Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,801 – Gordius

Posted by Andrew on November 23rd, 2012


This was mostly pretty easy, with a lot of write-straight-in answers. Some clues are fine, but as is often the case with Gordius a significant proportion them don’t stand up to close scrutiny. There are some nice ideas, e.g. the surface reading in 6d, but the execution lacks accuracy. Apologies to Gordius fans!

9. ALIBI Hidden in “many A LIBIdinous character”, but there is far too much padding, with the surface tail wagging the cryptic dog.
10. BRIE BRIE[f]
12. WALMER WARMER (3d) with the first R changed to L (i.e. “changing hands”). Walmer is a town that is next to Deal in Kent.
14. RELIABLE RE (Royal Engineer – soldier) + LIABLE (exposed to risk)
15. PLASTIC (IT’S CLAP)* – PLASTIC literally meaning “mouldable” (from the Greek for “mould”)
17. WRITING Homophone of “righting” (=correcting)
20. CROUPIER CROUP + I.E. + R (“a bit rough”)
22. ABYSMS (MY BASS)*. “Abysm” is an old version of “abyss”.
24. LAND Double definition (light = land as a verb)
25. MEDIA Double definition – newsagents (which I suppose you have to read as “agents of news”, which could refer to the press etc, rather than the shopkeepers) and the land of the Medes
26. ARROGATE [h[]ARROGATE. Not to be confused with “abrogate”.
1. BEER HALL HERE* in BALL, and a vague try at an &lit
2. CITE Homophone of “sight” (one of the senses)
3. WARMER WAR + MER (French “sea”)
4. TENDERS Double definition
5. CAPSULAR PAULS* in CAR – like a (space) capsule
6. FILO PASTRY (FLOP TRY AS I)* and another attempt at an &lit
7. FISCAL Hidden in blufF IS CALled, and yet another
16. INIMICAL Reverse of I MINI + CAL[ifornia]
18. NOMINATE (A MENTION)*, though “gets” is hardly an adequate anagram indicator
19. ARSENAL Double definition
21. RHEUMY Homophone of “roomy”
22. ABSORB Reverse of BROS + BA
24. LEGO LEG (support) + O

33 Responses to “Guardian 25,801 – Gordius”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Andrew. Hard to really enjoy this but, as you say, it’s all a matter of taste.

    Took me a while to see FISCAL and I was caught out early on putting Rising for 21dn. Last in WALMER because I needed to Google to confirm its location (and existence!)

  2. Gascon says:

    Simply one of the most boring Graudian offers I have ever seen!

  3. muffin says:

    Thanks Andrew and Gordius
    In contrast, on the whole I quite enjoyed this one – particularly liked MASQUERADE.
    Two quibbles – “soil” is really not a definition for “land”, surely?
    My reading of 25ac led me to enter MEDEA rather than MEDIA – the ? follows the “newsagents” rather the “ancient kingdom”, so “media” is the “sounds like” bit?

  4. Eileen says:

    Hi muffin

    There is no homophone in 25ac [I think the question mark is there to cover the use of ‘agents’]. The ancient country was Media, see here:

    I think you’re confusing it with Medea, who was the wife of Jason.

    Thanks, Andrew. :-(

  5. muffin says:

    Thanks – yes I was thinking of Medea – I thought that was where the Medes came from!

  6. jim says:

    Rather dull, I’m afraid, with several weak clues and vague definitions.
    It’s the first time I’ve done a Gordius for a long time.
    I usually skip Rufus and Gordius, and instead I’ve started working my way through the Bunthorne and Brendan archive. I think I’ll go back to it!

  7. Gervase says:

    Bravo, Andrew – bit of a short straw this one.

    Failed on 12a because, like NeilW, I found it unfamiliar – but, unlike Neil, I didn’t have the enthusiasm to chase it up. Says it all, really.

  8. Gervase says:

    muffin @3: In defence of Gordius, there is an overlap between ‘soil’ and LAND: farmers can be said to ‘work the land’ or ‘work the soil’.

  9. Thomas99 says:

    muffin @3
    “On British land” – “on British soil”?

    I didn’t seem to be on his wavelength at today myself, and can’t really justify 7d, 6d or 11a. In 7d I think I’d be happier with something like “about which” instead of “wherein”, as the field is in the phrase not the other way round. With 6d I can’t really locate an indicator (“might”? “might to make”??). And 11a has me tied up in knots trying to explain the cryptic reading! I suppose it’s a semi-&lit and the cryptic reading ends at “involve”? Does that work? A pity as Gordius, as ever and like all the best setters, has a lot of clues that look vague but then turn out to be clever and precise. I’d be interested in any alternative readings of these 3 – I should add I’m rather tired today and may very well have missed something.

  10. Mitz says:

    Thanks Gordius and Andrew.

    My mother always told me: if you can’t think of anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. So…


    …quite liked 21.

  11. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    It gives me great pleasure to disagree with just about all previous posters.
    Quite a reasonable crossword, I thought, but some of you are so quick to criticise these poor compilers who are clearly doing their best.
    Last in (actually I didn’t enter it) was ‘walmer’ which I solved cryptically but couldn’t find in Chambers (not surprising).
    It was a strange choice, presumably influenced by spotting the 3d link. There are plenty of words available to fit.

  12. tupu says:

    Thanks Anmdrew and Gordius

    Sorry but I must confess I quite enjoyed this. I take Thomas99’s points re 11a and 6d where it is hard to identify a distinct anagram indicator, but it seemed obvious nonetheless that anagrams were involved and I thought 11a especially was a nicely unlikely one.

    I also liked 25a, 26a, 2d, and 24d. 12a was somehow obvious but the sense of Deal took some time to seep in. I was initially hindered by thinking 3d was ‘warmed’. Also I first thought 23a must be ‘earthiness’ (which seemed unsatisfactory of course) until I saw ‘rheumy’.

    I agree with Gervase and Thomas99 re land/soil.

  13. Robi says:

    Overall I enjoyed this; a lot of the criticisms seem pretty trivial to me.

    Thanks Andrew; I can’t really see what the problem is with 6d. If you are going to make an anagram of ‘flop, try as I,’ you have to add some words and, anyway, ‘might'[Chambers: may – ‘expressing possibility’] could be considered the anagrind, I think. After yesterday’s searching around in West Yorkshire, I don’t see the difference with Deal and Walmer, apart from being in the South rather than the North. MIDAS TOUCH seemed to me to be clued fairly – Collins: ‘the Midas touch, the ability to succeed at whatever you do, esp making money.’

    I thought in 5d, the Paul was ‘st,’ which held me up a bit, but I thought CAPSULAR was a good word, nicely clued. Perhaps some of the posters could be more specific in their critism and then we could discuss the points properly.

  14. Robi says:

    …… or even ‘criticism’……..

  15. Robi says:

    OK, I’ll be more specific about one other clue (9a): ‘Defence plea of many a libidinous character?’ Obviously, defence plea=alibi; ‘a libidinous’ is needed; ‘character’ is perhaps the hidden indicator. That only leaves ‘of many’ as extra and there has to be some way of linking the definition to the cryptic bit, so I would have thought that that was a perfectly reasonable clue.

  16. rowland says:

    I will take a leaf out of RCW’s book and criticise the puzzle as a whole…. as awful!

    That is not fair of course, as i like to be specific if I can, but really, the list would be sol long it would look like a re-blog. The blogger today I think is very lenient btw!!

    Thank you Andrew,
    Cheers Rowly.

  17. Alan says:

    Thank you Gordius for what I for one thought was an enjoyable puzzle. Sometimes, I think it would be interesting if the Guardian crosswords were anonymous as I occasionally have the impression that some compilers can do no right and start off with a distinct disadvantage.

  18. Mitz says:


    I for one – I won’t speak for anyone else – see and comment upon every puzzle on its own merits (and, I think it is fair to say, only extremely rarely do I make any negative comments). True, there are some setters that make my eyes light up more than others when I see their names, but that is just because I have enjoyed their style in the past – we all have our own individual tastes, as has been mentioned above. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised, sometimes disappointed. Today, I’m afraid, I didn’t find Gordius’ offering to be very engaging, but I am pleased that others did so. And being one who has some experience of setting puzzles, and the contortions that one goes through in trying to get every clue just so, I always have the utmost admiration for all of the hard work that goes into the setters’ art.

  19. Derek Lazenby says:

    Agree with Alan. I’ll go further. If the attribution had been to a setter from the “let’s see how brown we can make our tounges” group I suspect the comments would have been on the lines of “yet another of X’s liberties”. The latter is read by intelligent readers of this blog as “crap clue, but I can’t possibly critisise my hero, so I’ll invent a way of pretending to pay a complement, and woe betide (s)he who dares to justifiably critise my hero”.

    OK, maybe this wasn’t the world’s best, but those are as rare as hen’s teeth. It was also a long way from the world’s worst.

    Can I suggest that to provide a proper context for Guardian crosswords, posters should first try the plethora of crosswords on the web that do not originate from newspapers. They will then see that even the worst effort in the Guardian is far far superior to some of those dire offerings. So be a bit more grateful for that in future please.

  20. Mitz says:

    Intrigued, Derek. Which setters do you think are beyond reproach, as far as the 225 clique is concerned? (I use the term “clique” advisedly – you certainly seem to be suggesting that there is one.)

    I disagree with the tone of your last paragraph. While you are absolutely right that there is an awful lot of dross out there, especially in internet land, I think crossword fans have a right to expect the best from the Guardian, Times, Independent etc. Tastes vary; quality should not. And as I stated above, I am always grateful for the efforts of the setter (and say so) whether I have enjoyed the day’s offering or not.

  21. Gervase says:

    Gordius puzzles have been appearing in the Guardian for many years, and he is one of the very few setters whose crosswords have been collected and published in book form. This suggests he has plenty of devotees outside the tiny group of we saddos who haunt this site.

    I freely admit that he is not one of my favourite compilers, but I do often get pleasure from solving his puzzles. Unfortunately, I didn’t this time, but I am rather ashamed of myself for being so curmudgeonly at comment 7.

    The clue which eluded me, 12a, is a very fine one, IMHO. I should have spotted the geographical connotation of ‘Deal’. If you want to be a Ximenean purist you could complain that ‘waRmeR’ has two ‘hands’, and only one of them ‘changes’ to give the solution. But I’m not, so I won’t.

  22. SeanDimly says:

    Thank you Andrew.
    Like muffin @3, I put MEDEA for 25ac. Thanks to Eileen @4 for the explanation.
    And like Mitz’s mother @10, my dad used to say, ‘If you can’t say nuthin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.’
    Advice I’ve rarely taken, but …
    Think I quite like 7d. Taking ‘Field wherein bankers’ as the definition leaves ‘bluff is called?’ as the cryptic part. Which, like the card in the panel game, has to be opened up when someone calls ‘Bluff’ – revealing ‘fiscal’. (Sort of.)
    The surface is good, so happy to allow some licence. And Gordius has done some lovely puzzles in the past. s

  23. RCWhiting says:

    Mitz @20
    There might or might not be a clique but if there is here are three ways to identify a member, they will:
    1. Use the real name of a compiler;
    2. Mention the age of a compiler;
    3. Refer to pub visits with compiler.

    (this post might or might not be facetious)

  24. Dave Ellison says:

    I (wrongly, I now see) put DELEGATE at 1ac (saw DATE but couldn’t understand ELEG, of course), and HERE for 2d, which seems to fit the clue, more or less.

    Thanks Andrew.

  25. Mike M says:

    For what it’s worth (i.e. little), I thought this was a perfectly reasonable crossword…. not the best ever, but certainly not the worst.

    Nice to see RHEUMY/ROOMY making an appearance – like catching up with an old friend. (Im surprised no compiler has ever tried to compile a perfect “old chestnut” crossword, with ANCESTRAL/LANCASTER, and all the others we know and love. Maybe someone should).

    Also for what it’s worth, I do agree with above poster that there’s a certain amount of mild snobbery on this site at times, and that there is a cult hero often mentioned here who can seemingly do no wrong. But said hero did just compile a bespoke crossword for my mum’s 75th birthday, and she was overjoyed – so I guess that puts me in the cult too…. oh well…

  26. jim says:

    Brown tongues?
    Surely we can agree to disagree without being offensive.
    When I used to buy the Guardian for its crosswords I did many Gordius puzzles, and a lot were better than this one. There were some good clues here, but overall I didn’t like it. With the Guardian providing such an excellent selection of puzzles, there are always alternatives to the daily selection.
    And although Araucaria is at times a brilliant setter, he’s not beyond criticism.

  27. Gervase says:

    RCW @23: According to Wikipedia (so it must be true, cf Chambers), interacting with cliques is part of normative social development, regardless of gender, ethnicity or popularity. I’m sure I speak for my fellow cliquistes in hoping that you will get along to one of these pub sessions. I, for one, would love to meet our favourite contrarian.

  28. Mike M says:

    You guys go to the pub?!? And I’ve never been invited???

  29. brucew_aus says:

    Thanks Gordius and andrew
    To me this one did start off as a series of write-ins that stopped abruptly in the NE corner. The WARMER / WALMER clue took quite a while to fathom with a mini aha and some added geographical knowledge to follow out of it.

    On my final parsing run, I discovered errors in MEDEA and ABROGATE and didn’t see the anagram in MIDAS TOUCH. To my mind the compiler has done his job when he has so deceived me, but on closer scrutiny has the correct clue in place that leads you eventually to the correct answer.

    May not have ‘wowwed’ me … but certainly generated some thinking challenges.

  30. Paul B says:

    I suspect some of us have already met RCW at the pub, but that’s just one of my strange little personal beliefs. It would be nice to see him (again), either way.

  31. RCWhiting says:

    Oh,Paul. Was it really you?
    Was it really you who bought me those six delightful pints of real ale?
    Was it you who introduced me to all those fun-loving chums of yours?
    And was it your chums who individually took me to one side and said “Don’t be……..”.
    But that’s enough indiscretions for now.

  32. RCWhiting says:

    “Favourite contrarian”. How lovely, that’s made my day.

  33. Mr Beaver says:

    Having made 3d WARMED (Alien sea=MED seemed to work), 12a would have to have been WALMED, so I didn’t finish it, though not being familiar with Walmer, it might not have helped.
    26a leaped out as I live in the leaderless town.

    Where was the definition for 1d? I don’t think it’s a common enough phrase for the whole clue to be acting as one.

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