Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,653 (Sat 21 Mar)/Gordius – The splice of life

Posted by rightback on March 28th, 2009


Solving time: 11:08

A rare Saturday outing for Gordius, which I think was of about the same level of difficulty as his occasional weekday puzzles. Some clever stuff here with a good sprinkling of Araucarian looseness. I struggled the most on 20ac (FLAPPED), 17dn (CAPRICCIO) and finally 16ac (SPLICER).

Music of the day: Brahms’s 17dn No. 2 for 1ac.

* = anagram.

1 CONCERT (= ‘entertainment’) + GRANDS (= ‘thousands’)
10 OCTAGONAL (2 defs) – I’d never have got this without the checking letters. The Octagon Theatre is a theatre in Bolton.
11 SLIGO; (G[ood] SOIL)* – a town and county in Ireland.
12 THEIR (hidden); &lit – the ellipsis refers to the previous clue, which mentions Ireland, so ‘belonging to the Irish’ is ‘their’.
13 ODOURLESS; O/D (= ‘overdrawn’, i.e. ‘In the red’) + OUR + LESS (= ‘reduced’)
14 G + LITTER (= ‘the young’)
16 SPLICER; P[o]LICE in SR (= ‘senior’) – ‘to splice’ means ‘to unite, especially in matrimony’, hence ‘registrar’. Very difficult wordplay, which needs to be read as ‘in[to] senior, [put] cops’, with ‘nothing (i.e. ‘O’) lacking’. This was my last entry.
18 COGNATE; rev. of TANGO in C.E.
20 FLAPPED; rev. of ALF, + P.P. (= ‘per pro’ = ‘by the agency of’) + ED (= ‘another [boy]’) – another complex wordplay.
21 EXPOSITOR; (POX)* in (TORIES)* – this really needs a second anagram indicator for ‘Tories’.
23 CHIPS; C (= 100, i.e. ‘many’) + HIPS (= ‘joints’); semi-&lit – nice clue with different meanings of ‘joints’ in the wordplay and definition readings.
24 SORBO; ORB in SO – an absorbent kind of rubber.
25 AVALANCHE; AVA + (CHANEL)* – ‘product’ is a very Guardian anagram indicator. Everyone else reading this probably already knows who Ava Gardner was (I did at least know the name!).
26 RECEPTION ROOM; (RONEO TM COPIER)*; &lit – at first I thought this was a very good anagram, but now I’m not sure. A receptionist might use a photocopier but isn’t a reception room the sort of place you have drinks parties?
2 ON THE WING; (NOT)* + HEWING – I liked the misleading start of this clue.
3 CIGAR; rev. of [t]RAGIC – the usual treatment.
4 RANCOUR; (R.A. N.C.O.) + UR – didn’t understand this when solving, but a bombardier might be a non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the Royal Artillery (RA); very good!
5 G + ALLOWS – ‘force’ for ‘G’ is probably less objectionable than ‘gravity’.
6 AUSTRALIA; A, + (TRAIL)* in U.S.A.
8 COTTAGE CHEESE; (COG TEETH CEASE)* – another nice anagram.
9 HORSERADISHES; HORS (= ‘without’) + ERA (= ‘time’) + DISHES (= ‘courses’) – difficult charade.
15 TRANSPOSE; T + RAN + SPO[u]SE – I misunderstood this at the time, thinking it was ‘partner’ = S (as in bridge) + POSE for ‘turnout’. ‘Model’ for T, as in the Ford Model T, is standard in the Guardian.
17 CAP (= ‘cover’) + RICCIO – luckily I was able to get this from ‘Free composition’ because I’d never heard of the Darnley in question (Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, consort to Mary, Queen of Scots), murderer of Mary’s secretary, David Riccio (or Rizzio). Well done if you got that from the wordplay!
19 EXTRACT; EXTRA (= ‘no ball?’) + CT (= ‘caught’) – excellent breakdown but even excusing the padding (‘when’ as a link word and ‘from’ meaning ‘afterwards’) the surface doesn’t quite work for me: from what is the batsman supposed to be pulling out?
20 FAR + RAG + O – lovely wordplay (‘distant paper round’). This is a Latin word meaning a disordered mixture.
22 PER SE – according to Chambers the colour ‘perse’ is from old French ‘pers’ but I don’t know if there are other cognates; Ralph?
23 CHAIR – just a weakish cryptic definition, I think.

16 Responses to “Guardian 24,653 (Sat 21 Mar)/Gordius – The splice of life”

  1. Fletch says:

    I thought this one was actually easier than most of his weekday outings – certainly fewer obscure words.

  2. Dave Ellison says:

    Took me a while to get avalanche, as I had initially caprizzio for 17d. I had looked up Darnley, and was given just the one spelling of Rizzio.

  3. Dave Ellison says:

    16ac I thought splicer was a wonderful pun, made me chuckle

  4. liz says:

    Dave — I did exactly the same thing with Rizzio/Riccio. I enjoyed lots of these clues.

  5. Mr Beaver says:

    We found this very hard. We too had the Rizzio problem, so didn’t get 17d. Also couldn’t get the three Rightback mentions in the intro, nor 9d. Nor 22d – PERSE ? Blimey, a little recherché …

  6. C & J says:

    Surely 19d refers to extraction as in pulling out a tooth – nothing to do with cricket, but nicely misleading? Fortunately we had always thought of Darnley’s victim with ‘c’s and not ‘z’s, so 17d was straightforward.

  7. Colin H says:

    This was a bit of a bugger, to be blunt. The whole right-hand side/bottom right corner took a devil of a time, and I couldn’t get 22d at all.

  8. Geoff says:

    I enjoyed this one more than his recent weekday examples, and didn’t find it too taxing.

    As I live only ten miles from Bolton, I had an unfair advantage with 10ac. I spotted the possible Mary, Queen of Scots connection in 17dn, but, like others, knew of her secretary as David Rizzio, which hampered this one for a while. PERSE I surmised from ‘per se’ but had to confirm the colour meaning.

    The anagram for 26ac is great, but the clue is let down by an inappropriate definition, as rightback points out. And I really liked the ingenious charade for 9dn, but question the word. Is HORSERADISH really a countable noun, with a legitimate plural? Horseradish is only ever grated and not eaten as complete whole roots, unlike ‘radishes’.

  9. Colin H says:

    I had “clips” for 23ac, as in “clip joint”.

  10. Ralph G says:

    Thanks rightback for the blog and the enquiry re 22d PERSE. The word occurs twice, incidentally, in the French spelling, in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales: at 439, of the doctor, “In sangwyn and in pers he clad was al”; also at 617.
    O Fr pers is vouched for in 1080 (still current, incidentally, esp. of the eyes); Medl. Latin persus is cited in 1259. Which came first is difficult to say (the Latin is attested in the 8c in a French source per OED), but according to my non-OED sources they both derive from classical Latin Persicus – Persian, whence came the dye. OED not convinced by this story (the water being muddied by ‘persica’ –peach) but helpfully supplies Mod. Dutch ‘paars’ from an earlier form ‘pers’, an example perhaps of language following the merchandise.
    No information anterior to the Latin.

  11. Geoff says:

    Ralph G: The scientific name for the peach is Prunus persica, ie the Persian plum, showing that the word ‘peach’ is also toponymic. Hence it is impossible to say whether the name of the colour came directly from ‘Persia’ or via the ‘Persian’ fruit – but the etymology is the same either way.

    ‘Persia’ is the Latin name, via the Greek ‘Persis’, of the district known as ‘Paarsa’ in Old Persian – Fars in modern Iran (showing that the more usual modern English name for the main language of Iran, ‘Farsi’, is cognate with the older term ‘Persian’)

  12. Ralph G says:

    Geoff (12 above) thanks for that, esp. the Persia/Farsi link. Pursuing the ‘peach’ line, there is an interesting development: Latin persicus > pessica > O Fr pesche > Fr pêche E peach.
    And further thanks rightback for the music link and an introduction to the Wonderland of YouTube classical music videos!

  13. Geoff says:

    I can’t find any etymological explanation for the placename Fars/Paarsa itself. My own suggestion is that it may derive from the Proto-IndoEuropean root *pers-, meaning ‘dust’ – but of course it might have come from an earlier non-PIE language.

  14. rightback says:

    Thanks to Ralph and Geoff for this week’s etymology lesson. Interesting that others should have struggled on the same clues as me – definitely some tricky ones in this puzzle.

    C & J (comment 6 above): yes, ‘pull out’ = ‘extract’ (as in a tooth) is the definition in the cryptic reading, but I was talking about the (deliberately misleading) surface reading (in this case about cricket), which nonetheless should make sense, and I don’t really think this one does.

  15. Claire B says:

    Surely the clue for ‘their’ is also just THE + IR as in ‘the Irish’ with the whole meaning ‘belonging to’?

    I struggled with perse and sorbo and found this crossword quite annoying and not very joyous or satisfactory.

  16. rightback says:

    Claire B: You may be right that 12ac was intended as THE + IR rather than a hidden answer, but I don’t think ‘belonging to’ is sufficient as a definition for ‘their’, which is why I think Gordius linked to the previous clue. Gordius is very ‘Guardian’, and I suspect you might have a similar solving experience with other crosswords by this setter.

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