Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian Cryptic N° 26,020 by Gordius

Posted by PeterO on August 7th, 2013


The puzzle may be found at

Gordius tends to collect some brickbats, but I found this one not too difficult (despite a couple of unfamiliar words), but full of ingenious ideas. Bravo, Gordius.

1. Poor relationship that could be almost cowardly (4,3)
COLD WAR An anagram (‘could be’) of ‘cowardl[y]’ cut short (‘almost’).
5. Help paper to bed in formal cover (7)
SUBEDIT An envelope (‘in’) of ‘bed’ in SUIT (‘formal cover’).
9. Shell has vehicle going swiftly (5)
APACE A subtraction – [car]APACE (‘shell’) without CAR (‘has vehicle going’).
10. Note a father with time for what’s on TV (4,5)
SOAP OPERA A charade of SO (‘note’ of the tonic solfa) plus ‘a’ plus POP (‘father’) plus ERA (‘time’).
11. Chic lost as turning to bluestocking? (10)
SCHOLASTIC An anagram (‘turning’) of ‘chic lost as’.
12. Area of land would have added value in West London (4)
ISLE ISLE[worth] ‘in West London’ without WORTH (‘value’).
14. Important character — it’s heavy (in gravity, not so) (7,5)
LEADING LIGHT A charade of LEAD (the metal, ‘it’s heavy’) plus ‘in’ plus G (‘gravity’) plus LIGHT (‘not so’ – i.e. not heavy).
18. Shriek about owning toiletry (7,5)
SHAVING CREAM An envelope (‘about’) of HAVING (‘owning’) in SCREAM (‘shriek’).
21. How Israelis used to measure a messy heap? (4)
EPHA An anagram (‘messy’) of ‘heap’. The epha or ephah was a dry measure in biblical times.
22. Observe band keeping time? (5,5)
WATCH STRAP A charade of WATCH (‘observe’) plus STRAP (‘band’).
25. Model glad to work for a symbol of achievement (4,5)
GOLD MEDAL An anagram (‘to work’) of ‘model glad’.
26. Priest not soft on crime (5)
ARSON A subtraction – [p]ARSON without the P (‘not soft’).
27. Gin‘s in season at early evening (7)
SPRINGE A charade of SPRING (‘season’) plus E (‘early Evening’). A springe, new to me, is a trap or gin.
28. English reader, occasionally getting a choice (7)
ELECTOR A charade of E (‘English’) plus LECTOR (‘reader’).

1. Base with firm bottom (6)
COARSE A charade of CO (‘firm’) plus ARSE (‘bottom’).
2. Dislike of bad language in the French (6)
LOATHE An envelope (‘in’) of OATH (‘bad language’) in LE (‘the French’).
3. Conveyance preparatory to interment (7,3)
WHEELIE BIN Cryptic definition, the ‘interment’ being in a rubbish tip.
4. Wars of heaving sores (5)
ROSES An anagram (‘heaving’) of ‘sores’, for the 15th century struggle between the houses of Lancaster and York for the English throne.
5. Shopkeeper burst into tears (9)
STATIONER An anagram (‘burst’) of ‘into tears’. Simple and effective.
6. Rise makes young man about turn (4)
BUOY An envelope (‘about’) of U (‘turn’) in BOY (‘young man’).
7. Preparation of horse for time under cover (8)
DRESSAGE A charade of DRESS (‘cover’) plus AGE (‘time’). ‘Preparation’ in the sense of training.
8. Go without a garment in parody (8)
TRAVESTY An envelope (‘without’) of ‘a’ plus VEST (‘garment’) in TRY (‘go’).
13. Mrs Mop works after hours without conviction (5,5)
CLEAN SLATE A charade of CLEANS LATE (‘Mrs Mop works after hours’). The ‘conviction’, of course, is a criminal record.
15. It’s easy to call in doctor with a stroke (3-6)
DOG-PADDLE An envelope (‘to call in’) of GP (‘doctor’) plus ‘a’ in DODDLE (‘it’s easy’).
16. Devotion with no right to be allied to autism (8)
ASPERGES ASPERGE[r]S or Asperger syndrome is a kind of autism. Here the R is removed (‘no right’), to give a short service prior to a mass.
17. Composer takes part backing single (8)
BACHELOR A charade of BACH (‘composer’) plus ELOR, a reversal (‘backing’) of ROLE (‘part’).
19. Like a time bomb, something given without prior notice (6)
PRESET A subtraction – PRESE[n]T (‘something given’) without the N (‘prior Notice'; questionable, perhaps, but I feel worth it).
20. One begins a test with need for bottle (6)
OPENER Double definition, with ‘need for bottle’ suggesting the a bottle need it.
23. Deliver state victory (5)
CALVE A charade of CAL (California, ‘state’) plus VE (‘victory’ in Europe).
24. Vocative fellows get a warning (4)
OMEN A charade of O (‘vocative’) plus MEN (‘fellows’).

26 Responses to “Guardian Cryptic N° 26,020 by Gordius”

  1. michelle says:

    Thanks for the blog, PeterO.

    I failed to solve 12a (actually I forgot to solve it, but I’m sure I would never have gotten it as I’ve never heard of that part of London!) and I could not parse 15d, 23d.

    I liked 18a, 8d, 17d, 26a, 1d and my favourites were 13d CLEAN SLATE & 9a APACE.

    New words for me were ASPERGES, SPRINGE, EPHA.

  2. NeilW says:

    Thanks, PeterO. Good to see Gordius back on form with a fine pizzle! 😉

    As usual, he pushes the envelope a little and no doubt will upset the purists but I enjoyed them all, perhaps with the exception of the question mark at the end of the clue to EPHA. I know we should ignore surface punctuation but suggesting there’s more to a simple anagram clue seems a little unfair. (I suppose I wouldn’t be complaining except that, like michelle, I’d never heard of the word.)

  3. JollySwagman says:

    @NW #2 re EPHA – a half-guess for me but rang distant bells from other puzzles.

    Maybe the QM is intended as a natural one to suggest ironically that a messy heap of grain might have once been measured (or at least its volume estimated) in those units – ie giving the whole surface as an extended def.

    Still prolly optional even on that basis (except maybe as an indicator of that construction) – and “messy” not the first word that springs to mind to describe such a pile.

    Best I can do. Great puzzle otherwise and thanks for the blog PO.

  4. NeilW says:

    To all who may wonder at my first comment @2 re “pizzle” – I see that either PeterO is out of bed in the middle of his night or admin has corrected the typo that I was joshing him about.

  5. Gaufrid says:

    Hi NeilW
    Sorry, I hadn’t noticed that you had copied the typo in your initial comment otherwise I would have added a comment, as you have now done, when I corrected it.

  6. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid! Just didn’t want to appear any more stupid than I normally do… :)

  7. Gervase says:

    Thanks, PeterO

    Some clever clues here. EPHA rang a faint bell, but SPRINGE defeated me.

    ASPERGES means ‘you will sprinkle’, and is the first word of the Latin verse from one of the Psalms, recited in the ritual which involves the sprinkling of the congregation with holy water: ‘Asperges me, Domine, hyssop et mundabor’ – You will will sprinkle me, Lord, with hyssop (another crossword favourite) and I shall be cleansed. The utensil employed for the sprinkling is known as an aspergillum; the mould genus Aspergillus (Aspergillus niger is the common black mould which grows on damp surfaces) was so named because the spore-bearing structures were thought to resemble an aspergillum. And the ritual is also the origin of the metaphor ‘casting aspersions’ – the suggestion that someone is ‘sinful’ and in need of ‘purification’.

  8. Robi says:

    Very enjoyable crossword; thanks Gordius and PeterO.

    For 9, I did what it said on the tin and shelled has, which then left PACE for a vehicle, doh! Strange that there is ‘spring a trap’ when SPRINGE means a trap. 😕

    I particularly enjoyed PRESET and the ‘simple and effective’ STATIONER.

  9. Schroduck says:

    When I was doing this, I was worried that the “band” in 22a was doing double duty (with the definition being “band keeping time”), but I suppose the parsing here does make sense. I also (thanks to the expedient of just typing various anagrams of “heap” into Wikipedia in the hopes of finding a Hebrew unit of measurement) ended up with PEAH for 21a – Pe’ah being the Jewish law about how to divide harvests, apparently.

    I found it quite tricky all-in-all, but, I enjoyed 1a and 1d a lot.

  10. Trailman says:

    I rushed in ASPERGER seeing the autism link but then realised that R*R*N*E is a no-hoper. Punting with an initial S didn’t seem to help either but at times like this one has faith in the setter and so it proved. A bit awkward though to have two words that are new to me sharing such a crucial letter.

  11. Gervase says:

    Trailman @10: I went up the same garden path to start with. I wasn’t entirely happy with ‘devotion’ as the definition for ASPERGES: Chambers does list ‘prayer’ as one of the definitions for ‘devotion’, but isn’t this ‘prayer’ in the sense of ‘the action of worship’ (as in ‘at prayer’) rather than ‘form of words used in worship’? In the plural, ‘devotions’ does means ‘prayers’ in this latter sense.

  12. PeterO says:

    Oops. I did not even spot the typo on first reading NeilW @2. And I had made an attempt at proofreading. Honest.

  13. NeilW says:

    As typos go, Peter, it was a great one!

  14. Neill91 says:

    The question mark in 21a is presumably because it is usually spelt EPHAH

  15. William says:

    Thank you, PeterO, needed you for parsing of ASPERGES and the Isleworth thing.

    Gervase @7 fascinating, thanks for sharing that. I also wrestled with R_R_N_E for a while.

    Not my favourite setter normally but this was a very respectable offering. Thanks Gordius. (Must have been tempting to bash in ECHO instead of EPHA.)

  16. NeilW says:

    Thanks, Neil91. I’m certainly no expert but Chambers gives that as the alternative rather than primary spelling.

  17. Rowland says:

    Lots of looser things after yesterday, which was very tight!! Ranges from bad ASPERGES to good SHAVING CREAM.

    I enjoyed it!

  18. tupu says:

    Thanks PeterO and Gordius

    I only got to this at lunchtime and did not greatly look forward to it, as G is often a bit unpredictable. I found it thoroughly enjoyable, and certainly the best of his I can remember solving.

    I had to check springe, asperges, and epha. I was not completely convinced by the surface of 16d – but it was a clever idea.

    I ticked 9a, 18a, 13d, 15d, and 19d.

  19. Bryan says:

    Many thanks PeterO & also Gordius for a delightful Puzzle.

    I struggled with the South West corner and then left it for a couple of hours and Voila! everything then worked out nicely.

    It’s almost certainly thought reading so many thanks to all those who allowed me to dip into their brains.

  20. Giovanna says:

    Thanks, Gordius for an interesting puzzle and PeterO,for the blog.

    I enjoyed this puzzle and favourites were:

    SPRINGES, which I remembered from Hamlet (springes to catch woodcocks)

    ASPERGES from the Mass, when the unwary received a good sprinkling!

    ISLE (worth), which was a very topical clue with all the talk of adding valuer to property etc.

    Giovanna xx

  21. Andy B says:

    Maybe I was in a bad frame of mind while solving this one, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of you seem to have done, and I didn’t think it was one of Gordius’s easier puzzles.

    The SW corner held me up and I needed aids for my LOI, ASPERGES, because I had never heard of the service. Although Aspergers syndrome in relation to autism was vaguely familiar I didn’t make the next logical step, and from post-solve research it looks like the correct name for it is Asperger syndrome.

    I also thought some of the definitions were a bit loose, such as “keeping time” for WATCH STRAP, and “wars” for ROSES.

  22. Martin P says:

    I found this hard. I usually feel relaxed about Gordius’ puzzles, but I became a bit morose until my mood was lightened in a flash by 1d: easily my COD and equal to Paul’s best at that level.

    Thanks setter and all.

  23. Paul B says:

    Asperger’s might be an aspect of the spectrum of autistic disorders (in particular high-functioning autism), but then again it might not.

    I think Gordy in SI is saying ‘with no R to be allied to (as in ‘to go with’) ASPERGER’S’ which would account for the whole thing (whilst also leading to ASPEGERS of course).

  24. rhotician says:

    The surface of 16 is trying to say that going to church is not symptomatic of OCPD. But it doesn’t.
    Only living things can be said to have or not have rights.

    ‘Devotion’ is not a good definition for a religious service.
    ‘no right to be allied with’ does not properly indicate the removal of R from what follows.
    Aspergers has two Rs.
    Asperges is a little-known word.

    In this and 3 I think he’s trying, unsuccessfully, to emulate Araucaria’s style.

    I don’t like ‘early evening’ and ‘prior notice’ either. Isleworth is also obscure.

    (That’s enough brickbats. Ed.)

  25. JollySwagman says:

    Isleworth is a very nice part of London.

    Turner once lived there – here:

  26. Uhudla says:

    I got 15 down from “stroke”, but it wouldn’t parse for me because I kept thinking “doctor” was DD (Doctor of Divinity). “Dogpale” did not register as indicating easiness, and I never did spot GP.

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