Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,576 – Gordius

Posted by Ciaran McNulty on December 19th, 2008

Ciaran McNulty.

Not too hard today but a few unsatisfactory clues.

“” = homophone
* = anagram
< = reversed


1. SCARCE. SCARFACE – ‘FA’.  Fa is the subdominant note of the scale.
5. MANITOBA. MAN I TO B.A.  I immediately wrote in MAJIORCA, which didn’t help.
9. IMPALING. I’M PALIN G. Nicely topical if it were written a few months ago!
10. SCENTS. “SENSE” but the surface is very muddled.
11. FELT. Related to the previous clue, but again in a muddled way.
12. CONUNDRUMS. CO-NUN DRUMS. I liked this one a lot.
13. OWNS UP. OWN SUP? Don’t know what ‘she’ is doing.
14. ANTIMONY. AN(TIMON)Y. Timon of Athens was a famous misanthrope.
16. PLUCKLEY. PLUCK(LE)Y. Bit obscure if you don’t commute from Kent!
20. EGG GLASSES. EGG + G + LASSES. Presumably the same as egg timers, but is defined weirdly.
22. ASTI. AS + IT< &lit.
23. SECANT. S(E)CANT. A trigonometric function.
25. KNEE-JERK. More of a definition than a cryptic definition
26. SOLVER. SOL(V)ER. Antonio Francisco Javier José Soler Ramos, 1729-1783.


4. EPISCOPAL. SPICE* + OPAL.  I think the def is ‘over see’.
6. NISAN. N(IS)AN.  A month in the Hebrew calendar.
15. TROSSACHS. SORT< + SACHS. Could be a few different poets.
17. COGNATE. CO(GNAT)E. Sebastian Coe.
18. YASHMAK. Y + AMASK* with H in &lit.
22. AVAIL. A VAIL.  I can find reference to a vail being a tip or gratuity, so could also mean a bribe.

28 Responses to “Guardian 24,576 – Gordius”

  1. Peter Owen says:

    Chambers has egg glass with the meaning egg timer.

    Chambers gives the bribe meaning.

  2. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Ciaran. I share your concerns about 10and 11ac. and I resisted putting in EGG GLASSES for a long time, although it fitted the wordplay, because, as you say, the definition doesn’t work.

    Because of the … …, it seems Gordius is suggesting the nun has a drink problem!

    I agree re 4dn.

  3. Andrew says:

    Eileen, I was the same as you with EGG GLASSES, thinking “it must be right, but…”. Likewise with SCENTS.

    I suppose the idea with EGG GLASSES is that if you use a standard egg timer you will end up with a soft-boiled egg, but the wording just doesn’t work. As for PLUCKLEY… words fail me.

    Gordius seems to be quite a regular feature of the Guardian schedule at the moment – personally I could do with less of him and more of some others (e.g. we haven’t seen Pasquale for ages).

  4. Eileen says:

    Andrew, ’tis the season to be charitable but I must admit that Gordius has not been among my favourite setters ever since the ‘terminal cancer’ on 29th April. [Thanks again, Tyro: I wouldn’t have been able to do that two days ago!] I totally agree with ‘Bring back Pasquale!’

  5. IR says:

    How is “moose hunter”=Palin?

  6. vj says:

    IR – Moose hunter is a reference to Sarah Palin

  7. mhl says:

    I didn’t do very well with this one, but looking up the answers I don’t think that’s too unreasonable… “vail” and PLUCKLEY were both particularly hard.

  8. smutchin says:

    I commute from Kent and I didn’t get Pluckley. I was racking my brains to think of places near Ashford with “le” or “la” in the name and could only come up with Aylesham, which obviously didn’t fit.

  9. JimboNWUK says:

    Well bu99er me I thought that MICHAEL Palin was the moose hunter!!

    A bit “south of Watford” oriented (I didn’t get PLUCKLEY either and only just stopped short of entering CANDLEWICK green) but not too bad overall… apart from yet another plank-ball slang reference at 8dn which irritated me immensely even though I got it.

  10. Chris says:

    I don’t see how it can possibly be fair to have the name of a (presumably) small regional train as the anser in a national newspaper crossword. How can the large majority of solvers possibly be expected to have heard of it?

  11. Tyro says:

    You’re welcome Eileen. I think Pluckley was the place where they filmed Darling Buds of May, so I had heard of it, but I agree, we seem to be getting knotted with Gordius quite a lot lately. More than his fair share, I reckon.

  12. Eileen says:

    Well, I think the good people of Pluckley, all 1,050 of them [ I googled] will be mightily indignant that those of us [un]fortunate enough to live the ‘wrong’ side of Watford have never heard of their home. I admit that I did earlier ‘cheat’ and look at my AA road map to find the next stop to Watford but didn’t even notice Pluckley, because it didn’t appear to be on the railway line. [More googling tells me the station is one and a half miles away.]

  13. Eileen says:

    Sorry – of course, I meant ‘next stop to Ashford’.

  14. NealH says:

    The rail timetable I consulted to find Pluckley says “Most services on this route do not stop at Pluckley.” So it’s not even the stop before Ashford most of the time.

  15. Chris says:

    Apologies for my sausage-fingered typing above. Obviously I meant “small regional train STATION”, and I also know that answer has a “w”.

  16. Eileen says:

    More seriously, though, I’ve far less objection to that clue, which was easily gettable from the perfectly valid wordplay, than with 10 and 11 ac., where the wordplay appears more nonsensical the more I look at it. What connection is there between ‘hearing’ [present participle or verbal noun] and ‘scents’ [noun] – homophone of ‘sense’?? what dialect is that? – and ‘felt’ [past tense or past participle]?

    [My first thought for 11ac was ‘dust’!]

  17. ray says:

    Apart from REACT got almost nowhere top left. Homed in on Golders Green and couldn’t shake free of it despite the obvious wrong length. As for PLUCKLEY !!!

  18. stiofain_x says:

    Worst Guardian puzzle in ages.
    I also hate cricket clues, full of weakly clued obscurities, anagrams barely worthy of The Sun, Palin clue mildly amusing, 25ac terrible,10,11ac combo lazy and contrived.
    If id been commuting on the train to Pluckley I would have said something that rhymes and threw it across the carriage Jimbo style.

  19. Noel says:

    NealH: Interesting comment about most trains not stopping at Pluckley. I think I’d still think of a station as a ‘stop’, even if nothing ever stopped there!

  20. Tom Hutton says:

    10 ac Hearing scents = sounds like sense. Hearing and smell are sense. It seemed all right to me. Likewise feeling is a sense, though here the tense has got a bit funny.

    I thought 22ac very thin.

    I could even tell you that the next stop to Pluckley would be Headcorn. But it’s a rubbish clue.

    By the way, I thought we were not supposed to denigrate setters. Or is it only the ones regular posters like we are not supposed to rubbish?

  21. George Foot says:

    I for one would be very saddened if crossword setters stopped using cricketing references. They are nearly all good fun. There are many specialisms I don’t know a lot about but if crossword setters were never allowed to use any references to anything that not everyone knew about, how dull they’d all become. What a moaning lot you all are today. I loved having Pluckley in there, what a wonderful place name, and perfectly gettable from the rest of the clue. Perhaps one day Brithem Bottom, which is where I live, will appear in a crossword, a place hardly anyone has heard of including a majority of those who live within a 5 mile radius. I enjoyed both “scents” and “felt” even though the surface may not have been that good, I still found them amusing.

  22. mark says:

    Could someone please explain 21D – my dictionary doesn’t help.

    Also, for what it’s worth I find it a relief to read that others were similarly frustrated; what’s wrong with polite criticism?

  23. Geoff says:

    An ‘anta’ (plural ANTAE) is a ‘square pilaster at either side of a doorway or corner of a flank wall’, according to Chambers. Not the most widely known of architectural terms. I worked it out from the clue but had to check the word in the dictionary. Similarly, I worked out PLUCKLEY as a likely possibility – but had to check with my AA road atlas in that case.

    Rather a lot of fuzzy clues in this one, as others have remarked, which somewhat spoiled my enjoyment, although it didn’t hold me up – I think I finished this puzzle quicker than any other this week.

    The vagueness of some clues, and the unnecessary connections between them, must be the reason why nobody has mentioned 5ac, which uses the “in [place]” trick. I accept this as a device made conventional by frequent usage, but it gets many bloggers foaming at the mouth…..

  24. Dave Ellison says:

    It took me a while to get 9a, because I had in mind Mr Magoo, until I realised it was S Palin, which made me chuckle.

    Pluckley I didn’t know and I don’t mind it – Araucaria has had similarly obscure small places from time to time, and I don’t mind getting the atlas out for these.

    I usually quite like Gordius, being not too easy not too hard.

  25. Richard says:

    I stuck at it since the Tesco delivery had a puncture and was very late. But is there anything familiar about the phrase in 8dn? And as for the Hebrew calendar (6dn)… Enjoyed 9ac and 14ac, which gave me that splendid ‘oh, of course’ moment when I finally got them. But too little of that here for me.

  26. davidoff says:

    Ciaran: Think the composer (26 ac) was Martin y Soler (1754-1806), worth a listen if you want some Spanish Mozart.

    Thanks for the blog, couldn’t work out 1ac despite being a muso.

    In general quite enjoyed this, just wish it were a bit tighter.

  27. KG says:

    George Foot – can we look forward to the day when ‘on the Bury canal’ will define as Nob End. It might give us all a titter. (F Howerd?)

    Subdominant to me always meant the F in CF&G – although I think the great Bert Weedon never used this term.

    The current mediafest concerning the Xmas no.1 version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Halleluja’ may prompt listeners to note the lyric “the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall” in the first verse.

  28. stiofain_x says:

    KG re xmas no 1 considering the judges, contestants and the whole milieu the line “you dont really care for music do ya” has struck me as very ironic

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