Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,900 – Gordius

Posted by Andrew on January 6th, 2010


Gordius is not one of my favouruite setters, and this puzzle has done nothing to change my opinion. There’s nothing seriously wrong with it, I suppose, but just a few clues that have niggling inaccuracies, and nothinhg particularly witty or interesting to compensate. Maybe others will disagree..

* = anagram
dd = double definition
cd = cryptic definition
< = reverse

9. LEASEHOLD cd – as is conveyance of a property, and a lease is for a limited time
10. EAGLE (ELGA[r] E)<
11. EGO TRIP GOT RIPE with the E moved to the start.
13. NEAT dd – “neat” for “cattle” etc has caused protests here before so I’ll quickly move on
15. TREACLE T + CEREAL*. Some may argue that “Leading Tesco” can’t mean T..
22. EPIC Hidden in thE PICture
23. PURPOSE O in SUPPER*, with PURPOSE being in the rather antiquated verbal sense of “mean” – I purpose to do so-and-so.
24. REGATTA “Last comes first” in ATTA REG
1. ALTERNATIVE PLAN Barely a cd. Actually the “if at first” proverb suggests using the same plan over and over again. I prefer W. C. Fields’s version: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it”
4. COMPLETE L in COMPETE, though the contruction doesn’t quite seem to be fully indicated
5. ODESSA A sort of “indirect hidden” clue – antipODES SA. Easy to solve but again it’s a bit unsatisfactory somehow
7. AGENDA AGE (“concern to elderly”) + AND*
8. REPAIRING CLAUSE PAIRING (taking a partner) in (A in RECLUSE). I think it’s a clause in a lease stating the extent to which tenants and/or landlord are liable for repairs to the property.
18. IMPETIGO (MET I GP)* in IO – letter I for 1 is common, but IO for 10 is perhaps a bit dubious
20. NERVES EVER* in NS (two poles)
21. TRENDY END (conclusion) in TRY (go) – “To be” is redundant in the definition, and only there for the surface reading.
25. GOOP GO (energy) + OP (work). I didn’t know the word, but it’s plausible as a word for “fool” and the wordplay is straightforward.

42 Responses to “Guardian 24,900 – Gordius”

  1. Ian says:

    Thanks for the blog Andrew.

    This Gordius I found reasonably entertaining with the vast majority of clues perfectly acceptable.

    No question that Alternative Plan was a tad clunky, that I’ll readily acknowledge.

  2. Colin Greenland says:

    I have GOON for 25d, Andrew. Otherwise, I share your reservations. Several clues (9a, 1d, 8d) I laboured over and found not worth the labour!

  3. Judy says:

    I put GOON as 25 dn. ON meaning “at work”. Otherwise agree with Andrew’s doubts on some of the other clues, Not too difficult, but no real sense of satisfaction when completed.

  4. Andrew says:

    The online cheat facility gives GOOP, but GOON is certainly a plausible alternative, with the benefit of being a more common word.

  5. IanN14 says:

    My Mum used to say that if you didn’t have anything nice to say about something, don’t say anything at all…

  6. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, Andrew – rather you than me. I’ll return the sympathy you gave me last week over Rover. I share your thoughts about both of them.

    A number of unsatisfactory clues; LEASEHOLD, NEAT [I don’t mind it for ‘cattle’ but that’s not the same as ‘beef’], ALTERNATIVE PLAN [dreadful] COMPLETE [as you say, dodgy construction and students don’t necessarily compete] REPAIRING CLAUSE, CORPORAL [I know Gordius is a man of the cloth [sorry :-)] but this is a rather obscure meaning – there were other DDs he could have used].

    And will I be the only one to be slightly uneasy about the casual use of ‘bipolar disorder’? This is the setter who gave us ‘terminal cancer’ as an answer, as I often remind readers, and which has coloured my opinion of him ever since.

    And I had GOON, too!

  7. Bryan says:

    Another GOONIE here!

    Many thanks, Andrew & Gordy, this was very enjoyable.

    I struggled with Bipolar in 20d, after seeing a man yesterday who is very troubled with this mental health condition. This then dominated my thoughts until the penny dropped.

  8. IanN14 says:

    Talking of construction, it also seems to be questionable at least in 5d., 8d. and, especially, 18d.
    Is “boy” the “last” of “attaboy’?
    And, yes, 15ac. I’m one of the “some”, Andrew.

  9. Eileen says:

    In my somewhat jaundiced post, I forgot to say that I did quite like 27ac!

  10. IanN14 says:

    …And another thing.
    Are “alternative plan” and “repairing clause” popular household terms?
    “Repair clause” which I can understand, and “Plan B”, maybe?…

  11. Eileen says:

    Hi IanN14 #8 and #10 – that’s more reassuring! Your #5, which crossed with my #6, made me feel rather bad!

    Your mum was quite right, of course, and I once got into trouble here for saying that my children were taught that ‘I don’t like this’ [food, usually] was not the same as ‘This is horrible’.

    Once again, it’s fascinating to see different people’s different reactions. This site wouldn’t be what it is if a] we all liked the same thing and b] we only ever said nice things!

  12. liz says:

    Thanks, Andrew. I agree with most of the comments here. The use of bipolar in 20ac made me uneasy. Like Eileen, I enjoyed 27ac the most.

    ‘Neat’ doesn’t necessarily mean well-dressed. And it certainly doesn’t mean ‘beef’!

  13. Bryan says:


    Please advise the meaning of the word ‘favouruite’.

    I’m guessing that it means either ‘favoured route’ or favoured fruit’. If the latter, it sounds good and I’d love the recipe.

    And is it in Chambers?

    I do like new words.


  14. Bill Taylor says:

    Yes, “goon” for sure. And great reservations about bipolar. I thought at first 1d was going to be something really clever about contesting a will! Some of the clues were unsatisfactorily easy and others just unsatisfactory. Since when, for instance, was BO (in 2d) an acceptable short form for box office? What a disappointment after yesterday’s very entertaining Araucaria.

  15. Tom Hutton says:

    re 8dn I think the usual expression is a ‘repairing lease’ i.e a lease where the tenant is responsible for repairs though I see from Wikipedia that ‘repairing clause’ is a meaningful term..

    I agree with the reservations regarding 4dn. I was a student in the dim and distant past and I neither competed or completed!

  16. walruss says:

    Yes, a ham fisted and occasionally insensitive effort again from this unpredictable setter.

  17. ray says:

    I considered both GOON and GOOP and opted for GOON on the basis of it being the commonest word; both seem to fit.
    Missed out on REPAIRING CLAUSE, CORPORAL and SABOTAGE – still don’t really understand the latter. STAGE=THEATRE seems a bit thin, but to combine it with ABO as some arbitrary abreviation or extraction of arbitrary letters ???

  18. AlyD says:

    Piece on the Guardian website about yesterday’s Araucaria:

  19. benington says:

    Surprised at the number of negative comments – wasn’t the greatest but far from the worst.

    Another one who put GOON – with so many agreeing, it must be the right answer!

  20. mark says:

    Agree with most of the comments, and yes I also had Goon.
    As a property professional “repairing clause” did come to mind but I can sympathise with those who wouldn’t normally come across it. Peversely I struggled with Leasehold as it means so much more and less to me than the bland definition given.
    I thought many other clues, or rather solutions, just didn’t have that lovely ‘lightbulb’ moment.
    I’m sure Gordius is a charming person and we all want to be pleasant but that doesn’t mean we can’t criticise the crossword surely?!

  21. sandra says:

    as i expect from gordius. some clues were clever but others questionable – at least i now know i am not the only one! to mention some, i was disturbed by the use of “bipolar disease” and regatta was my first thought for 24a, but didn’t see the reason until i had some letters in – was misled by “last to first”, thinking letters, not words, but that’s just me being dim i think.thought “goop” or “goon”, but chambers persuaded me of goop. i am not over fond of clues that throw up a possibility of two words, equally valid.did not like the clue for leasehold, and only got it from the solution to 8d, which i worked out from the clue. never heard of it – somewhat obscure i thought. i could go on, but enough. it has all been said really.

    however, i did like “sabotage”, stage in some instances being used by theatrical people where we would say “theatre”. also impetigo and disgorges, and i learnt someting about altar cloths.

  22. Brian Harris says:

    I didn’t mind this too much, mainly because I finished it (with help from a colleague) in about 20 mins.

    I was convinced that 1 down was a legal phrase meaning something to do with a retrial (as in “try and….. *try again*” but it turns out that was too cryptic an interpretation of the clue.

    I don’t have a problem with the “leading Tesco” part of 15ac. Figured out the construction and then didn’t give it a second thought. I didn’t realise this was controversial?

    Having read some of the comments, I can see that this wasn’t one of the best crosswords,and totally agree with mark above about the lack of “lightbulb moments”. I think that’s a perfect phrase to describe what makes a good crossword. Which this wasn’t, really.

  23. J&C says:

    We are goonies too, and agreed with a lot of the above comments.

  24. Smutchin says:

    My only complaint is that ALTERNATIVE PLAN is not an idiomatic phrase – or am I wrong? I’m not sure. It’s certainly not idiomatic in the way that, say, “Plan B” is. But even if it is a valid phrase, I don’t see how it is indicated by the clue anyway. The rest of the puzzle is fine, more or less.

  25. Smutchin says:

    …or is it set phrases I’m thinking of rather than idioms?

  26. Eileen says:

    Whichever, Smutchin – you’re right. I’m not used to hearing people talk of ‘alternative plan’ [it’s ‘plan B’ or ‘Back to the drawing board’] – and there was absolutely nothing in the clue to lead you to it. Cryptic? As with 8dn [another phrase which does not come trippingly off the tongue] I don’t think I’ve ever got so many crossing letters in such a long answer before getting it.

  27. Derek Lazenby says:

    Liz, didn’t you see that Andrew was trying to avoid a bust up over Neat. Hand in tne air, that was my fault, I started last time by saying what you did, and at least as far as meaning cattle, I had to eventually admit defeat and shut up. It’s regional apparently.

    Re GOOP, it was what I put in because work is so often OP. I was rather surprised because I actually know this word, but not with that meaning. In our house we refer to various liquids from medicines to gravy to soup as GOOP.

  28. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Mixed feelings and opinions, as ever with Gordius.
    But, for us, the first one after Rover’s abominable rendering that we finished !!

    I fully agree with Andrew, when he talks about inaccuracies.
    [some have already been mentioned, so I won’t repeat these]
    We were not sure about the rightness of ‘to’ in 19ac.
    And in 3d ‘listen to’ is not synonymous with ‘hear’.
    In 20d: what is the definition of ‘nerves’? And is it right?
    And indeed, the definitions of NEAT.

    The thing is that these, in our opinion, inaccuracies didn’t stand in the way of finding the solutions and – to be quite honest – it didn’t bother us in the end.
    (that’s not a good thing, we know)
    REPAIRING CLAUSE was probably dubious as a solution (there’s always the editor, I would say), but the construction is absolutely alright.

    This crossword contained two cryptic definitions and they were both awful, we thought (1d and 9ac).

    One can argue about ‘leading Tesco’ being a T, but the surface reads rather well in 15ac’s TREACLE.
    One might argue about IO for ‘ten’, but we didn’t have problems with that.

    And there were some very good clues as well (‘very good’ doesn’t seem a thing associated with Gordius):
    11ac (EGO TRIP) has a very clever construction.
    12ac (SAVANNA) is nice, but technically similar to the fine 6d (SERVICES).
    We thought 7d (AGENDA) was a good clue, combining the use of ‘elderly’ and ‘infirm’.
    Good anagram in 17ac (FUSTIAN).
    Smooth clueing of a ordinary word (ARENA) in 16ac.

    On the other hand, 4d (COMPLETE) is indeed very dubious.
    But then, we didn’t see why everyone went for GOON (in 25ac), other than being the familiar option for ‘fool’.
    There is a ‘work’ (=OP) bit in the clue, isn’t there?

    This puzzle was “a fun sort of material”, but …
    … will the “Nation ever turns to worship?”.

  29. Derek Lazenby says:

    Can I just add, I’m somewhat amazed at the unfamiliarity of ALTERNATIVE PLAN. I thought it was well known. Oh well. Still a duff clue though.

    I mostly use it (and hear it) in the question, “Has anybody got an ….”. Putting in PLAN B at that point seems a bit awkward at that point to my ears, it lacks the elegance of the full phrase.

    And if you’ve ever sat through a design committee meeting where you end up going through PLAN C, PLAN D etc ad infinitum, you’d understand why merely asking for PLAN B just fails miserably to relate to the reality of what follows.

  30. Derek Lazenby says:

    Sorry, distracted by TV, didn’t mean to have two “at that points”. Grovel. Mia culpa.

  31. Eileen says:

    Hi Sil

    I really don’t want to prolong this but just to pick up on one point:

    “There is a ‘work’ (=OP) bit in the clue, isn’t there?”

    Yes, of course – but there was more reason for entering GOON than that it was ‘the familiar option’. How often do we meet in crosswords ‘on’ = ‘working’? And ‘working’ = ‘at work’. Both seem equally valid to me.

  32. Mr Beaver says:

    Sil, re 20d, it’s not uncommon to hear ‘nerves’ as a sort of synonym for ‘nervous’. Ooh, it’s me nerves … Strictly incorrect, but passable, I’d say.

  33. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Hi Eileen,

    Don’t like these chain reactions, to be honest :
    ‘at work’ = ‘working’ and ‘working’ = ‘on’, so ‘at work’ = ‘on’.
    Very mathematical, but …
    … when I come in at work tomorrow morning (not too much snow, I hope) I’m ‘in’, not ‘on’.
    But that’s not the only thing.
    A setter wouldn’t clue ‘at work’ as ‘on’, I think, and as a solver you should be aware of that as well. Well, I am, probably because I am not only a solver but also thinking of clueing every now and then).

    Re #32:
    Mr Beaver, OK.

  34. don says:

    Good grief! ‘Reading Royals’ [Rover] and now corporal [Gordious] are too obscure for everyone, but yesterday you put up with the extreme obscurity of things like Carter-Ruck [Ohcarryus], which is only defined by reference to an answer [1 across] that: had no definition; didn’t match the order in which its parts were clued; depended on guessing four letters [LIBE] from a seven-letter-word [LIBERTY] that, according to Uncle Yap, is one of three ‘unalienable Rights’ [not freedoms] from the 1300-odd-word US Declaration of Independence. And that was for just half the answer! If you want obscurity try a old wooden donkey that anyone under 55 would not have seen or probably heard of – and that was also for just half the answer.

    I found today’s ‘alternative plan’ no better, but no worse than yesterday’s ‘super-injunction’.

    And ‘mew-sick’ was terrible; ‘spirits’ poorly clued; ‘crow’ pretty weak. There were other weak or unsatisfactory clues yesterday – ‘lists’, ‘isis’, ‘avert’ [‘purpose’ might not quite mean ‘mean’, but does ‘avert’ really mean ‘stop’? If you avert an accident, it doesn’t take place; you can only stop it once it’s started].

    I thought everyone’s condemnation of Rover was due to Hogmanay Hangovers, but after today’s diatribes against Gordius I realise you’re all in ‘au’ of goldenboy.

    Bah, humbug! If it wasn’t for the weather I’d be off to my allotment to ‘fertiliser apply’, or as you _might_ say, ‘muck spread’!

  35. Eileen says:

    Hi again, Sil

    You’re right, of course – I don’t like these ‘chain reactions’, either. I was just trying to point out that there were a number of us who of us who had GOON and that there was a little method in our madness. Gordius is not exactly known for the tightness of his cluing, so GOON seemed the obvious answer [it wasn’t the ‘familiar option’ for me – there was no option, as I’d never heard of GOOP] and, thinking about it, wasn’t it rather perverse of him to choose [cf 16dn] to go for the obscure GOOP, when he could have clued GOON properly?

  36. IanN14 says:

    Did you actually read all of yesterday’s posts?…
    Even No.21?

  37. C. Smith says:

    Am I the only niggling lawyer to point out that “leasehold” is an estate, and certainly not a conveyance, and that a provision dealing with the tenant’s and landlord’s obligations for “repair” has never in my forty years been called a “repairing clause”?

  38. stiofain says:

    I thought this was rubbish I groan when I see Gordius’ name these days it is a chore to fill it in.
    Why is he used so often while other clearly superior setters make rarer appearances?
    Judging by todays posts no one seems to be a fan. Unlike Rufus or Aruacaria where complaints seem to be a matter of personal taste, Gordius is quite rightly lambasted for consistently sloppy clueing.
    I also find the inclusion of Christian dogma offensive and as parochial and annoying as cricketing references.
    Well Brendan tomorrow Thank God/Allah/Thor/Zeus/Lar/The Leprechauns or whoever.

  39. don says:

    IanN14 #36

    I didn’t get as far as comment 21. Sorry, but I get nauseated by the niggling criticism of quite a few setters and then the unquestioning adoration placed on others, who a no better and no worse, in their own ways, than those berated.

  40. Ali says:

    Blimey, seems to me that a lot of masochistic people here should have just not bothered starting this. I guarantee you’d all be a lot happier if you’d done Dac’s Indy puzzle instead!

  41. Mr DNA says:

    Derek Lazenby (#27),
    Yes, I too only really know GOOP as an inf. term for thick liquids etc., but that still works for ‘fool’ in the sense of eg. gooseberry fool.

  42. smutchin says:

    Derek #29 – well, my complaint is that “alternative plan” isn’t listed in the dictionary as a set phrase (unlike “alternative medicine” or “alternative curriculum”, say). But thinking about it, you may have a point – I probably wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if Gordius had used the plural form “alternative plans”, as in: “The trains are affected by snow. Best make alternative plans.” The singular form still jars though.

    “Repairing clause” is a dodgy one too. Although I’m not familiar with it, I assumed it was standard legal jargon, but I can’t find any decent evidence online to back up that theory. “Full Repairing Lease” seems to be the preferred set phrase.

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