Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,284 / Gordius

Posted by Eileen on March 31st, 2011


Well, no one can say we don’t get variety in Guardian puzzles!

I find that I can simply repeat the preamble I wrote on the last Gordius crossword that I blogged.

‘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.’


1   GUMBOIL: GUMBO [‘a soup thickened with okra pods’ – Chambers] + Il[l] [endlessly sick]
5   TWINSET: WIN [come first] in anagram of TEST
9 OFFAL: OF FAL [the well-known crossword Cornish river]
10  WORCESTER: anagram of WE RECTORS: as Gordius is a clergman, I hesitate to call this an &lit but it raised a wry smile.
11  MILITARISE: MILIT [anagram of limit] + ARISE [stand up]
12  DIME: DIM [backward] + E[nglish]: I think the question mark may be an acknowledgment that neither of these epithets is in general use these days.
14  TRAFFIC LIGHT: double / cryptic [?]  definition: in light traffic, you wouldn’t expect to be held up.
18 COUNTERTENOR: COUNTER [one who reckons] + TENOR [sounds like ‘tenner’]
21  UPON: [co]UPON: a rather weak clue, I think
22  PSYCHOPATH: anagram of CHAPPY SHOT – and a clever & lit, though in rather questionable taste, I think.
25  ALARM BELL: anagram of ALL MARBLE
26  IDLER: anagram of RILED – but what’s the ‘by’ doing?
27  EMERALD: I suppose this is a cryptic definition? – a reference to Ireland, known as ‘The Emerald Isle’, but a very loose clue
28  NEMESIS: anagram of SIN SEEM; another & lit and perhaps the best clue in the puzzle


1   GROOMS: G[ood] + ROOMS [accommodation]
2   MUFFLE: FF [very loud] in MULE – ‘without’ meaning ‘outside’
3   OBLITERATE: OB [abbreviation of Latin ‘obiit’ – ‘died’] + LITERATE [learned]
4   LOWER: [b]LOWER [telephone] minus initial letter [starting off] of ‘bell’
5   TURNSTILE: TURN [act] + STILE [sounds like ‘style’]
6   ITEM: IT [computer science?] + EM [space]: the wording of this clue doesn’t work for me.
7   SETTINGS: SETTING + S[point]: Gordius does setting – but ‘down to a point’ here, surely?
8   TORMENTS: MEN [people] in TORTS [wrongs]
13  ALCOHOLISM: anagram of SCHOOL MAIL: I only knew ‘jimjams’ as pyjamas, but Chambers says it also means, among other things, delirium tremens. As a former teacher, I have similar scruples about labelling this ‘&lit’!
15  FARMSTEAD: anagram of DREAM FAST
16  ACCURATE: AC [account] + CURATE [priest]
17  AUTOMATE: double / cryptic definition: I had doubts about the verb but Collins gives ‘to be made automatic’, hence, cryptically, ‘try self control’, and a co-driver would be an AUTO MATE.
19  CALLUS: CALL US [the Guardian]
20  SHERDS: HERD [cattle] in SS [‘on board’]
23  COLON: double definition, the colon being the currency of Costa Rica [named after Christopher Columbus, apparently]
24  EMMA: EMMA[nuel]: I said quite a while ago that I’d lost count of the number of clues I’d seen for Emma: this would not be in my top five. ;-)

49 Responses to “Guardian 25,284 / Gordius”

  1. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Eileen this was very enjoyable and also a very welcome change from yesterday’s struggle.

    There was nary an obscurity to be seen!

    AUTOMATE was my last entry and also my favourite.

    Many thanks Gordius for restoring my sanity and my faith in Grauniad puzzles.

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen. As you say, it’s the usual Gordius mixture. If you try Redshank

  3. Andrew says:

    (oops, hit Submit too soon..)

    If you try Redshank (aka Crucible) in today’s FT you’ll find an interesting coincidence in one clue.

  4. Martin H says:

    Morning Eileen – as you say, typical Gordius – not very knotty. I share most of your reservations, but can just about excuse ‘by’ in 26: you get IDLER ‘by’ working ‘riled’ (and he needed it for the &lit surface). Nothing remarkable here, but I thought BLOWER was neatly done.

  5. Ian says:

    Thanks Eileen.

    Perhaps too many anagrams about but still one or two nice moments viz:- AUTOMATE and IDLER.

  6. Swukker says:

    I would have found this puzzle much easier if I hadn’t settled on STABLE for 1d early on. Altogether too normal, too typical and unexceptional a puzzle.

  7. NeilW says:

    Thanks Eileen.

    I think your slight boredom is showing in the solution given for 11…

  8. Eileen says:

    Hi NeilW

    I couldn’t possibly comment. ;-)

    [Fixed now – thanks.]

  9. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius

    Routinely enjoyable contrast to yesterday’s extraordinarily complex and imaginative composition.

    For some reason, dime took a time to see. I must confess I quite liked ‘automate’, ‘upon’, ‘lower’, and militarise.

    I was less taken by ‘emerald’ – a nice idea but not very directly clued.

  10. Muz says:

    Thanks Eileen for the fine blog

    I take it that Newmarket in 1d refers to the racecourse – i.e. somewhere that grooms would be found?

    This is a point that has been made before, but the use of Guardian=us (19d) really should be avoided, as the puzzles are syndicated in other papers (e.g. the one I access from).

  11. Eileen says:

    Hi Muz

    Yes – I pondered whether to explain Newmarket. It’s been a famous centre for horse-racing for 400 years.

  12. Muz says:

    Eileen@11: Point taken. I would accept that Newmarket and horse-racing are practically synonymous, even for those outside the UK.

    In any case, a lot more accessible than yesterdays reference to Brynner and McKenna = “King and I” = KI.

  13. Geoff says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    Like Bryan @1 I was quite relieved to have an easy one today; after several rather challenging puzzles recently I was beginning to fear that I was losing my crossword solving mojo. And it does leave more of the day for other things!

    Some weak clues, certainly, but I did enjoy GUMBOIL (some leftover soup from Bonxie’s puzzle last week), IDLER (for me, the ‘by’ works fine – ‘riled’ is converted to the answer by means of working, and makes a good &lit), NEMESIS, FARMSTEAD (‘cultural centre’ is a more pleasingly misleading def than Gordius typically provides), ALCOHOLISM and AUTOMATE. That’s more than I usually find with this setter.

    Note that EMMA is not only the first part of the word Emmanuel, but is also the nickname by which the college is customarily known in Cambridge itself.

  14. Roger says:

    Thanks Eileen, and as you imply, a day for calming down a bit after yesterday’s Enigmatic variations.

    A nice handful of &lits I thought and agree with Martin @4 regarding the use of ‘by’ in 26 … and an idler no doubt would be riled by working. Considered navigate (a co-driver has to) for a time at 17d, smiled at 14 and thought 28 was rather clever.

    Did also wonder whether Gordius had any personnel aspirations towards 10a but it seems he was born in Kent, lives in Dorset … and is retired anyway !

  15. John Appleton says:

    27ac proved my 28ac. I first had Iceland (as Greenland is, perhaps), which had me thinking Eli might make an appearance in 16d. Then I changed it for the green and pleasant land that’s England, while also thinking that Ireland fit the clue better, if not the checking. Dodgy clue indeed.

  16. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. I suppose variety is the spice of life! The only thing that held me up here was misreading 25ac as (4,5) instead of (5,4).

  17. Robi says:

    Thanks, Gordius and Eileen for the blog. Not sure what the problem was with AUTOMATE – if you do this, it leads to self-control (of equipment, for example.) Is ON in 21 doing double duty i.e. is it the definition as well?

    Had a bit of a problem with EMMA – I thought at first it was LUCY as in Lucy Cavendish College. Like tupu @9, for some unaccountable reason DIME caused problems and was the last in.

    BTW for those who have not seen it, JohnH (Enigmatist) has kindly put all his setting notes on yesterday’s blog @86&88. Six more comments there and we will reach a ton (is this a record?)

  18. Grumbler says:

    Thanks for the blog.

    Is the definition of Settings ‘and what computers need’? That was my last to go in, and I wasn’t really happy with it …

  19. Eileen says:

    Hi Robi

    Re automate: I perhaps was rather vague: I think of ‘automate’ as a transitive verb, ‘to make automatic’, but, asI said, learned different from Chambers.

    I don’t see any double duty for ‘on’ in 21ac. it’s the definition for UPON, which was my objection, as the words are too close. The wordplay is coupon [voucher] with co [firm] going.

    Hi Grumbler

    That’s the way I took it – and I wasn’t happy with the clue, either, but for different reasons.

  20. Alan says:

    Thanks Eileen for the blog. After yesterday’s ordeal, I felt much more at home here.

    For 14, I took it that even though the road ahead may be clear, if the traffic light was on red, then you would still be held up.

  21. Robi says:

    Thanks Eileen for the clarification; I was reading (wrongly) CO going on UPON.

  22. Eileen says:

    Hi Alan

    I took it that way, too, which I thought I’d implied by calling it a double definition.

  23. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Eileen

    Back to some sort of sanity after yesterday. As you say, quite a few loose clues

  24. Phil says:

    A relief after yesterday but I must confess to putting stable in one down initially and a very unworthy thought that maybe 7 down was more apposite than intended?

  25. Eileen says:

    Hi Phil

    On my first skim through the clues before filling anything in, ‘stable’ was my first thought for 1dn [already unjustifiably criticising the definition!] but, by the time I got round to writing anything, it clearly wasn’t.

    Re your second comment, I refer you to mine at 8. ;-)

  26. Robi says:

    BTW, although it is in the dictionary, does anyone say SHERD rather than SHARD? I wonder why Gordius used the former. Is it a regional thing?

  27. Eileen says:

    I must admit I don’t say or hear either very often, Robi, so I don’t know about regional variations. I found that all my dictionaries gave ‘sherd’ as the alternative to ‘shard’, rather than vice versa, but, interestingly, ‘potsherd’ before ‘potshard’, so it’s not just a question of alphabetical order.

    [I think Gordius chose ‘sherd’ because it fitted his clue. ;-)]

  28. Robi says:

    Yes, but it wouldn’t be HARD ;) to think of an alternative.

  29. Otherstuff says:

    According to Wikipedia Robi shard is for glass and sherd is for pottery, an abbreviation of potsherd as Eileen points out. It also says there that no-one bothers with the distinction and everyone generally uses shard.

  30. Chas says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen.

    I was quite happy with 6d taking I[nformation] T[echnology] as computer science.

    I was puzzled by 15d: what is cultural about a farm?

    For 23d: I think Colon is the name of the capital city but I have not checked.

  31. Martin H says:

    Chas – a farm is agri-cultural.

    Cristobal Colon is the Spanish name of the explorer we call Christopher Columbus, and has a number of cities, currencies and so on named after him in Latin America. The capital city is San Jose, the currency the colon.

  32. Chas says:

    MartinH thanks for agri-cultural

    It seems I mis-remembered the name of the capital.

  33. otter says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. As you say, a fairly typical Gordius puzzle with very little to tax. Of course, I got stupidly stuck on a couple of clues for ages, which then turned out to be blindingly obvious when I finally solved them.

    It’s sort of light relief after yesterday’s torture, which was above my level, although I would prefer something in between the two, really.

  34. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you, Eileen.

    I’ve been critical of Gordius in the past, but I thought this was an okay puzzle. GUMBOIL and WORCESTER were ones I liked in particular.

  35. tupu says:

    re shard/sherd

    OED gives both spellings and pronunciations as correct. I wonder if it is a bit like Berkeley in that respect, possibly with pronunciation preceding spellings.

    As I’m sure Eileen (and no doubt some others) will know, the Athenians used potsherds (the Greek is ostrakon) as surfaces to write down the names of those they wished to banish (hence ostracise) (‘ostrakizein’) from the city.

  36. Eileen says:

    Hi tupu

    I thought I remembered giving that piece of information here once. I’ve looked it up and I’m quite shocked to find that it was over two years ago! Brendan clued OSTRACISM with ‘head off most prejudice and social exclusion’

  37. Geoff says:

    I’ve little to add to the shard/sherd debate except that, as a word on its own, ‘shard’ is by far the commoner term to describe a (sharp-edged) fragment of something hard. Archaeologists, on the other hand, always seem to use the term ‘potsherd’.

  38. Geoff says:

    But we can have a little discourse on ‘gumbo’ (see 1a).

    A gumbo is a soup/stew, characteristic of the Cajun cuisine of Louisiana which can contain seafood, poultry, pork or sometimes just a variety of green vegetables (‘gumbo z’herbes’). The name seems to come from the word for ‘okra’ in one of the Bantu languages, and many versions do contain this mucilaginous (lovely word!) vegetable. However, other versions are thickened instead with ‘file’ (pronounced fee-LAY), which consists of powdered sassafras leaves.

  39. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Is 14a really a double definition?
    How can “with a clear road” define traffic light.
    I thought it was a completely uncryptic clue and therefore rather unsatisfactory.

  40. Robi says:

    RCWhiting @39 – I took this to mean that when the traffic is light, the road would be clear – see Eileen’s blog comment.

  41. Eileen says:

    I saw it as a kind of shorthand {traffic: light] like ‘visibility: poor.

  42. tupu says:

    HI Eileen

    Thanks – a nice clue from Brendan. The date is before my time on the site so I had not seen it.

  43. slipstream says:

    6 down, ITEM: IT [computer science?] + EM [space]

    IT is an abbreviation for information technology (=computer science).

  44. Eileen says:

    Thanks, slipstream.

    I understood the composition of the clue but my computer knowledge is so limited that I didn’t know whether the two terms were interchangeable, hence the question mark. When I was teaching [several years ago now!] they were two separate subjects and I didn’t want to tread on anyone’s toes!]

    When I said that the clue didn’t work for me, I meant that I thought the wordplay should be something like ‘article needs computer science on space’.

  45. taxi phil says:

    I thought 7D was appalling, and of all the clues to Emma that I’ve ever seen this one wouldn’t make my top FIFTY FIVE !

  46. RCWhiting says:

    OK, thanks,I get it.

  47. hoffi says:


    Unless I missed it no-one commented on ‘farmstead’. What has this to do with ‘cultural centre’? I entered it from the anagram but was, and remain, perplexed.

  48. grandpuzzler says:

    hoffi: see Martin H @31.


  49. hoffi says:

    Thanks, but as Graham Taylor might say ‘do I not like that’.

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>

five × = 20