Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,562 – Gordius

Posted by Ciaran McNulty on December 3rd, 2008

Ciaran McNulty.

I almost forgot I had to do this today, subsequently I had to solve it over lunch which added a bit more pressure than normal!  I consequently can’t be too objective about its difficulty but it seemed reasonably easy.

I did have quite a few niggles with some clues, outlined below.  For me half the joy of a good clue is in admiring how clever it is, not in thinking ‘hm, does that really work?’.

< = reversed
“” = homophone
* = anagram
c.d. = cryptic definition


9. BUNG. Nice c.d.
12. CLOUT. C(lumsy) + LOUT. A hard-to-spot triple def – clout nail is a type of nail, as well as clout meaning ‘hit’.
13. OBSERVER. OB(solete). + SERVER.  Being a technical type, I don’t like the use of ‘server’ as ‘provider of email’.
15. SCAM.  MACS<.  ‘Big Macs’ are burgers, ‘Macs’ are not, to my knowledge.
16. ETHOS. gET HOStile.
17. TUBE. c.d. referring to IVF.
20. ERROR. (t)ERROR.
21. HERETICAL. Presumably a weakish c.d. unless I’ve missed some wordplay.
22. IVES. (g)IVES.
24. PINTADO. PINT + A DO. A type of bird


1. FRAU. Fr. + Au (french for ‘to the’).
3. PATENT. PATE + N(o)T.
5. REPAIR. REP + AIR.  AIR = broadcasting doesn’t work for me (missing an ‘ing’).
6. HIRE. “Higher”.
12. COCOA. C.O. + C.O. + A.
14. EMBER. (sept/nov/dec)EMBER.
19. EGRETS. E.G. + REST*.
20. ECLAIR. E.C. LAIR, the commedienne being Jenny and EC being the postcode for most of The City of London.  Possibly Jenny is a bit too obscure.
21. HEIR. tHE IRish.
23. EVEN. (s)EVEN.  ‘Six is’ is too vague for me.

36 Responses to “Guardian 24,562 – Gordius”

  1. peter says:

    In your rush you missed TERMINUS at 17 dn

  2. Derek says:

    I thought 5 down was REP on Air with ‘on air = broadcasting

  3. tarby says:

    21ac I had as “it” reversed in ” here ” ie present and “cal” ie the state of california

  4. tarby says:

    but I still don’t see how that gives conventional wisdom

  5. Andrew says:

    I agree with Derek about 5dn and with Tarby about the wordplay in 21ac – the latter is trying (unsuccessfully I think) to be an &lit

    I initially had PINTAIL for 24ac, which works just as well apart from the superfluous “of”, and then got in trouble with 16dn…

    Apart from that I found this mostly very easy by Gordius standards, though as ever with him there are a few niggles. I think 14dn could be improved by making it something like “Latter part of several months”: as it is it’s horribly vague.

  6. Phaedrus says:

    I read 21ac as a combination of Tarby’s wordplay and Ciaran’s weak cd – something heretical being a rejection of conventional wisdom. Not a great clue.

    Quite a few weak clues today actually – didnt much like IVES; REPAIR was both uninspired and inaccurate; SCAM the same; PINTADO we’ve seen before.

    I normally like Gordius’ puzzles a great deal, but this not one of his better efforts.

  7. Tom Hutton says:

    Phaedrus, I think that Derek has it right and that 5dn is literally Rep above or on air and ‘on air’ is certainly acceptable for broadcasting. I thought it was a nice clue.

    Isn’t the whole of 21 the definition with the word play included in it? Is that OK by the rules of setting? I don’t know.

    Can anyone explain terminus for me?

  8. Tom Hutton says:

    Don’t bother. I’ve just twigged term in US

  9. John says:

    Heresy has nothing to do with rejection of conventional wisdom, more of beliefs or opinions, so the clause is erroneous as well as redundant, and as Andrew said, looks like a poor attempt at an &lit.

  10. smutchin says:

    Re 17dn, I put TERMINAL, which I think fits “of semester” better, in the (presumably intended) sense of an adjective meaning “describing a semester”, as well as being a noun meaning “end”.

  11. smutchin says:

    Also forgot to mention: Ciaran, I share your concern about 15ac!

  12. Dave Ellison says:

    I agree, Smutchin. I had TERMINAL too, so couldn’t get 25ac.

    We, in Britain, also have Semesters at Universities, so Term In Us doesn’t quite work. There is also TER at the end of semester, but I guess that is irrelevant.

    14d Latter part of monthS… would be better

  13. Ralph G says:

    Tom, thanks for 17d TERM IN US. Similar in a way to 5d REP on AIR which I thought was witty. One meets similar clues in the form ‘A in B’ which only make sense when you read the prepositional phrase.
    Ciaran, brownie points for getting 22a, 25a and the blog in general. In 12a I don’t quite get the _triple_ definition. I made it ‘hit’+’nail’ double definition, then (on the head of clumsy) C LOUT (oaf).
    13a: I didn’t know OB for obsolete. I got OB for obiit=died which is possibly closer to ‘expired’.

  14. smutchin says:

    Oh… Term in [the] US[A]! Now I get it!

    Hmm. So the “of” is redundant in the clue?

  15. JimboNWUK says:

    Ah c’mon Smutchin I thought I was supposed to be the pedantic curmudgeon here, but I thought TERMINUS was fine despite working at a UK university that uses ‘semester’ for a teaching period, albeit not for a half-year which is the literal sense. Not too keen on SCAM/MACS even though I got it… I was initially thinking along the lines of a burgermeister but soon gave that up. Also cheesed off that I missed ECLAIR as she is one of my favourite comediennes (and a “grumpy old woman” to boot – a match made in heaven!!)

  16. Brian Harris says:

    Agree with you about weakish 21ac (no straight) and 23ac and the odd use of “Server” for provider of email – assumed it was going to be something like AOL or Gmail or something.

    I think you may be being a bit fussy about MACS for burgers. Surely some yoots call them that for short?!

  17. Brian Harris says:

    BTW, we argued quite a bit about REP on AIR…. it is a bit lame.

  18. Testy says:

    I thought the “broadcasting”/on AIR thing was good. We’ve seen a similar device (“resting” for in BED) several times before and it usually attracts plaudits for being clever!

    TERM IN US seems veeeery familiar to me. I think it may be one from the archives (perhaps from back when semesters were exclusively American). Is it in one of the crosswording manuals (Don’s perhaps)?

  19. Brian Harris says:

    I didn’t mind the “on air” construction – I have seen it before, and it’s usually quite clever. It was more that my colleague (and fellow solver) was adamant that REP was not a good synonym for “traveller”.

  20. Mort says:

    I’m not sure what the problem with 21ac is – it’s just &lit with wordplay as described by Tarby, surely? I agree with the other niggles though.

  21. mhl says:

    Mort: I think the problem is that the “conventional wisdom” bit plays no part in the cryptic reading. (I think most people agree that in a good &lit the whole of the clue is both the definition and the cryptic reading.)

  22. mhl says:

    Testy: there have been very similar clues to the one here for TERMINUS in the Guardian, but given what an irresistible (and enjoyable) clue it is, I think it’s hard to begrudge the odd near-repeat…

  23. Testy says:

    I’m not complaining. I have no problem with clues being re-used (so long as it’s not too frequently) as there is probably not an infinite number of ways of cluing the same word. I’m also willing to believe that it is possible that two setters may have come up with the same clue independently. I was just wondering where I’d come across it and (if it is an oldie) whether it was perhaps more pertinent when it was originally written.

  24. Rich says:

    Not the most enjoyable crossword I have done due to some poor clueing (I cant be too harsh as it’s still my first month)

    I would like to put in a word for Gordius regarding SCAM though, it seems that as MACS is in capitals then it is “big” macs, I cannot help with any of the other poor clues though.

    I too have some trouble with Email provider being defined as server, but what about “with” for observer, and why “one needs” before paper?

    I think REP for traveller is an obtuse definition but quite apt as that is what Reps tend to do for most of their job.

    Also there were quite a few “head” clues which made the crossword too easy to solve.

  25. Jake says:

    Yaaaah !

    Its a crossword, rough and ready, It was enjoyable Gordius.
    Nevermind the others, well done Sir. It was fun….

  26. don says:

    Well said, Jake. Gordius, take no notice of this miserable bunch of malcontents; miserly in the extreme in their praise. Even if it was somewhat easier than your usual standard, there were some brilliant clues. I don’t know how anyone gets e-mails without a ‘server’ and what were once ‘commercial travellers’ are now referred to as ‘reps’, so ‘rep’ over/on ‘air’ for ‘traveller broadcasting’ seems perfectly acceptable. This month, last month, some months – so what, it’s ‘-ember’. Come on, get real – nobody orders a ‘Big Mac’, my kids ask for a ‘Mac’. And the question mark after ‘semester’ says it all! It’s a word jig-saw – ‘terminal’ doesn’t fit with ‘figures'; ‘pintail’ doesn’t fit with ‘eventide’, both of which were excellent clues.

    The definitive part of 21 Ac, perhaps, needs explaining, although the wordplay was very good.

    May I say that we have had virtually a foreign-free fortnight – dim almaeneg, dim ffrangeg, dim lladin – until today!

  27. smutchin says:

    Don, my only problem with 17dn was that by putting “terminal” as my answer, I then couldn’t solve 25ac. I still didn’t see why it was meant to be “terminus” when I first saw the blog, but it clicked eventually. I’m not being pedantic (well, not intentionally) to pick on the redundant “for” in the clue – just ever so slightly miffed because that’s what misled me into putting the wrong answer!

  28. stiofain_x says:

    You had me looking for anagrams there for a while but I get it now boyo.
    I thought todays was surprisingly easy for Gordius but very enjoyable.
    Setters must dread looking at this site with the begrudging praise and nit picking over quite reasonable devices such as “on air” but i enjoy the grumpy comments.
    Paul has put up the results of his first weekly clue competition and im proud I got an honourable mention
    pauls site

  29. davidoff says:

    Ok this may sound pedantic, but 2dn’s “ringworm” doesn’t get “under your skin”, the fungus feeds on the surface of the skin. I did enjoy much of this crossword, but I’m not good enough at them not to be misled for too long by inaccurate definitions like that (together with, for me, 13ac “server”, 15ac “mac”, 21ac “heretical” and 5dn “rep”). This leads to too many “oh” or “eh?” moments, rather than the “ah!” moments we’re after.

    Does the crossword editor disagree, I wonder?

  30. mark says:

    Rich is absolutely right – what purpose does “one needs” serve in 13A – that really misled me.

    For what it’s worth I liked the “on air” game – fair play – and I don’t say that lightly.

    Jake and Don, there’s nothing ungrateful about people pointing out mistakes or queries. Get over it, as should the setter who is paid to get it right!

  31. Paul B says:

    One of the most irritating things about some of the rock band websites I frequent (mostly sub-prime stuff like Frost, IQ and Magenta) is that if you say anything other than ‘how incredibly wonderful’ everything is, you’re flamed by others as negative. You might even get the old ‘it’s so bewildering why someone like that would want to come to this site’ treatment.

    You get the picture. And the result of course is very little critical (as in constructive and intelligent) discussion. Or fun. So I agree with Mark et al: if setters deploy tactics that are questionable, then the expectation should be that 15/2 is one place where they’ll be questioned. That’s good for all concerned I think, and there’s no shortage of praise here for Gordius or anyone else, when the scores are averaged out.

  32. smutchin says:

    …on which note, I really enjoyed 8ac, 12ac, 24ac and 23dn.

  33. mhl says:

    I meant to ask: I’m quite happy with “Traveller broadcasting” being REP on AIR, but why is “resort?” or “from resort?” a definition for REPAIR? Is it that a rearrangement might be a repair?

  34. Geoff Moss says:


    ‘Resort’ is one of the definitions for ‘repair’ in Chambers along with ‘to take oneself’, ‘to go’ and ‘to return’.

  35. Ralph G says:

    5d ‘traveller’ tout court ie no ‘commercial’ has been in Chambers in the required sense for some time. The 1951 edition has the rather charming definition “one who travels for a mercantile house”, whereas the 1998 edition has the more prosaic “a saleman who travels for a company”.

  36. mhl says:

    Thanks, Geoff.

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