Fifteensquared

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Guardian 25115 – Crucible, A Severe Test

Posted by Uncle Yap on September 14th, 2010

Uncle Yap.

I have always thought crucible is a container used in the science laboratory and the name of a famous venue for snookers in Sheffield, Yorkshire. This morning, I looked up Chambers which told me it is also a severe test or trial. Indeed! I stared at this puzzle blankly for a couple of minutes until 15Across gave me a drop of that golden elixir.

Thus virtually lubricated, I managed to struggle through the rest of what turned out to be a most excruciating but fair test, including a delightfully hidden theme (marked with *).

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
It’s home from work we go

ACROSS
*9 GRIMM Cha of GRIM (forbidding) M (money) for the brothers who gave us those fairy tales including this one as pointed out by Eileen.
10 CALCULATE C (middle letter of Araucaria) + ins of LAT (Latin) in *(a clue)
*11 SNOW WHITE SNOW (street slang for heroin and cocaine) *(with) + E (Ecstasy)
*12 DOPEY Cha of DO (kill) PREY (victim) minus R (run away)
*13 HEIGH-HO The answer was obvious from the crossing letters and the theme but the word-play eludes blockheads like me. Apparently, Batty Ms Flint (accordingly to NeilW, thanks) refers to a Ms Rachel Heyhoe-Flint, captain of England women’s cricket, known principally for her batting and heigh-ho is an exclamation expressive of weariness or resignation. Apparently this is an attempt at a homophone for Heyhoe (thanks, JS)  I rate this as an unfair clue like a drop of indigo spoiling a pail of pure white milk.
15 YOUNGER *(one guy) + R (last letter of beer) famous Scottish brewery which has been absorbed through many corporate acquisitions to have lost its original identity. Now a brand probably owned by Heineken (through McEwan’s)
17 PROWL PR (public relations or spin) OWL (from OrWeLl)
*18 DOC Ins of O (oxygen) in D & C (dilation and curettage)
20 EKING Peking (old spelling of China’s capital city) minus P. Under the  PINYIN system of transliteration of Chinese characters, it became Beijing
22 YOGURTS Ins of OG (rev of GO, middle letters of Mongolia) in YURTS (light conical tents of skins etc, supported by posts, used by nomads in Siberia and Mongolia)
*25 BASHFUL BASH (party or do) + *(FLU)
26 JAUNT JUNTA (army clique) with A (America) moved forward Thanks to NeilW
27 EXCURSIVE Ins of X (ten) and IV (four) in *(RESCUE)
30 PAPARAZZO Rev of OZ (Australian) ZARA (daughter of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips) PAP (slang for nipple)
*31 WITCH Ins of C (first letter of Coven) in WITH (nicely disguised in withholding) I like Crucible’s attempts to ‘merge’ meaningfully related words like coven for witch in this fodder and in the Mongolian yurts in 22.

DOWN
1 AGES Rev of SEGA, Japanese brand of computer games
2 HIROHITO HI (greeting) + ins of HIT (success) in ROO (Australian jumper aka kangaroo)
3 SMEW SOMEWHERE minus HERE and minus O (another one)
4 SCHIZOID Ins of HIZ (sounds like HITS) in *(disco)
*5 SLEEPY SLEEP (rev of PEELS, strips off) + Y (last letter of day)
6 QUADRUPEDS Ins of DRUPE (fruit) in QUADS (small, powerful four-wheel-drive vehicles, used eg in military, agricultural and sporting activities) four-footed animals like horses
7 HAT PEG *(the gap)
8 SEXY Ins of X (kiss) in rev of YES (certainly) I am getting to like Crucible more and more; here he is regaling us with a bit of Paullish risque
*13 HAPPY Ins of PP (priest x 2 = priests) in HAY (a winding country dance)
14 HILARY TERM *(Hilter army) Spring term at Oxford university
16 REGAL *(large)
19 CABOCHON Ins of AB (able-bodied seaman or sailor) in COCHON (French for pig, pork a la Francaise)
21 INFLICTS Cha of IN (popular) + ins of T (square as in the draughtsman’s tool) in FLICS (slang for police in France)
*23 GRUMPY Ins of RUMP (buttocks) in GY (guy without centre)
*24 SNEEZY S (Sunday) NEES (sounds like knees or joints) Y (variable in algebra)
26 JAPE First letters of John And Paul’s Early
28 ROWS Rev of SWORE (cursed) minus last letter, cleverly indicated by incessantly (unceasingly or unendly or without last letter)
29 ECHO ha

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

51 Responses to “Guardian 25115 – Crucible, A Severe Test”

  1. NeilW says:

    Thanks Uncle Yap.

    13ac refers to Rachel Heyhoe Flint captain of England women’s cricket, known principally for her batting.

    26ac junta with the A for America “promoted”

  2. NeilW says:

    Should be a hyphen between Heyhoe and Flint, sorry. (Just checked on Google!)

  3. NeilW says:

    Oh, and clever Crucible – it’s a pangram!

  4. molonglo says:

    Thanks UY for another enjoyable blog. Can’t believe I finished this without getting the theme. 13a was my last, guessing wildly at a Ms Flint connection. Sega,drupe,cabuchon now added to my store of knowledge. 10a was tortuous and 30a’s ‘setback’ gratuitous. But it was all fair, as you say.

  5. molonglo says:

    Whoops, setback now obvious.

  6. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Uncle Yap

    I gave up on this but I did enjoy several of those that I cracked. If I had twigged the theme it would have helped but there were also some words that were new to me.

    But no complaints!

  7. databot says:

    Is there also a play on “prole” (from 1984) with “prowl” in 17a?

  8. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Uncle Yap.

    Up early today and it was worth it, as always with Crucible – lots of fun!

    9ac is also thematic, as the story is one of those collected by the brothers Grimm, although it was Walt Disney who supplied the names for 5,12, 13, 18, 23, 24,and 25.

    I laughed when I saw that number 8 was SEXY!:-)

    And I loved the ‘pork à la francaise’!

    Many thanks, Crucible, for a lovely start to the day.

  9. Dad'sLad says:

    Thanks Uncle Yap. A stiffer challenge than yesterday’s Rufus, but around half an hour enjoyably spent. Interesting that without the cross-referencing of clues the – in retrospect – blindingly obvious theme took longer to emerge for some of us. ‘Drupe’ and ‘smew’, hmm….. But with the excellent red herring of the ex Labour Minister Caroline Flint who resigned from office, 13a is classy.

  10. Uncle Yap says:

    Uncle Yap is still waiting for someone to completely parse and explain 13Across.
    Who is this mysteriously Ms Flint and what has she got to do with resignation and what’s with heigh-ho?

  11. JS says:

    The Ms Flint in question is one Rachel Heyhoe-Flint who is best known as a former captain of the England women’s cricket team. She was best known for her batting – hence the ‘batty’ in the clue.
    Heigh-ho is a term ‘expressing boredom, disappointment etc’ according to COED – so I think ‘resignation’ fits the bill here.
    Both Rachel’s name & the phrase are pronounced ‘Hay-Ho’ but I seem to remember the dwarfs (nb not dwarves) sang it as ‘High-Ho’ – or as my mate used to say:

    I owe, I owe
    So off to work I go.

    PS Thanks for the blog – very detailed as usual!!

  12. Orange says:

    Uncle Yap, “Heigh Ho” is a phrase said with a shrug of the shoulders and a wry look, when you have to accept that you can’t change something. And the “Batty” refers to the cricketeer, as already covered.

  13. JS says:

    PPS

    I meant to add that Arthur Miller would, I’m sure, have liked & agreed with the title you gave to your blog.

  14. Eileen says:

    Hi Uncle Yap

    I can understand your frustration at not seeing the wordplay in 13ac but I have to take issue with the comment you have added to your blog, regarding it being an ‘unfair clue’.

    On what grounds? That you haven’t heard of the cricketer in question?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachael_Heyhoe-Flint

    As for the ‘attempt at a homophone’ – the homophone is absolutely spot on: both are pronounced ‘hay hoe’ and the fact that, as JS says, the phrase was pronounced differently in the film is irrelevant, as the clue works without reference to the theme, although that is an added bonus, as is the oblique reference to Carolyn Flint, as pointed out by Dad’sLad.

    All in all, I think it’s an excellent clue.

    Incidentally, your reference to the phrase in your preamble is something of a spoiler for those who have not started on the puzzle.

  15. Kathryn's Dad says:

    What a super puzzle and a super blog! Thanks to both better and slogger. I really enjoyed this one: it was tough in places but gettable in the end. I was particularly entertained by GRUMPY, WITCH and PAPARAZZO. Like molonglo, I didn’t see the theme even at the end, which is pretty blind really.

    I personally was okay with the clueing for CABUCHON and HEIGH-HO, but then I speak French and love cricket. Rover the other week in the Quiptic expected the solver to know that ‘timbres’ was the French for stamps; I guess some would consider that ‘cochon’ for pig is too big an ask as well.

    But those are minor niggles in what was a super puzzle. I see from the link Gaufrid put up the other day about the setters that Crucible has only been setting for the Grauniad since last year. Long may he continue!

  16. Gaufrid says:

    To put Eileen’s comment @14 into context, the spoiler has now been removed from the home page.

  17. Uncle Yap says:

    Eileen, is it Rachel or Rachael or Carolyn? Captain of a ladies cricket team? Hardly known elsewhere. This is exactly what I meant when I talk about parochialism … obscure facts to an international audience.

    Homophone of one half of a double-barrelled surname of the captain of England’s ladies cricket team … I rest my case and am off to my weekly hash run. On! On!

  18. Eileen says:

    My apologies for misspelling Caroline Flint’s name – that was a slip and I was not trying to correct you, Dad’sLad!

    NeilW’s spelling ‘Rachel’ was understandable, as that is the more usual spelling, I think, but Wiki confirms Rachael as the correct spelling in this case. I’m sure that for years she was known simply as Rachael Heyhoe and I always assumed that Heyhoe-Flint was her married name but I can find no confirmation of that.

    As she was captain of an international team for twelve years, I think it’s hardly parochialism in the geographical sense! :-)

  19. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, Uncle Yap. I’m beginning to really look forward to this setter and this puzzle did not disappoint. Some witty surfaces, good variety of clueing and quite a few smiles.

    How on earth did I miss such a blindingly obvious theme! Must remember to look for a theme next time…

    As a pangram, this was all the more impressive.

    UY, I can understand your frustration re 13ac, but I thought it was a great clue!

  20. cholecyst says:

    Thanks, UY. Great fun today. I have some sympathy with those of you not au fait with the career of Ms Flint. She actually hung up her England pads about 20 years ago. She has, however, done much to keep herself in the public eye since.

  21. cholecyst says:

    Whoops – I meant 30 years ago!

  22. TokyoColin says:

    Thanks UY. I envy you your Hash run. I am ex Petaling HHH.

    Cannot believe I also missed the theme. And I would never have made the connection to Ms. Flint I am afraid.

    2dn HIROHITO was of course the Japanese emperor during the second WW. But after his passing he is known in Japan as Showa after the name given to his reign. If you will permit me a related humorous tale…

    In Japan, years are numbered from the beginning of the emperor’s reign. This year is 22. Earlier years are indicated by the emperor name and year within that reign. So I was born in Showa 29. A few years ago I was in Chicago at an airport bar and the barman asked for ID since they are required to “card” everyone in Illinois. With a smile I showed him my Japanese driver’s license which shows Year of Birth as 29, and he poured my drink with a smile of his own and said “you don’t look too bad for someone who is almost 80″.

  23. Thomas99 says:

    Well he’s gone now so it hardly matters, but I’d say Eileen is right to pick up Uncle Yap on 13a. The only possible objection to the clue is that the information is too obscure, but it’s not the most obscure in the puzzle – she is by far the most famous female cricketer ever – and if the “parochialism” objection is about cricket being too English, well then you’d have to condemn hundreds of other clues too… The Guardian crossword’s often full of British-themed clues, and it’s probably always been the most cricket-aware national paper (Neville Cardus wrote for it). The construction of the clue is excellent – the homophony precise, the definition clever and the indicator clear – and there’s the theme to help you out. A good clue. You can’t expect people to know Smew, Drupe, Hilary Term (which only exists in one town), Cabochon, cochon, les flics and Younger’s beer and not Rachael Heyhoe-Flint! And if North Americans are peeved, there was their spelling of yoghurt…

  24. Posterntoo says:

    Where was the pangram?

  25. NeilW says:

    Posterntoo, it’s a pangram because it uses all 26 letters of the alphabet.

  26. Dave Ellison says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this. My only regret is I didn’t spot the theme either; this (theme) turns it into an excellent crossword, so thanks Crucible – keep ‘em coming.

    It might well be a pangram – do we know this is not just fortuitous?

    I was toying with DIPSY for 13d, until I got 13a; I agree with Eileen’s comments on this fine clue.

    Ever considered orienteering (cunning running) instead of hashing, UY – I am sure you would find it more fun.

  27. Mr. Jim says:

    Good fun from Crucible today. My solving partner guessed the main theme early on after getting GRIMM. After struggling to remember the names of all the dwarfs, which apparently didn’t include SEXY or SCHIZOID, the rest wasn’t too difficult, especially as we thought it was a likely pangram which helped with QUADRUPEDS and EXCURSIVE.

    Thanks UY for the blog.

  28. Tokyo Colin says:

    To Dave@26 – Orienteering is a great sport but I doubt very much that UY would find it more fun than hashing Malaysian style.

  29. otter says:

    I found this enjoyable and quite tricky. Took me a long time. Completely failed to see that there was a theme, as I always do, although I was reminded of the fairy tale when I filled in SNOW WHITE. (Am a little perplexed by that clue: ‘blend of heroin and cocaine’ for ‘snow’? Surely it’s a name for either, but not a blend of the two, which is a speedball.)

    Have no problem with 13a, which I got in a flash of inspiration after realising that there was no way to get an anagram out of ‘Ms Flint’. I’m too young to remember R H-F as a cricketer, but she was in the popular consciousness when I was growing up, for her name as much as her achievements. Her name was lampooned in a lot of comedy sketches, either for the way it sounds or for its poshness.

    I’d be more inclined to be troubled by the American spelling of yoghurt, or the inclusion of the French for both pig and slang term for the cops; both of which I happen to know but which are a stretch for an English-language crossword. One might also say that Younger’s brewery and ‘Sega’ for games software – the name of a (now-defunct, I believe) brand of games manufacturer – are as much niche knowledge as Rachel Heyhoe-Flint.

    Also not sure about ‘aroused’ for SEXY in 8d – I’d say it’s more ‘arousing’. And I’d say that reference to Lady Zara Phillips’s nipple is probably the more risqué clue…

    Finished this with 6d incomplete. Had inserted ‘drupe’ for fruit, but simply couldn’t think of a synonym for off-road vehicles which fit. I even wracked my brains trying to remember the name of those little 4-wheel bikes…. ah well.

    Could someone explain why ‘schizoid’ is a person of solitary habits? Or have I misread the clue?

    Thanks for the blog, and other comments.

  30. Gaufrid says:

    otter
    A schizoid is a person who is introverted and who exibits asocial behaviour so I think ‘solitarly habits’ is a reasonable description.

    Regarding 8dn, I don’t see the problem. Both aroused and sexy can be preceded by “I’m feeling” with the same meaning in each case.

  31. NeilW says:

    Dave@26. I doubt that pangrams occur fortuitously very often but, in this case, only Crucible knows.. How else did the Quick Brown Fox have such a long life?

  32. otter says:

    Gaufrid, thanks for your comments.

    I did think of ‘I feel sexy’, but have only come across that phrase in the context of eg ‘I feel sexy in these clothes’, which suggests ‘I feel attractive’ rather than ‘I feel aroused’. Perhaps I have had too sheltered an upbringing.

    Re schizoid: I have only heard that word used as a derivative of schizophrenia, ie multiple personality disorder, which may lead to solitary tendencies but will not necessarily do so. Indeed, looking it up in my Cassell’s it says ’1. showing qualities of a shizophrenic personality, 2. (coll.) characterised by inconsistency, contradiction etc.’. I see Chambers does mention ‘introversion’, but I wouldn’t say it is a defining characteristic of schizophrenia. It seems a bit of a weak definition in the clue.

  33. sidey says:

    otter, from ODE*, schizoid: Psychiatry,
    denoting or having a personality type characterized by emotional aloofness and solitary habits

    * http://oxforddictionaries.com/

  34. otter says:

    Oh, Ok, thanks Sidey, I hadn’t got round to looking in OED (involves heavy lifting and a magnifying glass), but will happily accept that.

    Thanks for the OED site as well, didn’t know it and have added it to my Firefox search bar.

  35. tupu says:

    Thanks UY, Crucible et al

    Solved this morning but only got to the site now to find all said and some new insights. Like so many others I missed the theme and the pangram. Comes of piece-meal ‘one by one’ solving!

    I got Heigh-Ho and checked the name but had forgotten to wonder about ‘batty’ after seeing it could not be an anagram.

    I got schizoid but wondered about the homophone. The z is only pronounced ts once the h has been absorbed into ch (k).

    Overall a first-class testing puzzle with a very clever structure, worth a prize if there was one to be had.

  36. Crucible says:

    Many thanks for your comments. Not for the first time I was surprised the theme didn’t jump out. But then I knew what it was. Which makes me think.

    For what it’s worth I’m in two minds about themed puzzles. Solvers get a kick out of solving; I get mine from setting. A theme is bound to be personal. If it interests me, allows some (I hope) amusing jiggery-pokery, is of general rather than specific appeal (very subjective I know), then why not? If it’s seasonal or topical or celebrates an anniversary AND satisfies the above criteria, even more reason to have a go (editor permitting). Whatever the excuse, I have to admit it’s a bit self-indulgent and show-offy, squeezing “n” linked words into a tight (sometimes prescribed) grid just to show it can be done. But it’s fun.

    Those who spot it early have an edge on those who don’t. That possibility, in my book, allows me to try a few tougher clues, though I feel as a frustrated solver that there should always be one or two easier ones to gain entry. Those who don’t spot a theme at all (or a pangram like today) should nonetheless have had a pleasant journey. That’s key. For example, not in a million years would I have seen today’s Tees theme. It’s not my bag, so I missed it. But so what? I really enjoyed the puzzle, thanks to Tees’ ingenuity.

    To satisfy some of the people some of the time? Maybe that’s the best any of us can hope to do.

  37. Bryan says:

    Many thanks Crucible

    It’s great to get feedback from the Setter.

    Now, many more of the same please!

    Bryan

  38. judy bentley says:

    She was called Rachael Heyhoe at Wolverhampton Girls’ High School so like Eileen I’ve always assumed the Flint came on marriage. I think she was the first woman member of the MCC.

  39. molonglo says:

    Thanks Crucible for your comments, as well as a puzzle Goldilocks might like: just hard enough. I missed the batty cricketer but see now how good that clue was. And I did like Smew.

    Thanks Mr Jim #27 for the splendid idea that there were two hidden dwarves, 4d and 8d.

  40. Will Mc says:

    I’m surprised Uncle Yap didn’t have a touch of deja vu. http://fifteensquared.net/2008/11/18/guardian-24549-brummie/

  41. muck says:

    Thanks Crucible, for the puzzle and for commenting on 15sqd
    As others did, I finished it before noticing the GRIMM & SNOW WHITE theme
    I had that ‘deja vu’ feeling too WillMc#40 – thanks for the link
    Wasn’t happy with 4dn SCHIZOID but, as Gaufrid#30 says, who cares about PC?

  42. otter says:

    Thanks for joining in, Crucible. I agree that themes should add an extra dimension to the crossword, but that hopefully seeing a theme early on shouldn’t then make the other answers of that theme slot straight in. So yes, a bit of extra difficulty in those themed clues make sense.

    I found this one quite enjoyable, and very testing. I would have found it more fun had I spotted the theme, but unless I’m told one’s there I never think to look for it. Keep up the good work. (Other condescending phrases are available.)

  43. Toby says:

    I love themes, but I’m afraid I don’t enjoy them at all when the setter doesn’t tell the solver there is one.

    Toby

  44. Richard says:

    It’s great to be treated to the compiler’s observations. Thank you, Crucible. I wish I could have enjoyed this, but sadly the many unnecessarily obscure references spoilt it for me.

  45. Eileen says:

    But, Toby #43 that’s half the fun, surely?!

    I must admit that, sometimes, my heart sinks when there is a preamble alerting me to a theme, because I know it may well be something that I know nothing about, and so I feel doomed from the start. In a recent Araucaria prize puzzle, the theme was the works of Alan Plater, whom I greatly admire, so I was in my element, but I could certainly sympathise with those who had hardly heard of him.

    From reading through today’s comments, it’s clear that there was a great deal of enjoyment to be got from this puzzle, whether or not you got the theme – early on or not at all. It was interesting, too, to read Crucible’s take on themed puzzles [many thanks, again, Crucible, for dropping in - and for another very enjoyable puzzle!].

    I did see the theme, immediately on getting SNOW WHITE, [preceded by GRIMM] but it was not, from then on, as is sometimes the case with themed puzzles, a matter of simply slogging to discover the others but, rather, a series of ‘ahas’ as they came to light.

    I was purely lucky in this one – I grew up with this story. Conversely, I really enjoyed today’s epic struggle with the Tees puzzle in the Indy, where the very cleverly hidden theme totally passed me by. But that didn’t at all detract from my enjoyment – just made me stand back in further amazement at the artistry of the setter when I read the comments on the blog.

    And that’s surely the point of a good themed puzzle – that it can be enjoyed on several levels, when the clues, as here, make perfect sense in their own right and there’s the chance that, in a penny-dropping moment at the end, you may see something that had eluded you during your enjoyable solving of the puzzle.

    Are you really saying you’d have liked, say, a preamble such as ‘Some clues refer to a 1937 Disney film’? :-)

  46. Uncle Yap says:

    I hope through my comments here that crossword editors become more conscious of the international clientele beyond Blighty. “Parochial obscurism” is the term that I am coining to apply to such as PAR (village in Cornwall, Gordius) and HEYHOE (half the surname of an English sportslady)

    That aside, most, if not all, of my other comments about today’s clues were complimentary and positive. Out of 33 clues, surely I am entitled to have one which I found disagreeable.

  47. sidey says:

    Uncle Yap, if you think the Guardian is parochial I suggest you have a look at some US offerings. An ‘Internationalised’ crossword would be extremely dull. I’m sorry you have difficulties with a British crossword sometimes, but I hope it forever remains full of parochial obscurities, some of which are baffling to the incredibly diverse population hereabouts too. Please don’t keep on about it.

  48. MadLogician says:

    I don’t think 13 works. The hiz within schizoid has no h sound, while hiz taken on its own has no ts sound.

  49. Gerry says:

    No problem with smew and cabuchon but Rachel Heyhoe Flint defeated me, though I guessed it was about cricket. Didn’t get ‘schizoid’ either, and don’t actually think it a good answer.

  50. Mitz says:

    I had never heard of “Hilary Term” until last week when Cyclops used it in Private Eye. Coincidence? I think we should be told…

    Loved the slow reveal of the theme, learning one or two new words and Crucible’s neo-Araucarian playfulness. More please!

  51. Sil van den Hoek says:

    I am a bit late to the party, but for some reason we only finished this crossword today.
    Another quality product of Crucible.
    Nowadays it’s hard to believe that, when he submitted his first crossword for the Guardian a couple of years ago, they told him that it would be a one-off thing.
    [at least, that's how it was if I remember well]

    We also missed the theme [a theme, btw, which I'm quite sure of having seen before in the Guardian].
    The HEIGH-HO, HAPPY, PROWL part of the grid eluded us.

    Some posters made clear that the crossword was pangrammatic.
    But, to be honest, I don’t see anything clever or special in that at all.
    For me, really a non-issue.

    And I am rather surprised that hardly anyone (well, one or two of you) criticised the French ‘pig’ (COCHON).
    In the past some setters were more or less slaughtered when they used words that weren’t genuinely English. And it’s not in Chambers either in whatever form.
    I am not that sensitive (regarding myself more as a European), but even to me ‘cochon’ was very unfamiliar. Though normally not in situations like this, I’m on the criticasters’ side.

    Even so, as I said before: another quality product of Crucible.
    However, we did raise our eyebrows every now and then.
    DO = ‘kill’ (12ac)? We thought it’s ‘to do in’.
    And in 27ac: “10 and 4 in different places” – of course, they can’t be at the same place – meaning one here and the other there?
    ‘Inflict’='deal’? Well, only in combination with ‘a blow’, we thought?
    ‘Ring back’='echo’? (For us) only just.

    But despite all this, a fine puzzle by a great setter.

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