Gordian knot

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Related to Gordian knots: cutting the Gordian knot

Gordian knot

A complicated problem that can only be solved with creative or unorthodox thinking. In Greek and Roman mythology, King Gordian tied such a complex knot that only Alexander the Great was able to loosen it by cutting it with his sword. Trying to remove the gum from my daughter's hair turned into quite the Gordian knot. Ultimately, it was just easier to cut the tangled mess out of her hair. The coding problem looked like a Gordian knot until we realized we could bypass it altogether with a different approach.
See also: Gordian, knot

cut the Gordian knot, to

To get out of trouble by taking a single decisive step. According to legend, Gordius, a peasant who became king of Phrygia, dedicated his wagon to the god Jupiter and tied the yoke to a tree with such a difficult knot that no one could unfasten it. Alexander the Great was told that whoever could untie the wagon would rule all Asia, whereupon he simply cut the knot with his sword. Many writers have alluded to this myth, among them Shakespeare (“Turn him to any cause of policy, the Gordian Knot of it he will unloose”), in HenryV (1.1). It has been a cliché since about 1800 but is seldom heard today.
See also: cut, Gordian

Gordian knot

A difficult problem that can be solved by an unexpected and simple method. According to an old Greek legend, a poor peasant named Gordius appeared in the public square of Phrygia in an ox cart. Since an oracle had prophesized that the future king would ride into town in a wagon, Gordius was made ruler. In gratitude, Gordius dedicated his ox cart to Zeus and tied the cart to a pole with a highly intricate knot, whereupon an oracle foretold that whosoever untied the knot would rule all of Asia. Although many tried in vain to untie the knot, it took Alexander the Great to do so, which he did with one cut of his sword. That might not have been the method that Gordius or the oracle had in mind, but it was good enough to enable Alexander to conquer most of Asia as well as a large chunk of the rest of the known world.
See also: Gordian, knot
References in periodicals archive ?
Improving efficiency is indeed one way to untie the Gordian knot. Engr.
Those, like me, in their mid 30s have already lived through the unravelling of what had long seemed to be unutterably impenetrable Gordian knots of their age
Chastising the legal eagles for "a series of Gordian knots that the parties have been unable to untangle" - a metaphor for a difficult problem - he told both sides to meet at a neutral location at 4pm on June 30 to decide the matter with a round of the playground game.
His talent is untying the Gordian knots typical in tangled legal procedures."
Rather than attempting to untie one of sociologists' Gordian knots by offering an abstract, quantitative definition of the middle class, Maureen O'Doughtery looked to her informants for an answer.
He authored several books, including Political Trials: Gordian Knots in the Law (1986, with a revised edition completed just before his death) and Political Trials in History (1991).
So I'll say it: If Dole somehow pulls it out, we could do worse than have a savvy bureaucrat with a deep sense of guilt for 15 years of public gridlock helping us untie the Gordian knots.