Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,457 / Gordius

Posted by Eileen on October 19th, 2011


This is the third Gordius puzzle I have blogged of his most recent four – almost enough to make me paranoid. 😉  I shall resort to the traditional summary [and I’m not the only one to use it] – a fairly typical mixed bag, I think.


1   TRACES OF NUTS: a rather nice anagram of FACTS NOT SURE, relating to the food labels stating ‘may contain traces of nuts’. In his weekly Diary in the Guardian, Simon Hoggart has been collecting from readers some of the more bizarre ones – from last Saturday’s column: “Daft labels: John Yates bought a bag of wild bird peanuts which has an allergy warning on the package: “Contains nuts.” Quite how you are supposed to find out which birds have a nut allergy before feeding them, it does not explain.”
8   LORELEI: Anagram of ORIEL [answer to 4dn] around [over] LE [European article]: the siren of the Rhine of German legend, who lured sailors to their death.
9   IMITATE: cryptic [?] definition
11  PRICIER: PR [promotion] + ICIER [less heated]
12  LOOKOUT: O OK [nothing right] in LOUT [bumpkin]: I would never have equated ‘lout’ with ‘bumpkin’, which I think of as a simple [inoffensive] country person, so I was surprised to see in Chambers: ‘lout: an ill-mannered or aggressive man or youth; a bumpkin’ and even more surprised to see ‘bumpkin: an awkward, clumsy rustic, a clown’ – not the same thing at all, surely? Still, we can’t fault Gordius – ‘It’s in Chambers’!
13  OCHRE: anagram of CHORE
14  PRESIDENT: PRESENT [at hand] round [keeping] ID [abbreviation of Latin ‘idem’, the same]
16  ARCHETYPE: ARCH [supreme] + E TYPE, the classic Jaguar car
19  COMMA: COMA round [grips] M [a thousand – many]
21  IMPRINT: I’M [setter’s] + PINT round [includes] R[ight]
23  AT ISSUE: sounds like ‘atishoo’
24  CUTWORM: CUT [his share] + WO [Warrant Officer – ‘Sergeant Major’?] + RM [Royal Marines]; a new word for me – the caterpillar of a species of moth
25  THEREAT: E [English capital] in THREAT [danger]
26  ELEEMOSYNARY: anagram [to be free] of MOSELEY YEARN: a rather strange-looking word from eleemosyne, the Greek for ‘alms’, from eleos, pity


1   TARNISH: TARN [lake] + IS H[ot]
2   ALL-TIME: anagram [sculpture] of METALLI[c]
3   EPIGRAPHY: anagram [upset] of HAPPY GERI
4   ORIEL: OR [alternative] + IE [‘that’s – ID EST, that is] + L [student]:  the ‘a’ is superfluous. Oriel is a college of Oxford University
5   NAIROBI: NOB [posh type] + I [one] round [keeping] AIR [affected manner]
6   TEA ROSE: simple charade of TEA [meal] ROSE [got up]
10  ESTATE AGENTS: E[astern] STATE [country] A GENTS [a loo]
15  ELEGANTLY: anagram of GENTLE LAY
17  CAPITAL LETTER: a capital letter starts a sentence but I’m not sure about the second part of the clue – a reference to capital punishment?
18  EPITOME: EP [old record] + I [one] + TOME [volume]
19  CHIMERA: CHIME [accord] + RA [Royal Artillery – soldiers]
20  MASTERY: MASTER [teacher] + Y [algebraic variable]
22  TEMPO: reversal [return] of OP [work] + MET[ropolitan police]: a nice play on two meanings of ‘rate’

36 Responses to “Guardian 25,457 / Gordius”

  1. Dave Ellison says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius.

    I don’t know why this would make you paranoid – it seems to me a very fair and enjoyable Xword.

    ELEEMOSYNARY was about my third one in – I remembered it from Tom Jones and had to repair to my copy to check the spelling. It appears in the first sentence, and frequently thereafter. Has anyone else ever used it, I wonder?

    17d I took quite clearly to refer to capital punishment.

  2. Dave Ellison says:

    It seems some one has – a whole play about it

  3. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thank you, Eileen.

    I’d actually stopped doing Gordius because I was finding his puzzles a bit of a slog without any enjoyment. I decided to have a crack at this one and wished I’d stuck to my original decision. Clunky surfaces, no smiley moments. IMITATE is rubbish. CAPITAL is rubbish. LOUT for ‘bumpkin’? Yes, I know it’s in Chambers; that doesn’t make it a good clue. ELEEMOSYNARY? Give me a break.

    And yes, I know I get it for free online and I don’t have to solve it; in fact that’s what I shall be doing from now on.

  4. smutchin says:

    Dave E – That’s where I know it from too. Fielding uses it half a dozen times in the first chapter alone, iirc – helps it to stick in the memory. Tom Jones is a wonderful read, one of my top 5 favourite novels. Anyone who hasn’t read it really ought to. If only for the purposes of extending their vocabulary.

  5. Stella Heath says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius, and thank goodness for anagrams!

    I was able to work out ELEEMOSYNARY from the Spanish for “alms”, “limosna”, though knowing no Greek, the spelling looks wierd and awkward.

    It took me a long time to work out 7d, and I’d never heard of 24ac, which I parsed, wrongly, as CUT + WORM, the definition being, presumably, the name of some sergeant major of renown ( :( !)but on the whole I agree with Dave Ellison that this was fairly clued.

  6. Eileen says:

    Hi Dave E

    I apologise. It was a feeble and unwise attempt at a joke. Regular readers will know that Gordius is not among my favourite setters and it does become difficult to find something to say in the preamble when his puzzles seem to land in my lap so regularly!

    Thanks, K’s D, for the reassurance that it’s not just me! 😉

    Hi Stella

    There were rather a lot of anagrams! And I think it was unfair to use one to clue 26ac, as there must be more than one way to combine that unusual set of letters. [I just happened to know the word – I’m not sure how. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read ‘Tom Jones’ but thanks for the recommendation, smutchin.]

  7. tupu says:

    Thanks Eileen and Gordius

    Yes the usual mixed bag though some of his recent puzzles seemed to be getting more interesting.

    I liked some clues – 79a(sorry K’sD), 25a, 5d, 7d (a hard one) and 19d but I resorted to the dictionary re 26a (I remembered the word but not the spelling) and 24a (last in – it was clear it was cut*orm and I regret I couldn’t be bothered by then to run through the alphabet in my mind which would of course have unearthed it).

  8. smutchin says:

    Eileen – I think your “if you can’t say nothing nice…” approach is the best option. Fwiw, I wouldn’t say Gordius was my favourite setter either.

  9. gm4hqf says:

    Thanks Eileen

    Seems a lot of solvers are not fans of Gordius. I must say he has caused me problems in the past.

    Got on fine with this one till I had only 26a to enter. Obviously an anagram and I managed to deduce and find it in Chambers.
    I have never heard of the word and certainly never heard it used. Looks to me like a compiler dredging up a word to fill
    blank spaces at the end of a puzzle. Perhaps I am being unkind.

  10. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Eileen. A mixed bag, as you say! 1ac did make me smile, however.

    I have read Tom Jones, but many years ago, and I had to resort to the check button to get 26ac after I had the checking letters.

  11. Gervase says:

    Brava, Eileen!

    Slightly more challenging than the average offering from Gorgeous, I thought – in line with the previous crosswords this week.

    ELEEMOSYNARY was one of the first solutions to leap out at me – I don’t know it from Fielding, but I remember it because it is such a strange and lovely word (although perhaps not one to be seen in public with).

    On the other hand, 1a gave me much more trouble. The ‘nut warnings’ on foodstuffs have always puzzled me. Severe peanut allergy is real enough, but peanuts are pulses – close relatives of peas and beans, which do not attract similar caveats. Other ‘nuts’ are not closely related at all, so are presumably much less likely to cause anaphylaxis.

  12. Rishi says:

    Re ELEEMOSYNARY. Dave Ellison at #1 asks: “Has anyone else ever used it, I wonder?”

    Well, someone has – in the year 2003.

    A Word A Day once featured this word. The example sentence was “The Guzmans started their non-profit organization, Path of Hope Foundation, 18 years ago. Their single goal: to care for the poor who live near their corner. The Thanksgiving dinner is one of their eleemosynary events.”
    – Lynn Seeden; Free Thanksgiving Dinner Feeds 1,400; Orange County Register (Santa Ana, California); Dec 4, 2003.”

  13. Robi says:

    Good puzzle and nice to see “Ian up with my name in capital.” (pretty feeble, huh?)

    Thanks, Eileen; I thought it was an OK crossword; at least I did this one unlike yesterday’s. ELEEMOSYNARY was a new one, which I can’t see how to use in Scrabble. Although you question IMITATE as cryptic, I tried ‘imprint’ at the beginning, which I think might also fit the clue.

    Just to be picky, is a COMMA really a point? I would have thought it’s a point with a squiggle.

  14. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    I do sometimes think that some of you over-personalise on this board.
    It’s Gordius so it’s ………..
    I agree that ‘capital punishment’is not very convincing at 17d but I cannot think of anything better.
    This was a good puzzle, on the easy side of satisfactory.
    7d was an example of a clever, smooth anagram spoilt by the obvious definition, pity.

  15. Derek Lazenby says:

    Well I’m glad all the clever people knew 26a. I had to gadget it, and having done so then frankly I wish I had remained in ignorance of the word as I can’t see me ever needing it again. I’m all for education via crosswords, but I thought education was supposed to be useful?

    Re 12 re “Still, we can’t fault Gordius – ‘It’s in Chambers’!” if that implies “but we can fault Chambers” count me in!

    Yeah Robi, I too was a little bemused by something which is clearly not a point being so called.

    But, just to show willing on the “not all negatives front”, I did smile at 16.

  16. RCWhiting says:

    I meant to add this before reading Derek’s contribution.
    I find it amusing how Chambers is the fount of all authority until it disagrees with the poster.

  17. Dave Ellison says:

    I have just searched Tom Jones , a Somerset Maugham Google Book version, and to my surprise found only two occurrences of ELEEMOSYNARY. Coincidentally, I read about Googles Books Ngram Viewer in today’s “Notes and queries” and using this shows the “popularity” of this word over the centuries.

    gm4hqf @9: It is difficult, if not impossible, to find anything else that would fit that combination of letters and blanks; surely it can’t be his first one in?

  18. Derek Lazenby says:

    RCW, I know I haven’t been posting much recently, but long term readers here would undoubtedly assure you that I have never regarded Chambers as “the fount of all authority”, quite the reverse.

  19. jandai says:

    Am I the only one who actually enjoys Gordius’ crosswords?!!

  20. RCWhiting says:

    Jandai, no.
    Derek, my comment was addressed to anyone and everyone and not particularly or at all,to you.
    As I hoped my first sentence made clear.

  21. Andreas61 says:

    Well, I like Gordius, maybe because “mixed bags” suit me just fine. 26a is a delightful word which I knew but didn’t know why, so thanks for reminding me of the Tom Jones connection! One German word for “alms” is “Almosen”, which is pretty close to the Greek original, so maybe, in some convoluted way down the ages, all three are actually related? And 1a and 7d did raise smiles!

  22. Shirley says:

    Kathryn’s Dad “no smiley moments”? I though 23A would raise a smile?

  23. Gervase says:

    Andreas61 @21: According to the SOED, the English word ‘alms’ is from a Germanic word, ultimately from the Greek ‘eleemosyna’ (so your surmise is correct), probably via the Latin ‘alimonia’ – which has an obvious modern English reflex which is not generally considered an act of charity!

  24. Eileen says:

    Hi Derek

    “Re 12 re “Still, we can’t fault Gordius – ‘It’s in Chambers’!” if that implies “but we can fault Chambers” count me in!”

    I think you know that that’s what I was implying! [If I wanted to be mischievous, I could add, “Or, as Chambers has, ‘inferring'” ;-).]

    The argument about dictionaries is ongoing. The most recent instance here was in the comments on Quixote’s Indy puzzle on Monday: which there’s no point in repating.

    The point I was making re lout / bumpkin was that Chambers appeared to be almost contradicting itself.

    I wondered about COMMA, too, but didn’t look it up. I have now and – here goes:
    Chambers gives ‘point: a mark of punctuation’ while Collins [my dictionary of choice, not least because it’s so much easier to navigate], has ‘point: any dot used in writing or printing, such as a decimal point or full stop’.

  25. apiarist says:

    I quite enjoyed this one. A couple of new words, all clues simple and fair, but most of all it had no theme !

  26. Wolfie says:

    I enjoyed this too, and I am surprised by how many commenters here have such strong antipathy towards this crossword, and apparently towards the setter.

    Kathryn’s Dad @3 – do you believe that your comment is consistent with site policy: ‘Criticism of a puzzle or clue must be valid, constructive and presented in a polite manner.’?

  27. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Gordius and Eileen.

    This took a bit of getting into. Like many others, point for a comma was problematical. After all your recommendations, I have resolved to read Tom Jones.Like Stella @5 with Spanish as her clue, the Italian elemosina – charity, alms – led me to 26a.

    Nothing easy this week but not complaining, RCW! There’s nothing like a bit of variety.


  28. RCWhiting says:

    Gio, well done.
    K’s D @ 3. I don’t agree with a word but think he is absolutely entitled to those views.
    The criticisms are all directed at clues/solutions ie inanimate objects which can not be offended.
    There is no criticism of the setter, merely what he has produced for us to admire or otherwise.

  29. Pasquale says:

    Interesting – I remember as a teenager in the 60s giving my dad a book of Guardian puzzles and from that book learning the word ELEEMOSYNARY. It has stuck with me ever since!

  30. Martin P says:

    I took this to the pub. Two blokes were talking loudly about stripping engines, another pair similarly about software features. Usually the XW helps me shut such stuff out, but this worked the other way, so had to come home to finish. Don’t know if that says anything about the puzzle…

  31. MattD says:

    I don’t understand how this is a “mixed bag” it is no more mixed than what we get from other setters. 9a is perfectly cryptic as usually the phrase does not mean “imitate”. I saw a tv programme a couple of years back where “bar of soap” was held up as a brilliant clue and this is no different – taking an everyday phrase and have a skewed interpretation of it.

    This is not a classic I agree, but still far better than anything I have ever done from the Times or Independent. Plus, no obscure poems or Shakespearen references. Marvellous.

  32. Eileen says:

    Hi MattD

    I was halfway through a lengthy reply to your comment but decided simply to repeat what has been said here so many times, and has been illustrated here again today, that we all have our favourites and what a good job it is that we’re all different – also, how lucky we are that we have such a variety of puzzle that usually during the week we can all find at least one to suit us.

    Having said that, I can’t see that today’s 9ac is anywhere near the same league as Rufus’s widely-regarded classic ‘ROVERS’ RETURN [‘bar of soap’] and I find your “not a classic … but still *far* better than *anything* I have *ever* done from the Times or Independent” quite staggering!

  33. g larsen says:

    I agree with Wolfie @26 that it’s surprising how many posters seem to have it in for Gordius. When the Guardian produced its series of paperback collections of crosswords by particular setters a few years ago, Gordius was one of those chosen, so somebody must have thought there was a market for him. (The others were Rufus, Paul and Bunthorne – I wonder how the respective sales went.)

    I thought this was a pretty good crossword, and at the risk of labelling myself as one of the ‘clever people’ (D Lazenby at @15) I can claim to have got ‘eleemosynary’ very early on – it was obviously an anagram.

  34. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Thanks Eileen for the blog.
    And I agree with you about many of your reservations today (even if I know that Gordius is not etc etc).
    Quite a difference compared to yesterday’s masterpiece.
    And a point is not a comma, and a comma not a point.
    For us a clear mistake.
    But there were some nice clues (21ac, 25ac, 7d, 18d).

  35. stumped says:

    Thanks Eileen for pointing out some stumblers. I too assumed Capital Punishment ends a sentence.

    Concur with K’s Dad’s critique and also don’t consider comma a point.

    Didn’t know tarn is a word for lake. I’ll have to buy my very first dictionary.

    Glad to see Thursday’s is Auracaria. Managed to finish Saturday’s Prize quite readily yet had enormous difficulty with Orlando on Monday.

  36. Wolfie says:

    A late response to those who object to the use of ‘comma’ as ‘stop’. There are plenty of authorities to support Gordius’s position, including my trusty old copy of Fowler’s ‘Modern English Usage’ in which there is a lengthy discussion of the use of the comma in the section on ‘stops’.

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