Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,099 / Gordius

Posted by mhl on August 26th, 2010


I’m afraid this a very rushed post for me today, and I haven’t figured out how 10a and 11a work – I’m sure the comments will clear those up, though…

8. FORMALLY FORM ALLY = “Make a friend”
9. OCCUR OUR = “the Guardian’s” around CC = “cricket club”
10. GROT I don’t get this, I’m afraid: “Brown’s ferned rubbish? (4)” Thanks to Brigadier Carruthers for explaining the reference, which is to a line about a “ferned grot” in a poem by T. E. Brown, which tupu has quoted below.
11. MIND THE GAP A cryptic definiton, I guess, but I don’t understand it: “Warning to speculators on gravy train ? (4,3,3)” Thanks to Bryan for explaining that this is reference to a “gap” in prices in a financial market
12. TWO-WAY WOW = “expression of wonder” in TAY = “flower”
14. DILATING DIG = “archaeological search” around LATIN = “classic culture”
15. ARBITER ARBEITER = “German worker” without E = “English”
17. BALANCE (CLEAN)* beside BA = “fliers” (British Airways)
22. STEAMS TEAM = “players” in SS (“on board”)
24. THIN Hidden in “nothing”
25. ASSET ASSERT = “Claim” without R = “right
1. BORROWER ROB = “Steal” reversed + ROWER = “boatman”
2. OMIT OM = “order” (of merit) + IT[em]
5. TORTILLA TORT = “wrong” + ILL = “sick” + A
6. ACCENTUATE U = “smart” + ATE = “goddess” after ACCENT = “brogue”
16. EMIGRATE G = “good” in EMIRATE = “an Arab country”
18. CAMPIONS CHAMPIONS = “leading side” without H = “heart” – I’d have thought H could only be “hearts” as in the suit
19. BLOT OUT LOT = “fate” in BOUT = “fight”
21. SEESAW SEE =-“Spot” + SAW = “spotted”
22. SICKEN SIC = “So” + KEN = “Livingstone”
24. TIDE Sounds like “tide”; I suppose TIDE is a festival as in “Yuletide”

50 Responses to “Guardian 25,099 / Gordius”

  1. Brigadier Carruthers says:

    Is it a quote from The Cave by T.E Brown , a poet, referred to a ferned grot’ (a cave) I think but not in my Oxford Quotes.

    Thanks to Lowellander’s post.

  2. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl and Gordius


    A mainly enjoyable puzzle with some good clues and one or two worrying ones.
    I found the change of tense in 22 across disturbing and wondered if it was a misprint or a sort of ‘reported speech’. My printed version has ‘moved’.

    I had to check that sicken could have that meaning as an intransitive verb.

    10a seemed to be G (Gordon?) + rot but ferned troubled me till I unearthed the following by googling ‘ferned grot’.

    ‘My Garden’

    A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
    Rose plot,
    Fringed pool,
    Ferned grot —
    The veriest school
    Of peace; and yet the fool
    Contends that God is not —
    Not God! in gardens! when the eve is cool?
    Nay, but I have a sign:
    ‘Tis very sure God walks in mine.
    Thomas Edward Brown

    11 across was amusing but the surface was not completely convincing.

    A number of clues were enjoyable especially 21d. I suspect I’ve seen this before somewhere. Other good clues for me were 12a, 17a, 1d, and 6d. The surface of 18d was nice but we’ve also had that shift fairly recently.

  3. tupu says:

    Woops. Please ignore the second Gordius above! I had pre-saved part of the comment.

  4. Judy says:

    Thanks for blog – enjoyed this, but tense seems wrong in 22ac, and a bit iffy in 22down. Also don’t fully understand 11ac. Any help would be very welcome.

  5. tupu says:

    As noted I too worried about 11a. For what it’s worth my reading is that there may be a gap between a speculator’s wishes and results.
    ‘Mind the gap’ is a regular announcement at stations on Underground trains. The gap between ‘cup and lip’ can be messy if there’s gravy involved. Is there a simpler answer?

  6. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, mhl. Quite enjoyed this one apart from GROT and MIND THE GAP, which I still don’t understand. I’m sure 22ac is just a typo. Thought there were some nicely disguised anagrinds today.

  7. tupu says:

    Hi K’s D.

    Well, I tried!

    btw :) I left you a small offering at 273 on General Chat the other day.

  8. tupu says:

    How stupid of me! The poem I quoted is by Thomas BROWN!! Gordon is irrelevant as ever!

  9. Rishi says:

    My dad read Brown’s poem to me when I was 12 or 13.

  10. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Mike (you see I’ve remembered). This was very enjoyable!

    (For those of us in the know mhl = Mike)

    Naturally, even though I opted for GROT, I had no idea why but I now find that he was a Manx poet (1830-1897).

    I bet nobody even in the Isle of Man remembers him today.

    Thanks Gordius you are truly wonderful.

  11. Bryan says:

    Here’s the explanation of GAP as it affects Speculators:

  12. mhl says:

    Thanks for the explanations of those two clues, I’ve updated the post.

    Bryan: it’s Mark rather than Mike, in fact.

  13. liz says:

    Thanks, mhl — and thanks to Bryan for clearing up 11ac.

    My favourite was 21dn. Didn’t like 22ac with its wrong tense, but otherwise I enjoyed this more than I expected to. I had to learn the Brown poem by heart at school, but the allusion to it escaped me this morning.

    Where is the PDF version? I much prefer it to the online print version! Anyone else bothered?

  14. tupu says:

    Hi Bryan @11

    Thanks. :) A* detective work re ‘gap’. Pretty recondite stuff from Gordius. Where does he get it from? No wonder both clues were puzzling. At least I fully understood
    ‘grot’ (eventually).

  15. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks for the updated explanations, mhl (and others of course). The puzzle has now gone from 7/10 to 6/10 for me. I’m sorry, but GROT is just wilfully obscure, and I’m not warming to MIND THE GAP either.

    tupu @ no 7 – thank you! If I did emoticons* I would put a smiley right here …

    * and it’s okay, I know how to do them, I just choose not to.

  16. duncandisorderly says:

    liz- I do! as I explained over at the gaurdian site, I sometimes want to rotate the grid for greater operational convenience whilst aboard a vehicle of some sort… :-) can’t make the print version do this quite as easily, without lots of mucking about with the scale & trying to keep the text legible….
    besides, the print version is grey where it otter be black.

    that aside, I didn’t like 22ac either, & have yet to see a satisfactory explanation. all I can come up with after an unreasonable amount of time & effort devoted to one conundrum is that “steams” might be plural rather than a verb form, & that he means “steams were used to move ships” in the sense of “jets of steam” or as an abbreviation for “steam engines”. this still doesn’t make sense.

    I didn’t think it was a typo until just now, looking at the proximity of the D & S keys…. I wonder if there are any stats on guardian typos generally, & within crosswords particularly. maybe the c/w editor proofed this one in a bit of a dash.


  17. duncandisorderly says:

    I meant “I am”, of course, but the mis-spelled first “guardian” is deliberate. here’s another emoticon for k’s dad. :-)


  18. Derek Lazenby says:

    Hardish work, needed gadegtry, but not HARD!

    However, in addition to the points above…

    15 is OK if you happen to speak German or have a paper or online German/English dictionary to hand, unlikely if you are out and about, so not wonderful in my book, despite solving it.

    18 is wrong, leading implies activity, i.e. still in progress. If “still in progress” then you are not yet Champions. You are only champions when you have finally won. If it had said winning that would be fine as that has senses of both in progress or completed, “we are winning”, “the winning team was…”. If you use leading in the past tense as in “the leading team was…” that can still only apply to a stage prior to the end, i.e. not yet champions.

    Thanks for the blog, I needed the proper explanations for a few of them.

  19. Roger says:

    suncansidorserly @ 16 ~ dee what you mean about D&S.

  20. mhl says:

    liz: I think you can take it as read that plenty of people (me included) rely on the PDF version :) There’s always brief and loud outrage when the PDF disappears…

  21. bardell says:

    Was I the only one who initially put in “fete” at 24dn? A fete is a festival and sounds like fate, which is “bound to be”.

  22. mhl says:

    bardell: yeah, I did exactly the same. This is one problem with Gordius’s puzzles for me – since he’s sometimes less than strict, one tends to put in wrong answers more often…

  23. Eileen says:

    Hi bardell and mhl

    I didn’t actually put in fete but chuntered to myself about ‘tide’, because the ‘tide’ in ‘Yuletide’, ‘Eastertide’ etc simply means ‘time’ – only to find, in Chambers, ‘tide: a time or season [archaic or poetic]; a festival [archaic or poetic]’ – Grrhh!

    I’m afraid, unlike liz, I didn’t enjoy this one more than I expected [I’ve seen SEESAW before] and, despite duncandisorderly’s valiant efforts to justify it, 22ac is just wrong.

    However, mhl, many thanks for the blog!

  24. sidey says:

    Isn’t 22d as wrong as 22a? Or am I being dense?

  25. Eileen says:

    Not dense, sidey.

    I think the instinctive action is that it’s wrong, because the transitive use of ‘sicken’ is much more common, but it can be intransitive, too. Collins: ‘to make or become nauseated or disgusted’.

  26. Eileen says:

    Reaction, I meant, of course!

  27. tupu says:

    Hi Sidey

    See also 2. I had the same raction and checked with Chambers. As Eileen says, It doesn’t feel quite right but I suppose one can say ‘I sicken at the thought of’ or ‘ the sight of’ etc.

  28. Carrots says:

    Ignoring the nomenclature of the Camerons` new brat, I turned straight to the inside back page of today`s Grauniad…and groaned. I suspected Gordius would deprive me of the excuse for a second pint at lunchtime, which he duly did.

    He`s an odd sort of setter with the ability to provide some ingenious and inventive clues, but having forged a handful of these, he then seems to pad out the rest of the puzzle with old chestnuts, some of which are tediously hackneyed. One or two (icluding GROT)I put in with scant reference to the clue, because given the opratives, nothing else would fit.

    I do think Gordius knew he would be prompting thousands of “Googlers” with itchy mouse-fingers to explain “ferned” in the context of the GROT clue. Personally, I don`t use Google for clues except in extremis. This is not due to some purist, principled stance on my part….I simply have access to a whole community of solvers who seem more than happy to do so for me…even if I suspect they sometimes don`t admit it!

    BTW….I`ve seen the odd reference to “cheating”, but can`t see how this can be possible. Can anyone explain?

  29. Martin H says:

    duncan @16 – re 22a – the slip of the finger would have to involve the E and D keys, so it looks like loose clueing to me. Similarly 22d: the intransitive use is fine, but again it’s the wrong tense; something like ‘So Livingstone shows disgust’ might have been better, (Don’t like ‘Livingstone’ for ‘Ken’, but there we are).

    U made another unwelcome appearance in 6d. I wasn’t keen on ‘grot’ or ‘mind the gap’ either. In 4d, is the preamble ‘It’s dangerous’ really needed? The clue works fine without it. And in 14, isn’t Latin classical rather than classic?

    After all that, I enjoyed ‘seesaw’, never having seen it before, and 13 was nice.

  30. Martin H says:

    …I thought 26 was weak too – no sort of a surface, as if someone were saying, “This is what an anagram is”. And ‘anarchy’ as an indicator? I’m sure I’ve seen it a few times, but I don’t think it’s very good. It’s too strong: anarchy implies continuing disorder, or no order at all rather than reordering; the letters should make no sense, or keep moving around on the page or something. Finding a good indicator isn’t always easy, and I think this one fudges it.

  31. tupu says:

    Hi Martin H

    Re 22d. As I mentioned, it didn’t feel right, but I am not sure the tense is wrong. If one accepts the intransitive form and the meaning, can’t one just as well say ‘he might sicken’ as ‘he might be disgusted’?

  32. Dave Ellison says:

    I managed this in about 20′, so I thought it was quite easy. I would normally have reported this as “on the journey in”, but I have lost my yardstick today, as I have now retired, no longer an arbeiter.

    Derek @18, isn’t the phrase “Gastarbeiter” reasonably well know, even if you don’t speak German, which could/should lead to the solution? In any case I knew arbeiter from my school Scientific German.

  33. Davy says:

    Thanks mhl,

    I didn’t enjoy this at all. I’ve previously been a defender of Gordius but not on this occasion. This is a poor crossword and it’s definitely Rover-esque. MIND THE GAP is just nonsense and 22a and 22d are both ungrammatical. The former would just about make sense if MOVED was changed to MOVES but there is no way that ‘sicken’ corresponds to ‘disgusted’ (sorry tupu). 10a may work as part of a themed puzzle but as an isolated clue, it’s just an oddity and has no meaning unless you happen to be familiar with the quotation.

    Also, this crossword is very disappointing after Puck’s brilliant effort yesterday.

  34. Martin H says:

    hi tupu –

    “can’t one just as well say ‘he might sicken’ as ‘he might be disgusted’”?
    Yes we can, but not in the structure offered us by the clue. It gives us: ‘So Livingstone’ – might be – ‘disgusted’. But ‘disgusted’ doesn’t mean sicken – ‘be disgusted’ means ‘sicken’. So ( because ‘might’, as a modal, can’t stand alone ) it should read: ‘S L’ – might be – ‘be disgusted’, which of course won’t do.

  35. taxiphil says:

    I was basically very disappointed with this offering. I was a day behind, and in a quiet spell at 7 o’clock this evening I set to work on yesterday’s Puck first (9/10). To follow it with this was like stopping at Burger King on the way home from a gourmet meal ! A weird mixture of the obscure and the hackneyed. No need to be more specific, it’s all been said above !

  36. otter says:

    Thanks all for your blog and comments. I didn’t think of a whole lot of this puzzle. Many clues just not very inspired; and there were, for me, some problems.

    MIND THE GAP is a nice idea but ‘gravy’ is just superfluous, surely, and suggests a word play which simply isn’t there. It led me right up the garden path for ages.

    STEAMS – I think that this has to be ‘How ships moved’ because it refers to how ships moved at a time in the past – they no longer steam (except in the cases of a few museum pieces).

    ARBITER – a bit dodgy to use a German word which isn’t in common usage in English. Happily for me I knew it, but I think its use here is not justified.

    TORTILLA = pancake? Hmm….

    TIDE – I don’t think this word can be used on its own to mean ‘festival'; it only refers to a festival when tacked on to the name of the festival, eg Eastertide, and refers to the time at which this festival takes place.

    I don’t think there was a single clue on this puzzle which I actually enjoyed. Perhaps I’m just feeling particularly curmudgeonly at the moment.

  37. tupu says:

    Hi Davy and Martin H re 22d

    Thanks. You are both quite right. For a strictly disciplined clue we need a nonsensical ‘be be’.

    Davy re 10a and 11a. As I said earlier these are both pretty esoteric references. But I don’t see anything intrinsically wrong with either.
    10a is simply recondite, and nicely misleading because one wants to see it as G + rot. However, quite a few solvers know the poem. I myself was alerted by the oddness of the word ‘ferned’ and had to resort to Google in order to understand the reference. But as someone else said, I think, – it had to be ‘grot’.
    In 11a (asssuming that Bryan is right) there is simply a transfer from passengers on the tube to speculators on the gravy- train – both need to ‘watch the gap’.

  38. Derek Lazenby says:

    Dave, it may be well known to some, but that is a new on me. I’ll keep an eye, sorry ear, out for it!

  39. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I am not a Gordius hater – like some others here at this place.
    But after solving the SW and somewhat more, I just stopped – didn’t want to go on anymore — I didn’t like it today.

    But as one nót from The Country They Call An Island, I did like [and understand] ‘der’ ‘arbeiter’ in 15ac.

    And there was another German connection, in 13d: WHITE HORSE.
    There is an operetta by Ralph Benatsky called “Im Weissen Rössl”.
    My father [who passed away in 1998] was a great fan of this kind of music, and (I do admit) once there was a time that I liked the romantic feeling associated with it just as he did. But then came Lennon & McCartney.
    The German “Im Weissen Rössl” means “In the White Horse”, this “White Horse” being an Inn in Salzkammergut – where it all took place.
    Could easily be that Gordius had this in mind.

    Those were the days, my friend.

  40. Derek Lazenby says:

    Sil, I can’t remember if it was original, maybe not, but did you mean to end by quoting a Mary Hopkins song, one of the earliest released on Apple?

  41. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Yes, indeed, Derek, that was a reference to Mary Hopkin’s first single on the Apple label.
    I could have chosen the title of her second one as well, which was “Goodbye” [written by Paul McCartney himself].

    All this has , of course, nothing to do with Gordius as such, although the two clues I mentioned gave me a melancholic feeling of going way back in time – in fact, in the 50s/60s my late father was an ‘arbeider’ [one who works in a factory], a Dutch word that is almost identical to ‘arbeiter’.

    BTW, looking back at this puzzle [that I didn’t like yesterday] I am not so negative anymore. Apart from 10 and 11ac [which deal with something beyond me],both 22’s and the H for the singular ‘heart’, there is not that much wrong with it.

  42. gm4hqf says:

    11a Beat me. I had Mind the Fat. Thinking of fat cats and gravy trains. Didn’t sound right!

  43. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    A good comment I think. Once again some bloggers seemed (to me) to get into a bit too harsh a frame of mind.

    Re Heart as singular. You were right earlier of course that it stands for the card suit Hearts. But can’t it also be used in that context in the singular? I am not a bridge or whist player, and others will know better, but I would not be surprised if one found find a description of a game where ‘one H’ is used as an abbreviation for one Heart card (e.g. in a hand) or one Heart trick. Perhaps other late commers might comment.

  44. Martin H says:

    tupu and Sil – 1H means a bid of one Heart in a report of a game of Bridge, similarly C, D, S.

  45. tupu says:

    Thanks Martin

    Good to get it exactly from you. I felt sure I’d seen something of the sort in newspaper columns etc. Sorry about the typos etc. I must have been a little under the affluence of incohol!

  46. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Well, Martin, I was only unhappyish with H for ‘heart’, because Chambers tells me that H can be ‘hearts’ with an ‘s’ at the end, only – and because someone told me that Chambers is just like the Holy Book for the serious solver.
    Rather funny that Oxford 5th Ed. ánd Collins-Online ánd Free Dictionary Online do not mention it at all.

  47. Derek Lazenby says:

    Sil, any bridge or whist player would use H for heart(s). Your mis-spent youth can’t have been mis-spent enough 😀

  48. Gordon Roy says:


    I’m a bit late, as always, to add comments and I don’t know if anyone will bother to respond, but I am still unhappy about the explanation of 11A. Nobody has explained the us of ? at the end of the clue which usually indicates something very cryptic. The explanations given so far don’t do that, and the wording of ‘gravy train’ isn’t really explained.

    It is a long shot but could it be something to do with the homophone link between GAP and GAAP. The latter actually has two meanings and the links are below. One is the standard accounting principles which would seem to apply to the clue. The second refers to Gaap the mythical demon who is there to keep people on the straight and narrow. People on the gravy train are not usually on the straight and narrow.

    If anyone is reading this, what do you think?

    Best wishes.

  49. mhl says:

    Gordon Roy: the blogger for each post gets an email notification for each comment, so I’ve seen your comment even if most won’t. I have to say it’s unusual to get a followup nearly two months later :)

    Although your suggestion is interesting (I’m glad to hear of the demon Gaap, in particular!) I think it’s a bit too much of a stretch, especially since there’s no homophone indicator. I think “?”s are used pretty widely to just mean “perhaps a dodgy cryptic definition” (among other things). I think the simpler explanation is probably the intended one, myself.

  50. Steve says:

    Hmm – what a lot of correspondence so early!

    re 18 Arbeiter is possibly most well know to English speakers as in “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work makes you free) which was the sign above German Concentration Camps in WW2.

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