Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,344 / Gordius

Posted by Eileen on June 9th, 2011


Rather surprisingly, it’s me for the second time this week. I was asked to stand in – it’s not that I put in a special request for a Gordius! 😉


8   BEDSTRAW: BED [plot] + [Jack] STRAW [former minister]: this seemed an unlikely name for a plant but here it is: apparently it used to be used to stuff mattresses.
9   ORISON: O [nothing] + [p]RISON [‘no soft sentence’ ]: I remembered this from ‘Hamlet': ‘Nymph in thy orisons / Be all my sins remember’d.’
10  AUBURN: AU [gold] + BURN [stream]
11  TAPROOTS: anagram of PARTS TOO – & lit
12  NIGH: NIGH[t]
13  CONSTRAINT: CON [study] + anagram of TRANSIT
15  GYMSLIP: anagram of SLIMY in GP [doctor]
16  CANDOUR: CAN [is able] + DO [satisfy – as in ‘That’ll do me’] + UR [the eternal old city]
18  AESTHETICS: [an]AESTHETICS: surely the clue should read ‘numbers’? Both the paper and online version have the singular.
19  SATE: anagram of TEAS
20  COLANDER: CO [firm] + LAND [terrain] + ER [‘hang on’]
22  TORERO: TORE [ripped] + reversal of  OR
23  SILENT: reversal of IS + LENT [advanced]: William [the Silent] of Orange [1533-1584] was the leader of the Dutch revolt against Spain.
24  CORTEGES: EG [say] in CORTES [Spanish and Portuguese Parliament]: for just one moment, I thought this was a very dodgy homophone and was ready to appeal to Stella!


AS MUCH AS IT TAKES: I think I’m missing something here: my grandson has recently taken to the Guardian quick crossword. I haven’t managed to interest him in cryptics yet but I think he could manage this one.
3   TRANSCRIBE: anagram of RBS CERTAIN: as often with Gordius, I don’t see the significance of the ellipses, either.
4   TWO-TONE: not quite two ton[n]e [2204.62 pounds] but more than 40 hundredweight [2240 pounds]: this seemed to be the wrong way round but, of course, it’s the words, not the weights: not quite two ton[n]e but more than two ton – I think! [Please see Andrew’s comment 2!]
5   COOP: double definition: CO-OP:  a few weeks ago, someone – I can’t remember who but many thanks, anyway –  provided a link to this much-loved sketch, which I showed to said grandson. I think this clue justifies another viewing!
6   BIPOLAR DISTRESS: a reverse anagram [distress] of BLIP OR A  [ Correction: this should be DISORDER – thanks, tupu and Andrew]
7   NO STONE UNTURNED: cryptic [?] definition
14  TRANSITORY: anagram of ARTS IN + TORY [this party?]
17  PIBROCH: PI [religious] + BRO[ther] + CH[urch]: the classical music of the bagpipe
21  DATA: DA [lawyer] + TA [thanks]

54 Responses to “Guardian 25,344 / Gordius”

  1. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius

    I solved 6d as bipolar disorder. Distress won’t quite fit I think.

    Re 18a I think the final s = study.

    I enjoyed this much more than I feared at first glance though there are one or two ‘iffy’ clues as noted esp. 14d’s ‘this’?

    I liked 15a, 16a, 23a, 6d, 17d.

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks Eileen. I don’t think you’ve missed anything in 2dn – it just seemed like a very weak double definition to me.

    You’ve got your units slightly mangled in 4dn – one tonne is 2204 lb and 1 ton = 2204 lb, so two of them would be twice as much.. Also there’s a typo in 6dn – DISORDER not DISTRESS.

  3. Eileen says:

    Many thanks, tupu and Andrew – I don’t know why on earth I put DISTRESS! [especially as I’ve seen this clue before, with ‘disorder’].

    And I knew I’d make a mistake with the Maths – forgot at the last minute to double it!

  4. tupu says:

    Hi Andrew

    :) You too have a maths ‘typo’! There must be a ‘gremlin’ about.

  5. Andrew says:

    Oops – my excuse is that the second one is an anagram of the first!

  6. Mystogre says:

    Thanks Eileen.

    Like you, I thought here was something missing in 2d and I feel 18 ac should be a plural.

    Like tupu@1 I found 6d to be BIPOLAR DISORDER as I hadn’t heard of the distress version.

    But I did enjoy PIBROCH but am unsure why PI means religious. What am I missing?

    The rest seemed reasonably straightforward although I had PEASTRAW for a while in 8ac until I realised that wasn’t right. And my Chambers gives 15ac as two words and not one, but the clue cited nicely. All in all, thanks Gordius as well.

  7. Ian says:

    Hi Eileen. Many thanks for the weblog for this Gordius crossword.

    The last half dozen by this very good setter were somewhat harder than this one.

    Apart from Orison and Pibroch everything else seemed particularly straightforward.


  8. Mystogre says:

    Seems electron trails crossed again over my commenst on 6d. Must take.a long time for things to get from this side of the world.

  9. Mystogre says:

    Seems electron trails crossed again over my comments on 6d. Must take.a long time for things to get from this side of the world.

  10. tupu says:

    Hi Mystogore

    Pi is an old shorter from of ‘pious’.

    On second thoughts, I begin to think my attempt to rescue 18a with the suggestion of ‘s’ = ‘study’ won’t really do. It is not a regular abbreviation except e.g. in DOS (Director of Studies – here in Cambridge) and I don’t much like ‘of arts’ for aesthetics so it would really have to do double duty.

  11. Eileen says:

    Hi Mystogre

    If you haven’t come across PI before, file it away – it comes up fairly frequently in crosswords. It’s short for ‘pious’ but Chambers gives it its own entry: ‘obtrusively religious, sanctimonious’.

  12. Eileen says:

    Sorry, tupu, I missed your ‘pi’ comment. [I’m glad you’ve had second thoughts about ‘study’. :-) ]

  13. tupu says:

    Hi Eileen

    Re ‘orison’, thanks for the Hamlet ref. I remembered the word from the opening o Wilfred Owen’s marvellous though intesely painful sonnet ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth 1918′

    ‘What passing bells for those who die as cattle?
    Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
    Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
    Can patter out their hasty orisons’.

  14. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen. I agree with your reserves, but polished this off surprisingly quickly, so they didn’t really bother me.

    I enjoyed the links – it’s ages since I’ve seen the 2R’s! It seems the plant can be used for rather more than stuffing mattresses. I’d assumed the reason for its use might be that it has apleasant smell, but it turns out the odour wards off fleas :)

    I’m glad you didn’t have to appeal to me re 24ac, as I’d have been hard put to it to explain a homophone :)

    7d made me smile – I believe the police often use this expression to state there intentions with regard to an investigation.

  15. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen. I agree with your reserves, but polished this off surprisingly quickly, so they didn’t really bother me.

    I enjoyed the links – it’s ages since I’ve seen the 2R’s! It seems the plant can be used for rather more than stuffing mattresses. I’d assumed the reason for its use might be that it has apleasant smell, but it turns out the odour wards off fleas :)

    I’m glad you didn’t have to appeal to me re 24ac, as I’d have been hard put to it to explain a homophone :)

    7d made me smile – I believe the police often use this expression to state their intentions with regard to an investigation.

  16. Stella Heath says:

    Sorry about the repeated comment – I’d just submitted when I noticed a huge error in the last paragraph.

  17. Roger says:

    Thanks Eileen. Agree with Andrew that 2d is a dd … ‘what’s needed’ (to get the job done) and ‘up to the maximum’ (as in filling the car with petrol). Noticed lots of 8a coming into flower when out walking earlier in the week and anyone trying to dig out dandelions or comfrey will sympathise with the lovely &lit that is taproots.

    Favourite clue has to be colander … thought at first it must be something to do with golf courses !

  18. Wanderer says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius. This was at the easier end of the Guardian spectrum, I found, which was no bad thing.

    For once I found the ellipses between 1, 2 and 3 down fully justified as I thought there was a financial connection between them. 1 is explicitly about banking in both clue and solution, 2 is a bit of stretch but could be read as referring to money, and 3 has RBS in the wordplay, so linking them worked for me.

    Good stuff.

  19. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Eileen & Gordius, this was very enjoyable despite G’s use of and allusion to foreign words, specifically PIBROCH and CORTEGES – even though I guessed both correctly.

    Moreover, even though I opted for SILENT, all the Williams I have ever come across – including my grandfather and an uncle – were far from silent.

  20. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    During my meanderings I discovered the phrase “not a scrabble word” attached to ‘transcribe'; can this be true?

  21. chas says:

    Thanks to Eileen for the blog. You explained why William is silent – which had me scratching my head to no avail.

    Favourite was 24a: I remembered cortes as Spanish parliament but did not know it is also the Portuguese version.

  22. Robi says:

    Thanks Gordius and Eileen. I loved your two Ronnies sketch link.

    I can’t believe that I got caught again by number=anAESTHETIC(S). I suppose a member of the class of anaesthetics might be termed a number. Mystogre @6; my Collins gives GYMSLIP as one word. Never heard of PIBROCH before, but Google makes me an expert; as well as bagpipes, it: ‘is also increasingly played on the Scottish fiddle and the wire-strung Gaelic harp or clarsach, among other instruments, as part of a recent revival.’ I don’t understand RCWhiting @20; if this is something clever, you better explain it to me.

    Gordius gave: ‘Managed science in race to copy,’ last year for TRANSCRIBE. I particularly liked COLLANDER.

  23. Robi says:

    ……Well I liked COLANDER even better………

  24. walruss says:

    Not a fan of clueing illnesses that affect lots of people. This setter has been in for it before on similar matters IIRC, and you do wonder why he does it! Other than that the standard fare, not too bad, not too good. 18 would have been COD had Gordius got the tense right. Boo, hiss.

  25. Stella Heath says:

    Hi Bryan@19; I didn’t know PIBROCH either, but I would hardly describe a Scottish word as ‘foreign’, and tupu may correct me on this, but I believe CORTEGE has been a valid English word for quite some time now. Much of English derives from 11th and 12 century Norman French, with many more recent borrowings.

    To RCWhiting@20, I looked it up in Chambers Online, and it gives it as valid – not surprisingly. In my line of work, though, “transcribe” is not the same as “copy”, but closer to “rewrite”.

  26. RCWhiting says:

    I think your source is correct.I would be most disgruntled if I were prevented from playing it.

    Walrus #24
    It is the lack of a plural in 18 which is disputed, not the tense.
    Is your comment about illnesses serious?
    If we were each allowed to object to a particular group of words we would end up with some very bare cosswords.

  27. Carrots says:

    Hi Eileen and thanks both for the blog and The Two Ronnies sketch. When Gordius is being good and not taking his renowned “small liberties”, his puzzles don`t seem half as interesting. I`d finished this before halfway through my lunchtime pint, with no quibbles. I did think TRANSCRIBE meant “turn into another version” (language/musical key etc.) rather than “copy”, but I was wrong.

    The Two Ronnies sketch illustrated what I have suspected for some time: classic (BBC) comedy and sit-coms have stood the test of time that I fear few contemporary offerings will achieve.

  28. caretman says:

    Thanks, Eileen and Gordius. I echo many of the comments here; I too wondered why ‘Number’ wasn’t plural in 18a. I thought TAPROOT was the COD, and also liked COLANDER and BIPOLAR DISORDER. And I was pleased to see PIBROCH as a solution; one of my favorite old folk belt-em-outs is ‘Sound the Pibroch’. Tha tighin fodham!

  29. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. Managed to complete this soon after it was published online, which must indicate it’s on the easy side, as my crossword brain usually works best at a more civilised hour!

    PIBROCH and TORERO were both new to me, and I needed your explanation to understand why William was SILENT. I agree with the complaints about 18ac.

    Favourite clue: COLANDER. TAPROOTS was nice too.

  30. walruss says:

    Yes RC, I am being serious about illnesses, and I think there is a convention among !!MOST!! editors that crosswords should be reasonable polite, and certainly not offensive. There’s room for the risque of course, and lots of humour, but what’s witty about BIPOLAR DISORDER? Re ‘number that ought to be numbers, you are spot on.

  31. Eileen says:

    Thanks for that, walruss.

    I wasn’t going to mention this ever again [having done so several times before] but the main reason [there are others!] why Gordius is way down my list of my favourite setters is his TERMINAL CANCER clue, three years ago now, at the time of the opening of the new Heathrow terminal – it wasn’t even witty, which might have gone some way to mitigating it.

  32. Bryan says:

    Hi Stella @ 25

    I ken nae Gaelic – so PIBROCH is foreign to me.

    The reference to the Iberian Peninsula requires an understanding of Spanish or Portuguese parliaments which were also beyond my ken – even though I opted for CORTEGES.

    Hi Walrus @ 30

    Danny Kaye – who was reportedly Bipolar himself – sang a song ‘Manic Depressive Pictures Presents’ which was featured in the movie ‘Up In Arms’ (1944).

  33. walruss says:

    Yes Bryan, but that would be for the individual. Mr Kaye may have decided, for himself, to celebrate rather than mourn his state of mind at that particular time. It would not have been for others to remind him of it. That would be plain insensitive, as Gordius, IMO, jhas been here.

  34. muck says:

    Thanks Eileen and others.
    4dn doesn’t require knowledge of lbs/kg or lbs/cwt.
    TWO-TONE has one letter more than 2000kg=’two tonne’ and one letter more than 40cwt=’two ton’.

  35. RCWhiting says:

    Sorry,Walrus, but they are both perfectly correct words found in the dictionary; I can see nothing impolite or offensive about the clue or solution (6d).
    A few years ago I had a heart attack, am I allowed to object if that appears in a crossword? I hope not.

  36. Eileen says:

    Hi muck @34

    Yes, I did [eventually] come round to that in the blog. I should have deleted the waffle in the first part of the comment!


    I promise not to go on about this any more but, fortunately, you obviously recovered from your heart attack. That outcome is rather less likely in the other two cases. [I just find it rather odd, coming from a man of the cloth.]

  37. tupu says:

    Hi walruss
    I sympathise to a degree – though the example Eileen gives seems far worse. But one does not like to see anyone gratuitously or wilfully offended and whoever said ‘words will never hurt me’ was an optimist or a fool or both. At the same time, I suspect that the term is already a softening of the harsher sounding ‘manic depression’. Those I know who suffer from the illness seem relatively straighforwardly open about it and seem to gain help from lithium to keep things under reasonable control. Some see it as a positive source of creativity. I have not encountered its being stigmatised, but this may simply be my own ignorance.

    Whether the clue is right to talk about ‘a state of mind’ when it is shifting states of mind that are involved is another matter.

    It is a shame since the clue was rather clever in its general conception. Before this the nicest play on the word polar I had encountered was in a pun rather than, as here, an anagram. C. K. Ogden (co-author of ‘The Meaning of Meaning’ wrote a little book on the idea of opposites which he said he hoped would help its readers get ‘their polar bearings’.

  38. Wolfie says:

    Thanks for the blog Eileen, and to Gordius for an entertaining, if untaxing, workout.

    I didn’t have a problem with the use of ‘bipolar disorder’, since the term is technical and unlikely to give offence – though, like others who have commented above, I am not sure of the accuracy of equating it with a ‘state of mind’. As I matter of fact I was more troubled by Araucaria’s use of the term ‘batty’ as a synonym for ‘mad’ in yesterday’s cryptic. I refrained from commenting then for fear of boring regular readers of this blog, but it seems to me that such insensitive language appears distressingly often in Guardian crosswords.

    Perhaps the crossword editor needs to remind all compilers of the advice in the Guardian Style Guide:

    ‘Take care using language about mental health issues. In addition to such clearly offensive and unacceptable expressions as loony, maniac, nutter, psycho and schizo, terms to avoid – because they stereotype and stigmatise – include victim of, suffering from, and afflicted by; “a person with” is clear, accurate and preferable to “a person suffering from”.’

  39. Paul B says:

    On the other hand, perhaps the crosswords editor – who may even have written the hallowed document, unless it was done by monks at Lindisfarne – needs to remind himself of the style guide.

    Like Eileen I took great exception to TERMINAL CANCER, from which even robust RC Whiting would find it hard to recover. There have been one or two other insensitive, or even blatantly sexist remarks in Guardian puzzles since then, and it does make you wonder whether anyone at The Guardian Crossword Police knows where the line (you know, the one you cross occasionally when there’s sufficient justification) actually is.

    So in all, I’m not outrageously offended today, but I still feel that it’s on the side of insensitivity to include stuff that’s about illness. In The Times guide it’s absolutely forbidden, and although I can’t speak on his or anyone’s behalf, I don’t think the Independent bloke would be too comfortable with this sort of thing.

    Really and truly, it’s just so much easier to steer clear. Go with ‘Paul’ instead, to the relative safety of the Land of Smut. Personally, I rather like it there.

  40. RCWhiting says:

    I really cannot understand the point of view expressed above.
    To be logical you would presumably want Chambers etc to apply the same restrictions.
    In both situations the ‘words’ are merely a sequence of letters, they are not being used in any normal sense. They are not in a sentence expressing an opinion or reporting a fact.

  41. Wolfie says:

    RCwhiting @40 – how can you say that the words used in a crossword are ‘merely a sequence of letters’? The whole point of a cryptic crossword for the solver is to disentangle the various levels of meaning in the words used – both in the clue and the solution. That is why, in addition to the wordplay, cryptic clues almost invariably contain a definition of the solution.

  42. RCWhiting says:

    They do have a meaning but they do not have any function.
    It is ‘function’ which gives words their power.

  43. liz says:

    I wasn’t going to comment on 6dn but, since we’re going there, I have to say that I agree with Paul B @39 that these types of clues are best avoided. As someone else has pointed out, Gordius has form in this respect. Although 6dn wasn’t as offensive as it could be, it did unfortunately jog my memory of That Other Clue, which was bad enough.

    R C Whiting @40 and 42 — Surely you would draw the line at racist epithets and other offensive expressions that happen to be in Chambers too?

  44. Paul B says:

    The *answers* in a crossword are never ‘merely a sequence of letters’ – unless you’re really heavily into Deconstruction. Elements of SI too always have a meaning, even down to the finest single-letter divisions. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to solve the clues, would we. The information would all be meaning-less.

    The example of Chambers is a strange one to choose, as that tome is bound (so to speak) to include everything (in so far as this is possible given the obvious limitations) that’s relevant in the English language, including all those little Saxon words that I use on a regular basis. Would such examples appear as answers in RC Whiting’s puzzles I wonder?

    Handled intelligently, there’s room even for this, as was shown in a puzzle that included such words as SCUNTHORPE, WIDOW TWANKEY and ARSENAL. It resulted in a letter to the Daily Mail, but the clues ans answers steered well clear of any controversy. And that’s the point.

  45. Richard says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen.

    It would seem from the previous entries that I’m the only person who found this all quite solvable apart from 23ac which I thought was a ghastly clue.

  46. RCWhiting says:

    I think the question is not what I would put into a crossword but which words I am entitled object to – none in my opinion.
    The emotional meaning of words is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder.
    For example I would find ‘Nazi’ (which does appear) much more offensive than Paul’s allusion – ‘wank’.

  47. Tony says:

    Talking of good taste and since the quick crossword was mentioned in the solution above, today’s Guardian quick crossword is Gilbert and Sullivan operas surrounded by mostly negative terms, including “anathema”. Whether one likes G&S is a personal matter and I like to think I have a sense of humour but I don’t like a setter airing his prejudices. I want to be entertained, not lectured to.

  48. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Well, well, I am afraid that we found 6d quite a good clue.
    I do understand that some people’s antennae are more sensitive than others, but where should one draw the line?

    Most of you found this a pretty easy crossword.
    I have to admit that we spent a lot more time on this one than on today’s Indy (Punk, so Paul’s alter ego). That said, that Punk puzzle was certainly more satisfying.

    Our first solution here was TWO-TONE (4d) and while we had no real discussion on Punk’s cluing, this one really set the, er, tone.
    Indeed, “tonne” is the metric one (1000 kg), but shouldn’t it be two tonnes (with an s), like two pounds? And if so, then ‘not quite’ isn’t quite it, isn’t it?

    I think there’s hardly any justification for the singular use of ‘Number’ in 18ac, although … maybe one cán see anaesthetics as a collective.

    Like tupu we didn’t understand why there was the word ‘this’ in 14d, it’s surely out of place.

    And why is ‘and’ in the clue for SILENT (23ac) italicised?
    It is at least in the pdf version.

    The DATA in 21d are defined by ‘What one finds on the Internet’ – I think that’s rather poor.

    Best clues?
    My PinC said after we found (that is, she found) ORISON (9ac) “that’s clever”. Yet, we started a discussion about ‘prison’ being ‘sentence’ [but as a verb it probably is?]. And although it reads very well ‘No soft sentence’ for leaving out the P from Prison is, let’s say, not something I would like to write. My cryptic intuition objects against the order of things.

    While Eileen (thank you once more, er, colleague :)) wasn’t happy with 7d (NO STONE UNTURNED), we thought it was very nice.
    Maybe even our Clue of the Day.
    [I will not mention that other one again, even though ….]

  49. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius for what,I thought was a pretty good puzzle.

    Are we all becoming so prissy that we can’t even mention an illness/condition?(bipolar disorder).
    One of the answers in today’s Indie puzzle is SWINE FLU,which doesn’t seem to have offended anybody’s sensitivity.

  50. Paul B says:

    So, for RC Whiting words have regained their (’emotional’) meaning: just that brief hiatus twixt posts 40 & 46 to account for?

  51. Robi says:

    Sil @48; if you’re still there – I wondered about the italic ‘and’ in 23 but then concluded that it was italicised because of the apparent contradiction between advancing and retreating. It was not entirely necessary but I thought it was reasonably appropriate.

  52. Robi says:

    I realise that it is very late in the day (or even early in the day after) but I feel compelled to join the discussion about 6. In my opinion, mental health issues are not publicised enough and the whole area is relatively underfunded in the NHS. BIPOLAR DISORDER, like some other mental illnesses, can prove to be just as terminal as cancer. I am pleased to see the condition mentioned, rather than the outdated and slightly perjorative ‘manic depression.’ So, the main point, I think, is whether the cluing was in any way offensive. Perhaps, ‘state of mind’ was slightly inaccurate but otherwise I see no objection to the clue or the answer.

    If a simple crossword can influence people to find out more about BIPOLAR DISORDER, I certainly would welcome that. I’m sure no offence was intended, and perhaps none should be taken.

  53. Scarpia says:

    Robi@52 – Thank you for the most sensible comment so far in this debate.I totally agree with you.

  54. walruss says:

    It’s a sensible comment on the face of it, but it misses the point of the agument completely.

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