Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,135 – Gordius

Posted by Andrew on October 7th, 2010


A typically mixed bag from Gordius, with some reasonable clues but a lot of what I think is rather loose wordplay, and not much wit to compensate. Specific niggles listed below..

1. COUNSEL (UNCLE SO)*, and a Dutch uncle offers advice, so I think this is an attempt at an &lit that doesn’t quite work.
6. SUFFOLK OFF reversed or “switched” in SULK. Constable painted in Suffolk, but “Where Constable” is a poor definition
11. POSSESSED Double definition – The Possessed is (the English title of) a novel by Dostoevsky, so “with the” it’s a “Russian novel”
12. PLAID P (softly) + LAID, &lit (sort of)
13. RELIT TILER reversed
17. CHARLATAN CHAR (Charles, “not e s”) + A TAN. A liberty too far in my opinion.
19. EXPAT (TAX EP)*. EP is a record, so this is an indirect anagram, albeit an easy one.
22. TORUS Homophone of “Taurus”
23. MORSE CODE [Inspector] MORSE (detective) + CODE (rules).
25. CAHOOTS CA (accountant) + HOOTS (warns), and a reference to the coalition government.
28. TRACHEA (CHAR TEA)* &lit
1. CROPPER Double definition (as in “come a cropper” for one of them)
2. UTENSIL U[-turn] + SILENT*
4. LONGSIGHT Double definition – it’s a scary-sounding district of Manchester
5. SQUID S[even] + QUID. I had to look up Loligo – after which the answer was obvious.
6. FACEPLATE Spoonerism of PLACE (position) + FATE
16. MINOR SUIT Double definition – clubs is a minor suit in Bridge etc
18. AIRSHIP AIRS (songs) + HIP (with it)
20. POOH-BAH [Winnie-the-]POOH + BA + H. Pooh-Bah is a character in The Mikado who holds all the public offices in Titipu apart from Lord High Executioner.
21. THERESA THERE’S A (“one does exist”), and there seem to be several saints called Theresa (or Teresa, Therèse, etc)
23. MASTS T in S. Another dodgy defintion – “on board ship” does not define “masts”.
24. ENEMA ENEM[y] + A. A slightly tasteless one to finish on.

34 Responses to “Guardian 25,135 – Gordius”

  1. Uncle Yap says:

    Andrew, I am not reading you just yet as I have only just downloaded the puzzle while you have solved and blogged ! Is this some kind of record? Congratulations on your midnight oil effort.

  2. molonglo says:

    Thanks Andrew, including for explaining ‘not ES’ in 17a – I applaud Gordius for that one (I’d tried to find two notes, one of which was LA). I share some of your other reservations, though (11a was loose stuff), and did also have to look up Loligo. But it was all pretty good and I learned torus and Longsight after checking both later – both bits of knowledge sure to come in handy one day. Theresa was a good answer (21d) and a major (and ecstatic)saint.

  3. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Andrew. Same niggles as you plus I wondered about the parsing of 7dn: Wise men turn up with gold, one oriental art form: shouldn’t it be “in gold” to work?

    As usual with Gordius, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

  4. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Andrew it’s so nice to see an early blog when – like today – I shall be going out shortly.

    Coming as I do from Oldham (which is the capital of Lancashire), I had no problem getting LONGSIGHT but I wondered what our EXPAT colleagues made of that?

    I’d never heard of LOLIGO before. Has anybody?

  5. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks Andrew. Definitely a mixed bag today, with some poor clueing taking the edge off the enjoyment of solving the good ones. I liked CAHOOTS, THERESA, KINGDOM, and now you’ve explained it,CHARLATAN. But SUFFOLK and MASTS are truly dreadful. By the way you have a little typo in your explanation of the latter: it’s T in MASS.

  6. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and Gordius

    Like several of you I also looked up Loligo and then I wished I’d given the clue more thought first.

    I also had to check ‘torus’.

    I missed ‘not es’. This device is creeping in. We’ve had two or three others recently.

    Some amusing clues especially 25a. I also quite liked the spoonerism.

    1a is not altogether satisfactory either as surface or definition. A Dutch Uncle seems to give harsh or critical advice and one tends to think of counsel as more positive.

    Not a very entertaining or absorbing puzzle but decent mental exercise I suppose.

  7. Richard says:

    My (recently recommended by the crossword editor) Oxford Dictionary of English refers to firm but benevolent advice for Dutch uncle, so I think COUNSEL is acceptable. I agree with most of the comments but I think Andrew was a bit harsh with his liberty too far comment on “notes” (17 ac). I needed the explanation, but then thought it was a rather neat subterfuge.

  8. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew. I’m afraid you have a typo in 17ac.: it’s CHARL, you left off the ‘l’.

    I found this a very quick solve, if not entirely satisfactory. I didn’t look up ‘loligo’, but it was my last one in, by which time looking it up was unnecessary :)

    One major quibble: I don’t see the necessity for an ‘e’ in ‘usable’ – Chambers only gives this spelling.

  9. Eileen says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew. I didn’t see the ‘not es’.

    Hi Stella

    i didn’t want to start another cluing / clueing controversy but I’m with you 100% re ‘useable’. It goes against all the rules of spelling. I was gratified [for once] not to find it in Chambers but then taken aback to find it as an alternative spelling in both Collins and SOED!

  10. liz says:

    Thanks, Andrew. The lower half of this puzzle fell out quickly but I struggled at the top. Like others, had to look up Loligo and check Torus.
    Also failed to see the ‘not es’ wordplay in 17ac, though as tupu says we do seem to be getting more of these. I agree that the definitions in 5ac and 23dn are dodgy but liked 25ac and 15ac.

  11. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Good morning ladies who don’t like useable. I’m sorry, but usable is ugly (how is that pronounced, ussabel?) I’m going out now, and may not be back for some time.

  12. tupu says:

    Hi KD et Al as they called him.

    :)KD An excellent impression of Captain Oates!

    Re useable: OED gives first such usage from 1450s and an example from John Stuart Mill from 1848. Neither form was in common use before c. 1840.

    For what it’s worth, my recollection of checking OED in an earlier discussion is that this general area of English spelling has been pretty randomly unruly for a long time. To misquote the Jew of Malta ‘and anyway the horse is dead’ I think.

  13. Eileen says:

    So let’s not flog it any more! ;-)

  14. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen

    :) Dead right!

  15. James Droy says:

    Once again if I solve it quickly I think the puzzle easy and if I struggle I think I’m stupid. A crossword hang up. I have often thought to ask if anyone else suffers from crossword ticks. For example I often solve one down and start writing the answer in at one across or vice versa. I also get a crossword version of the yips where I am certain of the answer but as I’m filling in the letters convince myself that it will be too long or too short only to be relieved when it fits. Am I mad, is this dyslexia reasserting itself or does everyone do this from time to time.

  16. sidey says:

    An utterly unscientific search of the OED using *eable (I love wild card searches) give 326 results so it’s not uncommon to break a ‘rule’ of spelling.

    Not a good puzzle in my opinion

    Not es must have the Araucaria fans rolling in the aisles.

  17. Mr. Jim says:

    I think “notes” is fair for a setter that tends towards the libertarian side of things — nobody would blink if Araucaria or Paul did it. I guess we can expect to see lots of clues exploiting notch, notion, notify, not(h)ing, and so on. Perhaps even “not” itself will have to be interpreted as “no-t”.

  18. Stella Heath says:

    Hi sidey @16, and K’sD

    The extra ‘e’ is justifiable after ‘c’ or ‘g’, since without it these would be pronounced in their hard form. The other function of ‘e’ at the end of a word, especially in the group “vowel,consonant, vowel, ‘e'”, is to indicate that the first vowel is pronounced in its long form or, as some put it, ‘says its name’. When you add a syllable beginning with a vowel, this funt¡ction becomes redundant, and the final ‘e’ is dropped.

    The doubt seems to appear in monosyllables with a ‘u’, like ‘clue’ and ‘use’, but you wouldn’t write ‘useing’, would you?

  19. duncandisorderly says:

    in re “notes” to signify “not E or S”; where’s this going to end? will we one day see clues with all the letters run together & no punctuation at all? I think it’s a diabolical liberty…. etcetera etcetera….

    I still got it right away though. :-)

    “useable” went in without a second thought, though I find either spelling usable. but I didn’t care for “overran”; I’d instinctively hyphenate.


  20. Stella Heath says:

    Sorry, that was ‘function’, not ‘funtiction’ :D

  21. Derek Lazenby says:

    Bit of a struggle but got there eventually. Comments as above.

    In the blog, for 23, “T in S”? Methinks some letters died, “T in MASS”. I find that too, typing away, convinced it’s all there and a then see a bit is missing! Guess that relates to #15 too. Though sometimes it’s my laptop! I think the touchpad is oversensitive, because the caret/cursor (whatever your system calls it) can suddenly jump several lines in the middle of typing which can be exceedingly annoying!

  22. Eileen says:

    This looks like fun:

    [Apologies for posting it in the wrong place but not many people seem to visit the Chat Room.]

  23. sidey says:

    Thanks for that Eileen. I will now donate nine quid to charity so I don’t have to witness Mr Halpern in person.

  24. Davy says:

    Thanks Andrew,

    Despite all the protestations, I thought this was alright and rather enjoyed it. There were lots more good clues and surfaces than there were debatable ones. Let’s look on the bright side here. I’ve got seven ticks against clues that I thought were worthy of mention : RELIT, GYMNASIUM, MORSE CODE, CAHOOTS, CUTICLE, MASTS (I thought this was a good surface with an acceptable answer ie masts are on board ship, well sometimes) and ENEMA (Andrew, I don’t see why the clueing of this should be viewed as tasteless as it is simply a medical procedure).

    So thanks Gordius for helping me while away a couple of hours and keeping me out of mischief.

  25. Dave Ellison says:

    Yes, I agree with Davy, and thought this was an OK Xword.

    In 5a there is a ?, so I read this as the whole clue was used in the definition, rather than just “Where Constable”. That seems fine to me.

    Similarly with 23d there is a ? which again seems to me to justify the “looseish” (“loosish”?)definition.

    It took ENEMA to make me chuckle.

  26. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thank you, Andrew, for your concise but spot on blog.
    Eventually an OK Gordius, but at (too many) places not precise enough.

    Some nice touches, like 11ac (so, don’t agree, molonglo), 19ac (we liked the combination ‘dubious-tax-record’), 25ac (CAHOOTS) and 21d (in which the second part of the clue (ie the construction for THERESA) was rather unusual).

    Unlike tupu, we weren’t that enthusiastic about the FACE PLATE homophone – in a league quite different from Crux’s recent LETTERBOX.

    There’s a lot of discussion on US(E)ABLE, but for me it’s a non-issue: USEABLE is legitimate and USABLE simply doesn’t fit.

    Four Last Questions:
    Shouldn’t there be a proper anagram indicator in 15ac (GYMNASIUM)? Or is it ‘exercising’ [if so, why ‘finds’?] or is the second part as a whole a kind of anagrind? Doesn’t the fact that ‘one’ is part of the anagram fodder, stand in the way?
    Maybe, the ring in a bull’s nose is called a TORUS (is it?).
    But if not, what is ‘in its nose’ doing there [just for fun?]?
    The construction of 2d (UTENSIL) is clear, but I guess ‘to’ is just there for the surface [in case that’s true, I don’t like it at all – mainly because it’s linked to ‘turn’, suggesting ‘to turn’ or something ‘to add to turn’]? And is the noun ‘motion’ really a good anagrind here? It suits the surface, but is it cryptogrammatically right?
    Isn’t the use of ‘with’ in ORIGAMI (7d) a bit unusual? The reversal of MAGI with OR – and then IGAM fóllowing OR?

    The ones that are waiting for an opinion on ‘not/es’ tonight, I have to disappoint: I Don’t Want To Talk About It [courtesy of Crazy Horse/Ian Matthews/Rod Stewart].

    And, Eileen (#22), Should I Stay Or Should I Go? [courtesy of The Clash]

  27. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the link, Eileen – I’ve booked my ticket!

  28. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Sorry Folks, I have one more.
    LONGSIGHT (4d) is a part of Manchester, written as ‘Longsight’.
    Hypermetropia looks like that, but is written as two separate words ‘long sight’ (at least in ODE – Chambers only talks about ‘longsighted(ness)’).
    Should we call this a double definition then? Or is it something in-between a dd definition and a charade?

  29. Derek Lazenby says:

    Of course to some of us, Longsight isn’t just part of Manchester, it is 9A. What is 9A? A BR shed code!

  30. Mr Beaver says:

    Bryan (@ 4) – Mrs Beaver, with her zoology degree, got 6d straight off :)

  31. Roger says:

    Thank you Andrew. A fairly loosely-tied knot from Gordius, I thought, and quite easily undone without any resort to cutting. (Well, ok, Google for Loligo after the event).
    1d could almost have been CHOPPER ~ tool (‘harvester’ ?) to fell trees …

    Agree, Sil, that 15a seems a bit of a muddle. Could ‘finds’ possibly be the anagrind in the sense of ‘reveals’ ? The whole clue reads a bit like an &lit anyway in that only mugs exercise ! (Was it Henry Ford who said of exercise “If you’re fit you don’t need to, if you’re unfit you shouldn’t”.)

  32. Val says:

    I’m sorry to be so late to the party but I’m a little bit behind myself this week.

    I hadn’t thought of “cryptic” as an anagrind as it presumably is used in 17dn and am not entirely happy with it. Is this a valid device that I should now be looking out for or just a liberty?

    Thanks, Andrew, for the blog and Eileen for that link that I would otherise have missed (being even more behind on checking my emails than I am on the crosswords).

  33. Sil van den Hoek says:

    To be honest [but I fear, not many will read this], I am very disappointed by not getting any kind of reaction (apart from Roger’s) to my 4+1 Last Questions.
    I think, they were interesting enough to raise discussion (certainly #5).
    Well, alas – that’s life.

  34. Roger says:

    Hi Sil.
    There’s probably less likelihood of you ever finding this than there was of my chancing on yours @ 33 during a random walk through the various puzzles ~ but find it I did. So what do you think ? At least I tried and it was a serious suggestion.
    The fact that I’m bracketed rather implies ‘noted/dismissed’. Nil desperandum though, one gets used to it :)

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