Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24794 / Gordius

Posted by mhl on September 2nd, 2009


I found this puzzle tough, and didn’t finish it even with both of us working on it. I think that’s just due to a few things we’d never heard of, though.

[Links to the puzzle as HTML, PDF and Java Applet]

1. BUCKRAM BUCKs and RAMs are male animals
5. SOMEHOW OM = Order (of merit) in (WHOSE)*
9. THE GOLD STANDARD THE followed by OLD STAND = “former support” in DRAG reversed = “overhaul”, somewhat cheekily :)
10. MOTOR MOT = “Test” + OR
11. TEAKETTLE TEAK = “Wood” + ETTLE = “intent” (a Scots word); this is two words in Chambers, but one word in Collins. Hugh Stephenson has mentioned in his newsletter several times that the Guardian crossword tends towards single word forms where it’s supported by one of three suggested dictionaries.
15. CREPE Hidden reversed in thE PERCentage
16. PENFRIEND FRIEND = “member of society”, referring to the the Society of Friends (also known as the Quakers) after PEN = sounds like (I assume) (William) Penn. He’s the founder of Pennsylvania rather than the Religious Society of Friends, though. I don’t think there’s a good definition in this clue… Also, this is two words in both Collins and Chambers.
18. TITLE PAGE PAGE = “Buttons” (in Cinderella) after TITLE = “evidence of right”
21. OAKUM UM = “Interjection” by OAK = “wood”
22. CHELSEA ARTS BALL CHELSEA = “team” + ARTS = “skills” + BALL = “their stock-in-trade”. I hadn’t heard of this before, but apparently it’s a fancy dress ball organized by the Chelsea Arts Club
23. EXTREME EX = “Former” + T = “time” + REME = “soldiers”
24. TRYSTED T = “Model” + (DESTRY)*; another reference to Destry Rides Again!
1. BETIMES BEES = “Buzzers” around TIM = “boy”; I love “buzzers” for BEES :)
2. CHESTER-LE-STREET CHEST = “bosom” + (LEER)* + STREET = “a way”
3. RIO GRANDE (GARDEN OR I)*; I think this is a case where the nounal anagram indicator does make the clue significantly more difficult…
4. MIDST Take (Ben) HUR out of MIDHURST
5. SITUATION Double definition; “office” as in a job or post
6. MANGE MANAGE = “Cope” without A
7. HEARTY BREAKFAST Y[outh] in HEARTBREAK + FAST = “quickly”
14. CURIOUSLY CURLY = “not straight” around IOUS = “monetary commitments”
15. CUTICLE Sounds like “cue tickle”
17. DIMPLED (P MIDDLE)*, the P being from “soft”; the definition is “with cellulite”
19. ENSUE EN = “Letter” + SUE = “a girl”

36 Responses to “Guardian 24794 / Gordius”

  1. The trafites says:

    I completed this fairly easily, but I really am not sure that DIMPLED can mean ‘with cellulite’? Also I do not like when one word in the wordplay cryptically refers to two words, as per 9ac ‘overhaul’ = DRAG reversed – horrid!

    Other than that, 15dn, 23ac and 19dn were the answers I got last – tough corner.


  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks mhl. Well done on 4dn. I saw MIDST and the wordplay was fairly obvious but I couldn’t make the Ben Hur leap.

    I have to say I found this puzzle a little tedious with too many clues that left a slightly sour aftertaste.

  3. Eileen says:

    Thanks for a great blog, mhl – I share some of your reservations!

    ‘Midhurst didn’t spring readily to mind, so thanks for that. I got the answer but was hung up on trying to make something of M[a]IDST[one]!

    I thought it was a pity that Gordius couldn’t have come up with an alternative anagram indicator for SERENGETI, to make it more of an &lit.

    Re 24ac: yes, what is it with these clerical setters and Destry? :-)

  4. Andrew says:

    Thanks mhl – I didn’t understand MIDST, and I think the clue is rather unfair, and inaccurate: “Ben-Hur” is not Mr Hur whose first name is Ben – it’s more like a double-barrelled surname. I still find Gordius one of my least favourite setters, and this puzzle had the usual quota of niggly annoyances; but I did like 10ac.

  5. Conrad Cork says:

    Re drag equals overhaul. I don’t like it either, but OTOH with certain setters (including Senor Chile Pine) as soon as you see words beginning with ‘in’ (eg insane) or ‘over’(eg overhaul) you fasten on them, as being in a way too obvious, because you can have a pretty good guess as to what they are up to.

  6. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, mhl.

    This puzzle was decidedly not FAIR, as I found to my cost when dealing with 22a when CHELSEA ARTS FAIR seemed perfect.

    Naturally, this threw me off track with 16a and 17d.

    Otherwise, very enjoyable.

  7. Eileen says:

    Andrew, I’m still struggling to take to Gordius.

    Re 10ac: yes, it’s a neat clue but I remember blogging an Araucaria [24,739] – and it was the Destry one! – a couple of months ago, when there were objections to NASA being clued as ‘station’, as an example of ‘redundant acronym syndrome’. It didn’t strike me at the time but we regularly accept ‘tax’ = VAT [in the FT today] and ‘test’ = MOT, as here.

  8. Eileen says:

    Sorry – just realised: ‘T’ in MOT does not stand for ‘Test’!

  9. Andrew says:

    But the T in MOT doesn’t stand for test: it’s sort of the opposite of redundant acronym syndrome (“PIN Number” being another example), where “MOT Test” is correct (or was when there was a Ministry Of Transport) but is always shortened to just “MOT”.

  10. Andrew says:


  11. liz says:

    Thanks, mhl. I found this tough-going and was held up for a long time by putting MATCH at 10ac instead of MOTOR. 4dn was the last one I got, and I didn’t see why, so thanks for the explanation.

    Teakettle looks wrong to me as one word and I think ‘ettle’ is obscure for a weekday.

    But I don’t mind the type of wordplay in 9ac (OVERHAUL).

  12. MarkB says:

    In 10ac, isn’t a motor the subject of an MOT test, rather than its object?

  13. The trafites says:

    Doh! Reading the last comment, #11. I just realised I got one WRONG :( I put in here METER, as to ‘meter’ something is to ‘test it’, and you also measure results of a ‘test’ on a meter (i.e. voltmeter et al)…

    Perhaps I have discovered an alternative answer here ;)


  14. MarkB says:

    Nick, yes we had METER for 10ac too, with the same justification.

  15. cholecyst says:

    METER: Me too!

  16. Colin Blackburn says:

    Re #12. It is the subject of the test but it is also the (physical) object tested.

  17. Muriel says:

    Ettle means intent in Scots – that help make sense of teakettle?
    I did “cheat” and look up two answers, rare for me, so yes this was not the easiest!

  18. Mike says:

    The gold standard was a monetary rule, not a fiscal device.

  19. Derek Lazenby says:

    22ac, a private event organised by a very small private club, and therefore of absolutely no significance or relevance to what more than 99% of the population regard as real life. So why should said precentage be expected to have heard of it?

    Similar comments as above re the rest of it although Ben Hur was something I found less of a problem.

  20. Dave Ellison says:

    I quite liked this, but not as much as some of Gs offerings.

    I didn’t like the THE in the clue and in the answer of 9a. Overhaul = drag I think is fine.

    Not happy with the indirection in 4d for Hur; it’s already difficult enough without having to think of Hur for Ben. Why stop at one level? To make it evem nore difficult, why not say, instead of Ben, have Scottish Mountain = Ben = Hur?

  21. tuck says:

    I don’t know why, but Gordius always keeps me curious and engaged, whereas with others like the Enigmatist I feel I’m in an exam.

  22. mike says:

    tuck, I agree. I enjoyed this Gordius for that reason and found it more pleasurable/easier than say yesterday’s crossword.

  23. Paul B says:

    I find myself wondering what it is about Gordius that prevents him from keeping things simple. For a change there were no particularly obscure words in his grid for today’s puzzle. Apart from WIDGEON, which is not all that well-known a quacker, and usually spelled WIGEON.

    And so, naturally, he gives that harder word away as any responsible setter would, does he? Not on your nellie: he makes an anagram so that hardly anyone will be able to deduce the right letter-order, and clues elsewhere using the likes of ETTLE – another item which belongs in The Listener’s famously abstruse puzzles.

    Bravo, and there were one or two examples of Gordius’ talents. But I’ll take Paul or Enigmatist any day in preference, for a more reliable, more accurately-clued, and respectively funnier and more interesting solve.

  24. Derek Lazenby says:

    As TEAKETTLE keeps getting mentioned, can I add that according to Wiktionary the term is US Only.

  25. Gaufrid says:

    Paul B
    You are entitled to your opinion but 8d, WIDGEON, was one of the first entries for me from the obvious anagram.

    Why do you wish to denigrate a fellow setter in this way? The puzzle was readily solvable with, as you say, no obscure answers.

  26. IanN14 says:

    It seems I’m not the only one with a problem with “teakettle”, but my reason has nothing to do with the fact it’s American, two words or hyphenated.
    I’d just like to know, where’s the definition?
    Is it “of brewing”? What’s that all about, then?
    If that’s “libertarian” then… well, I don’t like it.

    As for comment 21, I totally agree, but names reversed.

  27. liz says:

    IanN14 — I would also agree that the definition of ‘teakettle’ is clunky.

    Gaufrid — I may not agree with the tone of PaulB’s post, but I think he had relevant points to make, especially with respect to Gordius’ cluing style as opposed to Paul and Enigmatist.

    I found pleasure lacking in this puzzle.

  28. Paul B says:


    I am glad that someone knows this word, even in its alternative spelling: my argument was that most solvers would not, and that, in line with an opinion I’ve held for yonks and expressed many times here and elswhere, where such a word appears it is incumbent upon a daily setter to pretty much give it away. An anagram (though ‘obvious’ to you, or anyone with the necessary esoteric knowledge) is not a very fair way to clue a hard word as it gives no hint of the required letter-order.

    Is that really a ‘denigration’? I think not. However I do think that Gordius, while talented, does let himself down with these kinds of inclusions from time to time (as we have seen passim – check out the previous blogs if you think I’m seeing things), and with the occasional insensitive or possibly tasteless entry, such as ‘terminal cancer’.

    But thank you for allowing me to have my opinion. Re my email, I’d prefer it enormously if you’d go one way or the other.

    Many thanks

  29. IanN14 says:

    …And, I’ve just noticed, “sprinkler” as an anagram indicator?

  30. mhl says:

    Gaufrid: I’m inclined to agree with Paul B about WIDGEON – it wasn’t necessarily even clear what the anagram fodder was, e.g. A + NEW + DOG, I + NEW + DOG and ONE + N + DOG were all possibilities. Or it could have been (A + NEW)* + CUR, (I + NEW)* + CUR, etc. The anagram indicator (“settle”) isn’t totally obvious, and I wondered whether that might be the definition part for a word ending in O for “duck” as well.

    IanN14: I mentioned “sprinkler” in the original post.

  31. Ian says:

    This was an extraordinarily tough puzzle. Especially 21a and 15d.

    The cleverness of some, esp. 22a and 3d, contrast sharply with sheer clunkiness of 9a and 17d.

  32. IanN14 says:

    I know, mhl,
    That’s where I spotted it.
    I just thought it worth pointing out that it shouldn’t be an anagram indicator at all.

  33. mhl says:

    IanN14: oh, I see. Sorry… Yes, I suppose it’s a degree more dubious than the nounal anagram indicators that Jonathan Crowther doesn’t like: “dolly mixture”, “prawn cocktail” etc.

  34. IanN14 says:

    You’re right mhl.
    At least “a mixture” and “a cocktail” could be (loosely in the latter case) equal to “an anagram”, but “a sprinkler”? I don’t think so…

  35. smutchin says:

    Disregarding other quibbles, on the subject of one word or two, I’ve noticed that the Guardian generally has a tendency towards concatenation these days. “Anymore”, for example, has leapt out at me a few times recently. So at least the crossword is consistent with the paper’s house style.

  36. Frugilegus says:

    It was tricky. I struggled with penfriend and chelsea arts ball. But I thought Widgeon was fine – I wouldn’t have got wigeon.

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