Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,241 / Gordius

Posted by Eileen on February 9th, 2011


A fairly typical Gordius, I think, comprising mostly anagrams, simple charades and/or insertions and double definitions, with several niggles, as usual for me with this setter.


7   DOG-COLLAR: DOG [reversal of GOD + anagram of LOCAL R[ector]: a rector would wear a dog-collar – but round his neck.
8   SAVOY: cryptic definition – reference to Savoy cabbage
9 JUSTINIAN: JUST IN [‘newly arrived’] + IAN [the very hackneyed crossword ‘Scot’, who should surely be laid to rest with Princess Di. In any case, as  I remarked recently, most Scots of that name that I know spell it ‘Iain’ – and I  know a number of English Ians!  Justinian was Roman emperor at Constantinople AD 527-65, best known for his reorganisation of Roman law
!0  BASIC: BA [degree] + SIC [so]
12  STERNE: anagram of ENTERS: Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)  novelist, best known for ‘Tristram Shandy’.
13  PHARISEE: anagram of HARPIES + E [point]: the construction here seems wrong: to me: the ‘from’ in the clue suggests subtracting, not adding, an E [or N, S or W]. Edit: I see it now, thanks to Martin H, comment 1
14  GAZELLE: ELL [an old measurement of 45 inches – ‘short of four feet’] inside GAZE [look]: I am not a fan of ‘out’ to mean ‘outside’.
17  MAHATMA: HAT [headgear] in MAMA [mother]
20  ESTRANGE: anagram of GENTS ARE
22  ORPHAN: ORPH [homophone of ‘Orff’] + AN: Carl Orff 1895-1982] German composer best known for ‘Carmina Burana, particularly this song. I take issue with the definition here: an orphan does not lack ancestry.
24  SNIPE: double definition
25  ERUDITION: RU [Rugby Union, sport] in EDITION [form of publication]
26  PHONE: P[ublic] H[ouse] [local] + ONE


1   LOCUST: LOCUS [place] + T[ime]
2   SCOT-FREE: anagram of COST + R [ight] in FEE [price]
3   PLUNGE: LUNG [breathing apparatus] in P[hysical] E[xercise] [exercise!]
4   CATALPA: CAT [pet] + anagram of PAL + A: a new tree for me
5   SALAMI: anagram of MALAIS[e]
6   COLISEUM: anagram of MUSIC LEO
11  CANA: this ‘famous wedding location’ is the scene of Jesus’ first miracle – changing water into wine – but the only way the clue works is via the familiar tin = can and adding A, which doesn’t really work for me.
15  ABSINTHE: anagram of THIN BASE
16  LANE: double definition: l’âne is French for ‘the donkey’, which may well be a step too far in using French words in English crosswords.
18 APPETITE: A + P[soft] + PETITE [little]
19  LEARNED: LEAR [Edward, writer of nonsense verse] + NED [abbreviation of his first name]: ‘with erudition’ [25]
21  REPENT: double definition: I hadn’t met this second definition [‘growing along the ground, or just under the surface, and sending out roots at intervals’, SOED – maybe it’s familiar to gardeners] but I got there through knowing Latin ‘repo, repere’ – ‘to creep’.
22  ORDEAL: anagram of LOADER

39 Responses to “Guardian 25,241 / Gordius”

  1. Martin H says:

    Morning Eileen – I’m with you on most of your quibbles, except in 13ac: the mixed-up harpies take their point (E) and the whole construction is taken ‘from’ PHARISEE. Thanks for explaining REPENT. As for the French donkey, I’m on the fence on this one: I see no problem with using reasonably well-known words from other languages than English, but I grant that the difficulty is defining ‘reasonably’.

  2. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks, Eileen. I apparently needed you for 11d, as I thought I had finished the Xword, and it was only when reading your notes I saw I had overlooked this one!

    I thought it was a quite entertaining offering, albeit with many anagrams (9 – I must admit I quite like this). 8a and 1d pleased me.

    22 ORPHAN – I, too, puzzled the ancestry bit, but decided it was just about OK as parents are some of your ancestors(?), and an orphan lacks them. Dictionary definition includes: “A person from whom one is descended, especially if more remote than a grandparent”

  3. Geoff says:

    Thanks Eileen. Thanks for the explanation of 21dn!

    This took me a bit longer than the usual Gordius, perhaps because it was one of those grids with a lot of initial unches. His clueing is never the most precise, but it is usually unambiguous.

    I haven’t seen ‘Scot’ = IAN for a long time – at least it isn’t as pervasive as DI – but short male given names are often just clued as ‘boy’, or something similar, and there is no reason why this one should be an exception.

    Tin-a for CANA is an interesting question. I would categorise it in the same way as the ‘indeed’ trick: both devices ignore the word boundaries in the clue. Personally, I’m all for this, but others feel very differently!

  4. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Martin H – I see what you mean about 13ac.

    Geoff, re CANA: I almost commented in the blog that I usually like the ‘indeed’ type of clue. I’m afraid I think my prejudices may be showing. :-(

  5. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you, Eileen. Your enthusiasm for this puzzle shone through on your as usual excellent blog.

    GOD, RECTOR, PHARISEE, CANA, REPENT. What is this, an RE class? I liked SCOT-FREE, PLUNGE and APPETITE. SAVOY? Give me a bit more than ?A?O? if the clue is just ‘restaurant’. I thought it was a hotel anyway but since I don’t move in that kind of social circle, I could well be wrong.

    The use of l’âne in a clue is ridiculous. I speak French, so got it in about half a second, but your average punter is never going to know that. And yes, there are crossing letters, but if you haven’t discovered 225 then you’re going to get frustrated and think ‘what was all that about?’

    I’ll stop now.

  6. Robi says:

    Thanks Gordius and Eileen for a super blog. :)

    Like Dave @2, I thought I had finished and found I had not completed 11d, although I had consideered CANA just from the definition. I guess Tina is OK for this – seems like a cryptic definition to me. I got ‘rodent’ for 1d as RODEN is a place name; see: Perhaps not as devastating as locusts but it might seem so when they bite through electrical cables (or is that squirrels?) Anyway, I rest my case, and that meant that I had trouble completing 9, but I did it just-in-time ;)

    I failed to notice that MEGASTORE was an anagram of ‘gasometer!’ Never mind, eh; got it anyway!

  7. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius.

    I’m the type of solver that easily sees anagrams, so I got through a large part of this on the first run through, but in the end could’t finish without cheating, as I’d convinced myself 11d was ‘gala’, and was thus blinded to the obvious.

    Thanks for the explanation in 21d. – so it’s the same route as ‘reptile’ :)

  8. Stella Heath says:

    I mean ‘root’, of course :lol:

  9. Noddy says:

    Not sure where I stand with the use of French. I didn’t know the French for donkey. Having said that, I had no idea that catalpa is a tree, Cana was a biblical reference and the second definition of repent was to do with gardening.

  10. Geoff says:

    Kathryn’s Dad: Gordius (Rev David Moseley) is a retired Anglican vicar, so the religious element is hardly surprising. and I agree with you about SAVOY – it is principally a hotel. Would have been a fairer clue if the crossing letters were S_V_Y – as it was there were far too many possible words that fit.

  11. Eileen says:

    Hi Stella

    Indeed, yes – and thanks for giving me a chuckle today! ;-)

  12. Rosmarinus says:

    As a keen gardener I had heard of Catalpa which is the Indian bean tree. However repent was new to me. I do seem to learn something new everyday which I do not doing Sudoku! Thanks for your blog Eileen. I agreed with all your comments.

  13. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius

    I failed on two of these – Savoy and gazelle. I think 8a is asking too much. On 14a I ended up thinking it must be a kind of fly which was a nickname for human lookout! Oh dear!

    I was also held up for a time by Cana and Aboard but quite liked both when I got them.

    I got Orphan and liked the Orff reference but ‘lacking ancestry’ simply won’t do.

    I checked Chambers for the second meaning of ‘repent’. Thanks Eileen and Stella for the
    etymological gloss.

  14. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. I whizzed through most of the right hand side of this and took much longer to finish the left.

    I’d never come across the second meaning of ‘repent’, but ‘catalpa’ rang a v distant bell.

    I also thought that clueing Savoy as a restaurant was a bit of a stretch. Although the Savoy Grill is well-known, if you mentioned the Savoy, most people would assume you were talking about the hotel. Was also unhappy about ‘lacking ancestry’ as a def for ‘orphan’.

    I didn’t mind the CANA wordplay — but I was surprised to see Gordius use this type of construction!

  15. Dave Ellison says:

    On reflection, the phrase LACKING ANCESTORS is quite intriguing. For humans, it is meaningless, as none of us would be here without ancestors. For those who spontaneously generated ( Garden of Eden situation), it would be true – does this make it another religious reference, or mystical one?

    I had to babelfish donkey to solve 16d LANE

  16. yogdaws says:

    Thanks Eileen

    Thanks Eileen

    Irritatingly this one ended a long unbroken run of completed xwords. Admittedly we didn’t have a lot of time but still…

    And which was the one that foxed us?

    8a Savoy

    We convinced ourselves that the answer must be some obscure non-English restaurant only to find that the answer was right under our noses in our own home town.


  17. Tokyo Colin says:

    Thanks Eileen, I struggled through this with little pleasure and needed your help to understand several of the answers.

    At 8a, I knew I was looking for green veggies and a restaurant but in my experience SAVOY was neither.

    I was completely flummoxed by 11dn. I considered Tin = Can but CANA meant nothing to me and still doesn’t. Not a christian so don’t know these things. There was nothing to suggest it was a religious reference.

    I share your concerns about implying that orphans lack ancestry. I didn’t want to believe that was the answer and have never heard of Herr Orff.

    The one I had no qualms with was 16 dn. K’sD got there in half a second due to his knowledge of French. I took a bit longer since my French is (very) limited but that wasn’t even necessary. From the clue I knew I was looking for a “narrow way” and Provence reference meant the second Defn was a French word for “the” donkey. Anyone with the tiniest knowledge of French knows that all the French “the”s start with L, so LANE was not so far away. I do this all the time with towns in Devon, rivers in Scotland, Labour politicians etc. As long as the subsidiary portion of the clue is fair, I don’t mind guessing and Googling.

  18. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Eileen. Managed to complete this one but wasn’t happy with the clues to SAVOY, ORPHAN & REPENT. Probably just being picky.

    Nice to learn one new word, CATALPA. Can someone explain to me why, when crossword compilers want to include IAN in a word, they always clue it as a Scot, Scotsman, Scots boy etc. Perhaps it is originally Scottish but there must be many more common Scottish male names. Let me see them put Calum in a clue!


  19. Lopakhin says:

    K’sD @5 writes: If you haven’t discovered 225 then you’re going to get frustrated. I haven’t and I am!

    And add me to the list of those taking issue with Savoy and l’âne. Harrumph.

  20. Robi says:

    P.S. Somebody has been having some fun with the QX today – a pangram and a cryptic clue. :o

  21. Robbie Merrick says:

    I don’t think being a christian is a pre-requisite for knowing Jesus’ first miracle: apart from the biblical source, it’s surely one of the most famous stories in human history: water to wine. I’m not a muslim, but I know a few things about Islamic history. This was not what I faulted the clue for – it was derivative and plain clumsy. Same with LANE.

  22. Roger says:

    Thanks Eileen. In 22a, would I be right in thinking that (an) unfortunate (one who suffers bad fortune) is part of the definition ?
    As Dave E says, we all have ancestors whether we know who they are or not. And maybe that’s the point. Ancestry (according to the on-line Chambers) implies traceable ancestors, something an orphan may not have. Agree it’s not the best of clues, though.

  23. rrc says:

    Im not sure I like tina – but there were some nice clues which caused me to smile

  24. William says:

    Thank you, Eileen.

    I confess to not being a fan of this setter but thank you for finding the new meaning of REPENT. Loved it.

    Lopakhin @19, you have discovered 225; fifteen squared = 225.

    Not really sure about the SAVOY and L’ANE gripes – The Savoy Grill on The Strand has to be one of London’s gastronomic landmarks (out of my league, sadly), and I don’t really see how L’ANE is much different from the INDEED gag or TIN+A for that matter.

    Lastly, ROBI @20, be a nice chap (or chapess) and explain your observation to a thickie, please.

  25. walruss says:

    Just full of anagrams and niggles for me. I’m best off not commenting raelly, because I’m bound to drag the tone down. I just wish the G would get its act together, as there must be better people around to add to the core of their sometimes excellent team.

  26. Jim says:

    Failed to get Catalpa and Cana – both fair clues.

  27. Robi says:

    William @24. Sorry, this was slightly off-piste. I was referring to today’s Quick Crossword in the Guardian. I should be more disciplined and keep on the subject! BTW, the quasi crypic clue in this crossword is ‘Hood’s girl’ (4).

  28. Robi says:

    P.P.S. That might even be cryptic. And yes, last time I looked I was still a chap.

  29. Derek Lazenby says:

    Maybe it was too loate in the day when my IT department (#1 son) came home from work and did something obscure to the router which finally got me to the outside world, but I gave up on this one.

    After getting CATALPA by gadgetry (why would I ever know that one?) and having had to cheat for CANA, it was just all too much.

    NOOOO. Cana is not famous. The miracle story is, but the place name is utterly obscure. Even those of us who had to suffer being taught a Bible we didn’t care for don’t know the name, it was never drummed into us the same way other town names were, ie it was unimportant to the story. And not caring, we had no reason to commit the name to memory. So the assertion that those from other religious or non-religious backgrounds would be aware of that name is nonsensical wishfull thinking.

    After that I just couldn’t bothered to find out whether or not there were any more obscurities. As I said, maybe it is just too late and the brain is too jaded.

  30. Derek Lazenby says:

    I went to Wikipedia, and followed a link to John 2 and from there to the King James version. I duly read verses 1:11. Tina? Nope, not mentioned. So why Tina? Is it some pathetic attempt at a dimunitive for Christian?

  31. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Well, Eileen, seeing the name Gordius this morning surely must have made your day …
    As you said, fairly typical.
    Not even that many niggles, but in a way this crossword just didn’t come to life.

    Like many others we fell short on CANA.
    I do not want to start a discussion again on these types of clues [and others, please, do not either], but they still don’t appeal to me.
    As I have said on earlier occasions, for me Tin/a has not the same feel as in/deed.
    I know that many others do not agree, but as I see it, the break in ‘indeed’ is a natural one and the one in ‘Tina’ randomly chosen. This CANA is of the same sort as ‘Winter’ for WESTBURY or ‘not’ describing that the ‘t’ should be deleted.
    But as I said, let’s leave it here.
    In any case, another setter who joined the Army [can’t remember, like liz @14, having seen Gordius using this ‘device’]

    As one originally from the Continent, I had no problem with LANE – and why should we blame Gordius when the Other Rev is just as keen on La Douce France.

  32. Eileen says:


    As I said in the blog, we quite often in crosswords see ‘tin’ clued as ‘can’ and vice versa.

    Here we have CAN-A clued as ‘Tin-a’.

  33. Carrots says:

    The curate lays another egg. Some answers were hopelessly obscure and others too tedious to put in. I had to wait for Eileen`s informative blog for the last three solutions before cosigning my effort to the trash can, where it undoubtedly belongs.

    The maddening thing is that Gordius is capable of some really good chicanery, but he had his religious hat on today…the kiss of death for a humanist like me.

    The only thing I can provide for the pit-knickers is that The Savoy`s restaurant is, and always has been, known as “The Savoy Grill”. The Savoy is the name of the hotel which accommodates it.

  34. Eileen says:

    Hi Sil

    It was a dull, damp morning anyway – but the sun came out later!

    As you say, let’s leave it there. :-)

  35. Eileen says:

    Hi Carrots

    So you have to bring in more religion with the curate?

    Sleep well. :-)

  36. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Eileen.
    Well,unlike most here I liked this puzzle(there’s always one…!).
    O.k. the orphan definition may be a bit imprecise,but Gordius doesn’t profess to be Ximenes.
    SAVOY was pretty obvious to me,L’ANE perhaps,may be near the limit of what solvers can resonably be expected to know of French,but the definition was pretty straightforward.Being a donkey myself probably influenced my liking of this clue.
    Didn’t know the subsidiary meaning of REPENT,but one of the reasons I enjoy crosswords is because I learn new words/meanings.
    Ah well we’re all different. :)

  37. Carrots says:

    Hi There Auntie E….But Gordius is already a Curate isn`t he? (He`s certainly a Vicar)

    The only kind of Curate dear to my heart is the assistant to a bar-tender in Ireland! (Yes, really!)

    Paul to look forward to today, which will lift my spirits. Have a good one! XX

  38. Tony Davis says:

    Having some claim to being a Latin scholar, my initial feeling on reading Eileen’s explanation of 21d was one of shame – I put in REPENT but couldn’t see the connection. On reflection, though, I don’t feel so bad, since ‘repere’ means ‘to creep or crawl’ with no suggestion of taking root. Even my partner, a fanatical and knowledgeable gardener, didn’t get it. Not a good clue.

  39. Eileen says:

    Hi Tony @38

    I gave the SOED definition: ‘growing along the ground, or just under the surface, and sending out roots at intervals’, rather than Chambers, simply, ‘lying on the ground and rooting’ because I thought it gave the idea of the ‘creeping’ derivation and it’s easier to see how the ‘rooting’ connotation came about.

    But I agree that it’s very obscure. I haven’t come across anyone who has heard of this secondary meaning of ‘repent’. I tried it out yesterday afternoon on my Latin reading group, several of whom are keen gardeners, without success!

Leave a Reply

Don't forget to scroll down to the Captcha before you click 'Submit Comment'

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

2 − = one