Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24856 / Gordius

Posted by mhl on November 13th, 2009


I enjoyed this one – quite a few nice clues. (3 of my last 8 blog posts have been on Gordius puzzles, as it turns out…)

4. SADDEN ADD = “increase” in SEN = “eastern currency” (a hundredth of a Yen, etc.)
6. LENGTHEN L = “Student” + ENG[lish] + THEN = “afterward”
9. ALEVIN ALE = “beer” + VIN = “plonk”
10. SABOTAGE SAGE = “wise” about (BOAT)*
11. DIPLOMATIST DIPLOMA = “One’s certificate” + IS in TT = “abstinence”
15. SELLING Cryptic definition, referring to the expression “to sell someone down the river”
17. ALCOPOP (COAL)* + POP = “the old man”
18. CHOLESTEROL LESTER = “Piggott” in [s]CHOOL
22. HORSEMAN Cryptic definition
24. CHAT SHOW HATS = “Tops” in CHOW = “food”
25. PIERCE PIER = “support” + CE = “church”
2. DECAPITATE PACE reversed + IT in DATE = “time”
3. AGNOSTIC Cryptic definition
4. SLAPDASH SLAP =”Hit” + DASH = “run”
5. DEED POLL POLL = “Vote” after DEED = “act” Thanks to Andrew for pointing out that I missed the “Monica” / “monicker” homphone here, which makes the clue make much more sense
7. HOAX H = “Hard” + OAX = “woods called” (sounds like “oaks”)
8. NEED D = “Died” with NEE = “to have been born”
12. ANGLO-SAXON I had to Google this one, but it seems it’s a reference to a novel called Anglo-Saxon Attitudes by Angus Wilson
16. INCREASE “in crease”, or “at the crease”, referring to Andrew Strauss the cricketer rather than one of the composers called Strauss – one of those clues where it’s tough to work out which reading is supposed to be the cryptic one
20. CHIC CHICKEN = “fainthearted” without “KEN” = knowledge
21. UREA Sounds like “you’re ‘ere”

32 Responses to “Guardian 24856 / Gordius”

  1. IanN14 says:

    Sorry mhl,
    I didn’t care for this one.

    Oh dear…
    It looks like they are going to continue with this definition-free clue innovation…
    Clues like 22ac. only work when they’re really clever.
    3d. is barely cryptic.
    The homonym in 21d. is outrageous.
    And 14d. “to doubt” indicates an anagram?

    …and don’t get me started on 12d.
    2d.’s OK, though.

  2. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, mhl, I gave this up with 6 unfinished.

    I’ve never heard of Angus Wilson or his book. This was disappointing as the clue was unnecessarily obscure.

  3. Andrew says:

    Thank mhl. I’m afraid I’m with Ian on this one, but then I’ve never been much of a Gordius fan (and I’m spoiled by having blogged the superb Brendan puzzle on Wednesday). I did get the reference in 12dn though: the title actually harks back to “Alice Through the Looking-glass” (see the Wikipedia article on the Wilson novel).

  4. Andrew says:

    Oh, and 5dn – there’s a pun on Monica/monicker that you didn’t mention, but it does mean there’s no true definition.

    And this grid is pretty horrible too.

  5. Eileen says:

    Thanks, mhl, but I agree with Ian and Andrew. As soon as I saw the dreadful 22ac, I thought of Ian’s ‘definition-free clues’ from yesterday.

    And 12dn? What next? ‘Dickens’ times [4]’? ‘Bronte’s heights [9]’? ‘Coward’s spirit [6]’? – no, perhaps not the last one: it’s almost cryptic.

    At least I’ve never even pretended to like Gordius, so I don’t need to make any apology today.

  6. IanN14 says:

    Looking-glass references, missing definitions?
    *It just gets curiouser….
    I knew we were being spoiled by Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s this week.

    *(see yesterday’s Guardian blog).

  7. liz says:

    Thanks, mhl. I always find Gordius a struggle. This time I got about half really quickly, then slogged through the rest. I have heard of the Angus Wilson book, but it took me a long time to get 12dn.

    I agree with many of the comments here. A clue like 22ac would only work if the word split into two halves. As it is, it’s not cryptic. And the homophones in 5ac and 21dn are awful.

  8. mhl says:

    Of course, I had lots of reservations about this puzzle as well, but I try generally not to be too negative about crosswords, and was a bit worried that my previous few Gordius posts had been unnecessarily grumpy! At least having named setters means that we know what style of clue to expect.

    Incidentally, for people who didn’t enjoy today’s Guardian and don’t regularly do the Independent, today’s Phi puzzle in the Independent is as consistently excellent as ever, I think.

  9. Eileen says:

    Fair comment, mhl.

    I agree with you about today’s Phi and – for Pasquale fans – the FT’s Bradman is every bit as good as you would expect, if you have time! [When I saw his name, I just had to find the time!]

  10. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I’m not familiar with all the setters’ styles yet, but I’m with most of you on this one. Can’t say my pulse will be racing when I next see Gordius’ name beneath the grid. But I learned a new word – ALEVIN – so hey ho …

  11. Ian says:

    As always with Gordius some clues need to be read several times to allow the penny to drop. I found it quite enjoyable, despite the above reservations.

    12dn was a tad clunky, I’ll admit. On the other hand, 17ac employed clever wordplay, whilst 25ac had a mild irreverence normally associated with Cyclops.

  12. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Ian’s entry at 11 prompts me to ask a question about 25ac. Isn’t the ‘a’ in ‘a prick’ misleading and better left out? PIERCE can only be a verb, can’t it, and ‘a’ suggests a noun as the answer. Or am I missing something?

  13. IanN14 says:

    Well spotted Kathryn’s Dad,
    You’re dead right.
    I thought there were so many little errors (and some big ones) in this puzzle that I failed to notice that one.

  14. Gaufrid says:

    Pierce can be a noun and Chambers defines it as “a perforation; a stab; a prick”.

  15. walruss says:

    This puzzle has everything. Everything The Guardian needs to stop doing if it is to rank alongside the two leaders. I hesitate to say rubbish, but this really was quite close!!

  16. jetdoc says:

    I agree with many of the criticisms of this one. Can I also add that ‘It’s unhealthy’ at 18a is a poor definition — cholesterol is an essential component of our bodies; only high levels of it are unhealthy. And urea is a substance excreted in urine; it is not urine itself.

  17. HFS says:

    Rather a severe judgement, Walrus. Should Gordius and/or the editor be taken out and shot? It’s a crossword, not an attack on Middle England, the Queen and cricket. I found it enjoyable, though somewhat lacking in attacks on Middle England, the Queen and especially cricket.

  18. Dave Ellison says:

    I usually try to defend Gordius, as so many other commentators often seem to have it in for him. However, it wasn’t one of the best, today; but then, Aruacaria and Paul et al setters (and solvers, I’m sure) have their off days, too.

    12d I got this only because I knew Alice’s Anglo Saxon Attitudes, and tried to reconcile it with Harold Wilson, without success. I did not know the author Wilson. It’s not quite “Bronte’s Heights?”, then, Eileen, as I am sure G. had in mind Caroll, which adds a little bit. But I am not really trying to bolster this clue, as I think it still is weak.

  19. sidey says:

    I was going to make the same points Jetdoc made. The ‘definition’ of cholesterol is completely wrong as no animal life could exist without it. Many setters seem uncaring about precision when anything remotely is used.

  20. sidey says:

    That should be “remotely scientific”.

  21. JamieC says:

    I’ll add my voice to the chorus of boos above. I won’t repeat the – universally justified – complaints, but I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned 10a as having no proper definition (it’s not an &lit), or 9a (can you really have VIN for “plonk” without some indication for French?).

    A shame after such a good week.

  22. Eileen says:

    OK, Dave, I was being facetious but, to be absolutely fair, it’s commenters here who have made the connection with ‘Alice': there’s none in the clue. [Just as my other spoof suggestion makes no mention of Shelley. :-)]

  23. walruss says:

    I don’t think I need to defend the post I made HFS as the other contributors have done that for me. Unless I’m missing something, I found some of your posting’s content irrelevant. Attacks on Middle England and cricket? I’m afraid I’m out of your depth there.

  24. HFS says:

    Sorry Walruss. No offence intended. My irrelevant ramblings were intended to allude to things some people hold sacred, attacks on which can occasionally elicit a response from ‘Traumatised, Tunbridge Wells’ suggesting we all meet in Tesco’s car park tomorrow then march on the Guardian offices and burn them down. Crosswords are merely a bit of whimsy and personally I prefer my whimsy not to conform to a rigid set of rules. I realise I may be alone in this. I promise to seek help.

  25. Paul B says:

    Perhaps the rules are the most fun when twisted almost-but-not-quite to breaking point but, when people chuck them away possibly in favour of some bizarre personal interpretation, it can become a bit frustrating for solvers who – let’s face it – may find themselves confronted with a set of unfair clues.

    That’s why it’s so very good to have a nice, strong lead from one’s editor (he said innocently, knowing hardly at all whom this might implicate).

  26. Bryan says:

    Following some discreet enquiries, I have now discovered that Gordius is the cover name for Gordon Brown or Gordi to his friends (if he had any).

    Understandably, no Editor would ever dare question any aspect of any puzzle that has been set by Gordi.

    A spokesman at No. 10 has now issued a Press Statement in which Gordi has blamed The Taliban for today’s fiasco.

    So now you know.

  27. rrc says:

    Like I mhl I also enjoyed doing this puzzle although got alittle bit bogged down on the left hand side. I thought the clues in the main were fair

  28. TRIALNERROR says:

    Really enjoyed this puzzle. I find those “definition-free” clues a gas – you just got to say the clue (or the solution)with the right intonation and it all makes sense. But…am I the only one who thought 16D had something to do with bluejeans?

    Clue of the puzzle: 25A. Just made me laugh out loud while invigilating a university exam. Still does.

  29. TRIALNERROR says:

    PS: Jamie C, for what it’s worth, “plonk” is derived from “blanc”, as I’m sure you know, so there is indeed a sort of Frenchified reference in there…you know…

  30. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Wow, to borrow from 20d, this is no place for the faint-hearted, especially if you’re producing the goods in a 15 squared grid in the first place. To paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel, I’d rather be a solver than a setter, yes I would …

  31. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Friday the 13th, for Gordius – that is.
    But is it fair?
    There were a lot of critical notes in the posts above, some of which surely make sense (about 22ac, 5d, 12d, 21d).
    But – I have counted them – with 17 out of 26 clues there’s nothing wrong, and I think you can add another two (10ac, in which the definition – in my opinion – is cleverly “integrated” (without being an &Lit), and 3dn, which is a cd that no-one would have criticised in a Rufus).

    Some crosswords are extraordinary (like the recent renderings of Brendan and Crucible), some are ordinary (like this one).
    But then so what, burn down the setter??

  32. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, in part, to this Xword, we managed 13/15 on the Quiz in today’s Guardian’s Weekend, an all time high for us. The clue that helped us? Yup, 12d!

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