Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,664 – Gordius

Posted by Ciaran McNulty on April 3rd, 2009

Ciaran McNulty.

Very enjoyable today,  quite a few c.d.s which seems to be a Gordius trait.

d.d. = Double definition
c.d. = Cryptic definition
“” = homophone
* = anagram


10. INDEX. IN + DEX. I’m guessing that Dex means books as in Codex?
11. ENDWISE. END+WISE. You stand something up endwise.
12. TREMBLE. TRE(M(usic))BLE.
13. PUMPS. c.d.
19. HOLY BREAD. c.d. A reference to the catholic mass.
21. MINUS. M(otoring) IN + U.S. ‘Gets less’ isn’t very satisfactory.
22. FLY LEAF. FLY + LE + A.F.
23. LITHIUM. LIT + H(1)UM.  Greats is an old term for certain subjects you might study, including literature and humanities (as opposed to Classics).
24. FRANC.  “FRANK”.
25. SAFETY PIN. The point is normally hidden.


2. ACADEMIC. AC. + A.(DEMI)C.  AC is used as both ‘account’ and ‘current’.
6. TIME BOMB. EMIT< + B.O. + M.B.
8. AXLE. A(X)LE.
14. SILVERFISH. Not clear what the definition is meant to be.
17. AMBIENCE. CAME* around BIEN.
18. XANTIPPE. X + ANTI + P.P.E.  PPE is a humanities subject, so Greats is being used in the same sense as 23ac.
22. FIFE.  F(IF)E.
23. LOFT. L + OFT.  I initially thought LOT was many.

41 Responses to “Guardian 24,664 – Gordius”

  1. Simon Harris says:

    10ac is [f]IND EX[emplified] & lit, I think.

  2. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog. At Oxford, Classics used to be known as Literae Humaniores, or Lit Hum, or Greats. Modern Greats is PPE.

    I took John Dory to be the definition. It’s also called St Peter fish.

  3. smutchin says:

    Yebbut, a silverfish is an insect, so “John Dory” can’t be the definition. Very strange clue, that one – aside from having no definition, the “John” part is also doing double duty. Otherwise this was a mostly enjoyable puzzle.

  4. smutchin says:

    …although, having said that, “dory” could actually indicate “fish” by itself (although, strictly, it doesn’t define “fish”), so maybe John isn’t doing double duty after all.

  5. tarby says:

    14d long john silver (treasure island) dory (the fish)but no definition and John possibly used twice.

  6. Geoff Moss says:

    14d As well as being an insect, a ‘silverfish’ is a silvery-white goldfish, or other silvery fish, according to Chambers. A ‘dory’ is a golden-yellow sea fish (also called John Dory and doree).

    If anything is doing double duty it is ‘dory’ as the indicator for fish and the definition.

  7. liz says:

    Chambers also gives ‘silverfish’ as ‘a silvery white goldfish or other silvery fish’. I think the question mark shows that the insect def is what you’d expect. But the fish def is viable too.

  8. Ian says:

    I think this has been a good week, by and large. Some good compilers and not-too-bad puzzles.

    And no Rover.

  9. smutchin says:

    OK, fair enough – I stand corrected. I’ve only ever heard “silverfish” used to describe an insect, though.

  10. Andrew says:

    I had my usual Gordius Gripes with this one – e.g. 13ac: not all pumps inflate things, so it needs a “may” or similar. I originally thought the answer might be TYRES or BALLS. I also thought 14dn was unsatisfactory.

    A week of two halves in my opinion, with yesterday and today distinctly weaker than Mon-Wed. For those who haven’t tried it yet, Pasquale’s prize puzzle last Saturday was a cracker, and not too difficult.

  11. Paul B says:

    Wot no insulting words or phrases, not too much cryptic vandalism, and only XANTIPPE to please the Listenerites? Diis aliter visum.

    9ac ‘a’ is redundant. 11ac ‘a’ is redundant. 21ac wrong tense for the single letter indicator – ‘but gets’ adds to the confusion. 22ac uses ‘the French’ = LE, which some people don’t like. 23ac hopelessly recondite.

    1dn could probably benefit from an ‘of’ betweeen ‘sprinkling’ and ‘chips’ – unless these ‘are sprinkling’, I s’pose. 2dn: is ‘in current situation’ enough to indicate ‘in ACAC’? I do not know. 3dn ‘a’ is redundant. 14dn is rubbish at the moment, though an idea is in there somewhere. 15dn doesn’t need a question mark. 17 uses ‘over’ as a container indicator, which some people don’t like. 18dn is almost as hopelessly recondite as 23ac. 22dn doesn’t need a question mark either.

    Or so it seems to me.

  12. Testy says:

    21a I read “gets” as just being a link word and the definition as just “less” as in 10 less 2 is 8.

    I was equally perplexed by 14d.

    I’d also never heard of the Greats with that meaning before (neither old nor modern) and was not familiar with Lit Hum or PPE (is that a sports lesson for stutterers?) or XANTIPPE (what ever happened to the idea that tricky answers should have easier clues?) so I consequently struggled.

  13. Tom Hutton says:

    An enjoyable crossword but, as is evident from the bloggers’ reactions, there are quite a few available niggles. Mine was 5dn: it’s easily solvable but the order of words in the clue does not seem right and it has two anagram indicators apparently. It should be ‘Wild a cat hunted’ so the clue might have read: ‘Wild, a cat hunted by itself’, which would have been more satisfactory to me.

    However, it’s a beautiful day here so all is well with the world.

  14. Testy says:

    I think all the “a”s help the surface and don’t invalidate the cryptic reading so I don’t have problem with them. The question mark in 22d is at least justified by the questioning tone of the surface.

  15. smutchin says:

    I’ve always understood that superfluous articles were considered OK if they helped the surface – as long as they go with a noun (ie you’re not allowed to use them misleadingly).

  16. Brian Harris says:

    Few minor niggles (including the dual anagrinds in 5dn), true, but enjoyable overall and a decent crossword to end a pretty good week.

  17. liz says:

    PPE is Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

  18. Derek Lazenby says:

    Wot? Nobody muttered about intial letters being used as arbitary abbreviations? Oh well, I daesay someone will.

  19. Ian says:

    Greats, PPE and Xantippe are all very well known terms, even to those who didn’t read Greats or go to Oxford, though I’ve only seen the last spelt Xanthippe in English or Greek. Apparently, without the H it’s a town in Western Australia, but not a scold.

  20. agentzero says:

    Tom, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with 5dn. I parse it as *(CAT HUNTED) around A. In other words, the only anagram indicator is “wild.” “Around” is a container indicator, which explains how A can appear at the beginning of the clue. In other words, it is A with a wild CAT HUNTED around it.

  21. Derek Lazenby says:

    Ian? Which planet are you on? Well known by whom? Go out into the street, Oxford Street for example, and ask people at random what those things mean. Then revise the phrase well known. Your normal peer group is not a valid sample, try the wider world.

  22. liz says:

    PPE might not be well known in your sense, Derek, but it’s not a case of arbitrary abbreviation. The course is always called PPE, because otherwise it’s a mouthful to say.

  23. petero says:

    Good point Agentzero: I think 5dn. can be removed from the list of gripes. Paul B #11 – in 2dn. as the blog says the first AC is account, leaving the current just for the second. Still there is plenty left to grouse about. In particular, I feel that 13ac. falls as flat as … something very flat.

  24. Derek Lazenby says:

    The course Liz? Your answer presumes that one knows there is such a course.

    Let me put it like this people, I know many many people who would know the answer to the question “in what circumstances would you use an Immediate Assignment PDU rather than an Assignment PDU?”. Most of you don’t know what I’m talking about, but in my world, this is common knowledge. It is basic knowledge. Should I therefore presume that “it is well known” in a more general sense? I could, but I don’t. Some of us should have a similar sense of perspective.

  25. Geoff says:

    Gordius has come in for a lot of stick recently for the quality of his recent puzzles, but I enjoyed this one. A few niggles (13ac is very weak, as others have remarked) but nothing to get too steamed up about.

    It did require some knowledge of Oxford’s rather arcane course nomenclature, but I coped with that, despite not being an alumnus (unlike Gordius himself). But the Guardian crossword is primarily designed for those that take the newspaper, rather than the online fraternity. That’s not a group representative of the population at large, and, amongst Guardian readers, I suspect the regular cryptic crossword solvers tend to be an even more select subset.

  26. Derek Lazenby says:

    Is it suggested that the Guardian wishes to minimise it’s profits by minimising the audience to which it appeals? I rather suspect hard nosed businessmen want to sell as many copies as possible which means as wide an audience as possible. That is the antithesis of targetting those who mistakenly believe that they belong to some imaginary elite.

  27. Chatmeister says:

    Please keep the comments in this post relevant to today’s puzzle. The wider aspects of Guardian readership, policy etc should be discussed elsewhere.

  28. Ian says:

    I am on planet Earth, Derek, though I did grow up in California. I certainly knew the term Greats and the abbreviation PPE as a teenager there, long before I knew there was a newspaper called the Guardian, so I don’t think either could be considered obscure. As for Xant(h)ippe I don’t recall if I first read Plato in school or university, but as his works have been at the core of Western education and culture for quite a few centuries, I don’t think that can be considered arcane either.

  29. Chris says:

    Derek, a running theme throughout your crossword commentary seems to be that if you don’t know something then it must automatically be too obscure to feature in the Guardian crossword. And further, that you don’t want anything unfamiliar to appear in the crossword. Does it not occur to you that crosswords are a great way to learn about unfamiliar subjects?

    I didn’t go to Oxford, and the likes of the Greats and PPE aren’t among my specialist subjects, to say the least, but they don’t seem that obscure, and certainly not areas that should be out of bounds to crossword setters.

    It seems that if you had your way, crosswords would be filled entirely with basic, uninteresting words.

  30. Paul B says:

    Without wishing to defend anyone in particular, I would remind Chris that Gordius has become notorious for including recondite entries. And that whilst you *can* learn new words from puzzles (as an alternative to study, for example), you would need to be able first to solve the clue.

    XANTIPPE is fine for SCOLD, says the Edinburgh mob.

  31. stiofain_x says:

    Another disappointing Gordius made more so by the high quality at the start of the week.
    Like Testy I think having a tight clue for an obscure word is a golden rule that should never be broken.

  32. Anon says:

    I’m with Derek here. There seems to be an elite who are well versed in every nuance of crossword solving and denigrade anyone who dares to suggest that a clue might not have been entirely fair or solvable to the non elite

  33. percy says:

    Anon that is a load of rubbish 15squared is a community of people of many different abilities 1 or 2 snobs do not make an elite. BTW denigrade (sic) is spelt denigrate from the latin “to blacken”.

  34. dagnabit says:

    While as an American I am sure I am automatically disqualified from being a Guardian elitist in either its print or online version, I respectfully beg to differ with Derek about PDUs. I do not know the answer to his question but I still wouldn’t be put out if the acronym “PDU” itself were to become an element of a crossword answer if supported by a thoughtfully written clue. Within reason of course, if something exists and can be verified by looking it up, I think it is fair game for inclusion. Goodness knows there have been plenty of times when even a non-cryptic crossword has sent me to the dictionary to confront something I hadn’t heard of before.

    I figured out “XANTIPPE” from context, then went to Google to learn what PPE is. To me, such small adventures are part of what makes puzzles puzzling–and fun.

  35. Dave Ellison says:

    I don’t expect to know every word in a crossword (though I did know Xanthippe), and I don’t mind having to look them up for confirmation. Early on, I had toyed with 18d starting starting xanti, but it wasn’t till I got the P from SAFEY PIN, when it popped staight out. XANTHIPPE didn’t fit, but I was happy with XANTIPPE as an alternative. I then recognised PPE. So I though this was a quite reasonable clue.

    I do think that having got the the starting letters XANTI, a dictionary would very quickly lead to the correct answer, and confimation of why, even if you were not previously aware of the answer nor of PPE.

  36. liz says:

    Dave and Dagnabit — I agree. I think it’s possible to solve clues in lots of ways, by seeing the answer and then working out the wordplay (or not) or by knowing a bit of the wordplay and finding the answer, with or without dictionary help. I vaguely knew XANTIPPE was a word, didn’t know what it meant, but got the ref to PPE and worked backwards. That’s all part of the fun, and also part of the learning, which is also part of the fun.

    I came across fifteensquared last year after googling some impossible Araucaria clue and have enjoyed it ever since, not least because I’ve been able to solve more clues after reading the blogs. Years ago, I remember someone writing a letter to the Guardian saying that if she ever managed to solve an Araucaria clue she never understood why. This site has helped me understand ‘why’ more of the time and even to consider whether certain clues are fair or not. But I don’t think obscurity necessarily counts as unfairness. There are plenty of obscure words I’ve learned through doing crosswords.

  37. Paul B says:

    Anon is plain wrong, as #11 might have shown her. Or him.

    Some people stick up for the appearance of recondite words in dailies (the situation is very different in Azed or The Listener, where solvers are deemed to be asking for trouble) on the grounds that we might ‘learn something’, but how much more arrogant could it be for a setter actually to believe s/he were in any substantial way likely to add to our learning? This premise is completely nuts in any case as far as I can see, as, if you don’t know a word, unless the SI is very clearly and simply laid out (and it’s often not, as tough words can be just as tough to clue even for a decent writer), solvers are up a gumtree.

    Sorry, but unless there’s some constriction imposed by a totally groovy Nina, long anagram, theme or other device, I just can’t see why dailies should feature uncommon or unknown words.

  38. Will says:

    Paul B, I’d totally agree with you baby, if you didn’t keep using the word recondite – which I had to look up. Anyone who studies George, sorry, Derek Lazenby’s posts will realise that he’s not bothered until it’s something he doesn’t know about. I think you’ll find that the increase in traffic to this site coincides with Derek’s appearance on the scene.

  39. Derek Lazenby says:

    Will, catch up with the content of Chat, then count how few of the posts here, excluding this, which you triggered, are down to me. Go back a few days on Chat.

  40. Helen Smith says:

    As a relative newcomer to success in cryptic crossword solving – largely due to this website – I am delighted to learn new words such as Xantippe, and new concepts, such as the Greats. Life long learning is a wonderful thing!

    Where would Araucaria be if he were restricted to well-known words?

  41. Mr Beaver says:

    Coming to this late, as was away for the weekend (actually Mrs Beaver and I solved this on the M1 between Leeds and Trowell – excuse the swanking!).
    Personally, I loved 14d – it would have been right at home in one of Auracaria’s !

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