Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,166 / Gordius

Posted by mhl on November 12th, 2010


A pretty typical Gordius puzzle, I think – plenty of nice clues, but with a few liberties that rather bothered me along the way.

1. SEVENTEEN EVENT = “What happens” in SEEN = “spotted”
6. BRING B[ell] + RING = “its sound”
9. ESCOT TESCO = “retailer” with “beginning to end”; I didn’t know the word ESCOT – Chambers indicates it’s a Shakespearean, meaning “to pay for or maintain”. A tough word for a week day, but the construction was fairly obvious, I think
11. RIVER CRAFT RIVER = “Test possible”, referring to the River Test + CRAFT = “artistic ability” – a Showboat was a river craft on which there were theatrical performances. I don’t think “Test possible” is good enough – it’d have to be “Test possibly”
12. LEAN Double definition
14. MARBLES Double definition: the latter referring to the expression “to lose one’s marbles”
15. LUMBAGO LUM = “Chimney” + B = “first built” + AGO = “in the past”
17. PLACATE A T = “A time” with PLACE = “to put” around
20. ASTI Hidden in “astigmatism”
22. ABROGATORS GATORS = “spats said” (sounds like “gaiters”) by A BRO = “a brother”
25. INSATIATE IN = “Home” + SAT (Saturday) = “at the weekend” + I = “one” + ATE = “dined”
26. ORMER The toughest clue for me, I think: FORMERLY = “In the old days” without FLY = “insect left”
27. GLEAM GM = “genetic modification” over LEA = “pasture”; my favourite clue today, since coincidentally I’ve seen three lectures this week by Roger Tsien, who won the Nobel prize for his work on Green Fluorescent Protein :)
28. EVERY INCH (VERY NICE)* + H = “hard”
1. STEER Double definition
2. VICE VERSA EVE = “Girl” in (VICARS)*
3. NATURAL GAS There’s a legend that kissing the Blarney Stone gives one “the gift of the gab”; to talk is to “gas”… Pretty weak, I think
6. BOTH Cryptic definition, I suppose
7. IRATE RAT = “Rodent” with IE = “that’s” around the outside
8. GREENHORN When brass corrodes it turns green; a horn is a brass instrument
13. AMBULATORY AMATORY = “erotic” around BUL[l]
14. MAP MAKING PAM = “Girl” reversed + MA[fe]KING = “place of relief” (without Fe = “iron”); the definition is “process that may include relief” (as in a relief map)
18. EMBRACE EM = “Space” + BRACE = “a couple”
19. SLOVENE SLOVEN = “Slut” + E = “English”
23. SARAH HARAS[sment] reversed
24. ATOM The letters A TO M are half of the alphabet

35 Responses to “Guardian 25,166 / Gordius”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks mhl

    ESCOT and ORMER were new to me and I guessed MAP MAKING without fully knowing why.

    Otherwise very enjoyable – like your analysis.

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks mhl. I agree with you about the weakness of 3dn, and the other niggles.

    Careless editing in 11ac: the quotation marks indicate a reference to the musical (source of “Old Man River” among others), but the name of that is actually “Show Boat”.

  3. Brian (with an eye) says:

    Takes all sorts … I thought 3d was funny and clever. If we’re talking weak, what about 20a ?

  4. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, mhl.

    I agree with you and Andrew about 3dn and others and with Brian about 20ac – ‘hidden’?

    And another one: ‘haras’ is only half of ‘harassment’ so ‘much’ is a bit much!

  5. Orange says:

    I dislike clues that say ” think of a word, think of another word, take one from t’other”. I am referring to Map Making and Ormer, the latter being particularly bad as it is so obscure!

  6. tupu says:

    Thanks mhl and Gordius

    A rather more amusing Gordius than some recent ones.

    Some enjoyable clues :- 9a (had to check escot), 14a, 22a, 26a (knew but checked ormer to be sure), 14d (my favourite), and I’m afraid 3d.

    Agree with Brian re 20a though the ‘burial ground’ is arguably wider than astigmatism alone.

    Agree with mhl re ‘possible’ in 11 – ‘possibly would have been much neater.

    Am less worried than Eileen re half = much. It did not claim to be ‘most’.

  7. tupu says:

    ps I first wanted to put in ‘greenback’ for 8d but of course could not make sense of corroded =? back.

  8. Matt says:

    Orange#5 – agree completely about ormer. “Insect” could be anything just about (bee, ant, fly…) and “in the old days” is so open (formerly, ago, tudor, victorian, georgian, roman, darkages, earlier, jurassic etc) that it really was “pick one word from a huge list, take another word from a huge list and come up with a bit of an obscure one which you probably haven’t come across before”

    Not quite so narked about Map Making as at least “Iron” is usually Fe and “Map” was gettable separately. Ironically, I got “Ormer” from the crossing letters but not “Making” and had to come here to get it.

    Still, would be boring if they were all solvable…

  9. walruss says:

    Back to the usual. a mix of the competent and incompetent! Ah for another Brendan, or something thtat satisfies the whole way through.

  10. tupu says:

    I am surprised at the negative reaction to 14d.
    I enjoyed the clever double play on ‘relief’, the reference to the well known Boer War siege, and the straightforward ref to ‘iron’, plus the presence of P from the easily gettable ‘placate’ giving a nicely surprising answer.

    BTW thanks mhl for the gloss on ‘atom’ which I got but did not fathom. I have noticed before that these types of letter-based clues tend to go past me – particularly annoying in this case with the clear signalling in the surface. Must try harder.

  11. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you for the blog, mhl. I will limit myself to saying that I completely agree with the first five words of it.

  12. Noddy says:

    20. ASTI Hidden in “astigmatism”

    Not that well hidden.

  13. NeilW says:

    Thanks mhl

    The usual Gordius mix – I did like 1ac though – as a victim of teenage acne myself, I appreciated the &lit. At the other end of the scale, I put “bits” for 6dn which, as an answer, seemed to me to be just as good or bad or both… :)

  14. FumbleFingers says:

    Thanks mhl

    I didn’t know ESCOT either. OED only has a 1602 reference in Shakespeare. Johnson defined it as a noun (“council tax”) 150 years later – mistakenly, apparently, since his quoted source doesn’t actually contain the word anyway.

    I don’t mind being stymied by obscure words now and then, but there are limits!

    I did actually get ORMER, but only because I happened to (vaguely) recall the word. I agree with others that the clue was uncomfortably open-ended for such a rare answer word.

    I don’t agree with criticism re ASTI – some of us need a few easy ways in, and it made a neat surface reading (though I missed the acne allusion in 1a which in hindsight I think is quite slick).

    Other than that it was a pretty good puzzle.

  15. Andrew says:

    I think ESCOT is related to SCOT, the tax referred to in the expression “scot-free”.

  16. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks for the blog, mhl. I don’t envy you today – there were so many answers difficult to parse.

    My favourite was 8d,

  17. Carrots says:

    Thanks to a techno-glytch I couldn`t download this until 4.00pm….since when it has largely been responsible for keeping me awake. A slightly more challenging Gordius I thought…with 13 dn. cmpletely snookering me with AMOUROUSLY and even AMOURATORY being considered. I knew ORMER from a luscious little marine mollusc from the Channel Islands, but I still don`t know why it is correct…in spite of mhl`s excellent blog.

    Malta termorrer…once described by a late colleague as “Rocks arranged randomly (landscape) and rocks arranged geometrically (architecture)”. At least the sun is shining.

  18. muck says:

    Thanks for the blog, mhl, & others who added comments.
    There were a few clues I didn’t quite understand!

  19. Jim says:

    Whizzed through this and was left with 9ac E?C?T and could not think of a word to fit. Should have got answer from wordplay.Grrr.

    I’d come across ORMER several times before.

  20. scarpia says:

    Thanks mhl.
    I liked this puzzle(except for 20 across).
    Escot was easily solvable from the wordplay and there is nothing obscure about ormer to us here in Guernsey,where it is a local delicacy!

  21. tupu says:

    Hi carrots
    Pretty dark and miserable here you lucky man!
    Re ormer? As mhl says – it is f-ormer-ly (in the old days) after the ‘fly'(insect) has left.

  22. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thanks, mhl, for your blog – and I agree with you re 11ac [the use of ‘possible’], which is in my opinion plainish wrong (even though we all know what Gordius meant).

    As Noddy said in #12, ASTI isn’t well hidden at all, while Eileen was probably looking for a suitable indicator. We were too, but on hindsight, the clue as a whole perhaps is the indicator [an &lit?].

    What I don’t like in the ORMER clue, is that ‘fly’ should be left out in two parts – I had a similar device in my Dalibor puzzle a while ago, and decided to indicate that ‘For/d’ should be deleted from ‘Forbidden’ after a split to get ‘Biden’.

    And what is the point of the ellipsis in 4,5d?
    We didn’t see any connection whatsoever.

    And SAT for ‘at the weekend’?
    Maybe it is better to read ‘At home at the weekend’ for IN SAT – that would make kind of sense.

    Most of the clues, though, were all right (including 14d).
    BOTH (6d) wasn’t one of them, but the final two (23d, 24d) were.

    Not good – not too bad.
    And an apt conclusion to a week which didn’t bring us that much challenge.

  23. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    re 26a. I suspect it may make little difference to you, but why do you read ‘left’ as a passive form (‘left out’) rather than an active form as in the ‘fly left’? I don’t see any great harm in this myself or strong need for an indicator of the division. :) Incidentally, one should arguably expect an ‘insect’ to be divided by definition!

  24. Sil van den Hoek says:

    tupu, your suspicion is right, it doesn’t make any difference to me, because we mean the same thing.
    When the ‘fly’ leaves, the characters of ‘fly’ should be left out of those of ‘formerly’ – as simple as that.
    And indicating the division is just a matter of taste.
    I felt I had to make a different choice, that’s all.
    As the French say, simple comme ca [with a cedille (with an accent aigu), but I don’t know how to do that here :) ]

  25. Sylvia says:

    I entered ‘river craft’ thinking this was a possible test of competency to use the river, in addition to showboat?

  26. tupu says:

    Hi Sil
    Thanks. As you say – a matter of taste. I have a gut (and probably irrational) feeling that concentrating on the active creature rather than the letters helps hold the divided word together but there we are. I began to wonder -after my quip – if Gordius actually had the idea of insects as ‘divided into sections’ in his mind, but that would be hyper-subtle.!?

    BTW ça = alt 135 + a (there’s no accent as far as I know).

  27. Jerb says:

    Hang about, since when has Slovenia been in the Balkans?!

    I liked ATOM though

  28. scarpia says:

    Hi Jerb.
    Hang about, since when has Slovenia been in the Balkans?!

  29. Bryan says:

    Sil @ 24

    Comme ça

    Som den hollandske siger: Gemakkelijk!

  30. Bryan says:

    Scarpia @28

  31. Jerb says:

    Scarpia, I think the wikipedia article kind of proves my point – the geographical border is generally reckoned to be the Kupa (which runs along the SLO/HR border before darting south to the sea). It’s usually lazy Anglo-US journalists that find it convenient to lump Slovenia in with the others, hence the confusion in usage. Plus, I don’t know a single Slovene that would consider themselves to be a Balkan. Whether they consider themselves to be sluts is a different matter…

    But let’s leave it there – arguing over the Balkans never leads to a pleasant outcome for anyone!

    Questo è il bacio di Tosca.

  32. Roger says:

    Thanks mhl. Tried straight for 1d but soon ran out of spaces :( … smiled at 3d though.

  33. otter says:

    Thanks, mhl for the blog, and others for comments. I enjoyed most of this – a couple of dull ones such as ASTI but a few smiles as well. Ended up with 1d, 3d, 9a and 11a uncompleted and completely foxing me.

    Got CRAFT in 11a from the connecting letters, but simply couldn’t fill in the first word. I live near the Test, as well, so perhaps should have seen the river connection.

    Complete mental block on 3d; should have been able to get NATURAL GAS from the connecting letters as a source of power, although I would never have got it from the word play, which seems like a very poor (and weak) pun to me.

    Would probably also never have got ESCOT, not knowing the word, as it never occurred to me to try brand names of retail companies. I was thinking of words such as ‘grocer’, and so on. Also, the apostrophe-s after ‘retailer’ made me think the word play must be the first letter of ‘retailer’ either at the end of a word for ‘maintain’ or at the beginning of a word for ‘end’. Do others think the word play in this clue was fair?

    1d simply a case of not knowing the second definition, so I can’t complain about that.

    I took 23d to be a reversed hidden answer from ‘much harassment’, so no problem that only half of ‘harassment’ was used.

    Overall, an enjoyable solve.

  34. scarpia says:

    Jerb,yeah you’re right – it’s sort of in the Balkans,but it,s not!

    Va Tosca!

  35. ernie says:

    Thank you mhl and Gordius.

    Generally enjoyable and solvable.

    3d NATURAL GAS seemed quite evident but it is a loose clue.

    I have a vague idea that 8d GREENHORN may be a mineral identical in chemical composition to the corrosion on brass/copper (not checked).

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