Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,112 / Gordius

Posted by Eileen on September 10th, 2010


Pretty straightforward fare from Gordius, with just one or two quibbles, as usual with this setter. There is one explanation that eludes me: I’m ready to kick myself when enlightened!


ALBERICH: AL[l] [nearly everyone] + BE [get?] + RICH [wealthy]: Alberich is King of the Elves or Dwarves in Wagner’s Ring cycle – and also a very clever crossword setter for the FT!
9   CLANG: C. LANG: Cosmo Lang was Archbishop of York [1908-1928] and Canterbury [1928 -1942], notably at the time of the Abdication Crisis in 1936.
10  UNIT: UN[f]IT
11 SORRY STATE: double/cryptic definition
12 MIKADO: MIK [sounds like Mick {Irishman – Chambers: ‘offensive slang'; Collins: ‘derog.’}] + ADO [trouble]
14  ASTERISK: anagram of  SEAT + RISK [hazard]
16  SHUT-EYE: anagram of  THEY USE
18  AGRIPPA: homophone of a gripper – nice misleading use of ‘vice': there were two kings of the Jews called Agrippa, both descendants of Herod the Great.
21  CONFOUND: simple charade of CON [scam] + FOUND [discovered]
23  OBSESS: anagram of BOSSES: I don’t like the intransitive use of this verb but it’s in the dictionaries [Chambers: ‘chiefly US’]
24  SOUNDTRACK: double definition: [fast trains [6dn] need a sound track to eliminate risk [14ac]]
26  ANON: NO in AN [article]
27  RHONE: RH[esus] [blood factor] + ONE
28  CLERIHEW: CLERI[c] [‘detailed’ parson] + HEW [hack]: a clerihew is ‘a humorous poem that sums up the life and character of some notable person in two short couplets’, ‘invented’ by E. Clerihew Bentley.
Here’s one I found by Michael Curl, which is the real name of our setter, Orlando, so I presume it is he.

E. C. Bentley
Mused while he ought to have studied intently;
It was this muse
That inspired clerihews.


1   BLANDISH: double definition, though I think ‘bribe’ is rather a stretch; none of my dictionaries gives this meaning, all giving variations of flatter, coax, cajole, with no hint of reward, which is surely the essence of ‘bribe’. And I think ‘rather lacking in taste’ would be nearer the meaning of ‘bland’ –  incidentally, another of those words that can mean their own opposite – in this case,  ‘tasteless’ and ‘polite’.
2   LEFT: a tired double definition
3   FIASCO: FI [IF overturned] + AS [when] + CO [firm]
4   THOREAU: anagram of  HOUR and TEA: Henry David Thoreau ( 1817 – 1862) was an American author, poet, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, philosopher, and leading transcendentalist.
5   ACHY: CH[urch] in AY [always]
6   FAST TRAINS: anagram of TRANSFAT IS: ‘to get you moving rapidly’ is a rather loose definition.
7   AGATES: A GATES [Bill, computer expert]
13  ACT OF UNION: double definition: the 1707 Act of Union united the kingdoms of England and Scotland.
15  TAG: reversal of GAT [weapon]: refrain as a noun
17 YOU: homophone of U
19  PASSOVER: PASS OVER: the Jewish feast, which coincides with Lent, so a neat link with the next clue …
20  ADVANCE: double definition
22  ODOURS: I was hoping that the explanation of this would come to me while typing: alas, it has not. ‘Oral’ sounds like a homophone but, if so, I can’t hear it – help, please!  Many thanks to Rishi and Andrew: ‘sense’ is a ‘homophone’ of ‘scents’.
23  ORKNEY: anagram of NE[w] YORK
25 TEES: reversal of SET [put] round E[ast]. In this case, I can’t see the point of the ellipsis – but another clever FT crossword compiler hardly constitutes a mini-theme but interesting, all the same.

32 Responses to “Guardian 25,112 / Gordius”

  1. Rishi says:

    I think ‘oral sense’ points to the homophone ‘scents’ (odours).

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks Eileen. I think 22dn is a “homophone definition” – “sense” sounds like “scents”. If that’s right, it’s a dreadful clue.

  3. Martin H says:

    Quite agree with all your comments, Eileen, and, sorry, I was hoping you would sort out ‘odours’ for me. (just refreshed the page and see Rishi and Andrew have got it. Yes Andrew, it’s dreadful)

    Talking of bad taste, I think we can do without ‘Mick’ for Irishman. As you note it is given as offensive, and I see no need to use it. There was a comment recently about ‘Pat’ being used in the same way. I hope setters get the message.

    I liked TAG and SHUT-EYE.

  4. Eileen says:

    Back with groans and sore ankles, as I knew I would be.:-(

    Sorry to let you down, Martin H and many thanks, Rishi and Andrew – corrected now. [I’m relieved that you didn’t like it, either!]

  5. Mick H says:

    As a Mick of one kind, but only by descent of the other, I’m not sure it’s offensive in a crossword context. In the same way that we use ‘Scotsman’ for ‘Ian’, I think the Mick here can be taken (as it were) as an example of an Irish name, independently of the dictionary definition. As for Pat (as opposed to Paddy) I’ve never come across that used offensively.
    Some nice clues here – I liked 24ac, and the topical reference at 11ac.

  6. Roger says:

    Thanks Eileen ~
    Maybe the ellipsis in 23/25 are simply a crafty attempt at misdirection by implying some sort of connection between New York and its East River ~ but are in reality meaningless ?

  7. eimi says:

    Chambers is a good guide here, listing Mick as offensive, Paddy as often derogatory and Pat as simply a nickname. Collins has similar definitions. As a Michael of Irish descent I would object very much to being called a Mick, Mick, but each to his own. I certainly wouldn’t let it appear in the Indy though.

  8. Eileen says:

    When blogging this puzzle, the first answer, ALBERICH, leaped out at me as an FT compiler.

    There was a lot of solving in between, which meant that I overlooked the other clever FT setter almost at the end. My apologies to TEES – I always enjoy your puzzles, too!

    Interestingly, we’ve had a number of references to other setters in puzzles in the last couple of weeks.

    Thanks for that, Eimi. I don’t think it’s at all on a par with Scotsman = IAN, which is, by now, simply tedious.

  9. Roger says:

    Just noticed that Gordius seems to have worked in all 5 senses into this one:

    Taste (1), Feeling (too much of, 5), Sight (or lack of, 16), Smell (22), Hearing (24, 9, and the various homophones).

    Oh dear, I really must be bored :(

  10. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. The wordplay of 22dn also eluded me and now that it has been explained, I don’t like it any more than anyone else seems to! I also agree with you re 1dn.

    I liked the surface of 16ac and the misdirection of ‘vice’ in 18ac, even though I’m not a huge fan of homophones.

  11. Daniel Miller says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    I believe Passover coincides with Easter.. (small niggle however).

  12. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks Eileen.

    After a prosmising start,, where I was sailing through despite knowing nothing of Alberich, either as compiler or elven king, I eventually had to cheat on 4ac (dratted 4-letter-words!) and 18ac – I was looking for David’s line, and it didn’t occur to me a Hebrew king could have such a popular Latin name until I looked in Wiki. Of course, Herod was a Romaniser!

    I’d never heard of Mr. Lang or Mr. Clerihew either. Thanks for the couplet :)

  13. Eileen says:

    Hi Daniel

    I’ll niggle, too!

    The Last [Passover] Supper was on what we now call Maundy Thursday, which is in Lent, which lasts until Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. [But, to complicate things, I have just discovered that, in the Roman Catholic church, it officially ends at sundown on Maundy Thursday!]

    This year, Passover began on 30th March and Maundy Thursday was on 1st April. Next year, Passover is 19th April and Easter Day the 24th.

  14. Kate says:

    22d confused me so much I put ‘scents’ in as the answer, which made the cross clues really difficult to get!

  15. Eileen says:

    Hi Kate

    Since knowing the answer, I’ve been surprised that more people didn’t do that – it certainly makes as much sense! [I’ve been saying ‘scents/sense?’ to myself all day. :-) ]

  16. Tom Hutton says:

    Is there any evidence that Gates is a computer expert? I thought he is/was a businessman and monopolist.

  17. stiofain says:

    Tom @ 16 indeed and a thief and plagiarist too. I think the offensiveness of the terms paddy and mick have been mentioned enough here and in the Guardian crossword comments to warrant a response from Mr Stephenson in his newsletter. It is nothing like using Ian for scotsman as this has no offensive connotations and is merely a tired and hackneyed device. To see mick used this way was extra disappointing after the respectfull use of the Irish language by Araucaria and Puck this week. As for the xword the usual Gordian drudge work I thought

  18. Brian Harris says:

    @Tom Hutton I think that’s rather harsh. Surely, there’s no disputing he was something of a computer prodigy?

    I agree that today’s Gordius was fairly straightforward, with only 22d confusing us a little, as it did everyone else.

  19. Brian Harris says:

    Oh, and we raised an eyebrow at the use of “Mick” too. What is this, the 1970s?

  20. MikeS says:

    Mick is Ok, just don’t call me Mikey or Mickey

  21. Eileen says:

    Hi stiofain

    As an Englishwoman having lived in Northern Ireland [on the Protestant ‘side’] very many years ago, I know, fine well, that mick is a derogatory term for an Irish [Catholic] man, and I hoped that, without opening a can of worms, I’d shown my views on this by quoting the dictionary definitions and my follow up comment 8.

    Like you, I am very disappointed that Mr Stephenson has not, over time, picked up on this. I understand that he has actually recommended this site but, as far as I know, has never actually contributed to it – which would always be a huge bonus, particularly in view of eimi’s contribution today.

    [This is not the first time that Gordius has, for me, shown lack of sensitivity: ‘older’ readers will know, from my frequent references, that I have not forgotten – nor ever will – his use of TERMINAL CANCER as a solution, which, I’ll admit, has had an influence on my reaction to his puzzles ever since.]

  22. Derek Lazenby says:

    Did about 3/4. Nothing I couldn’t have got, but I just don’t seem to get his wavelength.

    I would never have got 1d. Rubbish.

    Can I also object to 9a. He wasn’t C.Lang, he was W.C.G.Lang.

  23. stiofain says:

    Yes Eileen I thought your comment in the blog was a very polite, measured way of high-lighting this but felt I had to add my 2p worth.

  24. Eileen says:

    Cheers, stiofain! :-)

  25. muck says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen, excellent as always
    22dn sense/scents are homophones in whose dialect?

  26. Mick H says:

    My point was not about whether calling someone a Mick is offensive (it is) but about whether in a crossword we should be able to use ‘Mick’ as an example of an Irish name in the same way as we could use ‘Sean’ or ‘Eamonn’ (which doesn’t come into that many words).
    The consensus of commenters here seems to be that, because of the derogatory connotation, we shouldn’t, but isn’t that conceding ground to the offenders? When I was taken to the USA as a kid, my parents encountered surprise that I’d been given the name, which was apparently more prevalent there as an insult than as a name.

  27. Paul B says:

    It’s derogatory pure and simple, so if you really must deploy it, use ‘Irishman insulted’ instead, for example. At least it shows some small awareness of the brink upon which you are teetering.

  28. Joshua's mum says:

    ‘O Cosmo Lang, how full of rant you are.
    O Cosmo Lang, how full of Cantuar’

  29. Huw Powell says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen, and the puzzle, Gordius.

    Didn’t quite finish – never would have got CLERIHEW or BLANDISH, missed but should have got UNIT and TEES.

    @14, Kate, I had SCENTS inked in. It’s what the clue leads to – the sound of sense, with the definition “smells”. But when I thought, maybe it’s a bad clue for ODOURS and experimented with the Os, getting SOUNDTRACK and CONFOUND in short order, out came the white-out.

    I really liked ASTERISK and AGRIPPA and SORRY STATE and SOUNDTRACK, but not much else, but that’s mostly a matter of taste.

  30. anax says:

    Damn. Going to have to change my SAMBO clue now.

  31. anax says:

    Oh, just as an aside I forgot to mention – Alberich is on the FT, Tees on the Indy (Neo in the FT). I’d got these two into the grid quite early and wondered if a theme would emerge, but it appears not to have.

    I think I’ve only tackled Gordius as Gordius once before and I’m not too familiar with the style, so I ended up with a few blanks, but also big smiley tickeries alongside ASTERISK, AGRIPPA, CLERIHEW, ORKNEY. As for the offensive names, I have every sympathy for those who are offended, but I’m sure offence wasn’t the intention. To us weirdoes who write clues everything becomes just a selection of letters to be wrestled with and defined, and the end result is always – we hope – playful. Guardian puzzles (and to a degree Indy ones) have no fear of clues/answers with the sort of language and sexual innuendo you’d never hear on TV/radio 30 years ago, yet very few eyebrows are raised.

  32. Eileen says:

    Hi anax

    Yes, I realised later that I’d confused the FT with the Indy! :-(

Leave a Reply

Don't forget to scroll down to the Captcha before you click 'Submit Comment'

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

7 − = two