Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,202 – Gordius

Posted by Andrew on December 24th, 2010


I must admit to feeling disappointed to see that I’d got a Gordius for my Christmas Eve blog, as he is not one of my favourite setters. I found this one very easy indeed – after printing it off just after it appeared on the website at midnight I’d finished it by 12:09 – with a lot of very obvious wordplay and a few rather tired clichés. I’d come across the obscure word at 23dn before, but the phrase at 22/27ac was new to me in the form given here.

On a less grumpy note, a Merry Christmas to all readers, bloggers and setters, with thanks for all your contributions, and especially to Gaufrid for his immense contribution to the site. (I’ll save the “happy new year” till next week..)

9. GIFT WRAP Cryptic definition
10. ISLAND Double definition – Isle of Man, and John Donne’s “No man is an island”
12. DRESSING DOWN Double definition
15. PEACH MELBA (BLAME CHEAP)*, and a rather unsatisfactory &lit, as peach melba doesn’t involve much cooking, and doesn’t really involve cheap ingredients
17. LEI Double definition – Romanian currency and the very familiar Hawaiian garland
19. RYE Double definition, Rye being a town in Sussex as well as a type of grass
20. STONEMASON Cryptic definition – a stonemason might earn his iving by making monuments
22,27. HIT THE NAIL ON THE THUMB Just a cryptic definition, I think, for an expression I’ve never heard of and can’t find in Chambers. Googling suggests that it may well exist as a variant of “hit the nail on the head”
26. URGENT UR (that old city again) + GENT (=cove)
28. ENTRÉE EN (space, in typography) + TREE (timber)
2. PUFF Double definition
4. EXAMS AXE (dispense with) reversed (“lifted”) + MS (script)
6. RESIGN [jame]S in REIGN
7. WEAPONLESS (A PEW LESSON)* Guessing that this ended in LESS made solving the anagram very easy
11. GIBBON Double definition – the historian is Edward Gibbon, author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
13. OPERA HOUSE OPERA (works) + HOUSE (building). Weak wordplay combined with a very obvious definition
14. WATERTIGHT WATER (innocuous beverage) + TIGHT (rather dated slang for “drunk”)
21. CHANCE CH[urch] + AN + CE (Church of England, the Established Church), and reference to the expression “chance would be a fine thing”
23. ICHOR (O RICH)*. Ichor is “the ethereal juice in the veins of the gods”, or “colourless matter oozing from an ulcer or wound”: lovely!
24. GULP Reverse of PLUG
25. ABLE CABLE less C. I guess the extreme topical relevance of this is a bit of a coincidence, but quite a satirical bullseye anyway. My only quibble is that it would work much better as a clue for CABLE.

35 Responses to “Guardian 25,202 – Gordius”

  1. Dr. Gurmukh says:

    Could 22,27 be “Hit the nail OR the thumb” ?

    25 Any reference to Vince Cable the Business Secretary in the present Govt. ?

  2. dreadnought says:

    I’d plump for “ON” in 22,27. “you’ve hit the nail on the thumb” was something my dad said when he was showing me how to e.g. put up shelves. It was mildly humurous the first time out, and then became a cliche…reminds me of “when I nod my head, hit it” and “do you know the piano’s on my foot?” from PG Tip ads…

  3. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Andrew and a Very Merry Christmas to You and to One and All.

    I concur with your analysis and the Cheat Button also confirms that the solution for 22/27 is, indeed ‘ON the thumb’ – an expression that I’d never heard before.

    Even so, they don’t get any easier than this!

  4. Dad'sLad says:

    Thanks Andrew,

    This was a bit underwhelming. Hadn’t heard of 23d or 22,27, but both were easily guessable. Loved 25 down.

    Hope you and other Christmas devotees here have a good one. I’m off to watch re-runs of the Grumpy Old Men Christmas Special to get myself in survival mode……

  5. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Andrew – and commiserations!

    I’m sure we’re all too busy today to spend much time on crosswords but I had allowed myself a bit more time than this one took!

    I don’t know whether the information in the comment I posted last night on yesterday’s Araucaria explains why it wasn’t perhaps one of his puzzles for Christmas Eve, but he’s got his Cinephile hat on for a Christmas puzzle in the FT today.

    Once again, Happy Christmas, everyone!

  6. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you, Andrew, for this and all your blogs this year.

    In the spirit of the season, I will limit myself to saying that this was not the greatest crossword I have ever solved during 2010.

    To answer Dr G at no 1, yes, that’s exactly who it’s referring to.

  7. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew, and to Gordius for giving me an easy start to what’s likely to be a busy day, since Christmas celebrations here start with tonight’s meal.

    Regarding the long answer, I took it to be a humourous variation of the expression ‘hit the nail on the head’, the nail referred to in this case being the one on the thumb clumsy hammerers so often hit.

    I didn’t know 23d, which I got from the wordplay, but the rest would not have been out of place in a quiptic – except perhaps 17ac, which I suspect most of us know from cruciverbial experience.

  8. Dave Ellison says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed all of this, which had some excellent clues. Being somewhat easier was no detraction.

    Finally finished the Xmas A yesterday, also an enjoyable (double) offering. Didn’t the Xmas prize puzzle used to be published on 24 December?

    Merry Christmas everyone.

  9. judy bentley says:

    Even I finished this before lunch time, a rare occurrence. I’d never come across the ‘blurb’ meaning of ‘puff’.

    Happy Christmas to everyone.

  10. Paul B says:

    Don’t know how anybody can be expected to get 22 27 from the clue, which is

    Take an ill-considered swipe in digital connection …

    And why the … ? It doesn’t lead (meaninglessly) on to the next one, nor does it add anything to the definition (such as it is).

    The original saying is indeed HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD, ie to pinpoint a problem or issue exactly, with this variant to my way of thinking meaning to suffer the consequences of doing the opposite.


  11. AlexM says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew, and for all the others throughout the year. We’ve learnt a lot about the art of solving cryptic crosswords from checking this site to find out what we’d missed.

    Didn’t need it today. We’re total amateurs compared to most people here, but even we managed to finish this one in less than half an hour. If it weren’t for the fact that we’d never heard of the nail on the thumb expression we’d have been even quicker. Now I’m feeling vaguely disappointed!

    Happy christmas to all 15×15 bloggers, and thanks!

  12. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and Gordius

    Relatively easy but quite enjoyable after turkey collection etc on a busy day. I imagine it is quite a nice entree for beginners into the genre.

    I quite liked 10a, 22,27, 8d and 14d. I had not heard the 22, 27 expression before but it seems quite clever to me on first encounter and was obvious enough from the crossing letters.

    My first guess for 11d was Fisher (historian of England and Archbishop)!

    As a small point of detail, I see that lei is the plural of leu or ley.

  13. Robi says:

    Thanks Andrew and Gordius. A bit of a relief after yesterday’s challenge which I didn’t complete, maybe because of distractions like my 3-year old grandson and my 65th birthday (alternatively too stupid and not a man of letters). I wasn’t familiar with cove for gent or ichor – obviously haven’t done enough of these yet. Many thanks to all bloggers and setters and seasons greetings! This brilliant site has enabled my completion of at least some of the puzzles.

  14. Robi says:

    Once in awhile, I hit the nail on the head too hard letting the hammer get a piece of my thumb and finger, thus dropping the hammer which naturally falls on my big toe causing me to jump up throwing the hammer into the air nailing me on the forehead which makes me grab my head with a nail still in my hand thus getting nailed in the head. Otherwise, I do all right most times.

  15. Blue Taz says:

    This is my firt post on this site, although I have been looking in almost every day for some time now. So let me say, thank you to everyone who contributes to this site and helps increase my understanding of many points over the past year.

    One observation though regarding 22, 27 – I found this quite a good clue. The original saying of “Hit the nail on the head” is, of course the version that is most well known and is normally used when someone has, for instance, made a statement that clearly explains or sums-up a particular statement.

    I have often heard the “thumb” version, quoted with more than a slight hint of sarcasm when someone has made a statement that is very wide of the mark – if not completely incorrect.

    I had not heard of “Ichor” before but managed to work it out from the clue so, I have now learned a new word with which to irritate all my friends at the local.

    Have a very merry Christmas everyone and, once again, thank you for all your help over the last year.

  16. carneddi says:

    I didn’t mind it being easy, I can get on with Christmas now the crossword’s out of the way!
    Having recently come across this site I’d like to thank the bloggers and contributors as it’s made solving more enjoyable and probably increased my ability.
    Nadolig Dedwydd i bawb!!

  17. Mr Beaver says:

    To give credit where it’s due, I did like 10a. I hadn’t seen this clue before, but I have a feeling it’s too good not to have been used before…

    Pity not to have a Christmas special to do tomorrow, but if we get crossword-withdrawal, there’s still the Genius languishing less than half-done. And that’s the way it’ll probably stay after a few glasses!

    Best to all!

  18. Daniel Miller says:

    It’s a mere puff – advertising speak

    Have to say this was like a week’s worth of Monday crosswords..

  19. Daniel Miller says:

    Merry Xmas to one and all…

  20. Carrots says:

    There was something of a Deja Vu experience about this crossword, with a distinct sense of having seen/solved several of the clues very recently. However slowly I sipped my pinta at lunchtime, I couldn`t make it last beyond the 20-minute mark.

    I don`t know why such an easy solve was selected for Xmas eve: I wish I`d brought the Master`s prize puzzle to steal a march on my planned attack on it tomorrow….when, armed with a couple of glasses of Lanson Black Label,
    (as opposed to Bodkin`s Tipple), I will strut proudly towards the hunter`s gun.

  21. Vin says:

    I remember that one of Paul Jennings’ Observer pieces, probably from the early ’60s, was entitled “Hitting the Nail on the Thumb”, and was about his ineptitude at DIY.

  22. beermagnet says:

    Prize crossword alert!
    Surprised to find there is a Guardian Prize Crossword by Brendan on the Guardian website despite the fact that there s no paper today. It’s numered and dated correctly (25,203 25-Dec-2010) so it must be real.

    Was anyone expecting that?

  23. Carrots says:

    Well spotted Beermagnet! It`s real all right; I`ve just printed a copy. I wonder if Admin will let us discuss it throughout the day? it would be good to have something to escape to from the tedium of television.

  24. Gaufrid says:

    No, it is a prize puzzle. You can discuss it when the blog appears next Saturday.

  25. g larsen says:

    ‘Hitting the nail on the thumb’ was very familiar to me, and I suspect I had unconsciously remembered the Paul Jennings piece with that title – thanks Vin for prompting the memory. It appears in the ‘Golden Oddlies’ collection published in 1983 and is indeed about his inadequacies as a woodworker. I see that, unlike most of the pieces, it was not originally published in the Observer but in House and Garden.

    Jennings wrote wonderfully funny, clever and wise articles,many of them, though not this one, involving wordplay. I remember the Guardian once publishing a politely pained letter from him complaining that a particular clue was unfair. He would have been an enthusiastic contributor to this site (though hard to imagine him at a computer).

    Like others I can’t understand why we had the Christmas special so early and only this worthy but workaday Gordius on Christmas Eve. Many thanks to Beermagnet for alerting me to today’s Brendan for post-turkey entertainment.

  26. easy peasy not says:

    Was quite easy but fell at the last fence (ichor). Having wasted time on a number of time management courses I know that it is axiomatic that urgent does not equate with important (and vice versa) (26a), but a small quibble. Enjoyed 14 and 21 down. Thanks Beermagnet for spotting the unexpected puzzle today.

  27. stiofain says:

    Todays cryptic on the guardian site is actually mondays puzzle and has appeared due to a computer glitch Hugn Stephenson says

    For some reason that, as it is Christmas, I have not yet been able to discover, the crossword computer has got ahead of itself today. There is no Guardian today, Christmas Day, nor tomorrow (26 December); but normal service should be resumed on Monday 27 December.
    However, we have somehow managed to print Monday’s Cryptic by Brendan (No 25,203) today and, as today is a Saturday, have presented it as a Saturday prize puzzle, which it is not. And we have also given you Monday’s Quick (No 12,676) 48 hours early. This is why neither of the puzzles wrongly published online today came with a PDF option, for that was still firmly coded for Monday.
    I hope that things can be sorted out by Monday. Meanwhile please accept my apologies, meanwhile, that you are not getting an extra unexpected puzzle for Christmas.

  28. Daniel Miller says:

    Monday’s was a nice challenge for Xmas Day.. Nowt to do till Tuesday!

  29. Carrots says:

    “The Grauniad Crossword Computer has got ahead of itself” ?!?!?

    You mean that there aren`t little elves beavering away to bemuse us?? If this goes on I`ll stop believing in Santa and start giving Gaufrid a really bad time.

    As it is, Brendan`s puzzle is such a doddle that it is hardly worth a mention. Not so The Wizard`s Xmas Double….from which I have retired, not just sulking, but with a headache. But, fear not, just as soon as Sancho has strapped on my armour, those B*****ing windmills had better watch out!

  30. Daniel Miller says:


    I found the Xmas Double relatively OK. I have to admit I don’t often bother with prize ones (requiring more time) but I always eagerly await the Guardian Christmas special.

  31. Carrots says:

    Daniel….”relatively O.K.” ???. Spare a thought for us lesser and humbler mortals who would be prepared to burn the turkey in return for a direct line to the Old Wizard`s thinking!

    But its all over now, (Baby Blue). I`ve trudged down to the local mail-box to wing off a pristine solution (the original looks like a bombing pattern from Dresden). Fortunately, the pub had just opened on the way back, so ended up legless (on the black ice, of course)….and an overcooked Turkey, which I found harder to explain.

  32. Paul Stevenson says:

    I thought that the historian was Lu Simian, the Chinese historian… down with ambiguous clues!

  33. Daniel Miller says:

    Well, Carrots – I don’t mean I did it in 2 hours (LOL) – it took ages to get going and the best part of 3 days to complete – probably something like 8 hours worth of effort. I mean that the vast majority of clues were of a reasonable level with a few that made me smile and quite a few excellently constructed. Baffled by a handful of them (the answer was fine but the logic I struggled with) but, as I say, enjoyable, witty and achievable for the most part.

  34. ernie says:

    Thanks, Andrew and Gordius. Enjoyable if not difficult.

    Have always wanted to clue URGENT as ‘Hasty Abraham’ or similar.

    Thanks to ALL on this site for ideas and clarifications.

  35. Carrots says:

    Daniel….Oh, that kind of “Relatively O.K.” Thats alright then! Actually your solving time/pattern and sentiments about the puzzle echo my own. But we`d better wait until the blog appears before discussing it…or we`ll both be invited to the Headmaster`s study!

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