Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,433 / Gordius

Posted by Eileen on September 21st, 2011


My second blog of a Gordius puzzle in less than two weeks – and it’s another rather mixed bag …


  REPEATING: REP [agent] EATING [having lunch]
6   EACH: contained in tEACHing
  COLD SNAP: anagram [revising] of DOC’S PLAN
9   ARDBEG: anagram [brew] of BADGER: I knew this because my husband was an aficianodo of Scottish malt whiskies and this was a particular favourite, being one of the peaty ones from the island of Islay. A nice clue, since Badger is a well-known brand of ale.
10  HYMNAL: anagram [contrived] of MANY in H L [high to low?] I can’t find these abbreviations in my dictionaries but several googled websites give them as parts of acronyms.
11  TIDEMARK: reversal of IT + DE[n]MARK
12  CASSIA: ASS [idiot] in CIA [US intelligence]: Cassia is an aromatic bark, similar to cinnamon
15  SILICONE: sounds like ‘silly cone’ and silicone is used in implants but the surface doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
16  ACROSTIC: anagram [composed] of IC [99: Don’t shoot the messenger – this is Crosswordland!] and ACTORS: this took longer than it should have, because even with some of the crossing letters, I was fixated on ‘Socratic’ as the anagram.
19  MAGNET: cryptic definition: the schoolboy Billy Bunter appeared in the Magnet comic
21  TERRAPIN: P[arking] in TERRAIN [ground]
22  TENNER: sounds like ‘tenor': I wish Gordius could have come up with a more grammatical surface for this rather familiar clue
24  LITMUS: LIT[erature] + MUS[ic]
25  UNCLE SAM: another old favourite cryptic definition
26  STUN: reversal of NUTS
27  OVERSIGHT: double definition


1   ROOMY: [kanga]ROO] + MY [setter’s]
2   PEDANTS: ED [opposition leader] in PANTS [underwear]: two rather unusual things:  ‘opposition leader’ doesn’t indicate O and ED is not clued by ‘editor / journalist'; instead it’s Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition : [‘rigorists’ would require a capital letter for ‘opposition’ and Chambers agrees].
4   IMPETUS: anagram of ME STUPI[d]
5   GRAND SLAM: GLAM [fascinating] around RANDS [African currency]
6   ENDEMIC: anagram [harassed] of MEDIC after EN [a space in printing, half the width of an em]
7   CLEARANCE: CLEAR [obvious] + AN + CE [Church of England – ‘establishment’]
13  ALCHEMIST: anagram of ST MICHAEL – one of those that are so neat that you think someone must have discovered them before but I don’t remember seeing it. It’s a pity the definition is so obvious.
14  ANTIPASTO: ANTI [hostile to] PAST O [love] [old flame]
17  OARSMAN: anagram [craft] of SAMOAN R[iver]
18  CENSURE: CE [Church of England – Anglican] + N[ame] + SURE [certain]: I know Gordius is a retired clergyman but two mentions of the Church of England in one puzzle is a bit much!
20  GINSENG: GINS [spirit’s] + ENG[lish]
22  TACKS: sounds like ‘tax’ [duty]; to tack is to take a zig zag course in sailing
23  EXACT: double definition

62 Responses to “Guardian 25,433 / Gordius”

  1. JohnR says:

    Thanks for the blog, as always, Eileen – I needed your help in a number of places. In particular, I totally failed to hear “tax” in 22dn – I now see that it’s a great surface.

    On 6dn, “endemic”, I struggled to find the definition. Is it in fact an &lit? Medics cope with endemic and epidemic diseases, as well as lots of other things…

    But what about 17dn? Is this another &lit?

  2. Jim says:

    Solved in under 10 minutes – apart from 9ac, where I wrongly guessed the anagram as abdreg.

  3. Roger says:

    Thanks Eileen. While purists may baulk at the use of IC at 16a, there can surely be no argument that 99 is one (I) before a hundred (C) {just as 98 might be twoc [an actual word, it seems] and so on}. Crypticity rules.

    But is GLAM ‘fascinating’ ? (a few RAND(S) short in your comment, btw, Eileen). ANTIPASTO was fun.

    Am sure we’ve met St Michael the ALCHEMIST before. [Is there an additional allusion to saving souls, here … maybe not].

  4. Thomas99 says:

    Yes, I’d call both 6d and 17d &lits (and also both very good), although I think some would say “partial &lit” because while the definition is the whole clue, the wordplay is only part of it. And 8a’s another one.

  5. Eileen says:


    Yes, I agree that they’re both &lit.


    I was trying to forestall complaints, as the Roman numeral thing came up just a week or so ago.

    Re GLAM: Collins has ‘glamorous [abbreviation ‘glam’]: alluring and fascinating'; Chambers: ‘bewitching, alluring’.

    [Missing RANDs now restored, thanks.]

  6. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Eileen.

    Plain sailing, this one; I was held up briefly by 22d (nice surface) and 25a (haven’t seen this before!) – two of the best clues in the puzzle, IMHO.

    Unlike ‘epidemic’, I had not come across ENDEMIC used as a noun, which is what the clue leads us to, but the dictionaries confirm that this usage is kosher. However, an endemic disease is one which is always present in the area where it occurs (as opposed to an epidemic disease, which appears from elsewhere and flares up), so ‘when this comes’ is not a good definition in what is otherwise a pretty decent &lit.

  7. Thomas99 says:

    Interesting point, but “when this comes” isn’t in that clue; it’s in 8a. The clue for ENDEMIC is “Harassed medic needs space to cope with it”.

  8. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Eileen. I’m no great fan of Gordius as you know but would defend his H and L – just look at any weather map.

  9. Paul B says:

    Shurely he means ‘unus before centum':

  10. Eileen says:

    Hi Gervase

    Yes, I was all set to object to ‘endemic’ as a noun, until put right by Collins and Chambers.

    I was also going to make the same objection as you to the definition – and then realised that ‘when this comes’ belonged to 8ac! 😉

  11. Eileen says:

    Sorry, Thomas, I keep crossing with you!

  12. scchua says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius.

    Enjoyable puzzle, last one being ARDBEG, which I had to Google to confirm. Would 15A SILICONE’s surface be refering to mammary implants (sh! not in front of the children), and what else is required with “cone” and “shape” to make it an &lit? Sorry, Gordius, if I’m way off!

  13. tyro says:

    Could someone explain the purpose(or duty) of flame in 14n – it looks superfluous – thanks

  14. Gervase says:

    Re my previous comment on ENDEMIC –

    Thomas99: Ma foi!

    Eileen: Interesting that you almost made the same mistake as me!

  15. Rog says:

    Hi tyro
    Old flame = past love. Love = o. Hence pasto.

  16. Eileen says:

    Of course, scchua! I did mean that kind of implant in the blog – just didn’t read the surface properly!

    Hi tyro

    I can’t see how the clue would work without ‘flame': an old flame is a past love. [I meant to comment on this reversal of what we’re used to: ‘love’ = O.]

    Gervase: spooky! 😉

  17. John Appleton says:

    Odd to see “oversight” appearing in both the daily crossword and the Countdown calendar today (sorry if that spoils it for any of you). Got Ardbeg easily enough, but thought it was a bit obscure.

  18. chas says:

    Thanks Eileen for the blog.

    To me Bunter was a character in books – I never knew he appeared in comics – so MAGNET made no sense :(

    I do not like clues like 26a where the form is (item 1) turning (item 2) since the ‘turning’ can apply to either item. I cannot write in an answer until I have a crossing letter.

    I also found myself unhappy about 13d: the clue looked as though the definition was ‘make gold from lesser material’. That would suggest alchemy as the answer. It now looks as though ‘worked’ is doing double duty as indicating the anagram and also being part of the definition.

  19. Eileen says:

    Hi chas – I agree about clues like 26. I left it until I had the crosser from ALCHEMIST – and I agree with you there, too.

    In my comment 16, I didn’t really mean that it was a reversal of what we’re used to but that we have to supply the ‘love’ from ‘old flame’.

  20. PeterO says:

    I cannot say that I found any of the three &lits particularly shining examples of the genre. My reaction to 6D was “Where’s the definition?”. ‘medic’ is the only word which points you in the right direction ; for the rest, it forms a narrative which might be associated with the answer, which is one way of doing things, but not one that I find very satisfactory. 8A uses a similar technique. In 17D, the word ‘by’ seems a little odd to me; I wonder why Gordius chose it.

    All in all, the expression ‘mixed bag’ is all too apt for this crossword as for most of Gordius’.

  21. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius

    Here was I thinking this was fairly easy till I stuck at 9a. The only thing that made sense was ARDBEG but I couldn’t think why. For a Scot, disgraceful!

  22. tyro says:

    thanks for responses to my No 13 from Rog and Eileen – much appreciated

  23. PeterO says:

    Thanks scchua for pointing out the other &lit at 15A; that one is more like it.

    In 14D, I’m not quite sure what to make of flame = love = o. It is a chain of association which (lexically at least) does not make flame = o. Im this case, at least, I find it justifiable on a technicality, in that it is obvious from the rest of the clue.

  24. Eileen says:

    Hi PeterO – it isn’t flame = O: I think Rog @15 expressed it more clearly than I did in the blog.

  25. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius

    Usual mixed bag with some enjoyable clues. Ticked 8a, 10a, 11a, 15a, 21a, 13d, 22d as I went along.

    I took 15a to refer to an implant that had gone wrong as many seem to do.

  26. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius.
    I thought this was a pretty good puzzle.
    Poor old Gordius always seems to get a bit of a hard time,sometimes for things other setters might get away with.My advice to Gordius would be to start commenting here on Fifteensquared,I’ve noticed that setters who do comment are generally given more leeway.

    Roger @3 TWOC is an acronym for ‘Taking without owners consent’,hence car thieves being known as ‘twoccers’.
    The other standard motor theft offence is TDA (taking and driving away) more commonly known as ‘Tickling the dog’s a**e’.

  27. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    I hate to correct you on your area of expertise but I would suggest that a silly shape ensues even when they have apparently not gone wrong.
    Although this was too straightforward to be very enjoyable I do not agree with most of the pedantic quibbles above especially reference 8ac and 6d.
    Last in was ardbeg which as a non whiskey drinker I was not familiar with. However ‘ard’ occurs in Scottish place-names and there is a Scottish Labour MP called Beg(g)so it was pretty obvious.
    I am surprised that none of the faint-hearted ‘ladees’ haven’t swooned at the blatant use of ‘belching’ and ‘implant’.

  28. RCWhiting says:

    line 9 I think that should be ‘have’,sorry.

  29. scchua says:

    Hi Eileen@15, sometimes it helps to have a Y chromosome :-)

  30. tupu says:

    Hi RCW

    Thanks, I am only too happy to be corrected here. :)You are clearly the expert! I only know what I read about this. But I wonder if the silly shape on your reading is not more spherical than conical. :)Nuff’s nuff.

  31. Roger says:

    Thanks Scarpia (26, ref twoc). Indeed so, as I discovered (in the OD) to my surprise @3 ! Clue possibilities, methinks.

  32. Thomas99 says:

    I just posted something that got swallowed. The gist of it was how much I liked the 3 &lits. I can’t help thinking anyone who dislikes them can’t quite have “got” them. They all work perfectly, although 8a’s “definition” element is perhaps rather broad (which Gordius balances with easy wordplay). Try making a few up yourself and you’ll be doubly impressed!

  33. Derek Lazenby says:

    Mostly OK, but I wasn’t fond of 9. I knew it was an anagram, but even with the crossing letters there is no way to solve it unless you drink whisky or are familiar with things Scottish. If we can avoid being parochial for a moment, that rules out most of the world. Clealy a justification for the use of gadgets! Words like that shouldn’t be anagrams.

  34. RCWhiting says:

    See my suggestion @27.
    Using odd bits of remembered knowledge and tailoring them to fit the problem confronting one is a reason I enjoy crosswords.

  35. PeterO says:

    Eileen @24 – “it isn’t flame = o” – that is just the point I was trying to make. To avoid the perhaps misleading mathematical symbol, ‘flame’ is not a definition of O, but linked to it by a chain of association, and it is that which I find as, shall we say, a device of limited validity. Would you be happy with a clue which referenced SEND with ‘job’ (job/post/send)?

    Scarpia @26 – my guess is that the Chief of Police reference is not accidental!

    RCWhiting @27 – Like you, I found Ardbeg as the only reasonable anagram of ‘badger’. Both parts have meaning (ard- a hill, -beg small; the latter must come up in place names, but the only one which comes to my mind is the Irish Lambeg, as in drum). And maybe the whisky rang a bell from somewhere, perhaps an off-licence.

  36. Eileen says:

    Hi again PeterO

    I must be being very dim but I’m afraid I just can’t see your problem with [ANTI]PASTO: I don’t understand your, ‘Would you be happy with a clue which referenced SEND with ‘job’ (job/post/send)?’

    You can’t separate ‘old’ and ‘flame': as Rog said, an ‘old flame’ is a ‘past love’, represented in crosswords as PAST O.

  37. RCWhiting says:

    I think Peter is doing what I have seen many examples of on this MB.
    He is considering a single word (flame) rather than the phrase of which it is a part (old flame). You are not dim!

  38. Robi says:

    Mostly good puzzle, but I can’t agree with RCW @27; surely, ‘when this comes’ for COLD SNAP is an allusion too far? Or have I missed something (again.)

    Thanks, Eileen; strangely enough I missed TACKS=tax – I thought it was something to do with atTACKS! Thanks for (again) explaining old flame=PAST O. I, of course, got stuck with old=PAST, leaving O=flame, which is what I think other posters wrestled with. I’m relaxed about IC=99; I think this one has been done to death.

    I didn’t know CASSIA, MAGNET (as a comic) and ARDBEG, although I do enjoy a drop of malt. Whenever I see PEDANTS (not here, of course), I’ll have to think of the opposition leader in underwear. If this had been PAUL, he probably would have had him wearing knickers!

  39. RCWhiting says:

    If ‘when it comes’ was the definition for ‘cold snap’ then indeed we would be even beyond my allusive dreamworld.
    It’s &lit, the definition is ‘Doc’s plan may need revising when this comes’,a very explicit definition for ‘cold snap’.
    If I were being very grammatically pedantic I would prefer ‘might’ instead of ‘may’,but that’irrelevant.

  40. Robi says:

    Thanks, RCW for replying; I think I must be too dim for this blog. I’m not sure I still understand it. Does this mean that when a COLD SNAP comes, a doctor revises his plans? Otherwise, you better explain in words of less than one syllable…… Maybe the ARDBEG is clouding my judgement?

  41. RCWhiting says:

    “Does this mean that when a COLD SNAP comes, a doctor revises his plans?”
    Yes.At least if he hasn’t got a suitable plan in place then I hope he does . Every winter there are horrific stories of old folk dying in increased numbers due to hyperthermia during a cold snap. GPs get very busy either visiting the old in their homes or signing death certificates; this needs planning.

  42. PeterO says:

    RCWhiting @37 – I cannot see what difference it makes to treat ‘old flame’ as a phrase. I assume that you are not suggesting that ‘old flame’, whether treated as a phrase or as separate words, is a definition of PAST O. To get from one to the other requires two steps, with love being involved on the way. It is the double step which is, I feel, a slippery slope. I do not claim to be a clue writer, but somewhere towards the bottom of the slope you might find something like:

    Is the answer a job in the Company? On the contrary; it will not last long. (6)

    Apart from being a lousy clue (it’s all I could come up with on the spur of the moment), this does use a similar two-step process.

  43. RCWhiting says:

    Sorry,Peter but your earlier complaints all referred to ‘flame’ alone. The use of ‘old flame’ has been explained by Eileen, I cannot do any better.

  44. Robi says:

    PeterO @42; like Eileen, I’m not sure that I appreciate why you do not like PAST O = old love. Seems to me to be a good definition, but then again, I haven’t yet solved your clue (and probably won’t now as the computer is about to be deactivated for the night.)

  45. Robi says:

    P.S. or even ‘old flame.’

  46. RCWhiting says:

    BTW,you empasise ‘definition’ I presume you know that the definition is ‘appetiser’ and the ‘old flame’ is part of the cryptic.

  47. Davy says:

    Thanks Eileen,

    I must be sickening for something but I actually agree with RCW @37. I don’t know what PeterO is going on about but ‘old flame’ cannot be broken down into its two component words because the clue wouldn’t work if that was done.

    ‘old flame’ = ‘past o’ (love = zero in tennis) . Finito.

    Thanks to Gordius for an enjoyable puzzle.

  48. Dave Ellison says:

    I agree with scarpia@25 about giving G a hard time. I thought this was a very good crossword, which I enjoyed.

    Peter0@35: I didn’t know it but guessed BEG for the last part, and thus ARD for the first: I based this on the names of many Munros which contain BEAG (as opposed to Mor or Mhor etc).

  49. PeterO says:

    Sorry Davy, but it is not finito. This also goes for Robi @44: if the clue had read ‘old love’ there would have been no problem. But that is not what the clue says.
    However, this has ceased to be productive; I seem to be using the word definition rather differently from some other contributors. Let us leave it at that.

  50. Davy says:

    …and finally. At the risk of repeating myself, old flame means exactly the same as past love. There is no correlation in the sequence of the individual words. And so to bed.

  51. PeterO says:

    Dave E @48 – now that’s much more interesting. Ardbeg as opposed to Ardmore, Isn’t philology wonderful?

  52. PeterO says:

    Davy @51 – Goodnight, With the time difference, it’s about time I had some antipastlove.

  53. PeterO says:

    Oops. Just as well there’s nobody around to correct me: that should, of course, read “my antipastlove”.

  54. Paul B says:

    ‘Doc’s plan may need revising when this comes’ is not an &lit in my opinion, as the whole clue does not define COLD SNAP accurately enough – and there are many reasons why docs might revise their plans. So it’s a nudge in the general direction, and nothing more.

    To help explain the point, indulge me while I supply some &lits that have been engineered with precision to provide a proper pointer:

    The jungly mass one cleaves (MACHETE)

    Fantastic warblers do it – sew leaves! Here’s one among them (TAILOR BIRD)

    By it ‘truth’ and ‘lie’ looked alternately interchangeable (DOUBLETHINK)

    Wild love affair like this could give you coronary (CARRY-ON)

    Mitredness is wrong? That’s what it says (DISSENTERISM)

    This one may serve beers with apron on (BARPERSON)

    I hope you enjoy these great clues, which came from Derek Harrison’s excellent site, even if you don’t agree with me!

  55. Alan Browne says:

    I’m afraid I started this puzzle very late so I’m behind with this post. However, I’ve had a marvellous time seeing the different ways people express how liberal or ‘relaxed’ they are about an error that has been aired so much that Guardian setters really should not repeat it.

    I refer to the ‘IC’ in ACROSTIC and similar errors in the past. Gordius could of course have said ‘101’ instead of ’99’, but the only point I wish to make is that I would appreciate a puzzle far more if it kept to the rules of the rest of the world (i.e. the world outside the crossword itself) when a clue is formed.

    Saying that ‘IC’ is not a number in the Roman numeral system is not a purist’s opinion – it is a fact. (Or is this contestable?)

    I still enjoyed this puzzle – it was not plain sailing – and ACROSTIC was among the first clues I solved.

  56. Paul B says:

    The clue to which you refer is, apart from anything else, an anagram that uses indirect elements: this would certainly not please a ‘purist’ (a devout Ximenean, I suspect I mean).

    In addition, the need to indicate indirectly might have been avoided since the elements at issue, IC, appear at the end of the word. That bit, obviously, could have been handled independently (no pun intended).

    As to the criminality of calling IC ’99’, I can only applaud your remarks above (with the proviso that it was not necessarily the Romans themselves who imposed rules about all this).

  57. RCWhiting says:

    “Criminality “? You had better contact the Met, they seem very keen to clobber the Guardian with something or anything.

  58. crosser says:

    PeterO @35
    I have no problem with O = flame in 14d. Didn’t suitors declare their flame (ie love) in bygone days? (I deliberately didn’t say “in the past” to avoid confusion!) Forgive me if this has already been said somewhere, as I haven’t had time to read all the intervening posts.

  59. ACP says:

    To all who alluded to ‘&lits’, you’re all wrong.
    PaulB @54, is on the money.

    There are no &lits. An &lit requires all the clue to be both definition AND secondary indicator.

    For example, ENDEMIC.
    ‘Harassed medic’ is DEMIC ; ‘needs space’ is EN. That’s the end of the sec-inds.
    ‘to cope with it’ adds nothing to the sec-ind. It merely extends the sense of the sec-ind to fill out a rather dubious definition.
    Therefore, NOT &lit.

    Same for COLD SNAP. ‘when this comes’ has no sec-ind value.
    Same for OARSMAN. ‘one might be discovered’ has no sec-ind value.

  60. RCWhiting says:

    Do you mean:
    Edit start of numpty includes ACP confused?

  61. Van Winkle says:

    Yawn! I stir from my slumbers to ensure that PeterO does not go down in history as having no support.

    14d doesn’t work as it does not have continuity in its application of “love”. “Old flame = past love”, okay. But the love that is “inamorata” is not the love that is “zero”. So, “past love = past 0″, but there is no connection that makes “old flame = past 0″. Just putting a ? at the end of the clue is not sufficient to justify such a leap.

    Would everyone be happy with a clue that used “seriousness?” to signify “g”. After all a synonym for seriousness is gravity, and another type of gravity can be abbreviated to g.

  62. Gordon says:

    Hi Eileen

    I’m late as usual, having spent the past 3 weeks trying to get the last clue in Paul’s current Genius, which I still have not done.

    I thought you would be interested in another faux pas that I made in answering a simple clue; a subject that I have written to you about before. For 26A I took Knock Out to be KO; turning to be OK. Crazy = KO+OK = KOOK. This is a common word in the USA and I seem to recall from Britain too. It didn’t throw me off for too long as I realised that ALCHEMIST had to be the answer. I have to say I like KOOK better than STUN though.

    I have two other points:

    I have to disagree with you and support PeterO and Van Winkle. I understand your explanation, but it does require a double leap from Old Flame to Past Love to Past O. I had thought that double leaps were not considered kosher for cryptic crosswords. Am I wrong?

    Finally am I the only one who gets sick of people such as JIM #2 comment bragging about how quickly they can finish a puzzle. It seems to only ever be the men who brag about this. I wonder what their problem is. I have to say I would avoid people such as these at a party.

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