Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,676 / Gordius

Posted by Eileen on April 17th, 2009


I’ve nothing much to say about this puzzle. I quite liked 9ac but there are several clues I’m not happy with, particularly some ‘cryptic’ definitions.

[ ]* anagram
[ ] < reversal
cd cryptic definition

9 EQUINAL: EQUINox [twice-yearly event] with A L substituted for ox
13 ELECTIONS: [TO SILENCE]*: &lit, I suppose.
14: GENII: GEN [low-down] + 11
15: IMBED: hidden[?] in clIMBED but why only ‘part 2′ of 16? You only need steps to get into a BUNK bed – and ‘imbed’ means to put into a bed, not get into bed.
20 SANTANDER: SANTA + N[ose] + [RED]< : Banco Santander: the largest bank in the euro area.
22: RIVER: I don’t really know how to describe this clue. Double definition? The Plate is a river but why the capital letter for Main?
23: LIBERIA: LIB[eral] + ER[I]A
24: BALANCE: cd?
25 ADULT EDUCATION: ADUL [TED] U[niversity] C{ourse}] ATION

2 EMULATE: EMU + LATE [out of office?]
3 CONTENTED: CONTENT ED. I wasn’t very impressed with this, since ‘content’ also means ‘happy’.
6 NONET: [TENON] < I’m not a carpenter and I’m quite willing to be enlightened but is ‘tenon’ acceptable for ‘tenon saw’? Could ‘hack’ or ‘chain’ be similarly clued? [I must admit that whenever I see ‘saw’ in a crossword, I immediately think ‘saying’.]
7 NEW TOWN: NEWTO[laW]N: for those outside the UK, Telford is a new [1963] town in Shropshire, named after the 18th / 19th century engineer, Thomas Telford, famous for his roads and bridges and nicknamed ‘the Colossus of Roads’. [I remember from a previous puzzle that some people had not heard of him – I’ve just looked in the archive and see that that was a Gordius puzzle, too.]
16: BUNK BED: cd
18 CARIBOU: C[A RIB [joint?? – in the sense of a cut of meat, I suppose]O U. I don’t really like the name of the meat being used for the animal but the same thing occurs in 9ac.
19 DA VINCI: ref. to Dan Brown’s undoubtedly profitable book.
21 APRIL: [PARLI]* amentarians

48 Responses to “Guardian 24,676 / Gordius”

  1. Eileen says:

    Apology: 24ac should read ‘double definition’.

  2. don says:

    Morning Eileen. Regarding 15 across, I actually ‘got’ my potatoes in on Wednesday, so you could say “I got/put my potatoes in”.

  3. Andrew says:

    Thanks Eileen – generally I found this more enjoyable than I usually do with Gordius, though there were still a few niggles. For example in 7dn I don’t like “3rd law” meaning “3rd OF law”. I did like 13ac for the nice anagram and &lit-type surface reading.

    In 3dn I think the idea is that the “content ed(itor)” controls what’s in the paper, so there isn’t a double use of content=happy.

    22ac – the Main is a river in Germany

  4. Dawn says:

    This is the first time I have managed to complete a Gordius. I didn’t get any of the across clues on first reading but then got 4d through to 8d straight off which gave me some hope.

    I think the part 2 of 16 just means “bed” but the clue was a bit weak.

  5. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the river, Andrew. Of course!

    re 3dn: yes, that’s the way I read it but still, content = contented [and I’m not!]. I’m afraid I disagree with you today: I didn’t enjoy this Gordius any more than usual.

    Dawn, I think so, too, but,as I said, you don’t need steps to get into an ordinary bed.

  6. Derek Lazenby says:

    Ye ha! Me too! A Gordius completion! (OK with a little help from my cyber tools).

    Eileen, do I detect that you were equally unhappy with rib=joint? It just plain isn’t. Obviously it is nonesense in the bones sense so I tried all the on-line dictionaries I could find, and in the “Sunday Roast” sense there was always a caveat about being carved or sliced after cooking. What are you supposed to use on a rib? A chain saw? Nope, the two are not the same. Didn’t stop any of us solving it though did it?

    Another one for Eileen. Quite right, one would never say just tenon for a tenon saw, but I was viewing it as a sort of “fill in the blanks” in ” a ***** saw” so I was happy with that.

  7. Geoff Moss says:

    Sorry, but I have to disagree with you. A rib of beef is definitely a ‘joint’ as defined in Collins (“one of the parts into which a carcass of meat is cut by the butcher, esp. for roasting”) and Collins also defines ‘rib’ as “a cut of meat including one or more ribs”.

  8. Rob says:

    I agree about 6dn… a real pain. Confession: I had it down as “tenet”, which screwed me for 1ac for ages.

  9. Tom Hutton says:

    Everyone’s a bit critical today. Mind you I have doubts about 11 being ii even in capital letters but I suppose if you accept i for one then you have to accept ii for eleven. Humph.

    I liked 20ac for the absurdly cheery ingredients of a not very cheery institution.

  10. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen.

    Rob — I had ‘tenet’ for ages too, which also held me up across the top.

    I liked 19dn and 21dn, but I thought some of the cds were weak, too. I didn’t like 15ac at all.

  11. Dave Ellison says:

    I don’t know why so many people seem to have such a downer on Gordius.I enjoyed his medium strength one today, and, unusually, did not have to resort to cheat books. His cds are infrequent and seemed quite reasonable to me, especially 1d. Sorry – did cheat – my wife gave me this one.

  12. MartinR says:

    First chance to have a go at a Guardian daily since the bank holiday … and I very much enjoyed this one. But then I’m a Gordius fan.

    Favourite clues: 7d (I have no problem with “3rd law” = w; and 21d because it took me ages to see how it worked, but it was so simple!

    15a: I agree with most of the comments above – it is a strange clue that never quite makes sense however you look at it.

    9a: agree this is clever and entertaining, though sadly I got it from checking letters rather than the wordplay.

    Note to self: don’t skip too many days, or you lose the knack!

  13. Derek Lazenby says:

    Well you have to say Collins has got it wrong. The basic definition of the word implies the attachment of one item to another. The Sunday Roast became called a joint because the bone included at least one part of an actual joint. The correct term for anything else is a cut. A rib is no basic sense a joint, so it is a cut. Some people may erroneously refer to a cut as a joint, but they are wrong. If Collins are sanctioning such misuse then it says little for their reliability and I wouldn’t want to disagree with anyone by saying “well Collins says” because clearly they approve of slopiness.

    You can’t just turn to a dictionary and tell someone they are wrong on that basis. A modicum of common sense has to be applied too otherwise you are ascribing to the dictionary an infallibility that they do not possess.

    Simple logic says a piece of meat with a joint bone in it may also be refered to as a joint, any other bone is not a joint bone and therefore the piece of meat is a cut.

    You wouldn’t argue that black is white just because a dictionary said so would you? There is no such thing as a totally reliable source for any subject, everything has to be queried, otherwise we would still believe the earth is flat and is at the centre of the universe.

  14. dagnabit says:

    I hadn’t as many niggles as some of you today. “Steps” in 15ac didn’t bother me because U.S. cryptics are notorious for adding utterly unnecessary words to “container” phrases purely for surface. The clue would have worked fine if the answer were IMBEDS, but as it was I just took it as laziness on the part of the setter.

    Andrew, if “content editor” were intended in 3d to avoid the double use of “content” for “happy,” wouldn’t the clue need to read something like “Happy with who controls what’s in the paper”?

    Thank you, Eileen. I definitely needed help understanding the rationales for 1ac, 22ac, and 23ac. But regarding 1ac, the more I look at it now, the less I understand it! Mainly I can’t see how the syntax of the clue fixes both “min” and “cast” to particular positions in the answer. I can get either “min” or “cast” pinned down if I ignore the other one, but I can’t get them both together in the required sequence.

  15. Geoff Moss says:

    OK Derek, if you are not happy with Collins definition of ‘joint’ (”one of the parts into which a carcass of meat is cut by the butcher, esp. for roasting”) let’s see what the other references say:

    COED – joint – a large piece of meat.
    Chambers – joint – a piece of an animal’s body as cut up for serving at the table.

    No mention of bones or that it must contain an actual joint. Are all three dictionaries wrong? The original meaning may well have been derived from a piece of meat with a joint in it but over time the accepted meaning of words evolves and this is reflected by dictionary definitions.

  16. Eileen says:

    Hi Dagnabit

    You’re right – I hadn’t spotted that. CAST and MIN do appear to be in the wrong order.

    We don’t usually expect superfluous letters in clues this side. ;-)

  17. Geoff Moss says:

    I’m afraid that Eileen’s parsing as shown in the blog (ie CAST and MIN in OPENING) is misleading. The clue needs to be read as MIN (little time) in OPEN CASTING (starting to choose players).

  18. Eileen says:

    I mean ‘words’, of course, not ‘letters’.

  19. Eileen says:

    Geoff: OPEN CASTING does not = starting to choose. That would have to be ‘start choosing’.

  20. dagnabit says:

    Thank you, Geoff. So “starting” is part of the definition of “open casting,” then, and nothing to do with “opening”?

    Eileen, I left myself open for that comment of yours. :) But I hold no brief for U.S. setters. In fact I spend a lot of my time muttering under my breath about how they just don’t understand proper cluing!

  21. Paul B says:

    I would say that you *can* ‘turn to a dictionary and tell someone they are wrong on that basis’ in crosswords, where editors are usually quite specific about which dictionaries will or will not do, and rely on these as The Word for practical reasons. Sorry, but whether or not the lexicographers have got it wrong is a different and unrelated matter.

    However, I note that (although he’s probably on safe ground anyway as Geoff explains above) Gordius prefers not to select from either ‘a cut’ (Collins) or ‘a piece’ (Chambers) ‘of meat containing one or more ribs’. SOED would have offered him ‘one of (the rib) bones taken from the carcase of an ox, pig, etc., with the meat adhering to it, as used for food’.

    Could that be why editors prefer Collins and Chambers? I do not know.

  22. Geoff Moss says:

    I quite agree that grammatically it is not totally correct but I think there is some ‘setter’s licence’ going on here so that a reasonable surface can be obtained (as is the case in many puzzles).

  23. Eileen says:

    Geoff: well, if you’re going to allow that [considerable] amount of leeway, I’ll claim the same for my interpretation. :-)

  24. MartinR says:

    7d, “3rd law”: just noticed the first W in NEWTOWN is checked by the 3rd letter of law, given the wordplay for 10a. Coincidence, or very clever setting?

  25. dagnabit says:

    Martin, that’s a brilliant observation!

  26. Derek Lazenby says:

    So you are saying then that no matter how illogical, no matter how self evidently wrong something maybe, you will blindly accept, without any vestige of critical faculty, anything you find in dictionaries?

    If all the dictionaries say “the Empreror’s new clothes are really fine” you will condemn the boy who says, “but he is naked”, just because it is in the dictionaries?

    What does it take to jag you out of blind unthinking acceptance? Where is your line in the sand? Give me an example.

  27. ray says:

    Quite elated to finish this one. However I was stuck for ages at the end on 14a wondering what on earth GENXI was until the penny dropped about the II alternative for the team.

    Can there be a cookbook anywhere that wouldn’t consider a ‘rib’as fitting the notion of a joint ?

  28. Chatmeister says:

    Re comment #26.

    Please phrase your comments in a less aggressive manner. I have not removed this one, even though it has no relevance to the puzzle under discussion, because my comment could not be read in context without the original, but any future comments in a similar tone and/or with a similar off-topic content will be dealt with in accordance with the Discussion Policy.

  29. Mr Beaver says:

    I’d just like to echo Andrew’s praise for 13a. Not strictly &lit perhaps, but a fine definition of ELECTIONS for cynics!

  30. Jake says:

    Has Gordius eased up a bit ? I managed this puzzle with little hassle, pretty much all the clues were accessible, considering my initial thoughts on seeing Gordius’ name on a Friday.

    I only got pulled up on 18dn, but I ‘rib’ is a meat, joint, venison, a bit lose though.

  31. Eileen says:

    Mr Beaver [and Dave Ellison]: thank you for giving me an introduction to a kind of apology for my rather negative approach today. I did give a slightly less than generous nod to 13ac: it was a good clue, which I did acknowledge as an &lit.

    I have not looked forward to being assigned to blog my first Gordius puzzle. My defence is that I cannot ever forget his ‘terminal cancer’ clue about a year ago, which I might have begun to forgive if it had been better clued.

    However, I hope I’ve delivered an impartial analysis. It would be really good if Gordius could come back and [fully] explain 15ac and settle the [friendy] dispute between Geoff and me re 1ac but I don’t think he’s ever done that kind of thing.

  32. Barnaby Page says:

    Finished this one quite quickly for me, though I was dubious about 16dn – is the “board” reference to ships, or to sleeping on a literal board? In either case, it doesn’t lead directly to BUNK BEDs (which are not exclusively found on boats, or the only kind of bed thereon, and don’t these days involve boards).

  33. Eileen says:

    Hi Barnaby

    You’re quite right, of course. I think the intention was a reference to sleeping on board rather than on a board. Although bunk beds are not exclusively found on boats, I think that’s where they originated.

  34. Harley26 says:

    Rare finish for me with gordius, liked this one too.
    my reading of 1ac was with geoff. working in film, i think open casting is a perfectly fair synonym for starting to choose players

    my only quibble is, as with others, 15ac. i agree with all available dictionaries, rib for joint is fine

  35. petero says:

    I think Derek may be answered on his own terms in the rib/joint brouhaha. Firstly, languages do evolve, and the meaning of words change; sometimes a new meaning is actually at odds with an older – for example, ‘nice’ by derivation and early usage meant ignorant – and one of the functions of dictionaries is to chronicle such changes. When not only Collins, but Chambers and the OED (to give the references that I have to hand) list the ‘Sunday roast’ definition of joint, and that conforms with my own understanding of the word, I would tend to go along with it. Secondly, Derek makes the nice distinction between ‘cut’ and ‘joint’ apparently on the grounds that the latter implies freedom of movement. ‘Joint’ and ‘join’ do not necessarily have this connotation; consider a carpenter’s tenon joint, which is made to be as rigid as possible. Then again, although the ribcage does provide a semi-rigid case for the enclosed organs, breathing would be definitely more difficult if there were not some degree of movement possible between the ribs and its joints with the spine and breastbone.
    But then, perhaps I’m just being sloppy.

  36. Chatmeister says:

    You didn’t listen to my previous advice so your comment has been moved to the appropriate place. If you wish to continue to contribute to this forum please do so in an appropriate manner.

  37. Paul B says:

    I’m not saying I’ll blindly accept anything. A guide dog might at some point be the exception, I suppose.

    What would have been obvious to people who respond normally to new information is that editors and compilers need some kind of standard (such as a standard work of reference) by which definitions (in particular) can be measured. Gordius, in the clue at issue, chooses to deviate from the actual defs, but not to any damaging extent.

    There’s latitude of course, but remind me: what was Afrit’s injunction?

  38. Derek Lazenby says:

    Sigh, sorry to revisit this yet again, but this came to me overnight. The definitions quoted don’t actually support the claim. They speak of “a joint of ribs”. That is not the same as saying a rib is a joint. You have a thigh bone it goes into a knee joint and a hip joint, but the bone itself is never refered to as a thigh joint. Similarly, a single rib cannot be a joint. Yes you can have a joint that consists of one or more ribs and one breastbone (which is what the dictionary is saying) which may be confusingly called a rib joint, but neither the breast bone nor the rib by itself is a joint (with or without edible meat). You are translating rib used adjectively into noun in a way that other considerations makes invslid.

    Perhaps if people took care to read dictionaries properly rather than quickly skimming for argument fodder……

  39. MartinR says:

    Chambers: rib = “a piece of meat containing one or more ribs”; joint = “a piece of an animal’s body as cut up for serving at the table”. Could you ask for a clearer synonym?

    If you do not accept the point about dictionaries representing a common standard vocabulary, then one could turn to the internet. Google will throw up all the common usages of the words amongst the general population, across all media. A search for “rib joint” reveals usages in the sense of a cut of meat for the table, or (chiefly US) a place that serves ribs as food, and even academic papers in agricultural science that refer to “rib joint” as a part of an animal that comprises bone, fat and muscle.

    It seems clear: the usage in the puzzle was fair, however one looks at it.

  40. Derek Lazenby says:

    It seems clear you are not thinking of the consequences. If rib=joint then you can’t say rib joint as that would be a tautology which would make your lynch-pin phrase meaningless. It is not a meaningless phrase and therefore cannot be a tautology, therefore the two cannot be equal. You are trying to take, for example, “aching joint” and say that therefore aching is a joint.

    You are also totally ignoring that rib joint should refer to a cut in which the joint with the breast bone is present. There is nothing in those definitions you quote to say that the phrase applies to a rib bone by itself with the physical joint missing. That would be necessary for two to be equivalent.

    Anyway,I have consulted a higher authority for a definitive statement. If I get a reply that goes against me I promise to say so. I’ll let you all know.

  41. MartinR says:

    Would you care to say what constitutes your higher authority, if not professional lexicographers or common usage?

  42. Derek Lazenby says:

    One of the best known cullinery experts on the planet. May just know rather more about food than any of us. That’s the trouble with lexicographers,the are not experts in the specialist subjects the are forced to cover. Try looking at technical word definitions, then compare them to actual technical definitions. Most will be fine, some are, well, a bit iffy, and others are plain wrong. It is not the fault of the lexicographers, they just can’t be expected to be perfect outside their normal envelope. That would be unfair.

  43. liz says:

    Without wishing to pre-empt what a culinary expert might say, I would agree with Derek that of course a rib is not a joint in the strictest sense. A rib is a bone and a joint is where bones meet. Whoops, nearly put ‘meat’! But ribs, shoulders, legs, haunches, etc, can all be ‘roasts’ or in common usage ‘joints’. Gordius (and lexicographers) may be a bit loose here, but that’s language. Our joint tonight was a half-shoulder of lamb, by the way.

  44. MartinR says:

    It’s not a question of looseness – one meaning of ‘joint’ has plainly transferred to ‘cut of meat’ within the context of cookery (or butchered meat intended for consumption, to be more accurate). Including such a definition for ‘joint’ within a dictionary is a fair and accurate reflection of usage.

    As you say, Liz, that’s language, but then dictionaries are a record of linguistic usage.

    I suspect a cook will not have thought too deeply about the semantics of ‘joint’ and ‘rib’ – we shall see.

    Regarding technical definitions, well, yes, a specialist dictionary will contain more precise and complete definitions than a general purpose dictionary – such is a given, and it applies to all fields, not just technical disciplines. But the usage of ‘joint’ and ‘rib’ in cooking, and in a crossword in a national newspaper, is a matter of common usage, not something that requires technical specialism.

    Derek, you have yourself argued against the use of specialist terms in crosswords, but now you wish to defend your original objection by resorting to an argument resting on technical definitions.

    And “rib joint” is not equivalent to “aching joint”, but a noun phrase in which rib further defines the more general meaning of joint. Rib joint, in the context intended, means either a cut of meat including ribs, or the place where a rib bone joins another bone (and in the latter case it may refer to the spine rather than the breast bone).

  45. liz says:

    Martin R — I totally agree with you. Perhaps I didn’t put it so well, or else the humour I intended did not come across. I do cook (amongst other things), which is why the clue seemed perfectly fair to me. As I understand it, ‘rib’ and ‘joint’ are, if not synonymous, then too close to call in common usage, and hence in dictionaries, one of whose purpose must be to record common usage.

    I was merely trying to point out to Derek (how do I put it?) that this isn’t a question of strict equivalence, and that the ‘looseness’, or perhaps latitude, is there in language, which makes things more interesting for setters and solvers.

  46. liz says:

    one of whose purposes, I mean

  47. Chatmeister says:

    OK. I think we have had enough discussion about joint=rib. A rib of beef is the same as a joint of beef in my opinion. Please don’t continue this discussion otherwise I will have to close this post to prevent further comments.

  48. Paul B says:

    The discussion seemed to some of us to be about what might be the reference standard for editors (and compilers), so that a decision as to the validity of definitions can be reached within a reasonable time. Derek, whose comments can occasionally stray from the point I think it’s fair to say, chose to try to make a link between that line of enquiry and another, to wit whether or not lexicographers at Chambers and Collins are worth their salt.

    Whatever, but it’s a great way to mess up a thread.

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