Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,483/Gordius

Posted by Andrew on September 2nd, 2008


It’s my first day back in the office after a week-and-a-bit’s holiday, so a large backlog of emails has somewhat delayed my blogging. A lot of obscure words and references, combined with some rather dodgy clueing (and not helped by the aforementioned email backlog), made this puzzle a bit of a slog, though there were some nice clues scattered in there.

dd = double definition
* = anagram
< = reverse

1 ALLEGRI I for O in ALLEGRO Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652) is probably best known for his setting of the Miserere (Psalm 51), which was so highly regarded that the Vatican forbade its transcription. The 14-year-old Mozart is said to have written it down from memory after a single hearing.

I was about to admit defeat on the wordplay in this one (I originally thought there was a partial anagram of LARGELY in there) when I suddenly saw it: “largely 26″ is BRISK(et), and a “brisk piece” is an ALLEGRO; give “one for nothing” and you get ALLEGRI. 10/10 for sheer cheek, I think.

9 PARSNIP PAR SNIP I’d say “par for the course” is metaphorical rather than proverbial.
12 ENROL EN R-O-L An EN is a measurement in printing, or a particular size of space (about the size of a letter “n”, in fact). And then “nothing” = O separates the “two sides” R and L.
13 SIDON (NOD IS)< “A nod is as good as a wink.” Sidon is a very ancient city, in what is now Lebanon.
17 IMPORTUNE IMPORT UNE UNE = “a foreign female” – just about OK, I suppose.
19 RATES TREAS(urer)* I don’t like “treasurer shortly” = TREAS. Araucaria does this sort of thing occasionally – perhaps Gordius has picked up the habit from him.
22 PULSE L for R in PURSE
27 ELEANOR (LEAN + O) in ER Nothing to do with any of the six wives of Henry VIII – Eleanor of Aquitaine was the wife of Henry II, and the mother of Richard the Lionheart and John. “Which English king was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine?” was Judith Keppel’s million pound question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
28 ELECTOR CT replaces AN in ELEANOR A nice linkage of these two words
1 ALPHEUS HELP* in AUS I think this wins the prize for “most obscure reference” in this puzzle: Alpheus was the father of the disciple James the Less, not to be confused with James the brother of John, whose father was Zebedee.
2 LARWOOD (A ROW OLD)* Harold Larwood (1904-1995) was one of the fast bowlers involved in the famous “bodyline” Test series against Australia in 1932-33.
4 IMPROMPTU PROM in I’M PUT* “Over” here needs to be interpreted as “containing”
5 ROADS Homophone of (Cecil) RHODES
6 STREETCAR CARTERET’S* “A Streetcar Named Desire” is a play by Tennessee Williams, but most famous as the 1951 film starring Marlon Brando.
7 TABORET TA BORE T Volunteers = Territorial Army = TA is a common piece of wordplay. “Taboret” was unfamiliar to me – it can be either a stool or a cabinet.
8 ORTOLAN (A LOT)< in ORN ORTOLAN is a bird – a type of bunting: nothing to do with flags in the street.
14 NORWEGIAN (WEARING ON)* Surely a bit of a stretch to call Norwegian a race.
16 INEFFABLE dd This cheered me up when I was feeling a bit grumpy about the puzzle – can’t be sworn at = can’t be effed (as in effing and blinding) = ineffable.
18 PILLAGE PILL AGE Another amusing one
21 SHYSTER hidden Flywheel, Shyester and Flywheel was a short-lived 1932 radio sitcom by the Marx brothers. It was revived a few years ago on Radio 4. (Addendum – not so few: it was actually in 1990-1992)
23 ORMER OR MER A type of sea snail, also called the Abalone
24 CHINE CHIN E An easy clue for another rather obscure word. It’s a steep-sided river valley.

17 Responses to “Guardian 24,483/Gordius”

  1. mhl says:

    I found this crossword the most difficult for quite a while. Personally I don’t think it was particularly the vocabulary, just that there were several anagram indicators that I didn’t spot (e.g. “participants”, “collect”) and a few rather obscure meanings (IMPORTUNE for “to go on the game”, ELECTOR for “old prince”).

    I thought including a three letter abbreviation in the anagram in 1d was a bit much. I assume it’s (HELP AUS)* since I can’t see what would indicate inclusion unless “under” is doing double duty.

    My favourite here was 27a, which I took far too long over, despite watching “The Lion In Winter” a month ago. :)

  2. Andrew says:

    I think the idea in 1dn is that “down under” = “in Australia”, so it’s HELP* in AUS.

  3. mhl says:

    Andrew: ah, thanks – I was just being dense then :)

  4. John says:

    The father of this obscure James is Alphaeus according to my sources, not Alpheus. And “Aus” is a liberty.
    In 19 ac, as well as “treas” being loose, collect is a very weak anagram indicator.
    I can find no meaning of “chine” equivalent to cleft, unless it’s cleft as past participle of “cleave”, in which case a verb form is pointing to a noun. Not very good in my opinion.

  5. Geoff Moss says:


    In both Chambers and COED a ‘chine’ is defined as a ‘ravine’ but both indicate that its origin was the Old English word ‘cinu’ meaning a ‘cleft’.

  6. Eileen says:

    Well, I really liked this one! – especially 1ac, which I thought was great. I liked 1dn, too.

    I think ‘treas.’ is a common enough abbreviation to be acceptable and ‘collect’ in the sense of ‘assemble’ works for me.

    I’ve found ‘Alpheus’ as an alternative spelling in a number of places. And I wouldn’t really call this James ‘obscure’. He may be ‘the less’ but he was one of the twelve apostles.

  7. Andrew says:

    Eileen – I’m glad someone enjoyed it! I think you can put most of my grumpiness about it down to first-day-back-at-work syndrome…

    I hadn’t though of “treas” as an abbreviation of “treasurer” rather than just the first few letters, which makes it slightly better. But there’s another example of the same idea in 8dn with ORN for “some ornamentation” (which I meant to mention in the blog and then forgot about).

    I agree James the Less isn’t that obscure, but I don’t remember having heard of his father before.

  8. Eileen says:

    Andrew. I think you did a great blog for first day back!

    I was just lucky to remember ‘James son of Alpheus’ as a phrase.

  9. Pricklewedge says:

    I really enjoyed this one – after a couple of days in darkest Somerset (where the local shop has one copy of the Granuiad which is always pre-sold) this was a nice return after arguing with the Sunday Express general knowledge crossword. 16d made me laugh out loud. Like Eileen I had to wrack the old memory-bank to dredge up James son of Alpheus. Andrew, don’t worry about feeling grumpy – I enjoyed the blog too!

  10. Eileen says:

    Pricklewedge – Hurrah! I was beginning to think it was just me.

    Forgot to comment on the two clever &lits: 2dn and 20dn. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t spot the latter until your blog, Andrew: I got it from the crossing letters and the straightforward definition!

  11. Pricklewedge says:

    I think we’re agreed in gee-ing up Andrew, Eileen! I’m facsinated by &lits; still being a amateur I find them astounding. At least I understand them!

  12. Berny says:

    What is it about top left hand corners – yesterday’s TLHC was problematic! Today’s was impossible – think clueing should be much tighter if you are going to use obscure references. Not grumpy – just think all crosswords should be doable without help. Setters should follow example of Araucaria – he uses obscure references but I always get these.

  13. Paul B says:

    I always go on about this given half a chance, so I will today: in what way is it good to be at all obscure in a daily puzzle, especially one that has no theme or Nina? And even then, where obstacles to grid-filling abound, most decent compilers can keep the Anglo-Saxon bishops to an absolute minimum!

    One or two great clues, where Gordius lets his impressive talent shine through, but overall ‘knot’ (geddit?) the best offering.

  14. Steppenwolfe says:

    Having just completed Arucaria’s crossword today where one of the answers is ‘Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth’ and yesterdays offering from Gordius about’a nod is as good as a wink to a blind bat’.
    Do I get the feeling that there is some sort of ‘Monty Python’ theme going on amonst our favourite compilers this week!

  15. Andrew says:

    Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  16. Steppenwolfe says:

    There was the answer ‘sick as a parrot’ in the quick crossy. Echo of ‘this parrot is dead’ perhaps?
    If we get an answer of ‘I’m Brian, and so’s my wife’ in tomorrows crosswords, we’ll know we’re on to something!

  17. Eileen says:

    Or we could get something completely different…

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