Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,609 – Gordius

Posted by Ciaran McNulty on January 29th, 2009

Ciaran McNulty.

I’ve started to dread seeing Gordius’s name when it’s my turn to blog.  As one of the harder Guardian setters I often find his puzzles impenetrable, unlike Araucaria who I tend to regard as hard but solvable given time.

Consequently there are a couple of answers in today’s puzzle that aren’t adequately explained, although I did manage to fill the grid – I look forward to the commenters setting my straight!

* = anagram
“” = homphone
dd = double definition
cd = cryptic definition


1. NEGATIVE EQUITY.  (EVENGAIETY + QUIT)*. Something I’ve cunningly avoided by not owning anything.
8. OVOLO. O(VOL.)O.  A sort of oval moulding.
9. VACUUMED. VAC + U(-turn)x2 + MED.  Not happy with this being ‘swept’ or ‘swept by’, surely it’s an alternative to sweeping?
11. LILY PAD. Nice dd.
13. SARAH PALIN. HARPSA(oe)LIAN*. This made me chuckle.
21. ASPIRES. ASPIR(at)ES.  One aspirates on an H, which a cockney misses off.
23. EGO TRIP. E + GO + TRIP.
26. ICHOR. I CHORtle.  I suspect I only know the word from reading far too many dodgy fantasy books as a teenager.


2. GROWL. GR + OWL. Clueing this as ‘sound’ is a bit vague.
3. TROOPSHIP? TR(O POSH*)IP.  Travel seems to be doing double duty as anagrind and part of the def, or maybe it’s an attempt at an &lit.
4. VIVIDLY. VIV + IDLY. Viv Richards, West Indian cricketer.
6. UVULA?. cd. but the Uvula doesn’t really hold the tongue at all.
10. WORKING PARTY. A perhaps ironic cd.
16. SUPPOSING. SUP + POSING. (Thanks to Ron for pointing out my typo)
18. INSHORE. “INSURE”, depending where you’re from.
22. REIGN. RE(s)IGN.
24. REHAB. cuRE HABits.  &lit

47 Responses to “Guardian 24,609 – Gordius”

  1. TwoPies says:

    Thanks Ciaran. I agree with your thoughts, though I did enjoy this one myself. Congratulations btw to everyone published on Paul’s site. More familiar names this week, and my effort aside, some really excellent clues.

  2. Ron says:

    Thamks for the blog – I too found it difficult.
    Isn’t 16d ‘SUPPOSING’

  3. Ian Stark says:

    After a false start in which I think I got about four answers, I went back to this (post cuppa) and whistled through (save one).

    Not keen on ‘sometimes’ in 26a – not sure what the ‘times’ part is for.

    The only clue I couldn’t solve was 8a, even with all the intersecting letters. Not one for architectural terminology really. To prove that point I considered OBONO – O B(ook) ON O.

    I liked ‘around Crete’ for Med.

    Is 27a not worthy of comment. UNINTELLIGABLY.

  4. Dave Ellison says:

    I agree, too, with your misgivings, though I enjoyed this one and found it easier than the usual G.

  5. Ian Stark says:

    Sorry, hit SUBMIT before saying thanks to Ciaran for the blog and to Gordius for a few scary moments! Also failed to insert ? in last para and did not check spelling of UNINTELLIGIBLY. Aargh! Shoot me!

  6. Andrew says:

    Ian, I think you mean UNINTELLIGIBLY:
    UNION less O + (A BIG L)* in TELLY

    I actually didn’t find this too hard, despite the usual qualms when seeing Gordius’s name. I did think ICHOR and OVOLO were a bit obscure, though with easyish clues to compensate.

    Sarah Palin seems to be cropping up all the time: obviously a fertile source of wordplay.

  7. Andrew says:

    Oops, after correcting Ian’s spelling I then misspelled the wordplay. “I BIG* L” it should be.

  8. Derek Lazenby says:

    Paul’s site? Is one allowed to ask where?

    Yes this was hard, but unlike Ciaran, I never finish Araucaria, but I finished this one. I wouldn’t have without my online tools, but I didn’t have to include the Cheat button in the phrase online tools.

    Ovolo I guessed at then saw the wordplay. Tried to find what it meant in Wiktionary. Too obscure for that site!

    Ciaran, no need for the ?s, I checked my answers online and they are correct.

    I’m not sure our foreign solvers will have managed to find Viv either.

    Sigh, it finally does what I want but it takes all of Crossword Writer, Across Lite, Crossword Utility and MS Word to get a tested xword to my railway’s magazine editor in a form he can use. That’s 3 lots of cut and paste and reformat. Sheesh, the things I do allegedly for fun! Hope they will buy me Crossword Compiler before asking for another one.

  9. Ian Stark says: for Paul’s site, Derek.

  10. Geoff says:

    Found this one more straightforward than the usual Gordius, though OVOLO was a new one on me, and as ‘Sound’ was a very weak def for 2dn and I kept trying to put TRAMPSHIP in for 3dn, the top LH corner took a while. I agree with UVULA as the only likely solution for 6dn but can’t see why, other than its being an anatomical structure at the back of the throat. Enjoyed the puzzle, though.

    I had a go on Cryptica last week, being directed to it by other correspondents. I submitted two clues (is this considered bad form?) – one I had made earlier, in Blue Peter fashion, and one composed specially for the occasion. Both got an honourable mention! Congrats to all.

  11. Ian Stark says:

    Good question about the Cryptica clue comp – I suppose there’s nothing to say you can’t submit any number – the fact that you got two honourable mentions suggests it’s acceptable.

    I got one this time around – and I also got an apology from Paul for misplacing my clue! How exciting!

  12. smutchin says:

    Re 2d – not only is the definition a bit vague, it’s another one of those slightly irritating (to me, at least) clues where the two parts of the charade are given in the “wrong” order. I’m not a fan.

    Ian – I found the superfluous “times” in 26a a bit distracting but only for a moment. I think the clue is OK.

    TwoPies – which was your clue? There were some really good ones this week. My favourite was “Son is in perfectly good health! (5)”

    Derek – I don’t see why a British newspaper should make special arrangements to cater for foreign readers, but in any case, Viv Richards is a well-known international sportsman.

  13. Geoff says:

    I suspect Viv Richards doesn’t enjoy the global recognition of, for example, David Beckham, but it just so happens that the places where cryptic crosswords are most popular are all cricketing nations.

  14. Derek Lazenby says:

    Smutchin, because the crossword is not published purely in the newspaper. The whole world sees it on the net. If the whole world is not the intended audience then it should be on a private web site. If the whole world is the intended audience then setters should be aware of that.

  15. C.G. Rishikesh says:

    Any schoolboy in India would know Viv Richards, the West Indian cricketer.

  16. Ian Stark says:

    Derek, you make a fair point. I met Viv Richards once, in his role as tourism ambassador. He was more interested in eating the plate of scrambled eggs I rustled up for him than talking about tourism. Nice chap, though. And me not a fan of cricket . . .

  17. smutchin says:

    It’s not a fair point at all, it’s a silly point. The Guardian and its crossword may well be available worldwide via the internet but it’s still a British newspaper. Should we also disallow words such as “colour” that Americans spell differently to us?

    Besides, Viv Richards is better known in many parts of the world than either David Beckham or Sarah Palin.

  18. smutchin says:

    And is “Yardstick” fair to our European friends who use the metric system?

  19. John says:

    Ian: the “times” is there to give the X.

  20. John says:

    Sorry Ian , wrong “times”.

  21. stiofain_x says:

    I didnt enjoy this one at all too many loose clues 6dn was the worst.
    Re Pauls clue comp congrats to all the 15sqed regulars, it is a bit tight of Paul not offering a prize for the obvious effort put in by the entrants.
    I suggest he has a word with the folks at Crossword Compiler about a bit of sponsorship.

  22. John says:

    But having said that, if the 26ac “times” wasn’t there, the surfact wouldn’t be grammatical, would it?

  23. John says:

    Or even the surface…

  24. Chunter says:

    SIR Viv, please!

  25. Ian Stark says:

    Actually, Smutchin, I was responding to YOUR comment #12 and I didn’t mean to address the remark to Derek. My mistake, sorry to have got you all excited. I was more interested in telling my Viv Richards story anyway.

  26. Ian Stark says:

    I agree, John (#22) – but, being picky, I feel that ‘sometimes’ isn’t indicative of ‘part of the next word(s)’ (whatever those clues are called!). I’m guessing that the intention was along the lines of those clues that use ‘indeed’, etc, i.e. it reads ‘some times I chortle . . .’. Perhaps there could have been a better indicator?

  27. Derek Lazenby says:

    Ah, grin, love y’all. It’s really helping the enforced boredom of the leg. All I have to do is light the blue touchpaper and retire to safe distance!

    There are two points here. First I never said it was unfair, I merely made an observation that some people wouldn’t get it. That is a simple fact.

    The second point is that there are no borders on the web. Most people expect traditional borders to apply, they don’t.

    If I put that xword I’ve just done for my railway on it’s web site I would expect the general public to complain about the need for local knowledge. This is the thing on a larger scale. That is not to say I would be acting unfairly, it’s just the way things are.

    Have to buy you a beer one day Ian, we are almost neighbours. (He said having seen Paul’s site)

  28. JamieC says:

    Some very nice clues here. Not sure about 2d though. I initially put in CROAK, on the basis that it was “sounds like crow” plus K, which screwed up that whole corner.

  29. Ian Stark says:

    Anyone that offers me beer is always right in my book. I therefore reverse my earlier comments in your favour, I am that cheap 😉

    You can reach me through the hyperlink on my name, above. As a self-employed corporate film-maker I have lots of free time, given the current climate!

  30. don says:

    I didn’t, like Ian, just think about OBONO for 8 Across, I put it in for my last entry and left it at that.

    Apart from 8 Down, which is cleverly worded, but an inaccurate, definition of the uvula, I thought it was a much more acceptable crossword than those at the beginning of the week.

    A British crossword? Yes – ban all the foreign and, especially, dead languages sine die!

  31. Eileen says:

    Well, today it’s my turn to arrive late – with reservations, which I won’t bother to list, as most of them have been mentioned at least once.

    It begins to look as if we need a Cryptica scoreboard! Congratulation, Smutchin [that was one of my favourites from your Puzzle 4] Ian [I’ve seen that one before, too, and liked it], Geoff [twice! I wondered whether the ‘Geoff’ might be you: I finally managed to decipher your second one – very clever!] and Golden boy Dave – a very Paul-type clue!] not to mention TwoPies, who’s being very coy up to now… Well done, everyone!

  32. Ian Stark says:

    I feel better by the minute!

    ALL the dead languages, Don? I just overheard my 16 year old son talking to his friend. As a result, I now believe proper English to be a dead language. Doncha fink?

  33. Ygor says:

    As a foreigner, let me just say that I would be disappointed to see the British content disappear from the Guardian crossword. I do them because I’ve become bored with the New York Times offerings. The extra dimension of difficulty and the opportunity to learn more about brit language and culture is a big part of the attraction.

    In fact, I am often surprised (surprized?) by how much American content the puzzles contain. If you over there can handle this, I don’t see why you should have to cater to me.

  34. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Eileen. I had quite forgotten about the Clue competition till I saw your post.

  35. David says:

    Am I the only one who hesitated with 26a because ‘mesic’ is also hidden in there?

  36. Derek Lazenby says:

    Got to laugh, I’ve already said that I only made an observation and everyone is still banging on as though I made a suggestion. I thought the whole idea of these crosswords was that people need to understand the language. Apparently not. If your collective usage of the language is so demonstrably sloppy, it’s no wonder I can’t handle the slopiness that you are forever defending as fair clues.

    (Having again lit the blue touch paper, he once again retires gracefully to enjoy the show.)

    (Um, can I remove my tongue from my cheek yet? It’s been there so long it’s begining to hurt!)

    David, it depends on how many people know the word mesic, I expect it is fewer than you may think.

  37. Ian Stark says:

    You rascal, Derek 😉

  38. Derek Lazenby says:

    Yup. :) Ain’t had this much fun in years.

  39. stiofain_x says:

    Derek Lazenby Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 9:44 pm
    Apparently not. If your collective usage of the language is so demonstrably sloppy, it’s no wonder I can’t handle the slopiness that you are forever defending as fair clues

    what is slopiness? My chimbers says “the act of sloping as a loafstyle”

  40. Andrew says:

    Here in flat Cambridge we are very lacking in slopiness.

  41. Jim says:

    Another American ringing in on Richards.
    I don’t expect any catering to us. Got the answer although perplexed at the reference.
    With alien spelling, place names, sports etc. the challenge is stimulating.
    Apologize (ise) for the late posting. I do these before dinner, and it’s 6:24 here.

  42. Ian Stark says:

    Inclination to suffer penis loss (9)

    I do hope everyone has gone to bed now . . .

  43. Andrew says:

    See trees on board? Not seen in Norfolk! (9)

    On which inadequate note it really is Zebedee time.

  44. stiofain_x says:

    oh Ian
    thats a disgraceful bedtime sentiment

  45. Chunter says:

    The reference to Sir Viv is timely, given that the West Indies v England series starts next Wednesday.

    The great man is to be heard on the Test Match Special radio commentary.

  46. Ian says:

    A beautifully clued crossword. Thank you Gordius for the quality of this one. The carping above is almost entirely unwarranted.

  47. mhl says:

    We only finished this one this morning, but it was well worth it – very satisfying clues.

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