Posted by loonapick on April 27th, 2007
Solvers’ hint #1: Check the date before tackling a crossword – sometimes it makes the theme blindingly obvious very quickly.Bloggers’ hint #1: If you take your crossword folder on a plane, complete with solution and notes, remember to remove said folder from the seat pocket in front of you on exiting the plane!
As you may have guessed from the hints, this crossword was solved fairly quickly, and then lost almost as quickly. Enter Peter Biddlecombe’s trusty Coolpix to save the day. A plea for help was met with his customary helpfulness and he e-mailed me a copy of the grid. Thanks, Peter!
To the puzzle! The date was April 11, and the title of the puzzle included the word “Post”. The Grand National was being run on that day, and the runners would soon be at the post. Wait a minute – it can’t be that obvious, can it? A quick check on Google and we’re in business – Rubio, Lottery, Vanguard and Discount, all words that appear in the title and preamble and all the names of Grand national winners.
I’ve got the theme, and I haven’t even solved a single clue yet! Before solveing the clues, I followed another hunch. The preamble stated – The vanguard for each normal clue, in order, spells out the theme, so after a little bit of trial and error, I found the phrase GRAND NATIONAL WINNERS by taking the first letters of some of the clues, starting at 13ac and ending with 32dn. I now knew which clues contained additional words, and, using the Google list, identified a number of winners, and “dicounted” them from the clues.
The grid was easy to solve thereafter, as most of the clues were straightforward once the names had been removed.
I’ll comment on a few though.
7 ATTIC – A-TT-IC – other than the obvious homophone, I’m not comfortable with “I see” = IC, unless someone can explain why this is acceptable.
13 LAER – (<=real) – a LAER (or laager) was a defensive ring of ox-wagons in South Africa, presumably as protection against Zulu raids.
37 GEIR – I desperately wanted this to be HEIR, but when doing the last bit of the puzzle it became apparent that it was GEIR. I don’t have Chambers (2003) handy, so don’t know if it is in there, but it isn’t in my earlier version, so don’t know what it means. Anyone?
3 TIGER – G(oat) in TIER – what the South Africans call a leopard!
4 PROTECTIONIST – PROTE(Ionic T)*I-ST – great clue, with good surface
Once the grid was filled, there wer still two things to be done. The names of nine previous winners of the great race had to be entered clockwise around the perimeter of the grid, using the letters of WAIT, REGAL RUBIO – ADAM WATT to fill in the unchecked letters.
The grid gave the following ?ES?T?P?E?R??MR?H?T?XOT??LG?I?T?R?N??OG?Y?R?PES?
I set myself the challenge of trying to complete this without reference to my list of winners.
WEST TIP/RED RUM/MR WHAT/OXO cames fairly easily, then I hit a wall (or should that be a fence?). I could see GRITTAR ahead, but T??L beat me. After GRITTAR I was stuck again, so I went back to the list, and soon came up with TEAL/GRITTAR/ANGLO/GAY TRIP/E.S.B to complete the perimeter.
The final thing to do was to highlight an appropriate name in the grid. Easy, the central seven letters in the centre row spell out AINTREE.
So, puzzle done, race over (few pennies in my pocket after backing the third-placed horse each-way) and everything in order – until I leave the blasted thing on a SleazyJet flight to Belfast on Wednesday!!