Posted by petebiddlecombe on March 19th, 2009
Solving time: about 2 hours, with reference help
This puzzle presented thematic material in a novel way in the grid, and from each clue. We were told that the perimeter contained a writer and his description of what his works were about. Letters to be removed from each clue before solving provided four of his works (short of an initial “The”). We also had to highlight the writer’s name and “sixteen other symmetrically disposed cells”. The letters dropped from clues always left real words behind – which seems a neater piece of work than the common “wordplay leads to answer plus the extra letter I need”. It was soon clear that various answers (8 of them, it turned out) were too long for their grid entries. I should have seen immediately that these were connected somehow to the 16 squares to shade, but missed that until nearly the end.
Progress in solving clues was OK and the first thing I picked up in the extra letters in clues was something like ?IRTHat the beginning. After momentary flirt with “Firth of Forth” as a possible title for something from Iain Banks, I got to something like ?IR?HD??PA?T?D?M… and saw “The BIRTHDAY PARTY”. To my shame, I needed the Oxford Companion to Eng Lit to confirm that this was by Harold Pinter. It was then easy to see The CARETAKER in later letters, and The DUMB WAITER emerged after that. It took later web searching to find The DWARFS though. In the grid, it was easy to see HAROLD PINTER across the top line, but the quote was pretty stubborn. Only THE at the beginning and CABINET at the end were easy to see. After getting rather bogged down on the bottom half clues, I cheated with the ODQ to find “The weasel under the cocktail cabinet”, and completed most of the grid. I was still looking for what to do with surplus material from the eight overlong answers (not all solved), and being stuck, decided to had a look for anything promising towards the sixteen other letters to shade. I’m often hopeless at this, but managed to see BORN running across from square 12, and DIED in the same position a few rows down. Then the cleverest part dawned on me – each of the ‘extra stuff’ answers I’d solved included a spelled out digit or something easily represented by one. Replacing these with the digits and using this information to complete the rest gave BORN1930 / DIED2008.
Plays aren’t really my thing, so I could have got bored by the puzzle, but this element kept me interested until the end. As I didn’t know the weasel quote or about one and a half of the plays, I wasn’t bothered about having to look things up. There are mystery wordplays for you to help with at 21 and 36 across, and puzzlements at 14 and 22 down.
The plays from extra letters were, in order: BIRTHDAY PARTY, DUMB WAITER, CARETAKER, DWARFS. In most cases there was only one word containing the relevant letter in the clue, so this and the “whole word” restriction should mean that you can find all the amended words without me listing them.
|8||EVACUANT – (van, acute)*|
|10||EAGLE = badge (badger) – anag. of (large + E – R)|
|17||SPREW = inferior asparagus. Cat = SPEW with R = “last bit of weir (weird)” inside it.|
|18||BERAY = obs. word for spoil – BE=live, RAY=fish|
|19||MOLASSE – a seies of sandstones & marls from France & Germany. MOLA=fish,SSE=ess rev.|
|21||AFRICAN – the original clue is “A father in Paris from Cairo perhaps” and a P must be deleted. Perhas and erhaps not being words, even in C, we must be solving “A father in aris from Cairo perhaps”. “from Cairo perhaps” must be the def, and A=A, Fr.=father looks promising for the beginning. But this leaves “in aris” to provide ICAN. Aris seems only to be the bizarre two-step Cockney rhyming slang for arse, at which point I’m stumped. Over to the audience.|
|27||CRITS = critics = snipers. C,RITS = scratches – classic barred-grid Scots word|
|36||ACALEPHS = marine creatures – can’t remember exactly what kind. Clue is “Marine creatures changing shape around coloured buoy”. “colored buoy” is possible I guess but “coloured boy” seems more convincing. But after losing A/EPHS = shape*, I can’t make the remaining CAL fit either of these.|
|1||ARAISE = to lift. New word-meaning for me – raise = cairn.|
|4||PAVONE => PAV1 – a Spenserian peacock – (van poe)*|
|5||NUN – a “Clare” = nun of that order, and (new again) a spinning top.|
|9||CANINES => CA9S – I in Cannes|
|12||BOR = neighbour – B=born, OR=men|
|13||THREEPART => 3PART – three,part=piece. 1 is not counted as a prime number despite seeming to me to qualify, so 3 is the second one.|
|14||LOVERS => 0RS – L,over,S|
|20||ONETWOS => ONE2S – def. is punches (paunches). O,NET=pure,W,OS=v. large. Not sure how ‘once’ becomes the O – from o=old?|
|22||FRANCK – “Father new Charlie King, a French composer”. Whatever I do here I seem to be a letter short. If Fr=father, we can have NCK=”new CHarlie King”, or ACK from “new Charle King a” if we can make anags of abbrevs. The only other option seems to be Fra=father, but C says “brother or friar” which doesn’t seem close enough. Or should I be looking at “knew Charlie ing”? Surely not – ing=meadow takes us nowhere.|
|25||AHEIGHT => AH8 – A=are,H=Henry,EIGHT=boat crew|
|28||SENE = “Samoan tin” – a currency unit. SEN=without,E|
|30||ANILEST = A0EST = “most like an old woman”. (A,NET,L,IS)*|
|32||NAUGHTIER = 0IER – (Gaunt,H,ire)*|
|34||E,LO = “Professor Arpad”. Prof Arpad Elo was a chess grandmaster, but is now better known for the system he invented for rating players.|