Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,874 / Gordius

Posted by Gaufrid on December 4th, 2009


It looks like another no-show so you will have to put up with me again. I’ve mixed views about this puzzle. Some clues I liked (eg 9a & 23d), some were too obvious, some rather obscure (13a, 3d and particularly 4a) and some downright wrong (14d, 16d & 19d). I am sure that other solvers will also have qualms about a few more.

1 SOLACE SOL (notable fifth) ACE (brilliant service)
4 RINGER d&cd – a reference to Ringer’s solution, a solution containing the chlorides of sodium, potassium, and calcium, used to correct dehydration and, in physiological experiments, as a medium for in vitro preparations (Collins)
9 MIST homophone of ‘missed’ (unseen)
10 MAIN STREET MAINS (public utility infrastructure) homophone of ‘treat’ (deal soundly)
11 LAUNCH A in LUNCH (meal)
12 TESTATOR *(TREATS TO) – was this intended to be an &lit?
13 THE BOWERY *(WEB THEORY) – ‘as applied’ as an anagram indicator?
15 TIFF TIFF[anys] – reference to the novella and film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”
16 RAVE hidden in ‘gloucesteR AVEnue’
22 ACCEPT CEP (fungus) in ACT (legislation)
24 WARDRESSES WAR (battle) DRESSES (clothing)
25 PITY PIT (mine) Y (unknown)
26 TREATY EAT (take sustenance) in TRY (attempt)
27 FABRIC FAB[ulously] RIC[h]

2 LATIN LAT[ely] IN (be fashionable)
3 CUMSHAW CUM (with, in Latin) SHAW (playwright)
6 GERMANIUM M (many) in GERANIUM (bloom)
7 REEL OFF d&cd
8 BITTER REMORSE BITTER (drink) RE (in the case of) MORSE (a detective)
14 BEVERIDGE homophone (not really) of ‘beverage’ (drink) – reference to the Beveridge Report, a Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services chaired by William Beveridge – the clue indicates that the answer should be a homophone of ‘old reporter’ so the answer should have been ‘beverage’.
16 RELIANT *(EL TRAIN) – ‘reliable’ (the adjective derived from ‘rely’) means ‘trustworthy’. Unless my schooling was incorrect, ‘reliant’ (the adjective derived from ‘reliance’) does not.
18 DEAD SEA AD (notice) in *(EASED)
19 NEPOTIC *(NICE TOP) – ‘job’ as an anagram indicator? – presumably intended as an &lit but ‘nepotic’ is an adjective so the definition cannot be ‘job for …..’
20 ASSERT R (right) in ASSET (property)
23 CAPER – Capability Brown was a [lands]CAPER

37 Responses to “Guardian 24,874 / Gordius”

  1. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks for the blog, Gaufrid. I just couldn’t get the last two, 1ac and 3d. I thought 1ac was SILVER, but no explanation for that, or SALVER (= SALVE + R) which fits, but couldn’t explain the R. I had KNOWHOW for 2d at one stage.

    Not sure about 14d BEVERIDGE – I got that as the answer, and had at the back of my mind a newpaper person sounding a bit like him (Beaverbrook) so didn’t try to rationalise it further.

  2. NealH says:

    I tend to avoid Gordius because there’s usually something so imprecisely worded or obscure that I can’t finish it, but I managed this one without too many problems. I had many of the same quibbles: I resisted putting reliant in until there was no possibility it was wrong because it simply didn’t make sense.

    I didn’t get the ringer meaning in 4 across and thought it must be some vague double definition. I also didn’t follow 23 down because the similarity of the sound of “caper” to the first part of capability mislead me into thinking you must be dropping the “bility” part. Cumshaw was predictably the last one I got.

  3. walruss says:

    Yes, agree with all of the above. An awful puzzle and once again a demonstration of the inconsistency of The Guardian and of this compiler. I have said it several times, but I really wish The Guardian could be more consistent.

  4. liz says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid. I had similar mixed feelings, although I did manage to complete, which I don’t always with Gordius.

    I’m sure there will be others who know Ringer’s solution, but I’m not one of them. As someone who’s spent quite a bit of time in NYC, 13ac was easy for me to spot. CUMSHAW was new to me, but gettable from the wordplay.

    I don’t really understand how the definition works in 12ac. And I agree with you about 14dn, 16dn and 19dn.

  5. Bryan says:

    Many thanks, Gaufrid, you are being kept busy this week.

    I finished it quickly enough but without knowing how RINGER and TIFF worked.

    Nevertheless, I enjoyed it – which is all that matters to me.

  6. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid.

    I thought, for just a few minutes, that this was quite reasonable [for Gordius] – I liked the surface of 21ac, for instance – but then was horrified at the sheer wrongness of 16dn. Reliant means relying, not reliable, or trusting, not trustworthy. As Gaufrid implies, it’s a schoolboy error and should never have got past the editor.

  7. Tom_I says:

    While acknowledging the comments so far, I have to say that, like Bryan, I really rather enjoyed this.

    And nice to see a nod in 5a towards the rather overlooked British physiologist Sydney Ringer (1835-1910). During my working life I must have used more of his estimable solution than you could wave a stick at!

  8. Tom_I says:

    Sorry, I meant 4 across, of course.

  9. Benington says:

    Actually, ‘reliant’ can mean confident or trustful, acxcording to

  10. liz says:

    Tom_I — I knew someone would be familiar with Ringer’s solution!

  11. Eileen says:

    Yes, I forgot to say thanks for RINGER: the only explanation I could think of was something to do with ‘ringing a bell’ giving the solution – but it didn’t!

    Hi Benington: then is, like Chambers, recording [incorrect] usage, rather than giving what I would call a definition. It probably also gives ‘disinterested’ as meaning ‘uninterested’ – but don’t get me started! :-)

  12. sidey says:

    I seem to remember some 30+ years ago an article in one of the big three about the then editors of crosswords. All of them said that they had to be able to solve any submitted puzzle blind and without reference before it would be considered for publication.

    This seems not to be the case these days. No wonder there is no charge for Graun puzzles these days.

  13. sidey says:

    Eileen, you should have a look at the OED’s ‘quotations’ bit on dis/un-interested.

  14. Derek Lazenby says:

    Well I started this on well enough and my estimable other half did the rest so I have some justification in posting.

    Sadly it’s slightly off topic.

    Eileen, post 11, paragraph 2, you’re starting to sound like me! Grin.

    On topic, I’ve felt much the same as others above, he could be good but suffers from patchy bits.

  15. Gareth Rees says:

    Benington: but neither confident nor trusting share a meaning with trust-worthy. If A trusts B, then A is trusting, and B is trust-worthy (or not). It’s the same relationship being described, but from opposite ends.

    Eileen: As sidey points out, the two senses of disinterested are about equally venerable: the OED has citations for the “uninterested” sense from (before) 1612, and for the “impartial” sense from 1659.

  16. Davy says:

    Thanks Gaufrid for your post and thanks also to Gordius for compiling this entertaining puzzle. I completed it but had to look up “cumshaw” which surprisingly is a word though not often heard in everyday conversation.

    I could not explain the “providing a solution” part of RINGER but I put it in anyway. RELIANT was not a perfect answer but was totally obvious from the clue. Paul’s clue yesterday ie Pretty moribund was far worse and taking extreme liberties although I’m a great fan of Paul.

    The thing is that compiling crosswords is not a science and does not have to conform to rules like say English grammar does.

    Let’s be thankful that the compilers continue to make puzzles for our entertainment. Three cheers for them.

  17. Eileen says:

    sidey / Gareth Rees, I haven’t been ignoring your comments – I had to go out.

    I knew I shouldn’t mention ‘disinterested’ and I really don’t want us to get mired in discussion about it. My SOED [70s version] has ‘without interest’ as being ‘obsolete’ and the definition as ‘now always Unbiased by personal interest 1659.’ I wonder how long it will be before they have to reverse that, too!

    I really do wish I hadn’t mentioned it because ‘reliant’ is a different thing altogether: the ending ‘ant’ is a present participle ending and *must* miean ‘…ing’, not ‘able’, or, if you like, be active, not passive, as Gareth was saying. I can’t agree with Davy’s comment that compiling crosswords ‘does not have to conform to rules like say English grammar’. Of course it does – where on earth are we if we can’t rely on a definition being a definition?

    Derek, nice to hear from you – hope things aren’t too bad with you just now. You surely know that my views on Chambers have always been pretty similar to yours! :-)

  18. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Dave (#16), I am with you.
    Of course, 16d and 19d are not correct, but I must say when solving we didn’t realise that RELIANT was wrong.
    About 14d I’m not so sure. Maybe you cán read it the right way, like ‘Old reporter’ when ‘reported’ he will become a ‘drink’. Maybe.
    We had two other quibbles.
    The ‘consuming a meal’ for ‘meal consuming a’ we found dubious, but because we’d seen this before, we accepted it (11ac).
    In 2d ‘be fashionable’=’in’? Verb=Adjective?

    Perhaps for some of you this makes the crossword even worse.
    The simple fact is, that we enjoyed solving it.
    The friendliness and lightness of many clues did appeal to us, even despite the one or two mistakes.
    It is a pity that in 23d ‘Capability’ and ‘caper’ have so much in common, but it is a very well constructed clue – perhaps our favourite. And 27ac (although easy) was elegantly clued.
    A lot of good surfaces (e.g. 17ac, 7d), which cannot be said of yesterday’s Paul indeed.

    Again, I fully agree with Dave – but, please, don’t start The Discussion again.

  19. john goldthorpe says:

    At risk of starting ‘the discussion’ again, could I just say, as a ‘lurker’, that this has been a pretty bad week for solvers of a fundamentalist rather than a libertarian disposition who like – actually enjoy -accuracy in clues and meaningful surfaces, and who make a distinction between whimsicality and wit. Couldn’t we have more Rufus, Shed, Brummie and, above all, Brendan!

  20. Davy says:

    Eileen (#17)

    I could be wrong but please point me to the set of rules to which a crossword compiler must comply. There is a loose set of rules which are understood but not documented. English grammar is well documented and contains a precise set of rules. Yes, each clue should have a definition and an answer but there is a vast framework which fits that model. It’s up to the solver to parse each clue and assess the validity of the structure. The main point is that a crossword is for entertainment and not to bolster the ego of a supposed expert. Sleep well.

  21. sidey says:

    john goldthorpe, hello, if you enjoy clues that say what they mean and mean what they say can I suggest that you try Azed? His clues are always beautifully crafted. You will need access to a copy of Chambers though or (not really as useful) the OED online.

  22. liz says:

    Davey — We’re none of us experts, but crosswords do have to follow some rules — see Ximenes (sp?). There wasn’t anything particularly troublesome about RELIANT in terms of solving, and all of us seemed to have got it, but it does stretch a point a bit uncomfortably in that the definition is way, way too loose for the answer. You might, for example, be reliant on someone without finding them trustworthy. I liked the rest of the puzzle well enough, but I thought that was a bad clue and I wasn’t that happy with NEPOTIC either.

    re Sidey’s point. I do enjoy Azed now that I have got into those puzzles and their precision and fairness is appealing. But I also like funny clues that take the liberty, just not ones where the definition is sloppy.

  23. Eileen says:


    I haven’t been ignoring your comment, either, but pondering how to answer it, because it could take all night, and you wanted me to sleep well. :-)

    In spite of advice from mhl and Chunter, I still can’t do links [my young grandson hasn’t yet had time to interpret the [very simple] instructions] but, if you google Ximenes and Afrit, you will find that there are indeed rules for setters, and books that you can buy which set them out. For example, Ximenes’ primary one is ‘Clues must be fair’ and Afrit came up with the delightful one which sidey almost quoted: ‘You need not mean what you say but you must say what you mean’.

    If you’ve looked at the ‘Setters’ thread on this site, you’ll see that compilers are [largely] classified as ‘Ximenean’ or ‘Libertarian’. My favourites fall into both categories. The point about Libertarians is that they know the ‘rules’ and have fun in seeing how far they can bend / break them – and that makes it fun for us, too. [Gordius is unclassified!]

    I’ve taken so long to type this that liz has partly forestalled me! Sleep well youself!

  24. sidey says:

    Liz, do you do the Times at all? I’m coming to think that their clues combine the right balance of Ximenean exactitude and libertarian wit. Not that precise grammar excludes wit…

    Re Azed, do you know that his two predecessors were Torquemada and Ximenes? (a slight clue to why azeD chose his name).

  25. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Hi Liz (#22),
    of course, you are right about RELIANT and about NEPOTIC, but then you also say “I liked the rest of the puzzle well enough”. I feel the same, and that’s for me the reason to not bin this crossword – like so many others do.
    Indeed, crosswords have to follow rules, but sometimes I am happy not having read anything of Ximenes. Ever since I tried to write some clues myself in English, I mainly follow my intuition. How I look at the rules of crosswords is mainly based on what I see in the many puzzles I (try to) solve. Sometimes setters make mistakes (like Gordius today), but the ‘feel’ about a crossword as a whole can still be alright.
    And I think that is, at least for me, more important than ultimate precision.
    I guess, not everybody is looking at it that way.
    Fair enough.

  26. liz says:

    Sidey — I first learned about cryptics when a friend who did The Times crossword showed me how they worked. But that was many years ago. The Grauniad is my paper and so I’ve stuck with that, along with Azed, much more recently. I’ve been tempted by what other solvers say by the Independent — and thanks to you, now the Times — but I have to limit the addiction somehow :-)

    I’m being dense, I know, but what is the slight clue to Azed’s name?

  27. liz says:

    Sidey — Sorry, I meant ‘about the Independent’.

    Sil — I think you can look at crosswords in more than one way. Overall, this one was ok, and I don’t usually find Gordius so easy or pleasing, or so quick to complete. But I do think that it is worth pointing out clues that fall short. I’m not binning the whole thing for the sake of a couple of poor definitions, although they were disappointing and perhaps more indicative of bad editing than bad settng. Incidentally, the clues of yours that I have read on Cryptica and which have rightly been commended, are both fair and funny, so I’m supposing you must have your own rules to which you adhere?

  28. IanN14 says:

    liz@22 & Eileen@23,
    Couldn’t have put it better myself.
    This wasn’t TOO bad for a Gordius, I agree with everything that’s been said about “reliant”, but not keen on 12ac. either.
    I also didn’t like 27ac. I don’t like the use of “some” in clues, when it doesn’t imply how exact it’s meant to be.
    To be honest, I think it’s been a fairly poor week for the Guardian puzzles (even Paul’s yesterday was a little disappointing – perhaps it’s just me?). By the way, we’re not all Araucaria apologists, don (Wednesday’s blog), or are we not supposed to offer criticism of ANY setter?…

  29. IanN14 says:

    …and, oh look,
    It’s an Araucaria prize puzzle this morning….

  30. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Liz, let me be clear, apart from the last few lines of #27 (to which I find it inappropriate to comment), I do agree with you. It is annoying when clues are really bad, and it is alright to show your opinion on that (like I do as well), but sometimes I feel the discussion goes on and on and on, focusing on just one thing.
    Chambers, Collins, OED, Wiki,, whatever.
    All at once a simple thing becomes completely blown out of proportion.
    Not seldom resulting in binning the crossword as a whole.
    I have the feeling that it is getting worse and worse on this site.
    Well, maybe it is just the unfortunate combination of puzzles that we had this week, that makes it look like that.

  31. IanN14 says:

    …actually, apart from a couple of groans, today’s Prize is, I think, quite good.
    (There, I’ve said it…).

  32. Paul B says:

    Being ‘Libertarian’ doesn’t mean being ignorant of cryptic grammar, as Arau (not Arua) caria, Enigmatist, Paul, Shed, Bunthorne (who always claimed to be Ximenean, by the way) and others clearly show. But being a bad, inconsistent or lazy compiler usually does mean demonstrating a flawed interaction with one or more of certain hallowed conversations, e.g. that answers should be defined in the correct part of speech.

    At the end of it, there’s just good and bad compiling, and that’s it.

  33. Chunter says:

    Ltz, you can be forgiven for not be able to work out the origin of ‘Azed’. To quote from Jonathan Crowther’s Wikipedia entry:

    His two predecessors had taken theirs from Spanish inquisitors-general but none of the names remaining seemed suitably impressive. However, reversing the last name of one, Diego de Deza, gives (to British ears at least) the first and last letters of the alphabet.

  34. Richard says:

    Reliant: presumably the Robin Reliant ( is supposed to be reliable?

  35. john goldthorpe says:

    Sidey – I only saw your comment this morning. I was brought up on Ximenes and then of course went on to Azed. However, what I would like to find in the Guardian are crosswords set in general accordance with Afrit’s wonderful maxim (that Eileen refers to) but that one can do anywhere – i.e. without having to carry Chambers around to pick up the really obscure words. Bending rules a bit is always good fun. But the Ximenian rules aren’t arbitrary. They have a purpose, and when they are clearly broken, then that is just irritating and spoils the fun.

  36. Ian says:

    Cumshaw was a new word to me but perfectly gettable from the wordplay.

    I tend to side with those who quite liked this one. Gordius generally throws in the odd curveball here and there. That’s no bad thing.Some people need to be a little less anally retentive.

  37. Paul B says:


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