Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,710 – Gordius

Posted by Andrew on August 9th, 2012


Yesterday’s puzzle from Paul would be a hard act to follow for any setter, and Gordius (not one of my favourite setters, as regular readers will know) suffers in comparison. Most of this one is reasonable enough, with a lot of easy anagrams and some rather obvious cryptic definitions, but there are a few weaknesses.

1. SWEET POTATO SWEET (pudding) + POTATO (vegetable) – not a great start with the double use of “potato”
9. ORIGAMI Cryptic definition
10. TWADDLE T (Ford Model T) + WADDLE
11. ON THE NAIL Double definition – varnish is put on fingernails. “On the nail” usually refers to prompt or exact payment, but I suppose “in cash?” is not far off.
12. MAGIC A GI in MC (Military Cross)
13. THEM THEY THE M, with “M” representing an unknown in algebra. As pretty much any letter can be used for this purpose, I think this is a bit weak. Ignore that – it’s the more reasonable THEY – THE + the more familiar unknown Y. Thanks to Pete and aztobesed for putting me right.
14. DRAWING PIN Cryptic definition
16. GRETA GARBO (BORG A GREAT)* – an easy clue, but a nice anagram and misleading use of “Swedish player”
19. GNUS Reverse of SUNG
21. ENSUE E N (directions) + SUE
26. GREEN PEPPER GREEN (fresh) + PEPPER (as in Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band). A much better vegetable clue than 1ac.
1. SAINT PETERSBURG SAINT PETER (apostle) + reverse of GRUB. As the city is named after the Apostle this suffers from the same sort of weakness as 1ac.
2. ERASE ERAS (times) + E[ducational]
3. THIN AIR I’ll label this with my coinage “sesquidef” (a definition and a half) as THIN AIR can mean (roughly) “nothing” (as in “vanished into thin air”) and “on top of Everest” is a hint rather than a definition
5. ALARMING AL [Capone] ARMING (rod = gun)
6. OLD-AGE PENSIONER (ONE PERSON IE GLAD)* &lit. Strictly speaking the change of “that’s” to “i.e.” makes this an indirect anagram, but I think it’s not too objectionable.
7. BOG OUT BOW OUT Reverse of GO in BOUT. I’ll believe that this can mean “withdraw” but it’s not in Chambers and I don’t think I’ve ever heard it Another failure to check on my part – it’s WO in BOUT.
16. GREECE Homophone of [the musical] Grease
18. BONFIRE Just a long-winded cryptic definition, as far as I can see. I hope it’s not intended as a rather tasteless reference to the large numbers of people who suffer from burns on Guy Fawkes Night.
20. SKEWER Homophone of part of “doctor’s cure” – rather an odd construction.

37 Responses to “Guardian 25,710 – Gordius”

  1. Pete_the_Teach says:

    I had THEY for 13a, Y is a more known unknown. W.O. as walk-over gives BOW OUT for 7d.

  2. aztobesed says:

    I had ‘bow out’ (W/O + Bout) and They (the + Y) as the third parties. Y = unknown seems reasonable. M seems odd.

  3. aztobesed says:

    Crossed with Pete there. I think it’s slightly unkind to beat him up about the ‘Burns night’ gag while we’re at it. Getting ‘lit up’ on Burns night is a reasonbly humorous take on a cryptic definition, surely?

  4. Andrew says:

    Thanks Pete and aztobesaid, it’s a fair cop on both counts. (In my defence, I was thinking of “us and them” for 13ac.)

  5. Djawhufc says:


    Thanks for blog

    I had bow out and they as the others above.

    20d is a terrible clue in my opinion.

    The rest is a bit of a mixed bag I liked 14a and 10a but there were no aha moments for me.

  6. Chris says:

    Thanks Andrew.

    No wonder I didn’t get 20d – they’re nowhere near homophones in my accent! I can see what Gordius is trying to do, but for me doctor’S CURE is one syllable, while SKEWER is definitely two.

  7. Gervase says:

    Thanks, Andrew

    Some rather odd clues here. Several cryptic/double definitions where the ‘straight’ meaning (the intended surface) is less obvious than the ‘cryptic’ one: 9ac, 11ac, 18dn (where Andrew seems to have missed the intended surface – ‘lit up’ = ‘drunk’ [see aztobesed @3]).

    The homophone ‘cure’/(S)KEWER sounds Lancs/Yorks to me, though Gordius (David Moseley) is from Kent…

    However, I did like 16ac and especially 6dn (‘that is’ = IE is such a familiar crossword equivalence that it barely counts as ‘indirect’).

  8. SeanDimly says:

    I usually enjoy Gordius’s crosswords, but this one had a knocked-up-quickly feel to it. Liked 14a though. Thanks for the blog, Andrew.

  9. William says:

    Thank you, Andrew, nuff said on BOW OUT & THEY etc.

    Yesterday I mentioned that Paul’s was the name I most like to see at the top of a puzzle and I’m sorry to say this setter is nearer the other end of my spectrum.

    I liked GRETA GARBO for it’s neat misdirect from sports player to actor, and OLD AGE PENSIONER was fair enough, but these were the pick of a pretty average bunch.

    Chris @6 will not be alone in being unhappy with the S’CURE/SKEWER homophone, but let’s not go down that road again, eh?

    I know it’s no simple task to find smooth, misdirecting anagrams but there’s so much more fun to be had with LUNCHTIME that’s better than ‘Munich let’.

    Hey-ho, there’s always tomorrow. (I hope!)

  10. ma_thomas says:

    Gordius is fine by me; less try-hard than Paul imho.

  11. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    Pretty mundane today and I think 20d is ridiculous wherever you come from.
    Last in was 5d.

  12. Thomas99 says:

    Thanks for the blog. I was delighted to see 20d, partly as it’s a rare outing for the homophone/embed combination, but mainly because is relies on an accent very different to my own (like Chris @6, I pronounce “skewer” with two syllables, “cure” with one), but with which I am of course familiar. In my opinion this made the clue a bit harder (my last in) and also better. There is no reason why setters should always allude to the same (“RP”) accent, and for me this example underlines how absurd and selfish it is to complain about a clue simply because it doesn’t rely on one’s own.

  13. rowland says:

    Yes, 16 probably the best of a pretty average lot today, so agree with you all except ma_thomas (as I’m a bit of a Paul fan).

    Many thanks for the great blogging and comments.


  14. chas says:

    Thanks to Andrew for the blog. On 26a I had thought of a sergeant as somebody who peps up a group of soldiers – hence PEPPER. However, I much prefer Andrew’s derivation.

    On 5d I could see only ALARMING once the crossing letters were present but I could not parse it. Thanks to Andrew.

    I hated 20d.

  15. flashling says:

    Flew through this one after the struggle with Anax&Loroso, except for SKEWER which I just couldn’t believe was right but put in anyway in the end.

    Ta Andrew and Gordius

  16. RCWhiting says:

    I know I didn’t exactly praise this effort but why has Gordius’ name been omitted from the title?

  17. Andrew says:

    > why has Gordius’ name been omitted from the title?

    Simply because I forgot to put it there. Now corrected – thanks for pointing it out.

  18. Teviot Moose says:

    Of course there’s a bit of fun to be had with 3… Nothing on top? Thin ‘air…

  19. mike04 says:

    It was very interesting to read the comments/complaints about the homophone in 20dn.
    In my accent, Doctor’S CURE and Doctor SKEWER are almost identical in sound.
    I’ve always enjoyed doing crosswords by Gordius: sometimes I think he throws in some controversial clues quite deliberately.

    “absurd and selfish it is to complain” (Thomas99 @12)
    Maybe, but perhaps compilers with an RP or near RP accent should be more considerate towards solvers in other parts of the UK, and nowadays, throughout the world.
    There’s usually only one Homophone Clue in a typical daily crossword.
    If poorly constructed, for many, this cryptic clue can become definition-only.

    Thank you, Gordius, you made my day!

  20. RCWhiting says:

    I don’t think RP comes into it, Mike.
    I have a reasonably strong West Country accent and the two vowel sounds are very different. The first is like ‘your’ and the latter like ‘you’.

  21. Innocent Abroad says:

    Well I actually completed it although I got a few wrong, mainly due to laziness. And (although I got it) I didn’t know there was a hyphen in “old age” when in front of pensioners. I agree with Andrew about 3D. Still, having tried the “I” for the last couple of days I’m minded to be generous :)

  22. claire says:

    Re 20d I’m normally quite cool about homophones, but this was ridiculous.

    Whenever clues are referring to an (alleged/perceived) Cockney pronunciation of a word, it is usually signposted. By the same token, this needed flagging up as a regional/dialect/accent to work.

    I’m from Yorkshire, and could see what this was getting at, though it’s not how how I would pronounce ‘cure’ at all.

    But if you tolerate this….Belfast pronunciations could be next? That is by no means a derogatory attack on Northern Ireland accents, by the way, but I think you will take my general point.

  23. mike04 says:

    Points taken, RCW and Claire. This topic is a minefield.

    20dn is a good homophone clue in my accent.
    For some other people here, this is obviously not the case.
    It’s a first on Fifteensquared for me. I think this is why I’m celebrating tonight!

  24. Paul B says:

    I think you’ll find that you’re among friends here Mike04.

  25. stiofain says:

    Too late Clare@22 Tramp used a Belfast accent to make anoints/an ounce but he did signpost it.

  26. Brendan (not that one) says:

    I agree with other posters in that this was a pretty dull affair.

    Polished off pretty quickly.

    “On the nail” is just not right in my opinion, but the cluing gives it away.

    Just how do you RPers/posh folk pronounce “doctor’s cure” for it not to sound a little like skewer in the middle??? (Still a bad clue though!)

  27. rhotician says:

    stiofain @25: Tramp’s attempt to make anoints/an ounce was not a great success.

    For many it simply did not work.
    Some thought it very funny.
    Others found it offensive.
    Tramp apologised, saying he did not wish to offend.

    Some of the exchanges between the amused and offended were quite insulting.

    Rather like “absurd and selfish” @12 here and “RPers/posh folk” @26.

  28. Brendan (not that one) says:

    rhotician, please explain what is insulting in “RPers/posh folk”?!!!!

    It was a genuine query as I cannot imagine a way of pronouncing “Doctor’s cure” which doesn’t sound like “skewer”

  29. Daniel Miller says:

    There was definitely a link or tribute to Jamaica here (Usain Bolt et al) in this one.

    Sweet Potato, Green Peppers..
    Grease (Greece) Lightning…
    (Varnish) – Vanish … (into) Thin Air
    Beacon (Bacon as pronounced is Jamaica)

    etc etc..

  30. jude says:

    Here in “Cameron County” score, your and cure all rhyme. Makes a nonsense of synthetic phonics.

  31. rhotician says:

    Brendan(not that one): I, like others here, pronounce cure as one syllable and skewer as two. I am not “posh”. I suspect that most of the posters here, including even Thomas99, do not regard themselves as “posh”.

    I rarely use the word posh. In my experience it is more often than not used in a derogatory way, especially against people who “talk posh”.

    You clearly do not regard yourself as posh. Perhaps you could describe your accent in more detail, by region for example or by class perhaps. I know people who would pronounce both cure and skewer with one syllable, and others who would pronounce both with two.

  32. RCWhiting says:

    rho @31
    I agree with 99% of your post. However the comparison is ‘s cure with skewer.
    I have already explained my view as a non-posh in @20.

  33. Brendan (not that one) says:

    rho @31

    My background is born in Lancashire, working class.

    University educated. Lived in Yorkshire 10 years, Stuttgart 10 years, Cumbria 3 years, Lancashire 30 years. Various other counties/countries 1 year each.

    I don’t consider “posh” as derogatory at all. Merely a factual statement of someone’s accent or behaviour.

    But all this is beside the point. No matter how many syllables you pronounce skewer with it still puzzles me how a solver, who is after all aware that dialects exist, cannot see that “‘s cure” is a potential homophone?

    I do apologise to any posters who I have offended with my “posh” slur though I have been labelled as such by many childhood friends in later life and have personally taken no offense! (Quite the contrary as none was intended!)

  34. RCWhiting says:

    …..and obviously a while in the US………

  35. Rolf says:

    All this ranting about accents in respect of 20 down is a load
    of 10 across.

    Personally I don’t *have* an accent; being originally from Canada
    I speak perfect (unaccented) English. But I still saw the answer
    to 20 down almost as soon as I’d read the clue.

  36. Uhudla says:

    Sorry to be so tardy, but for me, cryptics are a once-a-week treat when the Weekly comes in the mail.

    I was happy to be able to solve this with brainpower alone — which means it wasn’t very difficult — but I couldn’t parse 18 until I came here. I had thought “one gets lit up” referred to ONE containing RIF reversed, and wondered if RIF was an anglicism for LIT.

  37. Huw Powell says:

    Uhudla @ 36, how you post on here and yet not find the cryptics on the papers’ websites? Or did you use the (snail) mail to contribute your post, too?

    Which reminds me, apropos of nothing, wouldn’t it be nice if the blogs included a link to the puzzle?

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