Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24632 / Gordius

Posted by mhl on February 25th, 2009


A very rushed post today, since I’m about to get on an aeroplane, and I’m afraid that as a result I won’t be able to update it with corrections until much later. There are a few I don’t understand here…

1. ALIMENT LIME in ANT = “worker”
5. FEDORA FE = “iron” + DORA
9. DECIPHER DE = “of French” + CIPHER = “nothing”
12. ROUND FIGURES Double definition
15. SARDINE TIN (ARDENT IS IN)*; “Fish can” is nicely misleading
17. VIC A reference to the Old Vic, but it doesn’t seem very cryptic – I guess I’ve missed something…
19. ELY Hidden answer – “See” is the definition
20. POTENTILLA POTENT + sounds like “iller”, subject to the usual provisos
22. BAROQUE STYLE (ROYAL BEQUEST)*; “associated” presumably doing double duty as well as being a difficult anagram indicator
26. ICONIC (COIN)* + 1C = “a cent”)
27. ALGORISM Very tough – sounds like “Al Gore-ism”
28. SAKIEH SAKI = “drink” (the less common spelling of “sake”) + HE reversed
1. AIDA A + IDA = “princess”
2. ITCH I guess this is IT = “communication system” + CH
3. EUPHOBIA “E.U.-phobia” – the fear of hearing good news, apparently
4. TREEN RE = “soldiers” in TEN = 10
6. ENRAGE (A GREEN)*; “programme” as the anagram indicator seems a bit weak
7. OPEN REVOLT LOVER reversed in O = “nothing” + PENT = “repressed”
8. ANTISOCIAL Just a cryptic reference to SOCIAL = “party”?
11. OFFICE FF = “very loud” in [v]OICE
14. PRAYER BOOK Refers to the Book of Common Prayer
16. ERODED RODE = “cycled” in ED = “Rusbridger”
18. STALLONE I’m not sure about “built like Bath structures?” Thanks to everyone in the comments for explaining this – buildings in Bath are ALL in STONE
21. SQUIRE I guess – not sure about “reported for night duty” Thanks to C.G. Rishikesh: a SQUIRE might have knight duty – I must have been half asleep to miss that…
23. TYLER Sounds like “Wat Tyler”, leader of the Peasants’ Revolt
24. TIME I guess that’s “Stretch” in the sense of prison time, but I’m not sure about the rest Thanks again to C. G. Rishikesh: the measurement is [cen]TIME[tre]; TIME is both the centre of cenTIMEtre and what you get if you don’t have “centre” in cenTIMEtre
25. AMEN Hidden answer

48 Responses to “Guardian 24632 / Gordius”

  1. C.G. Rishikesh says:

    24d In centimetre, ‘time’ is ‘centre only'(as it’s in the middle); if it is “not” (if it’s removed), we still have ‘time’.

  2. C.G. Rishikesh says:

    21 Squire is an attendant to knight – “reported for night duty” plays on knight, homophone of night.

  3. C.G. Rishikesh says:

    Re 18dn. I will hazard a guess but if I am wrong someone else will explain and I will learn something. The capitalisation of Bath is false. Bath structures are built in stalls which may be numbered Stall One, Stall Two, etc. So the actor is built like a bath structure.

  4. Andrew says:

    Rishi, I had the same sort of idea about bathrooms and stalls as you, but I thought the idea was that STALLONE was a made-up adjectival form of STALL. I hope I’m wrong, because it would be an awful clue if so. Thanks for explaining TIME: a very clever clue, but perhaps too much so.

    Generally I found this one quite hard, and it provided some of the irritation that I often get from Gordius puzzles: too many obscure answers and unsatisfactory clues.

  5. Monica M says:

    Hi All,

    Well I’m very pleased to hear that others found this tough.

    There were a number of clues I had to google to make sense of, eg Prayer Book revolt, Beryl Cook and UKIP, all of which I am not familiar.

    Several new words too: 20, 28 & 29 ac.

    My clumsy interpretation of 18 down: Bath (well the heritage part anyway) is all made of stone. Therefore Stallone is an anagram of stone … please don’t laugh.

    I got 27 across … lol… I thought this very clever.

  6. Monica M says:

    Sorry : re 18 dn … anagram of stone + all … now you can all laugh!!!!!

  7. JohnR says:

    18d – buildings in Bath are famously ALL STONE?

  8. JohnR says:

    Sorry Monica!

  9. JamesG says:

    Don’t know if anybody can join this blog, or whether you have to be a “member” or whatever, but I love this site and it’s wonderful to see discussion about meanings of clues. Three here to note: 3. Euphobia is not a word that I know or can find. So is it just a neologism to describe UKIP’s position – so where is the “good news”? 18 is presumable all in stone. A clever clue, really. 9. I always thought cypher was spelt with a y?

  10. Andrew says:

    Ahhhhh thanks Monica, John and James: “ALL in STONE” it is.

    James, no “membership” needed other than joining in – welcome. EUPHOBIA is a real word, defined as “fear of good news”.

  11. C.G. Rishikesh says:


    I think anyone can comment.

    Your explanation ST(ALL)ONE is most convincing!

    Both Chambers and COD give ‘cypher’ as a variant spelling of ‘cipher’.

  12. Monica M says:

    Darn it … when I go out on a limb with my thoughts … I get sooo close (just like when I suggested genus the other day and the answer was genera. All in stone … darn again.

    PS. James, a word of advice for a newbie … go to the chat room

  13. smutchin says:

    18d – I think there’s also a bit of wordplay on the fact that Sly Stallone is famously built like the proverbial outhouse.

  14. smutchin says:

    And regarding the cap B in Bath – as was discussed elsewhere recently, false caps are “allowed”. It’s putting words that should be capped in lower case that’s frowned upon.

  15. Monica M says:


    I like your explanation best … I hadn’t thought of that meaning of bath structure … very cheeky.

    Ps James, read chitchat#1 specifically … there are rules.

  16. mhl says:

    Thanks to everyone for those explanations, I’ve updated the post. (I’ve got some brief internet access when changing ‘planes…)

  17. Eileen says:

    I didn’t like either ‘programme’ or ‘associated with’ as anagram indicators but I thought 15ac was good.

    13dn is quite clever, as Dorothea Beale, head of Cheltenham Ladies’ College and founder of St Hilda’s College, Oxford, was, along with Frances Buss, who founded what became the North London Collegiate School, a 19th century pioneer of women’s education. Neither of them married and so gave rise to the satirical poem:
    ‘Miss Buss and Miss Beale
    Cupid’s darts do not feel.
    So different from us,
    Miss Beale and Miss Buss.’
    [I’m not sure that it was Miss Beale who introduced school assemblies, though!]

    I think 23dn should also have the rider: ‘subject to the usual provisos': [cf my comment the other day on ‘Awhile / a wile’]!

  18. smutchin says:

    Eileen – that looks to me like a nice example of a clerihew. And “He never married” is one of those old obituary euphemisms, isn’t it?

    Roedean (29a) is, of course, another female-only educational establishment.

  19. JohnR says:

    #14 Smutchin – false uppercase reminds me of an old Arachne clue: ‘Getting together with Dicky or Annie at first (14)’ = FRATERNISATION, so ‘Dicky’ is the anagrind.

  20. Monica M says:

    My wordy Smutchin …. another new word… is it pronounced phonetically???

    You Brits must understand that solutions like “Roedean” are just not in the lexicon of folks like me … hence resorting to google (for me it’s not “cheating”, just confirmation).

  21. PaulD says:

    A thoroughly enjoyable crossword.

  22. Eileen says:

    Re ‘Roedean': quite right, Smutchin. I hadn’t spotted that. [as to the rest – it’s ‘chitchat’, I’m afraid. :-) ]
    And you’re quite right, too, Monica. I guess this is one of those cases where the wordplay is so clear that it’s quite fair, even if the word is unfamiliar. [And I don’t think googling is always ‘cheating’, either.]

  23. Monica M says:


    I don’t think it’s “chitchat” at all (but I’m no expert) … I’ve never heard the rhyme, and I think you’ve adedd depth to the clue … that’s why I love coming here.

    I agree with your comment about fair wordplay … but sometimes I do the reverse and get the anser and then look for it.

    Which is why I loved 26 ac … got it then laughed at the reason.

  24. cholecyst says:

    14 d. 1549 was the year of the Prayer Book rebellion. Some folk – esp.the Cornish – didn’t like their orisons in English. And who was looking after the little king? Our old friend Protector Seymour – remember him?

  25. Geoff says:

    Another tough one from Gordius, with some cleverly constructed but very difficult clues. I gave up on 24dn – I suppose I should have seen ‘stretch’ = TIME, but I couldn’t make any sense of the parsing of the clue (which has been well explained by some of our brighter correspondents!).

    I don’t have a problem with ‘associated’ as an anagrind, even if it is doing double duty here. The clue looked like an anagram, but with such unpromising letters that it wasn’t until I had the B and R that I actually tried to work it out. (ROYALBEQUEST)* = BAROQUE STYLE is one of those surprising pairings that you come across occasionally – I hadn’t seen it before.

    15ac is my favourite out of many good clues – the misdirection of ‘can’ is wonderful.

    I don’t think Bath is capitalised as a decoy – the Regency city of Bath is built entirely of Portland stone (And by the way, I acknowledge that is it considered acceptable to turn a common noun into a proper noun for the purposes of clue writing, but not vice versa – but this strikes me as arbitrary. It is archaic to capitalise individual Nouns for Emphasis – unlike phrases, such as ‘Big Idea’ – so this ‘rule’ violates normal orthography as much as its forbidden opposite)

  26. Geoff says:

    Further thought on 22ac: “Royal bequest loosely/vaguely/falsely/mistakenly associated with Louis XIV” (take your pick) would have been less contentious.

  27. Derek Lazenby says:

    Those who have already said hard and not much fun get my vote.

    I see you’ve all chewed the cud fairly effectively already. Just two things to add…

    13d I thought the clue should be “routines

    Less seriously, political comedians might have prefered THATCH to be the answer to 5a.

  28. Dave Ellison says:

    I quite like Gordius, he’s always a manageable challenge (except for my failure on 24d).

    5a I liked too, especiialy now Derek points out there was another feasible solution.

    No further explanations of VIC in 17a? Vic rhymes … with Lyric?

  29. steven says:

    I couldn’t get my head round this one and gave up a third of the way through.When I looked at the blog ,thanks mhl,I could see why.Sakieh,aliment,treen,roedean,algorism and euphobia are all new words to me and I never knew cipher was a symbol for’0′.I take some solace from this ‘spell-check’ underlining five of these and that others have found it tough also helpsI might be missing the obvious but why does FF=very loud?

  30. Derek Lazenby says:

    Steven, we aren’t all experts here, several of us have days where we can’t hack it, so don’t fret about it. It’s usually me that is asking what things mean and then kicking myself when I’m told, but ff comes from musical notation.

    I take it you haven’t watched any antiques proggies on tv, I’d never heard of it either until it came up on one of those. It crops up all the time on those in fact.

  31. Derek Lazenby says:

    treen that is

  32. conradcork says:

    FF stands for fortissimo, an instruction to play very loud. F is just forte, which is merely loud.

    Much used in crosswords, along with their antitheses p for piano (quiet) and pp for pianissimo.

    So you might find Player clued as ‘Quiet chicken?’

  33. conradcork says:

    Clued cryptically, I should have said.

  34. steven says:

    Thank you Conradcork and your encouragement is much appreciated Derek.

  35. Ian Payn says:

    Wasn’t enamoured of the puzzle personally, but I’m pretty prefudiced against Gordius so it may merely have been my shallowness speaking.

  36. Paul (not Paul) says:

    Can someone explain the dots betweem 17 and 19 ac please.

  37. don says:

    I don’t think the answer to 3 down was that difficult, but like JamesG, I can’t find ‘euphobia’ in any of the standard reference works, although there is a ‘Wiki’ definition, with no explanation as to its parentage.

  38. Bob says:

    Dave: 17a is the Old Vic theatre.

  39. Shirley says:

    Paul (not Paul) I think the dots are to indicate the theatrical link – Old VIC & LYRIC, but as regulars know dots between clues can mean nothing at all and just there to mislead.

  40. Geoff says:

    EUPHOBIA isn’t in the SOD, which is the largest dictionary I have on my shelves, but it IS in my 1994 Chambers. A rather misbegotten word, in my view – looks more like ‘good fear’ than ‘fear of good (news)’. Don’t know who coined it, but they get no prizes.

  41. petero says:

    Don ‘euphobia’ is in my Chambers (2003) which is about as standard as references get

  42. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Bob (#38). I had in Vic, but like mhl, I didn’t think it was very cryptic, and I was also querying that.

  43. John says:

    Too many obscurities for me. “Sakiel” is lazy compiling in my view, finding something/anything that fits the last solution, however obscure, rather than trying to find a completely different and solvable corner. Pity because most of it was VG.

  44. Roger Murray says:

    I was really tripped up by putting in Thatch for 5a, couldn’t really justify it but there was that question mark! Had to cheat on a couple here, and I do mean cheat, by using Chambers online Wordwizard. A week of solving every puzzle without cheating still eludes me,still it is something to aim for I suppose.

  45. stiofain_x says:

    I agree John, Chambers word wizard gives SAKIEH as the only word that fits the crossing letters indicating something bunged in at the end.
    Too many ill-defined obscurities and weak clues for my liking. I suppose good clues for 3 letter word answers are hard to come up with but VIC was terrible. I did like the Beryl Cook clue though I thought a 3 letter word instead of late would have gave a nice bit of anagram misdirection.

  46. mark says:

    Didn’t enjoy. Overly complicated in places but also some weak clues and obscure answers.
    I too put Thatch for 5A and that was one of the only answers I had for ages. So now I know that a hat is a cover…hmmmph.
    17A is terrible – didn’t write that in because “there must be something better”!
    15A – what does the “find” do?
    Is Gordius always like this? If so that’s 90p saved every so often.

  47. Barnaby Page says:

    Derek, Mark – I’m glad we weren’t alone in going for THATCH. (Then I suddenly saw ANTISOCIAL and FEDORA came quickly, not to mention PRAYER BOOK, because we’d been thinking 7d was a specific revolt, and racking our brains for some kind of peasants’ revolt in the year of the Reformation…)

    I thought the literal definition of 26 (ICONIC) was rather weak – got the solution quickly enough, but is “once seen never forgotten” a good def?

  48. Ian Payn says:

    “I thought the literal definition of 26 (ICONIC) was rather weak – got the solution quickly enough, but is “once seen never forgotten” a good def?” – Barnaby Page

    ++++No, it’s rubbish. Your qualms are justified, in my not-desperately-humble opinion. It’s a shame, because despite my lack of respect for Gordius there’s a lot that’s good in this puzzle, spoiled by things like this definition and the rightly derided obscurity which does indeed look like the compiler had to catch a train.

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