Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 25,869 – Gordius

Posted by Uncle Yap on February 12th, 2013

Uncle Yap.

Quite a smooth stroll across the park and just as well, too, seeing that I am in the middle of the festivities of the Lunar New Year. To those celebrating GONG XI FA CAI.

Gordius is noted for inserting a bit of obscurity in his puzzle and today, I had to dig deep to understand 24Across … thank goodness for Wikipedia (phew!)

1 HI-TECH State of the art — an impediment without direction (2-4)
Ins of E (east, direction) in HITCH (impediment)
4 SKIMPING Politician in winter sport is being mean (8)
Ins of MP (Member of Parliament, politician) in SKIING (winter sport)
9 MOLAR Moral degeneration in the mouth (5)
10 ZEITGEIST The in thing is outrageous size — get it? (9)
*(SIZE GET IT) for a word derived from German meaning “spirit of the age” or the in thing
11 MATRIARCH Domineering lady has a short trip during the month  … (9)
Ins of A TRIP (a short trip) in MARCH (month)
12 ARENA …  where it all happens over a long period (5)
Rev of AN ERA (a long period)
13 DELICATESSEN One directed back to German city eating cat food (12)
Ins of CAT in DELI (rev of I LED, one directed) & ESSEN (German city)
17 FULLERS EARTH Arthur feels Lancelot initially refined oil cleaner (7,5)
*(ARTHUR FEELS Lancelot) an earthy hydrous aluminium silicate, used to absorb grease and as a filter
20 IDIOT State one returns to as a fool (5)
ID (Idaho state in the USA) I + rev of TO
21 REALISTIC It is clear and could be true to life (9)
23 BUTTERNUT Goat head, a sort of pumpkin down under (9)
BUTTER (goat) NUT (head) The Dictionary of Australian slang at defines MASH as usually, mashed potatoes. However, I also hear reference to butternut pumpkin mash
24 MUFTI Church ladies’ outfit to wear off duty (5)
MU (Mothers’ Union, global Anglican women’s organisation, church ladies) + *(FIT)
25 SEMESTER Term sees alternative terminology across the pond  … (8)
*(TERM SEES)  for an academic half-year course or term in the US
26 DIALOG …  where help turns to record Obama’s conversation (6)
DIA (rev of AID, help) LOG (record) for the US spelling of dialogue
1 HOME-MADE In muddled head reminder turns up to get Mother’s Pride? (4-4)
Ins of OMEM (rev of MEMO, reminder) in *(HEAD) quaintly defined as Mother’s Pride
2 TALL TALE Everyone in the race gets a drink, which is hard to believe (4,4)
Ins of ALL (everyone) in TT (Isle of Man TT, the original Tourist Trophy motorcycle racing event) + ALE (drink)
3 CORGI Animal of Romanic or Gipsy stock? (5)
5 KNIGHTS ERRANT Philosopher covers nocturnal sin by gallants of old (7,6)
Ins of NIGHT’S (nocturnal) & ERR (sin) in Immanuel KANT (1724–1804) a German philosopher 
6 MAGDALENE English student managed somehow to get to college (9)
*(English L, student MANAGED) for a college in Cambridge
7 IBIDEM Setter’s about to stay in the same place (6)
Ins of BIDE (stay) in I’M (setter’s)
8 GATEAU Entry to the French is a piece of cake (6)
GATE (entry) AU (to in French)
10 ZERO TOLERANCE Accepting nothing (4,9)
Quite straight-forward
14 COUNTLESS Like the hordes who don’t matter so much? (9)
Count for less = doesn’t matter so much
15 GRATEFUL Satisfied with a quantity of fuel (8)
A grate is a fireplace where coal or wood is placed
16 SHOCKING Squeal about wine being execrable (8)
Ins of HOCK (wine) in SING (squeal, grass, betray)
18 NIMBUS Aura of game on public transport (6)
NIM (an old and widespread game, perhaps orig Chinese, in which two players take alternately from heaps or rows of objects (now usu matches) BUS (public transport)
19 VICTIM One suffers with two lads (6)
VIC & TIM are names of boys
22 IAMBI A doctor within two feet (5)
Ins of A MB (a Bachelor of Medicine, doctor) in II (two) for the plural of IAMBUS (foot of two syllables)

Key to abbreviations

dd = double definition
dud = duplicate definition
tichy = tongue-in-cheek type
cd = cryptic definition
rev = reversed or reversal
ins = insertion
cha = charade
ha = hidden answer
*(FODDER) = anagram

45 Responses to “Guardian 25,869 – Gordius”

  1. vinyl1 says:

    I was just going to try a little bit of this before bed, but it turned out to be so easy I did the whole thing.

    Thanks, setter, just what I wanted, a little something to fill in a few spare minutes. A lot of the cryptics were good, but the literal literals pointed to the answer. Fortunately, we had ‘butternut’ as a commonwealth pumpkin a few weeks ago in the Times, otherwise that one might have baffled me.

  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks, UY. 10 minutes to solve and 10 minutes searching (and failing) to find MU listed anywhere as an abbreviation for Mothers’ Union but I’m sure it’s somewhere… :) Not helped by the need for “outfit” to do double duty.

    “Food” as the definition of DELICATESSEN seems very loose but I guess it’s standard Gordian stuff and a balance for a lot of very obvious definitions in other clues.

    MAGDALENE is also an Oxford college by the way.

  3. Uncle Yap says:

    I checked and found that the almost identical college in Oxford is spelled MAGDALEN. My children went to Hertford and Pembroke.

  4. michelle says:

    Enjoyable but difficult for a beginner. Glad I managed to finish it in an hour!

    Plenty of new words here for me: NIM, IAMBI, FULLERS EARTH, MUFTI, IBIDEM (I’m familiar with ‘ibid’ but have just learnt ‘ibidem’ today).

    Many clues that I liked: 22a, 1d, 11a, 2d, 13a, 10a, 14d.

    Thanks Uncle Yap as I needed your help to parse 23a, 12a, 15d, 24 and 1d (even though I had looked up ‘Mother’s Pride’ in order to know what it is).

    I still don’t fully understand the parsing of GRATEFUL. Is it a homonym for ‘grate full’? (I had thought that the back part was an anagram of FUEL but did not know what to do with the GRAT bit)

  5. michelle says:

    Regarding the parsing of 23a BUTTERNUT, I thought that BUTTER = goat is very clever.

    However, even though I am Australian, I have no idea why the reference to ‘down under’ is in the clue. Any other Australians out there who can explain?

  6. michelle says:

    Uncle Yap, GONG XI FA CAI / Happy New Year. Thanks for your wonderful blogs.

  7. Bryan says:

    Very many thanks Uncle Yap & Gordius.

    I polished this off over breakfast which is how I like to do my morning crossie.

    Very enjoyable!

  8. Miche says:

    Thanks, Uncle Yap, and happy new year.

    25a: surely the US word for an academic term is “trimester”? We had semesters at my UK university, too, but they’re not the same as terms.

    Michelle @5: I think the “down under” in 23a alludes to butternut pumpkin being the Australian and New Zealand name for what’s known elsewhere as butternut squash.

  9. urologist says:

    Can someone explain to me the purpose of the ellipses at the end of 11 and start of 12?

  10. michelle says:


    Okay, thanks, I’ll take your word for that. Possibly I did not know the Australian term “butternut pumpkin” as I never much liked pumpkin as a child although I do like it now.

  11. NeilW says:

    Thanks, UY @3 – you’re quite right. I’d never noticed the difference in spelling – I suppose because both are pronounced the same.

  12. Chris says:

    NeilW – the other one to watch out for is the college pronounced “Queens”. The Oxford one is “The Queen’s College” (after Queen Philippa of Hainault), while the better college is “Queens’ College” (after Margaret of Anjou and Elizabeth Woodville).

    Which, of course, matters not a whit in the land of crosswords!

    Chris (an Emmanuel, Cambridge alumnus)

  13. tupu says:

    Thanks UY and Gordius

    A pleasant enough puzzle. Like UY I had to insert a notional apostrophe into the parsing of 5d in order to make proper sense of it.

    26a seems to have &lit elements in it as well as the anagram.

    I particularly liked 10a and 14d.

  14. Bryan says:

    Wow, Chris @ 12

    I had never realised that we used to have a Black Queen:

    Queen Philippa of Hainault


  15. Gervase says:

    Thanks, UY

    Straightforward, but none the worse for that. 10d is not cryptic, but 10a is a nice one.

    michelle @4: GRATEFUL = ‘quantity of fuel’ is analogous to words like ‘spoonful’ and ‘roomful’ – where the reference is to the amount of the contents and not the container it is conventional to write the expression as one word with the suffix ‘-ful’. ‘A roomful of people’ means a lot of folk; ‘a room full of people’ means a crowded section of a building.

  16. michelle says:


    thanks for the explanation of 15d GRATEFUL. So, was that clue/answer a CD or DD or what? (Sorry but I’m a beginner….)

  17. Robi says:

    Fairly straightforward but largely enjoyable.

    Thanks UY; like Gervase @15, I thought 10d was barely cryptic. In response to NeilW @2, the Mothers’ Union people, themselves, use the abbreviation. I did not particularly mind the double duty of outfit. Alternatively, I suppose, a ‘something’ could perhaps be imagined before ‘to wear off duty,’ although maybe the clue would have been better if the ‘something’ had been put in. :)

    I hadn’t heard of ‘nim’ before, although no doubt it is a crossword chestnut.

    In response to urologist @9, I wondered the same and then thought that ‘the month…where it all happens’ just runs together.

    I liked DIALOG.

  18. Kriscros says:

    Thanks UY for the blog and Gordius for an enjoyable solve

    I had a good chuckle with 22d, thinking what fun Paul would have had with it……

  19. RCWhiting says:

    Thanks all
    The last time I did not have the pleasure of this setter I dismissed it very briefly.
    This one was so bad that on several occasions I looked at the grid, a couple of crossers and wrote in the solution without reading the clue.
    This is just not on, especially on a non-Monday (last one was on a Wednesday).
    How much must the genuine setters resent seeing someone being paid for this when they so obviously exert themselves considerably for our pleasure.

  20. NeilW says:

    “I looked at the grid, a couple of crossers and wrote in the solution without reading the clue.” RCW, since I understand you’re retired and on a limited budget, do you realise the fortune to be made by transposing this supernatural ability into an app? ;)

  21. Rowland says:

    Whilst that might be a BIT strong RCW, I would certainly say that this is pretty bad. So badly written that it’s not always easy to solve! In that, I’m surely not as goos a solver as you, I did find one or two of these hard, due to the above.


  22. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Gordius and Uncle Yap, to whom GONG XI FA CAI and have fun!

    Nice to see FULLERS EARTH – I can still see in my mind’s eye my father’s tin of the cream.

    Michelle @ 4, you haven’t missed anything by not knowing Mother’s Pride bread!Keep asking the questions, which are a good reminder to others. You seem to be getting the hang of things very nicely.

    Giovanna x

  23. michelle says:


    I guess that your comments prove that it is hard to set a puzzle for all levels of crossword enthusiasts.

    I found this puzzle difficult (I’m a beginner). Took me about an hour.

    Others say they did it in 10 minutes.

    You say you did it without even reading all of the clues!

    I have a feeling that you are so expert that you could probably soon be a setter.

    I look forward to attempting one of your puzzles…..

  24. Rowland says:

    …perhaps you can have a guesswhy the ellipses were used?

  25. michelle says:


    Thanks for the encouragement. Yes, as an Australian, it is often clues that include references to things like “Mother’s Bread”, “Iron Duke” or “Butlin’s”, (let alone all the Scottish vocabulary!) that give me a good shake-up (and run to google).

    I’m fine with having to know British rivers, counties, towns, cities etc.

    And like you, I suspect, I speak Italian….

    tanti saluti


  26. michelle says:


    Are you speaking to me regarding the ellipses in 25a and 26a? I guess they are there because the two clues are connected, both referring to “Americanisms”. And please note that I am not American.

  27. RCWhiting says:

    I agree with Giovanna’s comment @ 22. Good luck.
    I don’t have any ambitions to be a compiler, quite happy (usually?)as a solver.
    Fortunately I still had a few Azed’s to finish this morning (very tricky this week) but I still claim my right as a £1.40 customer to a decent cryptic in The Guardian.
    A four letter word Z-R- doesn’t need “supernatural ability” to solve.

  28. michelle says:

    thanks for your good wishes and I wish you well also!

  29. NeilW says:

    RCW, and there was I, thinking you’d found the solver’s elixir. I’ll cancel the call to my stockbroker.

  30. Colin says:

    Personally, having only just finished the prize and not even started on Azed, I was quite 15 for a nice gentle puzzle.

  31. Derek Lazenby says:

    OK, get me those nice men with the shirts that do up at the back. I was slow to get 6d because I initially miscounted the number of letters in managed! Dang!

    RCW, I note you still don’t make reference to all those other payers of £1.40 who have a very different level of skill to yours. One day perhaps?

  32. Moose says:

    RCW – I look forward the the appearance of Emperor Zurg (from Toy Story) in next week’s offerings :)

    I found this a relatively straightforward solve – although failed to parse 24a, and had to check what FULLER’S EARTH was!

    As a slight aside, I do look forward to more modern references in crosswords – Bowie and The Beatles have obviously made the grade… will we get an Oasis, Coldplay or Dizzie Rascal themed crossword in years to come? I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what culture survives!

  33. hounddog says:

    Moose: I recall a crossword (probably the Indy) a year or two back that included the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Stranglers as well as other punk rock references that escape my memory now. Right up my street.

  34. RCWhiting says:

    “I look forward the the appearance of Emperor Zurg (from Toy Story) in next week’s offerings ” (sic)
    Me too Moose, me too. I won’t be writing that one in quickly!

  35. wolfie says:

    A gentle solve, completed in a few minutes. But no complaints, since I get plenty of other entertainment and enlightnment for my daily £1.40.

    Chris @12: I went to the Oxford Queen’s College, which of course is superior to the upstart Cambridge version.

    Thank you Gordius, and also UY for the impeccable blog.

  36. Brendan (not that one) says:

    Quite enjoyable but perhaps a little too easy to follow a Monday! (However I would much prefer this on a Monday to our usual fare! JMHO ;-) )

  37. Dave Ellison says:

    “In response to urologist @9, I wondered the same and then thought that ‘the month…where it all happens’ just runs together.”

    I toyed with this thought, too, but “where” should really be “when” ? and that would destroy the clue.

    Still can’t fathom it

  38. slipstream says:

    Miche @ 8:

    25a: surely the US word for an academic term is “trimester”? We had semesters at my UK university, too, but they’re not the same as terms.

    I’m in the US. US colleges with two academic terms a year call them “semesters.” Colleges with a different schedule, three terms a year, call them “trimesters” or “quarters” — the fourth quarter being summer vacation.

  39. Giovanna says:

    Michelle @ 25

    You are welcome. We all need some encouragement and plenty of humour to go with it.

    wolfie @ 35.I thought we might have some Oxbridge rivalry!

    Buona notte a tutti e sogni d’oro! Sleep tight.

    Giovanna x

  40. Morpheus says:

    Thank you Uncle Yap and Gordius for quick and enjoyable solve, which is what we needed having started dinner a bit late.

    Co-incidentally I know someone who was Head of Department in Engineering or something similar at the University of Hertfordshire – might they know one of your offspring?

    You have me a bit baffled re Pembroke though – do you mean Pembroke Comprehensive School?!


    (alumnus of Fenland Comp, as the oiks from the other place used to say…)

  41. Sil van den Hoek says:

    So, now – late in the evening – we come to the main point , dear RC Whiting and Rowland.

    “This one was so bad that on several occasions I looked at the grid, a couple of crossers and wrote in the solution without reading the clue.
    This is just not on, especially on a non-Monday (last one was on a Wednesday).
    How much must the genuine setters resent seeing someone being paid for this when they so obviously exert themselves considerably for our pleasure” [RCW @19]

    You really surpassed yourself, dear friend.
    Yes, this was an easy crossword, but why was it “so bad”? Because it was too easy? If it was “so bad”, surely more than 50% of the clues must be rubbish. Name them!

    “Whilst that might be a BIT strong RCW, I would certainly say that this is pretty bad. So badly written that it’s not always easy to solve!” [Rowland @21]

    Another one who didn’t make clear why it was “pretty bad” / “so badly written”.

    When I criticise a crossword (and indeed, sometimes I do) I always point out what I do not like before I draw my conclusion.
    Here we have two examples of people burning down a setter (or a setter’s crossword) without giving us detailed information.
    It is very easy to give a yes/no comment, anyone can do that.
    Apparently, it is not always very easy to explain why it is yes or no. For some, that is.

    Some comments were rather insulting towards solvers like Michelle, but happily she fought back!

    And oh, dear RCW & Rowland, you will probably be appalled by the fact that this easy, friendly, innocent crossword contained a clue that will perhaps be my “Clue of the Month”.
    I will leave it up to you which one it was.

    Many thanks to you, UY – and a Happy New Year!

  42. vinyl1 says:

    It should be noted that Ming the Merciless, along with the Piranha brothers, have seeped into popular humorous business writing. Ming is the CEO, of course, and the Piranha brothers usually take the role of ruthless consultants bought in to cut costs.

  43. RCWhiting says:

    Your lofty cathedra needs to produce some new criticisms.

  44. Davy says:

    Just to keep things simple, I totally agree with Sil. It’s so easy to destroy things and much more difficult to create them.
    I liked GRATEFUL which made me smile and IAMBI was well-constructed. Yes the crossword was quite easy but I still found it
    enjoyable. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a head the size of a planet.

  45. Rowland says:

    How can I be expected to know what clue you like Sil?


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