Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,423 / Gordius

Posted by Eileen on September 9th, 2011


A fairly typical Gordian mixed bag, I think – some clever clues, together with some very loose definitions and one glaring inaccuracy. Older solvers may have found this puzzle rather easier. ;-)


1   HARDBACK: Spoonerism for ‘barred hack’
5   MASSIF: MASS [service] +IF [provided]: reference to the Massif Central 
9   IN-GROUP: anagram [out] of POURING
10  PROFFER: I tried at first to think of a word to take ‘on’ from and couldn’t, so decided  that it’s PR OFF [‘not on’] ER [sovereign]: I looked for PR = promotion and again didn’t find it, so presume it’s the usual PR = Public Relations
11  ELAND: ELAN [dash] + D[ied] – two favourite crossword words in one clue
12  TENNESSEE: T[ime] + two anagrams [wandering] of SEEN – and a double definition: the playwright Williams and the American state: rather nice, I thought.
13  DIALLING TONE: DIE [what’s cast] around ALLINGTON [castle in Kent]  : a reference to Julius Caesar saying, ‘The die is cast’, when he crossed the Rubicon in 49BC: I won’t quote the Latin because the last time I did there was a dispute about the word order.
17  HAIRDRESSING: DRESSING [putting clothes on] after HAIR [musical] – definition: ‘going over the top’!
20  SPAGHETTI: anagram [managed] of THE GAPS IT: &lit
22  OP ART:  reversal [reflecting] of TRAP  O [catch nothing]
23  INHALER: double / cryptic definition and another &lit, I suppose
24  ATTRACT: reversal [over] of CART [vehicle[ in A TT [a race]
25  NASSER:hidden in egyptiaN ASSERting: reference to the president of Egypt    during the Suez crisis
26  MEANTIME: cryptic definition?


1   HEIFER: HE + anagram [out] of FIRE – definition: ‘on the farm’!
2   REGGAE: EGG in reversal [rising] of EAR [listener]
3   BLOW-DRIED: anagram [carelessly of WOuLD BRIDE minus U [turn]
4   CAPITAL LETTER: cryptic definition referring to the notorious landlord Peter Rachman,  who gave the word Rachmanism to the English language – Chambers: ‘the conduct of a landlord who charges extortionate rents for property in which very bad slum conditions prevail’
6   ANODE: AN ODE [a poem]
7   SOFT SPOT: SOFT [P] + SPOT [point]
8   FORCE -FED: double / cryptic definition
10  PONTIUS PILATE: anagram [made] of PUPIL SIT AT ONE: this notorious governor
14  GUNCOTTON: anagram [form] of COUNT ON GT: this ‘old banger’ was a new one on me
15  THESPIAN: THE [article] + SPIN [embellishment] around A
16  PIRANHAS: anagram [mis] of HAPS around IRAN [land]: I like the construction of this but piranhas are freshwater fish!
18  SAFARI: hidden in mombaSA FAR Into – another &lit
19  STATUE: U [upper class] in STATE [body politic]
21  HALLE:  E [direction] after [concert] HALL: the UK’s oldest extant orchestra, founded in Manchester in 1857 by Sir Charles Hallé

19 Responses to “Guardian 25,423 / Gordius”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    As you say, the usual mixed bag plus what seems to be an obligatory editorial goof!

  2. Roger says:

    Thanks Eileen. Read 10a the same as you. First thought at 26a was LEAN TIME but I guess MEAN just about works. Potential niggles perhaps neatly side-stepped by the inclusion of the ‘?’

    Liked the self-destructing clues at 9a (out ‘pouring’) and 16d (mis ‘haps’), though.

  3. harhop says:

    Thankyou, Eileen. As it seems to be a quiet morning lets stir up the controversy you mention in 13. Asterix has it as Alea iacta est, and so does Wikipedia.

  4. Eileen says:

    Hi harhop

    Oh dear, what have I started by *not* mentining it?!

    Latin being an inflected language, the quotation can be [and indeed is, as a trawl through Google shows] put in any order. I’ve eventually tracked down the relevant passage from Suetonius, Divus Julius 32:

    Caesar: ‘eatur,’ inquit, ‘quo deorum ostenta et inimicorum iniquitas uocat. iacta alea est,’ inquit.

  5. Alexlotl says:

    Still learning, but I found today tricky in places. Somehow knew 9a was IN-GROUP but missed the anagram (I know!), so I didn’t write it in. Rachman was new to me.

    Favourite clues were 1a, 12a and 14d, although I was surprised to find GUNCOTTON was unhyphenated. Missed 11a, 8d (got FORCE, missed FED), 22a and 19d (should have remembered my Nancy Mitford).

    Note – the musical Hair was also (in)famous for having nude actors on stage, so the clue for 17a was particularly apt.

  6. chas says:

    Thanks Eileen for the blog. You explained why I had the right answer for 13a: the only castle I can name in Kent is Leeds – and I failed to realise that a DIE is cast :(

    I liked 9a.
    I liked 12a once I had discarded Shirley as the Williams in question.

    on 16d: some years ago I was on a holiday which included Manaus on the Amazon. One of the entertainments offered was fishing for piranhas. Those caught were cooked and eaten. They have lots of bones and are very tasty!

  7. Eileen says:

    Hi chas

    I didn’t know about Allington Castle, either. Until I had some crossers, I thought HEVER [ home of Anne Boleyn – the only one I knew apart from Leeds] was going to be in there.

    And hi, Alexlotl – if you’re fairly new to solving cryptics, you’ll find that Nancy’s ‘U’ crops up a lot.

    Thanks for pointing out the aptness of 17ac – but I still think the definition’s abysmal!

  8. BrigC says:

    I do like the extra bits of information but beware Wikipedia which elsewhere places the birth of a still thriving Halle “rival” at 1840.

  9. John Appleton says:

    I was racking my brains for sea monsters. Only got it from the wordplay – one of the ways that cryptics can prove easier than straight crosswords.

  10. Eileen says:

    Thanks, BrigC. I do know not to trust Wikipedia implicitly – I should just have relied on my own knowledge and not gone ‘checking’!

  11. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and ordius

    A mixed bag as usual as you say. Some enjoyable clues with good surfaces. I was badly delayed by Piranha which are, as you say and as far as I am aware, freshwater fish. But the construction was good, as you also say, and eventually led me to the answer.

  12. tupu says:

    Sorry Gordius for beheading you above.

  13. liz says:

    Thanks for blog, Eileen. I agree about the def in 17ac and it’s a pity that the def of 16dn should have been inaccurate — perhaps that’s why it was my last entry! I didn’t manage (or bother) to parse 13ac, so thanks for that..

    I liked what Roger called the ‘self-destructing’ clues. My favourite was 12ac.

  14. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    What was essentially an over easy puzzle was stretched, for me, to an almost respectable difficulty by dialling tone (I also obsessed over Leeds) and piranhas (couldn’t see mis (haps) as an anagram indicator). The latter was impressive eventually.

  15. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius.

    I’ve always heard “alea jacta est”, but bow to your superior knowledge and research – thanks for the original quote, which I almost understand :)

    I met GUNCOTTON the other day, when the Mythbusters were trying to recreate a Civil War rocket which was supposed to have flown some 300 miles to Washington – they made a couple of splendid rockets, which didn’t get further than a mile.

    I agree about the shortcomings in some definitions. I didn’t give too much thought to 17ac, but my reaction when I finally got PIRANHAS was “they’re not sea creatures.”

  16. robinwolves says:

    I think Dover is quite a well known castle in Kent, as is Rochester. I’m sure there must be quite a few.

    I enjoyed all of this, just a shame about 16.

  17. Martin P says:

    I read that Piranhas do live in the sea too, in large shoals of up to 4000, like a number of other freshwater species. So there’s no need for any blushes, then.

  18. Eileen says:

    Thank you for that, Martin P.

    In view of the definitions in my dictionaries – Collins: any of various small freshwater voracious fishes of tropical America …; SOED: a voracious fresh-water fish; Chambers: a ferocious S. American river fish, ‘sea dwellers’ seems a perverse way to clue it. [But then it is Gordius. ;-) ]

  19. Huw Powell says:

    Martin, I doubt you read that somewhere that was accurate. While there are most certainly some fish that spend part of their lives in rivers and part in the ocean, and species that prefer brackish water, piranha are not among them. The error didn’t slow me down though, these puzzles are notorious for a “vague” level of accuracy when they drift into scientific realms.

    Fun puzzle, Gordius, and thanks for the blog, Eileen!

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