, I saw, I conquered)

  6. Fletch says:

    Or do a lot of crosswords, they do crop up quite frequently!

  7. PBE says:

    Well, “Veni, Creator Spiritus” is sung in English as “Come, Holy Ghost”. And ‘veni’ isn’t the 2nd person singular imperative of venire, which is ‘vieni’ — as anyone who has heard an Italian summoning a cat will tell you.

  8. Comfy Settee says:

    Had no end of trouble with this because I put BARBED for 13ac (well, something barbed can scratch, no?). Im still happy with it as an answer, just not as THE answer!

  9. muck says:

    Sorry PBE, I do speak a little Italian, but had to refer to my Collins Italian dictionary to check for possible irregular forms of venire. ‘Vieni’ is certainly the (irregular) 2nd person singular for ‘you come’, which I would use to my cat: they don’t understand the imperative! I believe ‘veni’ is the correct 2nd person singular imperative.

  10. jvh says:

    Thanks Muck and PBE for the learned responses. I am afraid it is a long long time since I studied any Latin, and I never learnt Italian.

  11. Bogeyman says:

    For 6 down, could “pear shaped” indicate a spoonerism of “Belly Jean” rather than an anagram indicator for belly?

  12. Mr Beaver says:

    Re 6 down, I took ‘pear-shaped’ to mean the top of ‘belly’ falling to the bottom. Probably not a standard construction though !

  13. Barrie says:

    Why did you not include 5dn? (Clue “A right in a wrong is still a wrong)? I didn’t get it originally but, with the missing letters from your other answers, it was obviously AVARICE. Thanks for the help.

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