Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,074 / Gordius

Posted by Eileen on July 28th, 2010


I must admit I enjoyed this more than I expected when I saw the name of the setter. There were, perhaps, rather a lot of anagrams – some good ones, though,  a couple of unfamiliar words [fairly clued] and some nice surfaces.  I have fewer quibbles than I usually have with this setter.


1   CALASH: A in CLASH [confrontation]: a light, low-wheeled carriage with a folding top
4   VINDALOO: anagram of LOAD in VINO [like plonk, a slang word for wine]
9   LOWER: f[LOWER] an ox being one that lows [a change from ‘butter = goat’]
10  LOST CAUSE: cryptic definition: Matthew Arnold in the Preface to Essays in Criticism called Oxford University the ‘home of lost causes’, referring to its support of Charles I in the English Civil War.
11  INORGANIC: anagram of ORIGIN CAN [&lit.]
12  LIEGE: EG [say] in LIE [economy with the truth]: an expression famously used by  Sir Robert Armstrong in the Spycatcher case but it is attibuted originally to Edmund Burke.
13  PURSE STRINGS:  [perhaps not very] cryptic definition, referring to the expression ‘keeping a tight hold on the purse strings’.
17  PIECE OF EIGHT: double/cryptic definition, referring to the coin minted in the Spanish Empire, also known as the Spanish dollar, which, by the late 18th century was the first world currency, and to Franz Schubert’s Octet in F Major.
20  BEANO: [Mr] BEAN [Rowan Atkinson’s comedy TV character + O [nothing] Edit – accidentally omitted earlier; thanks, tupu.]

21  ROOT CROPS: anagram of TROOPS OR C[ompany]: a nice surface, as trenching is a recommended way of growing root vegetables, as shown here:
23 RED GIANTS: double definition
24 DITTO: Mary Beth Patterson, known by her stage name Beth Ditto (born February 19, 1981, in Searcy, Arkansas), is an American singer-songwriter.
25  LONELIER: anagram of NELLIE OR
26  ORACLE: cleverly hidden in f[OR A CLE[ver] – my favourite clue, I think: the Delphic oracle was notoriously ambiguous: one of the best-known examples is the story of King Croesus of Lydia, who, before attacking Persia, according to Herodotus, consulted Delphi and was told “If you do, you will destroy a great empire”. Believing the response was favourable, Croesus attacked, but it was his own empire that was ultimately destroyed by the Persians.


1   CALLIOPE: ALL [everything] I [one] in COPE [manage]: Calliope was the Muse of epic poetry: I’m not very keen on the ‘on’.
LAW COURT: anagram of CRAWL OUT: ‘from’ has to be the anagram indicator and I think it’s rather more acceptable than Rufus’ ‘for’ that aroused discussion on Monday. In fact, it tells a rather nice story.
SHRUG: Sh [quiet] RUG [floor covering]
5   INSECTIVOROUS: anagram of OUR VISITS ONCE: perhaps not among the first half-dozen epithets one would think of applying to St John! Matthew’s gospel, Chapter 3, verse 4 states that his meat was locusts and wild honey; there is debate about whether this refers to a grasshopper-like insect, still eaten in the Middle East, or to the carob bean, the fruit of the locust tree, also known as St John’s Bread.
6 DECALOGUE: reversal of EU +GO [proceed] + LACED [tied] – all ‘up': another name for  the Ten Commandments
7   LAUREL: a nice cryptic definition, referring to Stan Laurel, comedy partner of Oliver Hardy and also to Thomas Hardy’s novel, ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’.
8   OPENER: double definition [opening batsman]
10  LUNATIC FRINGE: anagram of I [one] + FRANTIC LUNGE
14 EDITORIAL: anagram of LAID TORIE[s]
15  AGNOSTIC: anagram of A SONG + T[ourist] I[nformation] C[entre]
16  OTOSCOPE: I stared for a long time at this word but have failed to see any wordplay. I think it must be a cryptic definition: an otoscope is a device for looking into the ear, hence sight intruding into hearing – except that the ear is the sense organ, not the sense itself. I think I’m missing something.
18 ABORAL: ABORIGINAL [native] minus I GIN [one drink]: I hadn’t come across this word before but its derivation is obvious: it’s a zoological term.
19  WARDEN: W[ith] ARDEN [forest of] –  setting for ‘As you like it’
22  CEDAR: hidden in introduCED A Redwood

42 Responses to “Guardian 25,074 / Gordius”

  1. Myrvin says:

    Thanks Eileen.
    Battled my way through eventually.
    His name is Gordius – I expect anagrams.
    I had to look twice at 4a to understand it. Seems to be Australian slang originally.
    So that’s who said that about Oxford – I couldn’t find it, but I remembered it.
    13a rather weak. I didn’t know of 24a. Quite liked 5.
    17a still odd to me. An octet I suppose could be a ‘piece of eight’, but why Schubert?
    16a: I think you must be right, but it is strange.
    Last in was OPENER – needed inspiration to get it.

  2. rrc says:

    Rather a mechanical slog, and I still do not see 5d other than it was an anagram There were some nice clues, albeit on my first read through across I managed 25a only. Down clues faired a little better with 1d and 3d 5d 14d

  3. liz says:

    Thanks for a great blog, Eileen. I didn’t like this as much as you did and found it a bit of a slog. Failed to get 16dn, despite having all the checking letters.

    I also wonder why Schubert?

  4. Myrvin says:

    rrc: It just means that J the B ate insects.

  5. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen

    I found this hard in places but enjoyable over all.

    You seem to have omitted ‘beano’ for 20a – a nice clue I thought.

    16d was my last. I kept trying to fit in ‘taste’ somehow! It just seems to be a dd with (pardonable?) confusion of organ and sense.

    Lots of other clues pleased inc. 4, 10, 13, 21, 23, 5!, 6 (nicely misleading – looking for anagram).

    I didn’t know Beth Ditto and had to guess.

  6. tupu says:

    Re Schubert. I suppose his Octet is the best known example of the genre, like his Trout quintet and Beethoven’s Septet. But strictly speaking unnecessary.

  7. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen
    ps Re 16d. I meany cd of course.

  8. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Eileen, very thorough blog as usual. Have to say I didn’t enjoy this terribly much: it just seemed a bit of a slog. Somebody the other day compared completing an uninspiring puzzle to filling in a questionnaire, and that’s what this felt like to me today. In fact I ran out of enthusiasm with a few to go in the NE corner.

    Is your average daily cryptic solver supposed to know the reference in 10ac? I certainly didn’t. I wasn’t mad keen on 13ac either. And there were some bizarre surfaces: ‘Show of indifference to quiet floor covering’ and ‘A song about tourist information centre initially uncertain.’ They don’t exactly conjure up pretty pictures in your head, do they?

    Good clues for me today were LAUREL and INORGANIC.

  9. Stella Heath says:

    For 5d, I first tried ‘conversionist’, but of course the anagram doesn’t work; then I remembered his peculiar diet while living in the desert.

    As for 16d, I also tried to fit ‘taste’ into *ear. It was my last clue in, provoking a slight ‘aha’. I think using the organ for the sense is acceptabe, as in ‘he has a good ear for music’, for example.

    Having got through the top half of the across clues with nothing, the bottom half went in quite quickly, especially the SW corner (I liked ‘Beano’ :) ), and after that it was a fairly reasonable solve.

  10. Eileen says:

    Hi All

    In the preamble, liz and K’s D, I was speaking relatively – my heart did sink when I saw it was Gordius!

    I agree with you, K’s D, about the bizarreness of the surfaces you mention – but there were some redeeming ones, I think.

    Thanks, tupu for the alert re 20ac [corrected now]. I think I interpreted 17ac as you did but I think now perhaps a ‘maybe / say / for example is in order.

  11. Martin H says:

    I enjoyed most of this in a low-key sort of way. LAUREL, OPENER, DECALOGUE, ORACLE and VINDALOO all very good.
    The only real groan was 13, but 17 wasn’t really satisfactory – ‘piece of eight’ is a poor definition of octet, which is a piece for eight, and why mention Schubert at all when the eight is given?
    Also ‘inorganic’ applied to food? Food which is not organic is usually referred to simply as that, or maybe as non-organic, and I don’t think Gordius meant salt.
    Not knowing the quote, or at least it not coming to mind, I had ‘Lost Souls’ for 10a, putting them in with All the other souls, so that slowed me down in that corner.
    I don’t think there’s any more to ‘otoscope’ than a cd, Eileen, and I share your reservations about it.

  12. molonglo says:

    I was quite pleased to find this fairly tough, especially in the NE corner. Later discovered that Gordius used an almost identical clue for 1d in July 09 – puzzle 24,757. 2d and 6d I thought were quite neat. Never heard of (but readily guessed) 24a – but why the dots? She’s under 30 after all.

  13. Moosebranley says:

    Can someone explain the use of ellipsis in 23a 24a and 19d 22d please?

  14. Richard says:

    I think 10ac is unforgiveably obscure.

  15. Eileen says:

    I’m surprised that 10ac has proved so obscure. It’s very widely quoted, as in this amusing article, where it’s assumed not even to need quotation marks:

    I admit, though, to having found this only through having to google to be reminded of its source! :-)

  16. tupu says:

    Hi Moosebranley

    I am no expert on ellipsis but..

    19/22d I understood as simply providing a surface linkage for the two clues
    23/24 I wondered if the dots indicated ditto but I don’t think so. I do not know Beth Ditto but a google search seems to suggest she is rather large and red-haired – could that be it?

  17. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Moosebranley, tupu’s right – most of the time (including today) you can simply ignore them. The setter will be using them to provide a good surface between two clues, but you need just to solve them in isolation. Occasionally, however, this advice doesn’t work, and there’s something more subtle going on … tupu may just be right about the red hair and fuller figure look, although it’s not a very kindly way to refer to the jeune femme, I have to say.

  18. Dave H says:

    Ref 8d. Robert Key is an ex England and current Kent opening batsman, ( and should still be playing in my opinion)and makes the clue very good.

  19. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen, especially for the explantion of 9d.

    What’s wrong with you people? I did know Beth Ditto and I’m 65 next month!
    She also used to write for the Grauniad.

    I enjoyed this crossword, 23a especially.

    17a There is a question mark at the end which stands in for the usual “for example” or “,say,”. It seems to me a very reasonable clue: Schubert’s Octet is an example of a piece with eight players.

  20. Dave Ellison says:

    If that is the explanation, KD at #17, wouldn’t that make it a clue worthy of Paul?

    I agree with Eileen that Lost Causes is reasonably well known

  21. tupu says:

    Hi Kathryn’s Dad

    :) This is a quite new world for me, but I gather she is rather happy to flaunt what she has! At your own risk you can try googling ‘Beth Ditto Red Giant’ but be very careful about what you bring on screen!!

  22. Matt says:

    Any crossword with the answers “vindaloo” and “red giants” is good for me. However, not sure that there is a type of food called “inorganic” – surely it’s “non-organic” if it even has an adjective?

    With regards to the “…” in crosswords linking clues, I don’t think they can generally be ignored – yesterday it gave the “banger” in “Harvey Wallbanger” from the word “Jalopy” in the previous clue if you recall. Generally I dislike the device as it means at least one clue is incomplete. Still, it’s not as bad as two clues cross referencing each other “1d: Like 2d, 2d: Like 1d” yeugh.

  23. Myrvin says:

    I was suspicious of INORGANIC too. I couldn’t think of any inorganic foods. MartinH @11 suggests salt, so there are going to be some. It could be a simple error. Using IN for NON. Or a playful one.
    I had vaguely heard of Beth DITTO, but – from the dots – I thought she would be an old star.
    I like LOST SOULS for 10a. I understand there is a college there for all lost souls.

  24. otter says:

    Afternoon, all. Thanks for the blog, Eileen, and others for your comments. I eventually gave up with one corner incomplete – top LH today, to complement bottom LH in yesterday’s Paul. (Is this a new setter tactic? I ask myself.) Finished with 1a and 1d, 2 and 9 incomplete.

    Most fairly straightforward, but some more tricky.

    I loved 5d when I finally got it, a real ‘Oh, of course!’ moment which brought a little chuckle.

    I was hugely disappointed with 13a after struggling with concepts of wine cellar, tantalus and other things which might constrain liquid assets in that sense.

    Think 11a would have been better as ‘such substances’ rather than ‘such foods’, as yes, there is no such thing as inorganic food (other than pure minerals such as salt, which are usually food components).

    I agree with Eileen that 16d in shaky: an otoscope is a device in which the sense of sight is used to ‘intrude on’ the organ of hearing, not hearing itself.

    No problems in getting DITTO as I’m familiar with The Gossip, nor with BEANO. although it took me a while because I wasn’t a fan, but I don’t like these sorts of ‘now’ pop culture references being used, because they rely on knowledge that only some people have.

    Having said that, I’d never heard the Matthew Arnold quotation about Oxford (actually, I think I probably have in the distant past, but it’s the sort of thing I never remember – I might have more chance of remembering it after this), and couldn’t remember Calliope as a muse – I only ever remember Erato.

    By the way, Beth Ditto is most usually seen with black rather than red hair, so I don’t think the ‘red giant’ comparison is a good one (quite apart from the issue of ‘sizeism’), even if that’s what Gordius meant.

    Don’t like ‘Plonk’ for ‘vino’, as one means rubbish wine, and the other simply wine (in Italian, and Spanish).

    Wasn’t keen on the ‘featured by Hardy’ definition for LAUREL, as Stan Laurel wasn’t featured by Hardy in any way I can think of…. oh, hang on, I’ve just thought, it probably means ‘put in features [by studios] by [as in ‘next to’] Hardy’. That makes sense.

    So, a few weak clues, but otherwise fairly enjoyable but not breath-taking, with the exception of 5d, which I thought was really lovely.

  25. Gaufrid says:

    Hi otter
    “… nor with BEANO …… but I don’t like these sorts of ‘now’ pop culture references being used, …”

    I hardly think the Beano can be described as ‘now’ pop culture. The first issue was published 72 years ago this week! 😉

  26. walruss says:

    Agree with the general sentiments about this lacklustre puzzle. I thought both 10 and 24 across pretty bad! 10 is ungettable unless you know the quote, and so it really is no more than a general knowledge question. 24 is similar, except that you still hald the other of the two definitions available to help you. Not good, this effort.

  27. Geoff Chapman says:

    Agree with Walrus about 10ac. Too esoteric, and without further cryptic help it simply becomes a general knowledge test (for Oxford graduates).

    Congratulations on getting references to Matthew Arnold and Mr Bean in the same crossword though.

    Ditto Ditto.

  28. Aloysius Donald says:

    Completed but bit of a slog for me. 5d is just a tad obscure for a 15d like me and 10 across required a “what’ll fit” guess which isn’t in my clearly inadequate OD of Q.

  29. Crosswits says:

    The LOST CAUSE came to me another way.

    Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure goes a bit potty after not getting into Oxford (Christminster in the novel), and St Jude is the patron saint of lost causes.

  30. otter says:

    Hi Gaufrid, I was referring to the Mr Bean reference, not the Beano (of which I was a huge fan as a child). (I guess from your winky thing that you know that.)

    Happy birthday The Beano, anyway.

  31. Derek Lazenby says:

    If you presume I didn’t like all the one’s others didn’t like, and liked the ones others did, but where opinions were split then I was on the negative side, and that like others I ran out of steam in the NE, then basically that leaves not much to say!

    Being late on parade doesn’t help, but I had an excuse today. Had to trek all the to London to kick off the next stage of my treatment. Apparently it’s called “Melphalan Autograft”! Now there would be an obscure clue solution to set the arguments going, 😀

  32. Eileen says:

    We’ll take it as read, then, Derek!

    All the best with the treatment – and we’ll look forward to you working out that clue! :-)

  33. Derek Lazenby says:

    Ummm, a clue? Nope, can’t see it right now.

    Been thinking about organic food. It seems to me that as there is no specific opposite term yet, the inventers of new language would be best advised to return to the existing word from other contexts, i.e. inorganic. Why? Because odd as that may seem to us today, non-organic is just plain ugly, and we have enough of that in the language already. Anyway, why invent words or phrases when a perfectly good word already exists and could easily have it’s usage expanded? Let’s leave that sort of thing to our friends to west of the water.

  34. Esmond says:

    I enjoyed it generally but have a quibble with 5 down. The locusts that Joh the Baptist ate were very unlikely to be insects but much more likely to be locust beans otherwise known as carob or St John’s Bread. I got it anyway though.

  35. Eileen says:

    Hi Esmond and thanks for that, which is exactly the point that I made in the blog.

    I did quite a bit of googling research into the locusts [and also the wild honey] this morning and very fascinating it was.

    However, as contributors to this site would say, this is Crosswordland and, to most people, ‘locusts’ = ‘insects’.

    I have been known, in the past, to lament Gordius’ lack of [or perhaps I mean different from mine] sense of humour. As he is a clergyman himself, I think he knew exactly what he was doing when he composed this clue – and I’m pleased to see that several others found it clever and amusing.

  36. Eileen says:

    PS: Actually, my first sentence is not quite right: as I said in the blog, there is quite a bit of debate about this.

  37. Paul B says:

    The clue is ‘Our visits once turned on such as John the Baptist’. To which, if anything, esp. in respect of scholarly debate about appalling Biblical diets, the answer probably ought to be ‘insectivore’.

    We can say for sure that the SI part of the clue is OURVISITSONCE* which – unless the clue is an (unconvincing) attempt at an &lit – leaves as the definition part either ‘on such as John the Baptist’, or – with ‘on’ as (redundant) link – ‘such as John the Baptist’. Does either formation clue an adjective?

    Well, not for certain. And thus the clue should have been exterminated by St. Hugh, IMO, before its potentially damaging release into the public domain and breakfast table.

  38. Carrots says:

    I threw in the towel with 5 to go. Just couldn`t be bothered with such obfuscation and tedium. Gordius has a real talent and, at his best, is a hard act to follow, but to me, solving this just seemed like ploughing through Google….and my lunchtime watering hole bans all phones (Thank Gawd), including fancy ones. I hardly dare mention on this site that The Times offered a far better diversion.

  39. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Eileen.
    The usual curate’s egg from Gordius.He can usually be relied upon to engender a debate here!
    I thought VINDALOO,LOST CAUSE and DECALOGUE were very good and INSECTIVOROUS made me smile.

  40. MadLogician says:

    Add me to those who don’t like inorganic as applied to food.

  41. walruss says:

    I tiried to have the definition for that one be ‘as John the Baptist’ to make it work, but that ruined the subsidiary bit!!

  42. Roger says:

    Good luck Derek @ 31
    The treatment is to plan a fraught meal, perhaps. (9,9)

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