Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,124 – Gordius

Posted by manehi on September 24th, 2010


Many happy returns, Gordius. I got into this quickly then struggled with the last few clues. Still unsure about some wordplay, and 24dn was a new word for me. 8 and 25 made me smile.

9 STOVEPIPE A flue=”Smoker”, or a tall hat.
11 DENIM hidden in “maiDEN IMmaculate”
12 RECOMMEND REND=tear around COMME=”like in France”
13 CUBICLE BIC pen=writer inside (clue)*
14 ARCHWAY CH[urch] inside A + R[ight] + WAY=manner
17 AVAIL =be advantageous. A VAIL=old word for perk?
19 SAT SATs tests or SAT[urday]
20 PHYLA (Haply)*
21 HETAIRA A greek courtesan. AIR=draught in (heat)*
22 GREMLIN Unseen source of mischief i.e. “trouble in the air”. (men girl)*
24 RICE-PAPER PAPER=Essay next to [Condoleezza] RICE
26 IMAGE I’M=”Setter is” + AGE=80
29 DO-GOODERS DOG[gerel] + (Odes or)*
1 USED U=posh + SED=but [in] Latin
2 HOBNOB HOB[goblin]=Brownie + NOB=head
3 VERMICELLI VERMI[n]=”Tailless mice” + CELL=”small cavity” + I=one
4 FIERCE (rice)* inside FE=>Ironclad
5 PENCHANT PEN=writer + CHANT=song
6 GRAM rev(MARG[aret])
7 SPEEDWAY Spoonerism for “weeds pay”
8 CLAD C[irca] L=50 AD =>”about the time of Nero”
13 CRASH C=100=many + RASH=”taking risks”
15 COPY EDITOR (Tory I coped)*
16 YEARN =Long. YEAR + N[orth]
18 ARTICLES (at slicer)*
19 STAMPEDE (pets made)*
22 GARAGE Is this R[oyal] A[rtillery] inside GAGE i.e. “Engage”d?
23 LEADEN L[earner] + EDEN around A=one
24 RACA Biblical term meaning worthless. rev(a car)
25 POPE POPEYE minus YE=”you once”
27,28 EASTCHEAP Former location of the Boar’s Head. EAST=point + CHEAP=good value.

42 Responses to “Guardian 25,124 – Gordius”

  1. The FranTom Menace says:

    Many happy returns, Gordius!
    We’ve both got today off work so stayed up late. Some really tough clues for us, but we managed most of this and enjoyed it a lot.
    25d was a great clue, one of those ‘but why?’ ones, until you get it and grin like a loon for five minutes!
    The use of ironclad in 4d was brilliant, it must have been done before but we’d never seen it.
    We got the same answer the same way for 22d, still not too happy with it – en (in?) gage? A slight niggle, unless someone can explain it in another way.

  2. grandpuzzler says:

    Aloha and mahalo, manehi, for the blog. Am housesitting in Honolulu for a month. This puzzle came on-line on 1PM Thursday and I need all the help I can get to beat Bryan to the punch. Agree with your explanation of 22d and thanks for parsing 6d which I got but couldn’t explain.

  3. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Manehi I enjoyed this but I am now reeling from the punch that Grandpuzzler delivered. Next time, I shall be waiting to get in there first.

    I’d never heard of HETAIRA but, although they sound a lot of fun, I’ve never met any whenever I’ve been in Greece.

    Incidentally, your link (above) shows the Wiki spelling as HETAERA – so it’s no wonder that I missed out on this. (Of course, the Wiki isn’t always right.)

    RACA was also new to me although the clue strongly suggested the solution.

    Many thanks & A Very Happy Birthday Gordius!

  4. molonglo says:

    Thanks manehi. Re 17a, Webster o/l has these for its second and third meanings of VAIL:
    2. An unexpected gain or acquisition; a casual advantage or benefit; a windfall.
    3. Money given to servants by visitors; a gratuity; — usually in the plural.

  5. Dad'sLad says:

    Happy birthday Gordius.

    Thanks Manehi for clarifying some of the less well known answers such as raca and hetaira. Never heard of Eastcheap, but let’s not open the can of parrochial worms on our setter’s special day….

    Can’t improve on suggestions so far for 22d

  6. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, Manehi and Happy Birthday to Gordius.

    I read ‘engage’ as being humorously used as analogous with ‘entrap’, ‘entrain’, etc and so I liked it: an unusual sort of clue for Gordius, though.

  7. Eileen says:

    I forgot to say you’re a bit late for the hetairai, Bryan, but you’ve had one good offer this week! 😉

  8. Martin H says:

    A pleasant puzzle with some fine simple clues: FIERCE, GREMLIN, LEADEN, HOBNOB.

    GREMLIN is an airman’s term for mechanical trouble with an aircraft, hence ‘in the air’.

    PHYLA was a bit obvious – and RACA was a bit biblical, but fair enough for this setter; however he seems to have the biblical view of lepers too, which is perhaps unfortunate nowadays. But Many Happy Returns of the day to him, and thanks manehi for the concise commentary.

  9. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you, manehi. Our birthday boy has had his critics in the past, but the last few puzzles he’s set have been pretty sound, I think. This one was a steady solve for me, with some nice moments (I liked REPEL and POPE in particular, and CLAD is clever now I see manehi’s explanation).

    And I thought 26ac, although a very simple clue, was a nice piece of self-deprecation. If I’m still solving puzzles regularly at his age, I’ll be a happy octogenarian (but not for a while yet!)

  10. walruss says:

    Engage artillery doesn’t mean put RA into GAGE for me, and why would it?! But Happy birthday, and a big one it is, to Gordius whatever his crosswording weather!! Well done, and let there be many more.

  11. Roger says:

    Best wishes Gordius on this special occasion and thanks for many a challenge over the years. Enjoy your day.
    A fairly gentle puzzle here, methought, and I had to chuckle at the idea of iron-clad rice pud ~ memories of schoolboy lunches …
    Agree with others re. 22d ~ and rather like it (the clue, that is).

  12. Val says:

    Very happy birthday, Gordius!

    And thanks for the blog, manehi.

    I’m a little unhappy with 2dn. Surely the cluse isn’t enough to tell us that Brownie both takes only its own head, HOB, as well as another, NOB? I can see ‘takes head’ is doing double duty but is that generally accepted as an OK ploy? To me there’s something missing in the clue.

  13. cyniccure says:

    Hob = brownie
    Nob = head

  14. Thomas99 says:

    Val – I don’t think there’s any “double duty” in 2d. Brownie=Hob=little elf-like thing, and nob=head (sorry, that looks rude). Hob is the whole thing, not short for hobgoblin (which I suppose might be the offspring of a hob and a goblin).

  15. Martin H says:

    Val – the brownie is the hob and the head is the nob, and to hobnob is to fraternise. A hob is a goblin; perhaps if manehi had left a space in his commentary between hob and [goblin] the confusion might not have arisen

  16. Val says:

    Thanks for replies #13, #14 and #15! That’s cleared it up for me. I hadn’t heard of hob (in the brownie context) but only of hobglobin so had assumed it was just the head (well, arguably) of hobgoblin.

  17. Val says:

    And thanks for all being able to interpret my ‘cluse’ typo.

  18. Rog says:

    Dad’sLad @ 5
    I don’t think cluing Eastcheap as the location of the Boar’s Head is that parochial. The tavern features in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 where its location is specified. Time, in the words of Cole Porter, to ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’!

  19. Derek Lazenby says:

    Yeah happy birthday.

    Learnt the same new words others did, excluding the clever ones who already knew of course!

    Only one minor detail for me, Wiki has this to say about Spoonerisms, “… in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched.” As that is what I understood it to be too, I’m happy to quote it, despite the reputation Wiki has for unreliability. Which means the S in 7d can’t be moved as it corresponds to no other position which is moved.

  20. PeterO says:

    Derek – Look again: in 7D, SP is being swapped with W.

  21. walruss says:

    I tink that one is okay.

  22. JaSh says:

    Talking about Spoonerisms ~ there’s rather a good one in the clue for 27/28!!

  23. Derek Lazenby says:

    PeterO, I know that, I’m not dumb, but that is not a Spoonerism, unless one has a speech impediment or an excess of alcohol which causes your pronunciation to slur. The S and P belong to different words which have a clear gap between them when either written or spoken, they therefore do not meet the requirements.

  24. Mr Beaver says:

    I think I’m with Derek. The Spoonerism only really works with ‘Weed Spay’ which of course isn’t what the clue refers to, even if it meant something.
    It’s near enough to get the answer, but as a clue, it’s a bit sloppy.

  25. Mr Beaver says:

    JaSh @22 – indeed! and one can imagine a whore’s bed or two in the Boar’s Head – in Shakespeare’s time of course!

  26. ageconcern says:

    Too easy once you get hold on the nonsense [i.e. non-crossword] clues. Advice to Gordius – retire now before the going gets any worse. “RACA”, “AVAIL” and “EASTCHEAP” – give us provincials a break!.

  27. snigger says:


    A tad harsh to say the least.

    I had a rant the other day about Araucaria, which made me ponder why i do crosswords (just the Guardian ones, no others). I either get thoroughly pissed off and frustrated, and stop trying to complete them. Or I lighten up a little and accept, certainly with Guardian setters, the “nonsense, non-crossword clues”.

    Hope this helps

    ps please don’t give us provincials a bad name

  28. Paul (not Paul) says:

    I’ve given up sweating over Gordius. There are good clues to enjoy and always a sprinkling of stinkers. I don’t mean to be hard on the old goat on his birthday but I’d be quite happy for him to spend more time with his Hymn books.

  29. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Many happy returns, Gordius.
    In the past few years I have taught myself to appreciate your crosswords more and more.
    Some may say that they’re consistently inconsistent, but I’m not one of them.
    I do see the occasional dodginess, but I also see the twinkles in your eyes – and I do think today’s ‘engage’ is Gordius.
    There was a time that I wondered why the books in the Guardian Setter’s series featured Bunthorpe, Paul, Rufus and … Gordius.
    But nowadays I do understand that.
    If I were a setter, my style wouldn’t be like yours.
    But I genuinely think, you dó have a style of your own.
    Some people don’t like it.
    Posts #26 and #28 (to a lesser extent) are not very friendly in this respect.

    And the crossword?
    Well, you compiled it yourself – but I think, your 80th birthday deserved a slightly better one.
    Ah well.
    I’ll drink one to you tonight! Or two.

  30. Carrots says:

    Congratulations Gordius…and thank you for the pleasures which you continue to provide. A bevy of your ilk (octagenarians) invaded my skulking corner in the pub at lunchtime and provided enough distraction (“I`ve got him a respite holiday in Telford y`know….he`s been four times before but he doesn`t like it when they breathalyse him when he he comes back from the pub…”) for me to fail with RACA and HETAI. Sorry!

  31. snigger says:

    Re “Engage”

    Nobody has questioned the French “comme” for “as” – why question the French “en” for in/into ?

  32. Thomas99 says:

    Derek Lazenby (23) – the gap between written words is not usually reproduced in speech. If you inserted one between “weeds” and “pay” (assuming they actually occurred together in a spoken sentence) you would sound slightly mad. It’s a famous linguistic phenomenon that we very quickly learn (as young children) to recognize beginnings and ends of words without there being any audible break. The spoonerism is really pretty clever and the fact that it seems “wrong” or counterintuitive is, I’m sure, deliberate.

  33. Thomas99 says:

    And Mr Beaver (24) – I see your point about “spay” – you mean the s is voiced in “speed” but not in “weeds”? But if you say “weeds pay” and “weed spay” out loud (or “wheelspin” and “wheel’s pin”), the difference is very slight. There’s a “sp” sound for Dr Spooner to get hold of. And now I suggest we glaze our arses to Gordius. Good night.

  34. Thomas99 says:

    Oh – except it’s voiced in weeds, not speed, obviously. Sorry, been glazing too many arses.

  35. Derek Lazenby says:

    No you’re wrong. General rules, no matter how famous, have exceptions. Unless you put in a micro gap you make weeds pay sound like weed spay and only a lunatic who wanted to confuse his listener would do that. If you think about it, even you don’t pronounce the two the same. How? Because of a gap, no matter how small. Try it. Do you say them exactly the same? You don’t do you? What causes the difference? General rules are fine, but think about them before using them.

    I certainly don’t say it as ‘sp’, I come very close, but at the end of the day, I don’t, and I don’t know anybody who does.

  36. Gaufrid says:

    ageconcern @26 aka G F Johnson, GFX, george, xanthoma, xanthomam and egroeg.

    Since first posting on this site you have used seven different names/pseudonyms. This is contrary to the Discussion Policy. You appear to wish to post critical comments whilst hiding behind various user names. This is not acceptable and you have therefore been put under moderation.

  37. Derek Lazenby says:

    Been trying to think of a better way of putting it accurately. It is this, words can be run together so long as there is no ambiguity, if ambiguity could exist then one avoids it by using the smallest of gaps. In this case there would be ambiguity so it wouldn’t happen. OK, the listener might be able to resolve it from context but then he is thinking in the past and missing the nuances of what you are currently saying, which is can be just as chaotic in outcome.

  38. Gerry says:

    Guessed ‘raca’, and didn’t understand but got ‘pope’. Stumped by ‘hetaira’.

  39. Vince Bowdren says:

    I saw the answer for 11a but wasn’t convinced; there was no indicator of the answer being hidden; but more importantly, why is it ‘suitable material’ instead of just ‘material’?

  40. Thomas99 says:

    I don’t agree with Derek, and am beginning to find this interesting. We can put gaps into our speech whenever we like, either meaningfully or frivolously, but “Words can be run together so long as there is no ambiguity” doesn’t accord with my understanding of linguistics. I think this goes to the heart of the science of the sign – the mapping is not between heard sound and imagined sense, but between imagined signifier and imagined signified. The signifier is indicated by the sound but not identical with it, and not mapped directly onto it either (in fact it can be indicated by other things too – word order, for instance). The sense/understanding then emerges from this process, fluidly and depending on context, not from simply recognizing identical sounds. That’s how we get by with remarkably few sounds.

    I have to admit there is still a slight difference with weeds pay/weed spay (in my accent) because of the voiced/unvoiced s (also, it seems to me, a difference in intonation and in the length of the “ee” syllable), but not in my opinion enough to affect Spooner’s supposed malady. I think in some accents there might be no difference at all.

    I honestly don’t think many people put “micro gaps” into their speech every time they use consonant clusters that might be ambiguous in this way – after all it happens a hell of a lot in our language and there are plenty of other ways of expressing yourself clearly. And anyway you can’t object that much to ambiguity in spoken English if you do crosswords!

  41. Derek Lazenby says:

    LOL, oh yes I can! I expect to understand those who speak to me, and as a mark of respect I regard it as my duty to express myself without ambiguity in return(I usually fail of course, but I try). Naturally I don’t consciously vary speech patterns, it’s built in. But I’m not going to speak according to some clever persons theory, I speak my way and bugger anybody else, it would be an infringement of individuality for it to be otherwise. Listen to me and it ain’t Spooner. A quick quizzing of pub friends was the same result, despite the alcohol!

    Dropping into the vernacular was quite deliberate btw. To quote teachers throughout the ages, it is left as an exercise for the reader… 😀

  42. ernie says:

    Happy birthday Gordius. Sorry this is late.

    Thanks manehi.

    Did not know RACA and did not know VAIL as a perk.

    Overall very nice.

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