Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,211 – Gordius

Posted by Andrew on January 5th, 2011


Another year, another Gordius.. In the spirit of the season I can say that I mostly enjoyed this, but as usual I have a few niggles, and there a couple of places where I’m not sure I’ve fully understood the clues.

9. EARTH DEARTH less D (Germany)
10. INSOLVENT V (neckline) in INSOLENT
13. MOROCCO M (1000) + OR (other ranks = men) + OC (officer commanding) + CO (commanding officer)
15. PLANTER P + LANTER[n] – a light with no rear.
17. TONGS N in TOGS. In the days of open fires, tongs were used to add or move pieces of coal
18. BAD Reverse of DAB (a fish)
22. TRASHED Reverse (reflection) of ART (what’s in the Tate) + SHED (buidling)
26. METER MET[ropolitan Police] + ER (hesitation)
27. FORESIGHT Homophone of “Forsyte” (as in the novels of John Galsworthy). Is the definition some sort of satirical reference to Tony Blair, or it some other Blair?
31. TAROT A in TROT (Trotskyist = red)
1. MESH ME (setter) + SH (quiet!)
2. TRIAL RUN Definition + cryptic definition (I suppose)
3. CHAP CH[urch] + AP[pointment] – I guess “entry” indicates using the beginnings of each word
4. TIME BOMB T = Time, HE = high explosive = bomb. Quite a clever idea, but spoiled by the fact that BOMB has the same meaning in definition and wordplay
5. ASLEEP Cryptic definition
6. ILL STARRED Spoonerism of “Sill Tarred”
7. LEARNT RENTAL*, though “scam” is a very poor anagram indicator
8. ITEM Reverse of “MET I”, and a (romantic) couple can be an “item”
13. MOTET MOT ET are French for “word and”
14. CASE-HARDEN CHASE* + ARDEN (forest of). Chambers defines “case-harden” as “to harden of the surface, as by carbonizing iron; to make callous or insensitive by previous experience “
19. DEMERARA (E MARRED A)*, thought I can’t see an anagram indicator (it can’t be “marred”). Demerara (where the sugar comes from) is in South America, in what is now Guyana.
23. ATTEST “AT TEST” – are deliberate no-balls a feature of test matches these days?
28. SITE A (rather familiar) homophone of “sight”, and “spot” can be a location or to see
29. TATE Cryptic definition – the Tate Gallery was founded by Mr Tate of Tate & Lyle sugar

46 Responses to “Guardian 25,211 – Gordius”

  1. Uncle Yap says:

    Thank you Andrew for the speedy Gonzales blog … I hereby acknowledge you as the fastest gun in the west.

    I remember someone saying that if the setter were Araucaria, then all Gordius’s clues would be praised. Alas, Gordius is not the good reverend and his anagrinds are questioned.
    Scam is a fiddle which makes it an acceptable indicator. Marred served two purposes, as fodder and indicator and would have been accepted without questions if the setter were Araucaria.

    BTW, 3D CHAP is a hidden answer

  2. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Andrew and Uncle Yap – the Fastest Guns in the West and East.

    This was very enjoyable and I expect that Sil van den Hoek will be over-joyed when he discovers that he was clued in 6d.

    I can’t think why Blair was singled out for a lack of FORESIGHT but the allusion is certainly well deserved – otherwise he would never have made a deal with Gordon Brown.

    Many thanks Gordius: more of the same please!

  3. Swukker says:

    I found this puzzle quite tough with several answers requiring a lot of thought to discover how the clue worked. This wasn’t helped by me deciding quite early that 8D was TEAM.

  4. Andrew says:

    Uncle Yap – thanks for 3dn: I was so convinced I had to use CH=church that I missed the more obvious hidden answer.

    However, I don’t agree with you that the double use (if that’s what it is) of “marred” would be “accepted without questions if the setter were Araucaria”. I for one would certainly (and do) question that sort of thing when Araucaria does it.

  5. Duncan Shiell says:

    I’m with Andrew on 19 down. If I’d been blogging this puzzle, I would have queried the missing anagrind. I can’t see how ‘marred’ can act as the anagrind for itself, E and A in this case.

  6. muz says:

    Thanks Andrew for a fine blog – I needed the help!

    I still have no clue how to parse 23d. Is it a reference to Australia’s generosity to Alastair Cook yesterday?

    I thought the definitions for HEADPIECE and CASE-HARDENED were more than a little dubious.

    The wordplay for MOROCCO was soft with its rather lazy-looking double use of officer/commanding.

    All-in-all not my favorite – let’s move on.

  7. Uncle Yap says:

    Today’s FT by Cinephile (aka Araucaria) has as 14D Not like being mislaid , sir? (10) The first two words form the definition and the last two the anagram fodder. Isn’t mislaid doing double duty?

  8. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I found this pretty patchy and lost enthusiasm after a bit. 23dn is very up-to-date: several Pakistani cricketers are currently being investigated for allegedly being paid by a betting ring to bowl deliberate no-balls during a Test against England last summer.

    On the subject of cricket, 3-1 to the Ingerland, I fancy.

    Thanks for your blog, Andrew.

  9. tupu says:

    Thanks Andrew and Gordius

    Reasonably enjoyable. Some answers needed quite a lot of thoughtful parsing.

    Re 13. I too was puzzled. I looked up AT in Chambers and found ‘alternative technology’. Would an A T Test(match) be one without balls, I wondered.

    I liked the Tate/Demerara/trashed linkage. I was not too worried re the absence of an anagrind in 19d. Given the two juxtaposed halves of the clue, the answer more or less had to be an anagram?
    25a misled me at first because I wanted to make use of ‘thaw’ in the anagram.

  10. tupu says:

    For 13 sc. 23

  11. walruss says:

    Patchy, as K’s D said. But I am just back from Morocco, so nice memories! One thing though, I really object to OR=other ranks=men. That’s indirect and not fair, plus all the other waffly stuff you get with Gordius.

  12. tupu says:

    Re 4

    Thanks Anbdrew on this one which I failed to see fully. But isn’t the definition time + high explosive thing (bomb)?

  13. Robi says:

    Thanks Gordius and Andrew, especially for the explanations of 22 and 31.

    I assumed that 27 was a reference to Tony Blair and his alleged lack of foresight in invading Iraq without realising the consequences.

    I think Kathryn’s Dad is spot on with 23.

  14. tupu says:

    Hi K’sD
    I didn’t see your suggestion @8 re 23 when I was drafting mine @9. I think you are right about this.

  15. Mitch says:

    ‘Scuse me, but (re 6ac)

    “Ill Starred” is not a Spoonerism of “Sill Tarred”, ‘cos it isn’t a transposition of initial letters.

  16. walruss says:

    Spoonerisms can be more thamn just that, as I understand it Mitch!

  17. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Andrew, needed you (and others) to confirm some of my suspicions.

    I found this quite slow going on the whole but reasonably enjoyable. Struggled with bottom right, 24d in particular took me ages, especially when it now seems so obvious.

    Am I being particularly dense – I don’t understand the “Remedy afer thaw” in 25a. Is the definition just “Remedy”? The “dumb play with comic hat” bit I got, but not at first. I was trying to use “mime” and “hat”

  18. Dave Ellison says:

    Or are there two definitions in 25a? “Remedy” and after a thaw you get a mud bath?

  19. John says:

    A hot mud bath is a cure for some ailment or other I think.

  20. Mitch says:

    re #16

    Walrus, a Spoonerism should surely involve some sort of transposition. No interchange in this instance.

  21. tupu says:

    Hi Dave E
    I think you are right @18

  22. Martin H says:

    UY at 7 – in your Araucaria example I see the question mark as the anagram indicator (led up to perhaps by ‘being’) I would certainly query anyone’s use of such a double-duty, as I do Gordius’s here.

    There were some nice clues in this one, in among a few oddities and the feeble 2d: the surface of 9a suggests multiple paths to the solution, and 10’s is neat. TAROT and ITEM kept me thinking for a while, even though looking back they seem innocuous. Overall I enjoyed it, but I wish setters would resist incorporating their political judgements into their clues, (27).

  23. Martin H says:

    A thought about 25 – use ‘thaw’ as an anagram indicator, and leave out ‘dumb': Remedy after thaw – play with comic hat.

  24. Martin H says:

    Please delete entry 23.

  25. Chris says:

    I think Uncle Yap’s contention that some of Gordius’s foibles would be accepted unquestioningly if perpetrated by Araucaria is more an indictment of the uncritical hero-worship of the latter than a legitimate defence of the former.

  26. Stella says:

    Thanks for the blog, Andrew. I agree with K’sD that this was patchy, and foound some answers impssible to parse till I came here, so well done!

    Hi Mitch, I was going to point out that Spooner’s problem was with sounds, rather than letters, but on reflection I have to agree with your criticism – the problem involves transposition, not just removing the first sound from one word and adding it to the other. Spooner is the most famous, but by no means the only exponent of this speech defect.

  27. Stella says:

    I seem to have transposed the ‘o’ from ‘impossible’ into ‘found’ in my first paragraph :)

  28. Coffee says:

    Re. Spoonerism – Chambers, and all the other usual suspects:
    spoonerism- noun- an accidental slip of the tongue where the positions of the first sounds in a pair of words are reversed, such as par cark for car park or shoving leopard for loving shepherd, and which often results in an unintentionally comic or ambiguous expression.
    I rest our case, but wish I could come up with a funny spoonerism to do so. Still, I knew someone who went to Betty’s in Ilkley and asked loudly for scones with cram and jeam…

  29. Robi says:

    Re: Spoonerisms – one of the most famous, often quoted is: a ‘well-boiled icicle’ for a ‘well-oiled bicycle,’ which seems to be similar to 6.

  30. Mitch says:

    Hi Stella, Thanks for agreeing with me and, more importantly, the giggle I got from your follow-up :-)

  31. Carrots says:

    Gordius does get some stick, but it`s nearly always justified. In what way does TIME BOMB link with ASLEEP (implied by “……” as suffix and prefix of both clues)?

    Virtually every Prime Minister we`ve ever had could be accused of “lacking foresight” (not least of all, G Brown esq.)so why single Blair out?

    Was it established that Pakistani bowlers actually, rather than allegedly, deliberately bowled wides? I thought the Jury was hung on the issue.

    The TATE is hardly just a “picture show”, it (or rather “they”) are museums exhibiting all forms of visual arts.

    Although I did finish this in a pinta-and-a-bit, I needed Andrew`s blog to explain the parsing of four solutions. Thanks Andrew…good to hear that Glen Ford is no longer The Fastest Gun Alive!

  32. ben says:

    Surely Coffee you could crest your race?

  33. Jack Aubrey says:

    I enjoyed this over a cup of tea this afternoon and was grateful for the explanations in Uncle Yap’s blog for a couple of answers that obviously fitted but left me confused (a fairly standard state, mind you).

    I made the mistake of Googling Blair and foresight and was led to the official David Icke site for this remarkable piece of exegesis. There really are some seriously unwell people out there!

    19-06-2009, 04:29 PM   #1
    Join Date: Jun 2009
    Posts: 2
    Scottish Rite and 1984
    A lot of you guys don’t look into things deeply. I do, and that’s how I uncovered this. George Orwell, the author behind Nineteen Eighty-Four, was actually born Eric Arthur Blair. He had the keen foresight to see what the Illuminati were up to. His dad was a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Freemason and a not-so-distant relative of Tony Blair, the mind behind the July 7th bombing in London. His dad told him everything, including the fact that things were planned decades in advance.

    His warnings were written into Nineteen Eighty-Four, but he had to assume a pen name, grow a mustache, and limit his interaction with others. Even his original name was concocted to be an anagram from his father; Eric Arthur Blair = Biracial Err Thru. You know how they love to play games with us to inflate their egos because most sheeple are oblivious. The anagram obviously refers to Obama, erring or screwing up through his administration on purpose to enslave us.

    Listen to this! In January 1690, an English sailor name John Strong made his way by sea to the Falkland Islands on a vessel called Welfare. Welfare, people. With Communist Obama in power, this is chilling. Note that this is when the Scottish Rite Freemasons were gaining strength. Wikipedia will tell you that Strong was going toward Argentina and accidentally found the Falkland Islands, but that’s to distract us from thinking he hit them on purpose. He was looking for Atlantis! The Falkland Islands are part of Orwell’s Oceania! It’s home base for dominating the world.

    Anagram Orwell’s name and you get Reg Geo Or Well, or “regulate the planet or the people will be well”. He knew the Freemason’s plot and warned us! The Grand Orient de France heard of this and, being enemies of the Scottish Rite, created Port St. Louis, which was founded by the French navigator and military commander Louis Antoine de Bougainville in 1764. All the little battles and land grabs you hear about were all about fighting lodges, but because all had the same goal (running their version of Oceania or Eurasia in Atlantis; if you read the book, they’re enemies pretty much by name and needed perpetual war), they agreed, set up the war in 1982 via the UN’s sham resolutions, and it’s been home base ever since. Note the year of the book is two years after that war. 0.0

    Orwell died very soon after he released this. They got him like they got Winston Smith; surveillance. He was jailed, brainwashed, and tortured, but unlike Winston, he was shot dead. You won’t read that in any history book.

  34. ben says:

    Maybe the Blair could be Eric and the reference might be to 1984

  35. tupu says:

    Thanks ben
    That makes sense. What with K’Dad’s no-balls reference and this one to 1984 my opinion of Gordius has risen!

  36. Robi says:

    Thanks, Ben, I like the Berwick Lair idea (as @29, a Spoonerism without transposition!)

  37. Paul B says:

    For safety I would, for ‘Spoonerism’, read ‘metathesis’.

    Such a beast involves the transposition of various sounds or letters in a word or phrase, while true Spoonerism requires exchange of corresponding consonants, vowels or morphemes. And of course, in Crosswordsville, it was never going to be long before some ape labelled one as the other for convenience’s sake.

    So, then: for ‘Spoonerism’, read ‘metathesis’.

  38. Bryan says:

    Regarding George Orwell:

  39. Robi says:

    You may be right Paul B, but at the risk of being boring, the ‘well-boiled icicle’ phrase is cited everywhere as a Spoonerism (e.g. see: or

    It was the first ‘Spoonerism’ that I learnt.

  40. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Although we generally enjoyed solving this puzzle, we also had the feeling that Gordius was in one of his Sloppy Moods.

    Like Mitch (#15) and Paul B (#37), I don’t think 6d is a Spoonerism, but ah well, we all know what Gordius meant.

    I am very surprised by tupu’s reaction to the lack of an anagrind in 19d: “I was not too worried re the absence of an anagrind in 19d. Given the two juxtaposed halves of the clue, the answer more or less had to be an anagram?”
    Let’s abolish indicators, right?
    Come on, folks, this is just plain wrong and in no way comparable to what UY (#7) called a similar situation in today’s Cinephile. In thát clue wás something going on, enhanced by a powerful “?” at the end [which doesn’t mean that I was happy with it, but that discussion took place in the appropriate blog].

    Talking about anagram indicators, in what sense is “over” one (11ac)? I can’t find a meaning in Chambers indicating that points in the direction of jumbling around the letters. I think, “over” is more a reversal indicator and doesn’t work as an anagrind, too, eg like “about”. It doesn’t get a mention in anagrind lists on the Net either.
    But maybe [probably?] I’m wrong.

    I (= we) think that there was some awkward use of language in 15ac (PLANTER) and 22ac (TRASHED). “With no rear light” = “Light with no rear”? So, we take the whole thing “with no rear” as an adjective? And “What’s reflected in 29″? Can you really read this as “What’s in 29, reflected”? Yep, one may read it as “What is – when you reflect it – in 29″, but it does feel clumsy to us.

    We didn’t like the “A” in “A number” either.
    “A number” = N? Which number? We think, the “A” is only there for the surface, the clue wouldn’t read very well if you remove the “A”.

    And then, two ellipses.
    A really good ellipsis links both clues in a logical way, meaning: ideally the solutions are linked too.
    But connecting two half sentences to make one, is legitimate too, I’ve learnt a while ago.
    So, connect 24d and 26d, and you’ll get something that I would call nonsense.
    4/5d is different, in a way the connection dóes make sense.
    But now look at 5d: “… has gone off” = ASLEEP?
    When I want to explain a Dutchman that he has gone off, I tell him: He asleep …. ?
    And calling this a cd, like Andrew, well well – in our opinion it’s not cryptic at all.

    But Andrew, that’s my only critical note about the blog! :)

    The conclusion might be that I 22ac this crossword.
    But as I started this post, we did enjoy solving it – funny, isn’t it?
    It’s just that sometimes we long for crosswords with the wit and playfulness of the Guardian in combination with the precision of the Times.

    Yes, most of the times Paul gets very near, and Crucible, and Boatman, and Orlando, and Brendan, and … and Neo and Alberich and … oh no, that’s another newspaper …

  41. tupu says:

    Hi Sil

    We know where we are both coming from, and I hope it is clear that I find your structural fastidiousness instructive.

    Re 19d. I only meant that as I (and apparently most others) found no difficulty in recognising it for what it was, I was not too worried about it. If it had been difficult to detect as an anagram, the matter would have been different for me. But I do understand your position and, at the same time, note that you enjoyed working on the puzzle.

    re ‘a number’ – I took N to be a symbol for an indefinite or unspecified number for which ‘a (indefinite article) number’ seems to me a reasonable indication.

    re 5d there is a problem but it is slightly different. I suspect ‘off’ (rather than has gone off) is the not wholly satisfactory definition. We can ask of a child ‘Has he gone off yet?’ meaning ‘has he fallen asleep’? The problem is that ‘to go asleep’ is not so usual. Go to sleep and fall asleep are the usual expressions. ‘Go asleep’ feels odd (though one finds it via google) while ‘go fast asleep’ seems better for some reason.

    re 11a ‘over’. You are strictly right, but there is a link to, say, ‘topsy turvy’ which means ‘upside down’ (over) and is stretchable to mean ‘all mixed up’.

  42. tupu says:

    re ‘go asleep’
    The phrase is repeated several times in

  43. Carrots says:

    Re: Jack Aubrey @ 33: Say goodnight Gracie.

  44. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Sorry, tupu, but sometimes I just don’t wánt to justify things that in my perception aren’t right.
    The lack of an anagram indicator in 19d is – as I said before – plain wrong and unacceptable. There is abslolutely no justification for that.
    And 5d is crap, too.
    No one complained about this clue, a thing that I really can’t understand.
    Some will say I’m too harsh now, but so be it.
    Or soit, as the French say.

  45. tupu says:

    Hi Sil

    Thanks. I too am sorry. I have not expected you to change your mind over the anagram indicator, as I made clear, but I believe (perhaps wrongly) that you have misread the imperfections in 5d, and have possibly misunderstood the N in 17a. It is true that you admitted originally that you are uncertain about ‘over’.

    I thought this was a site for reasoned collaborative discussion, and writing at length (500+ words) seems likely to generate some counter-argument.

  46. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Hi tupu, one final reply.
    Do not worry, I ám open to opinions of others – I am certainly nót Mr Know-it-all.
    Far from that, I’m a relative novice in Crosswordland, but indeed, at times, one who can be provocative.

    The use of “over”, the N, the Spoonerism, the use of ellipses, the order of words in 15ac and 22ac, that’s just a matter of taste.
    Personally, I find that they make the crossword somewhat loose, where that could/should have been avoided. I was just questioning them hoping that people would indeed react. I included my feeling about them, others may think differently.

    But I really do not understand how one can justify the lack of an anagram indicator in a clue like 19d. When you say that it had to be an anagram on the face of it [something we thought as well] and that it didn’t stand in the way of solving, well, that’s fine. The same for us. But technically speaking it is wrong, and don’t get how this clue could have gone past the editor. And yes, I admit, when something’s really wrong (like here), I am very reluctant to see justifications to save the soul of the setter.

    You were about the only one to have an opinion on 5d’s ASLEEP.
    That’s much appreciated, but see, even when just “off” is the definition I do not like the “has gone” bit at all. I think Gordius wanted to have an ellipsis here, at the expense of precision. Maybe I shouldn’t have said “crap”, but just “not my cup of tea”. Fact is, though, that I find this clue “nothing”, something that is floating in the air, extremely weak. Glad other people didn’t bother.

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