Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24527 / Gordius

Posted by mhl on October 23rd, 2008


As usual with Gordius’s puzzles, I found this one rather difficult, so there are quite a few questions below. It was very enjoyable, but something of a guilty pleasure considering the amount of time it took me… :)

1. BUNDESTAG (GUEST BAND)* – the German Parliament
6. MACE Double definition. (Cromwell demanded that the Speaker’s Mace be removed from parliament.)
9. FORUMS FORMS are “benches”, but I’m not sure why U would be fashionable – I’m not convinced that the “U” and “non-U” meaning has anything to do with fashion…
10. ISOLDE SOLD = “flogged” in I.E.; the heroine of Tristan und Isolde
12. OPIATE I in O = “Round” + PATE = “head”
15. XERANTIC REX reversed + ANTIC
16. ASPIRATE I’m not quite sure about this, but one aspirates the beginning of the word “Hook”, and Captain Hook presumably continues AS PIRATE?
19. ESTHER (THERE’S)* – the queen of Persia in the book of the Old Testament
21. LANGUISH A tough clue on two counts: the reference is to Lydia Languish in Sheridan’s “The Rivals”. The archbishop, I think, is Cosmo Lang followed by U = “turn” + IS + H = “hard”
22. BREAST (E = “English” + BRATS)*
24. CORNET ET = “alien” with CORN going from “back to front”. The definition confused me a bit – “It’s in the wind blowing” suggested a woodwind instrument to me because of the “wind and brass” division in an orchestra, but I suppose that in that sense “wind” is just being used as shorthand for “woodwind” – both brass and woodwind are wind instruments, after all.
25. NUNEATON Another one I’m not quite sure about – NUN = “sister” + EAT + ON suggest still eating to me, rather than being after lunch Andrew points out that this is a homophone of NUN EATEN
26. HEBE Hidden in “the best”. “gardens” is superfluous in the cryptic reading…
1. BELLS A circular definition with 7 down: you’d hear bells ringing in a campanile
2. NIGELLA We had a Nigella as a cook and a plant quite recently – “Ragged lady” is another name for the plant
3. ELOPE POLE reversed + E
4. THEROUX THE + ROUX = “chef” (Michel Roux, chef at Le Gavroche), leading to the author Paul Theroux
5. GIFT HORSE A nice clue: (FORESIGHT)* referring to “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”
6. MERIDEN RIDE in MEN; the town of Meriden claims to be the centre of England
7. CAMPANILE A circular definition with 1 down: CAMP = “party” (in the sense of a group of people) + A + NILE.
13. EMACIATED CAME reversed + (A DIET)*
14. PAST A JOKE An excellent clue: the famous Panorama April Fool was a PASTA JOKE
17. INGENUE (ENGINE + U)*; the surface left me trying to work out if there was some NEWCOMER / NEWCOMEN wordplay, but no cigar
18. ETHANOL (HOT + LEAN)*. It’s slightly odd that the anagram indicator here isn’t next to the anagram fodder – the definition seems to be between them. Have I missed something?
20. TREMAIN T + REMAIN, referring to the author Rose Tremain
22. BONDI BOND (“James”) + I; the beach in Sydney
23. SNORE An answer that I guessed early, but wasn’t confident enough to put in. It seems unsatisfying – I guess it’s just a cryptic definition, since the part of speech of doesn’t match “asleep”? Update: I wasn’t reading this right – Eileen suggests that the cryptic reading is “to sound (as if you’re) asleep” = “to snore”.

32 Responses to “Guardian 24527 / Gordius”

  1. Andrew says:

    9ac – I agree that “U” doesn’t really mean “fashionable”
    16ac – I think you’ve got the explanation right: I quite liked this one
    25ac – I guess it’s supposed to be a homophone of “nun eaten”
    18dn – again I agree with your reservations

    One more nitpick from me – in 19ac I really don’t like “another” as an anagram indicator: I’ve seen it quite a lot in inferior crosswords and think it’s inaccurate and lazy.

  2. mhl says:

    Thanks, Andrew – I’ve updated my comments for 25 across.

  3. Eileen says:

    A really great puzzle! Lots of witty clues, notably 8,16 [I read it as you did], 25ac and especially 13 down. My only quibble, apart from yours re U ‘fashionable’ was ‘ingenue’ meaning ‘newcomer’.

    25ac I think is NUN [having] EATEN [homophone].

    6dn is a lovely clue, unfortunately out of date: The OS now says the centre of England is in my home county of Leicestershire at Lindley Hal Farm, near Fenny Drayton.

    I really liked 24ac: My initial response was ANSWER! [blowing in the wind]. We’re well used to ET the alien but here there was a lovely reference to ‘The Alien Corn’, the title of a short story by Somerset Maugham, itself taken from Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale:
    ‘…the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
    She stood in tears among the alien corn.’

  4. Eileen says:

    Sorry [re 6dn] Lindley Hall Farm

  5. Eileen says:

    Mhl: I don’t really understand your comment on 23dn. I read ‘sound’ as a verb: to ‘sound asleep’ is ‘to snore’. I quite liked it!

  6. Jake says:

    This puzzle seems rather tough today, I managed to sail through Dacs puzzle yesterday with hardly any problems. But Gordius, on a Thursday is out of the question for me I think.

    I’ve encountered Gordius before, on earlier days of the week and he’s been OK, but today looking at his cluing makes me want to cry for help…..

  7. Eileen says:

    Sorry it’s me again but I forgot to ask: what’s the significance of ‘noted’ in 2dn?

    And apologies to you, Andrew: I wrote so much in my first comment that you’d posted yours before I finished, hence the duplication re 25 ac!

  8. Fletch says:

    I find Gordius one of the harder Guardian setters but there’s much in here to like, 13d especially!

  9. mhl says:

    Thanks, Eileen – I’ve updated the post. (I hope I’ve got your explanation correct there!) Also, thanks for pointing out the Somerset Maughan allusion in “alien corn”.

  10. mhl says:

    Oops, I mean “Maugham”, of course.

  11. Andrew says:

    Eileen – I think “noted” in 2dn just means that Nigella is a famous cook. It could probably be omitted but I don’t think its doing any harm.

  12. Eileen says:

    I just wondered if I was missing something, Andrew – you know, like ‘noted’ or ‘scored’ referring to composers. [The chef in 4dn was unqualified!]

  13. Comfy Settee says:

    Found this tough going, not helped by carelessly writing in STARTER for 17d (since a starter handle could be used to turn an engine….). Sigh.

  14. John says:

    Too many loose anagram indicators for me. In addition to 19 ac, already noted, I cite 22 ac, 27 ac, 5 dn. Pity, as they are excellent cluies otherwise.
    In 7 dn, is a “party” a “camp”?
    And do we accept “forums”?

  15. C & J says:

    We are not fans of Gordius. He is only hard because he is imprecise.

  16. muck says:

    Gordius isn’t my favourite either. But 14dn PAST A JOKE, which I didn’t twig despite having seen the original Panorama April Fool, is good.

  17. Eileen says:

    John: 7dn: Collins gives ‘camp’ as ‘a group supporting a given doctrine’. [I confused myself with this one, wanting the river to be ‘Cam’.]

    Pedant and Classicist that I am, I don’t think I can object to ‘forums’. Collins [my Guardian prize – I really must put Chambers on my Christmas list!] gives it as a plural [before ‘fora’].

    Does no-one else query ‘ingenue’ = ‘newcomer’?

  18. Andrew says:

    Eileen – I was with you again on “Cam”: in fact I initially (though doubtfully) put in CAMBRIDGE (bridge party?) for 7dn and BUMPS (well, bumps make a sound) for 1dn.

    I also have nothing against “forums”; in fact I find “fora” excessively pedantic – “forum” is a fully-naturalised word IMHO. (And don’t get me started on “referenda”…)

  19. Eileen says:

    Yes, Andrew, I thought of Cambridge, too!

    And referenda is WRONG – but, as you say, let’s not go there!

  20. Geoff Moss says:

    “And referenda is WRONG …..”

    Why? Chambers gives the plural of referendum as referenda or referendums and both Collins and COED have referendums or referenda.

    With regard to ingenue, I agree that the definition is a little loose but I have seen worse. Both Chambers and Collins give ingenue as ‘an inexperienced young woman’ and an inexperienced person could equate to a newcomer or beginner.

  21. NealH says:

    13d was very clever, but I object to the “tree” in there. Pasta is just spaghetti, not a spaghetti tree, so I can’t see how it can be justified.

  22. Fletch says:

    But that was the hoax, spaghetti growing on trees. It has to be there for the clue to make sense, spaghetti tree hoax is a pasta joke.

  23. Eileen says:

    Well, Geoff, I said I wasn’t going there and I’m not. It’s too long an explanation and we had enough of gerunds and gerundives a while ago.

  24. AMB says:

    Something of a monument to approximation, this one. As someone commented above, this would have been far easier if it had been written within normal limits of precision. A struggle, to say the least, with most of the definitions seeming rather loose. Some were in the wrong part of speech.

    Not pleased.

  25. Dave Ellison says:

    I found this as an explanation of the plural of referendum:

  26. mark says:

    Thank you AMB and others for saying how overly difficult this was made by imprecision. Makes me feel better about struggling.
    Shame on you Gordius.

  27. Eileen says:

    I didn’t expect to come back on this [I’ve been out for the evening] but I can’t not! Many thanks for that, Dave – a great explanation. But “As a gerundive, it has no plural in Latin” – not true! ‘REFERENDUM’ [‘that which must be referred’] DOES have a plural: REFERENDA: “THOSE THINGS which must be referred”, which is why, in English, referendums is the sensible plural of referendum, since a referendum is on a single issue.

    I still found this a very enjoyable puzzle. What did Zebedee say…?

  28. Fletch says:

    Me too Eileen. Strong reactions on this puzzle, if people want absolute precision they should think about switching to The Times.

  29. Paul B says:

    That’s where you’ll get precision for sure, but to be fair (so to speak) most of the Libertarians on the Grauniad are more strict with themselves than Gordius has been today.

    What surprised me most of all about this offering was the choice of grid, which pretty much cut this tough crossword puzzle in half. It didn’t need to be this way to accommodate a Nina or theme, nor was it a standard Guardian grid (AFAIK), so … why? Most peculiar.

  30. davidoff says:

    I got stuck in top right corner – put Mercian in (it’s also a make of bike..). But if a puzzle amuses me (eg13dn) and informs me (‘ophidian’, ‘lydia languish’) then I’m a happy solver.

    Thanks for ‘referenda’ explanation, Eileen – please don’t “not go there” with your scholarship!

  31. Paul B says:

    That’s a fair point, Davidoff. But relatively obscure ‘educational’ answers, such as the two you cite (which appear in a daily puzzle, let’s not forget), probably need to be clued accurately and simply so that any lessons from vicars communicate well – and a failure in that aspect seems to be what some people are moaning about!

    If crosswords were our sole source of learning, what would we know?

  32. JohnR says:

    A bit late, I know – I seem to have lost a day this week!

    I agree that this was in places a very frustrating puzzle (including grid, as Paul B points out). But you can forgive a lot for 13dn – surely a classic. So I’m with Davidoff…

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