Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,507 / Gordius

Posted by duncanshiell on December 16th, 2011


I tend to associate Friday with the more challenging end of the Guardian puzzle spectrum, so I was slightly surprised to see a Gordius crossword when I logged onto the Guardian website this morning.

I have nothing against Gordius, but the construction of his clues is certainly more traditional than the clue structure of Araucaria, Paul or Enigmatist.

Today’s puzzle was a mix of four basic clue types – Container and contents, Additive, Anagram and Homophone, with only a  few Double/Cryptic definitions, Hidden words, Reversals and Exclusions. Gordious is not a purveyor of  ‘multilayered reversed part anagrams within challenging allusions with missing or substituted letters’.

There is a place for all types of puzzle and I think the Guardian is excellent at providing that mix.

There was some good misdirection within the clues today – I wonder how many solvers tried to make anagrams of FALSE CLUES or F CLUES CROP at 23 across (SECULARISE) or looked for words from which to drop the last letter at 24 across (HATE) where ‘endless’ was in the clue?  There were also misdirection to an anagram at 14a (REFOREST) with ‘replace’ in the clue.

After a good start in the right hand side of the grid, I slowed down significantly in the SW corner where ANAPAEST and OSAGES took a while to solve.  I’m pretty sure I have come across both words before, but only in crossowrds.

No. Clue Wordplay Entry
8 Bugs for which Stalin’s henchman introduced law (8) BERIA (reference Lavrentiy Pavlovich BERIA, chief of Soviet security and the secret police under Stalin; Stalin’s henchman) containing (introduced) ACT (law) BACTERIA (micro-organisms, the cause of many diseases; bugs)
9 Bird finds oil spread in seaweed (7) Anagram of (spread) OIL contained in (in) ORE (seaweed of the genus Laminaria) ORIOLE (golden-yellow bird with black wings)
10 Point to one politician as being ineffectual (4) W (West; point [of the compass]) + I (one) + MP (Member of Parliament; politician) WIMP (an ineffectual person)
11 Australia has a single chicken and it’s fast disappearing (5,5) OZ (Australia) + ONE (a single) + LAYER (chicken) OZONE LAYER (a layer of the upper atmosphere protecting the earth from the sun’s ultra-violet rays; scientific evidence shows that it is [fast] disappearing)
12 Stage equipment that’s not so clever? (6) DIMMER (a device used for regulating the supply of light; used in the theatre [stage]) DIMMER (not so clever)
14 There’s a warning in what’s left to replace trees (8) FORE (warning shouted at golf to inform walkers, spectators or other players that they may get hit by a golf ball) contained in (in) REST (remainder; what’s left) REFOREST (replace trees)
15 Account in fault that turns out to be correct (7) AC (account) contained in (in) an anagram of (that turns out) FAULT FACTUAL (relating to facts; actual; correct)
17 Fair in which is a tight-rope walker (7) BLOND (light coloured; fair [of hair or complexion]) + IN BLONDIN (reference Charles BLONDIN [born Jean-Francois Gravelet], French tight-rope walker and acrobat)
20 High storey heard as not necessarily 15 (4,4) TALL (high) + TALE (story [sounds like {heard} storey]) TALL TALE (a narrative that is not necessarily true [factual; entry at 15 across])
22 Embryonic challenger to chess champion (6) FOE (enemy; adversary; challenger) + TAL (reference Mikhail TAL [1936 - 1992], world chess champion 1960 – 1961) FOETAL (embryonic)
23 False clues crop up to sideline belief (10) Anagram of (false) CLUES + ARISE (crop up) SECULARISE (to make things unconcerned with religion; to sideline belief)
24 It’s found in couples each at endless enmity (4) Hidden word in (it’s found in) EACH AT ENDLESS HATE (intense dislike, a state of mind which may well be found in each of a couple regarding the other with endless enmity)
25 Big times for some in Oklahoma (6) OS (outsize; big) + AGES (times)

OSAGES (A Native American people formerly inhabiting western Missouri
and later southeast Kansas, with a present-day population in
north-central Oklahoma)

26 Station that’s passed on the way to its destination (8) WATERLOO (main-line rail terminal in London; a station and concourse in which I spent too much of my life) WATERLOO (reference ‘meet one’s WATERLOO‘ [to be finally and decisively defeated; on way to one's final destination) Afternote: The increasingly strong consensus in the comments is that I have been far too cprudish here and the wordplay is referring to 'passing' WATER on the way to the LOO
1 Degree to which quartz is used in classical building (8) BA (Bachelor of Arts; degree) + SILICA (quartz) BASILICA (classical building)
2 One has to mind it with dogs and cats about (4) PETS (dogs and cats) reversed (about) STEP (one should mind one's STEP if there are pets about that one may trip over)
3 How a Londoner is said to work with this? (6) ARDOUR (sounds like [is said] ‘ARDER, how an Eastender [Londoner] would say HARDER.  Almost all Londoners in the crossword world seem to be Cockneys living in the East End) ARDOUR (eagerness, enthusiasm; presumably if you have ARDOUR you work HARDER)
4 Virgin and child in stone (7) SON (child) contained in (in) MARY (reference Virgin MARY) MASONRY (stone)
5 Strong pure wolf stock (8) Anagram of (stock); the letters form the stock for the anagram) PURE WOLF POWERFUL (strong)
6 Poor dear gran is upset (10) Anagram of (poor) DEAR GRAN IS DISARRANGE (disorder; upset)
7 Tradesmen get to grips with them (6) PLIERS (tool with serrated jaws for gripping) PLIERS (reference ‘get to grips’ [tackle at close quarters] so tradesmen use PLIERS at close quarters as a gripping tool) – [not very] cryptic definition. Afternote: Blaise at comment 1 below has made a valid point that I have been a bit unfair to Gordious here as tradesman ‘ply their trade’ so PLIERS is a good cryptic defintion of tradesmen.
13 Science said to convey antipathy to Old Bill (10) MET (Metropolitan Police; Old Bill) + ALLURGY (sounds like [said to] ALLERGY [antipathy])

METALLURGY (science applied to metals, including extraction from ores, refining, alloying, shaping, treating, and the study of structure, constitution and properties)

16 Articles on a 2 twisted foot (8) AN (indefinite article) + A ([another] indefinite article, to give articles) + an anagram of (twisted) (A and STEP [entry at 2 down])

ANAPAEST (a foot [a division of a line in poetry] of two short [or unstressed] syllables followed by a long [stressed] syllable)

18 Where soldiers appear to display idleness? (8) IN ACTION (where soldiers appear) INACTION (idleness) double definition
19 Criticism about wives perhaps (7) RE (about) + an anagram of (about) WIVES REVIEWS (criticism; reviews of films, theatre, music etc in newspapers and other media)
21 Reluctant to read a little poetry? (6) A + VERSE (part of a poem; little poetry) AVERSE (reluctant)
22 Special day, if eats are served up (6) Anagram of (are served up) IF EATS FIESTA (saint’s day; holiday; an occasion where food [eats] may well be served)
24 One denied having been told about cattle? (4) HEARD (having news from; having been told about) excluding (denied) A (one) HERD (descriptive of a group of cows; cattle)

29 Responses to “Guardian 25,507 / Gordius”

  1. Blaise says:

    Doesn’t 7 refer to the fact that tradesmen “ply their trade”, which makes it slightly more worthy as a definition?

  2. Blaise says:

    …and people who never grew out of potty humour (like me) might well have parsed 26 as an allusion to passing water into the loo.

  3. duncanshiell says:

    Blaise @ 1

    Fair point at 7 down – not so sure about your interpretation of 26!

  4. Barbie says:

    re 26: It is also true that water is passed on its way to the loo

  5. Barbie says:

    Blaise @ 2 I’m glad I’m not the only one who hasn’t grown up!

  6. duncanshiell says:

    The consensus [of 2, which makes it a majority at the moment] seems to suggest that I have met my WATERLOO in the wordplay for 26 across.

  7. andy smith says:

    Thanks for the nicely laid out and helpful blog. FWIW that was also how I ahem parsed 26a – thought it mildly amusing. It would be a rather feeble clue otherwise IMO.

  8. Thomas99 says:

    Just to clarify – 7d (my last clue in) isn’t a Cryptic Definition, it’s a Double Definition. Pliers=tradesmen and Pliers=things you get to grips with.

    26a, like 3d, is a slightly innovative construction – I think you have to see “that” as referring to part of the solution, which is a bit unconventional, but Gordius was right to go with the childish pun I think. I grew up using the Waterloo line and always vaguely associated the word with tiles, urinals etc. – in fact before I’d heard of Napoleon I think I assumed the station was named after its own public convenience.

  9. Roger says:

    Thanks Duncan. I wonder if 24a could also somehow be read as ‘…[that which] couples [the words] each at endless …’

  10. tupu says:

    Thanks Duncanm and Gordius

    An enjoyable puzzle with some clever clues. I wonder if younger solvers were held up by references to Beria, Tal, and Blondin (all OK for me).

    1 ticked 11a, 22a, 23a, 4d, 13d, and 24d.

    I missed the micturational parsing of 26a even though I’ve always believed that the name is in fact the origin of ‘loo’! It was my penultimate answer and I lazily assumed one went past it on the from St Pancras way to Belgium!

  11. duncanshiell says:

    Roger @ 9

    Possibly, but I think you are stretching a bit. However, given my track record on interpreting some of the clues today, you could well be absolutely right!

  12. duncanshiell says:

    tupu @ 10

    I know Waterloo used to be the Eurostar terminal in London before it moved to St Pancras. I haven’t lived near London for a year or two now, but I don’t think the Eurostar line out of St Pancras goes close to Waterloo. I know even less about whether the site of the battle of Waterloo lies close to the Eurostar line in Belgium.

  13. tupu says:

    :) Thanks Duncan for taking time to respond to the wanderings of a febrile mind! I gather you can get to Waterloo (B) from Brussels Midi, and I suppose since St Pancras is north of the river and Ashford is south of Waterloo one has in some sense to go past it on Eurostar, but I willingly accept correction on this one. The clue is quite a clever one when water is ‘defined’ as ‘That’s passed’.

  14. Thomas99 says:

    It’s of little moment I know, but the eurostar line from St Pancras couldn’t be much further away from Waterloo – it actually goes north to begin with then swings round under North London in a massive loop, going a long way east. The nearest it gets to Waterloo might even be St Pancras itself. Waterloo in Belgium is the far side of Brussels so I shouldn’t think it’s anywhere near the international line either – unless there’s an equally huge loop at the other end too…

  15. Thomas99 says:

    (I ought to concede that from the point of view of a very keen-eyed person on the top of Guildford cathedral, say, the eurostar might still look like it’s going “past” Waterloo on its way through northern Kent…)

  16. Roger says:

    Thanks tupu for the implied compliment @10, given that Messrs Beria & Tal were new to me … sadly ‘young’ was a while ago !
    No such problems with Blondin though who, I learnt recently, is buried in a rather grand grave at Kensal Green.

  17. chas says:

    Thanks to Duncan for the blog. You explained a couple of cases where I was unable to work out why I had the right answer.

  18. tupu says:

    Thanks Thomas99 @15

    That’s kind of you. For the record Waterloo Station (B) is 21 minutes from Brussels Midi by fast train but the station is some kilometeres away from the battlefield! :).

  19. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Nothing outstandingly good or bad but a reasonably testing puzzle.
    Most of my interest was in ‘metallurgy’ Before solving I was misled into assuming an -ology ending. After solving, a lengthy muse before I saw the met allergy link. Then further thoughts on why it isn’t an -ology. Unlike the academic roots (reading and writing about) of most sciences it is very much a utilitarian history of digging.

    Totally irrelevant: Eileen, there is a bowler in the current South African test side called Vernon Philander.

  20. RCWhiting says:

    I took the urinary path to 26a but did wonder why the setter assumed the peeing to take place on the way to rather than in or at the loo.
    Childhood nightmares perhaps.

  21. Eileen says:

    RCW @19

    Not only irrelevant but ten days out of date.

    See comments 22,24,25 here:

  22. RCWhiting says:

    Many apologies. Obviously I had read your comments but not stumped’s reply.
    It is an intriguing thought as to the origin of such a surname and the fact that its bearers have not changed it at some stage.

  23. Dave Ellison says:

    Brendan had ANAPAEST on Oct 31 this year.

  24. crosser says:

    Thanks, Duncan. I rather liked 11a and had no hesitation in parsing 26a as Blaise et al did.

  25. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Gordius and duncanshiell for a superblog. I thought I had got off to a splendid start today but when I checked, it was the quick crossword!!Tomorrow’s eye op should help!

    Blaise @ 2 and Barbie @ 5- life’s far too short for growing up!!

    Giovanna x

  26. PeeDee says:

    Thanks Duncan for explaining Blondin, Beria and Tal. I guessed at the answers but had not heard of any of them.

    I seem to remeber BASILICA appearing quite a few times in the cryptics recently.

  27. Miche says:

    Thanks, Duncan.

    Might you have missed another bit of toilet humour? (2d) The wish to avoid tripping over pets is not the only reason one might mind one’s step when there are cats and dogs around…

    I wondered about embryonic as definition for foetal. They refer to different stages of development. But maybe that’s splitting hairs.

    Blondin and Beria I knew, but hadn’t heard of Tal. Can’t decide which is my favourite Blondin fact: that on one of his crossings of the gorge at Niagara he stopped midway to cook and eat an omelette, or that on another he carried his manager across piggy-back. There was a man who earned his ten per cent.

  28. Martin P says:

    Thanks Miche: good last paragraph :)

  29. RCWhiting says:

    Perhaps ‘of the foetus’ would be more appropriate.

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