We downloaded this with a smile. A crossword by Schadenfreude is always popular. There was a short preamble telling us that letters were omitted from the wordplay of an unspecified number of clues and that these would spell the theme if read row by row. A proposition was to be discovered and we were to make some adjustment in the grid to demonstrate its fallacy. Of course, Schadenfreude was going to leave us with real words after the manipulation. We would expect no less from him.
Of course, I checked that Schadenfreude has reserved his place at the bar in the Listener Toper’s Club and he has, but with only a very small tipple, ‘Fraction of a dram Lord Mayor accepted (4)’ (Giving LMA round U for LUMA, a 100th of an Armenian dram and producing the first of our extra letters, the U). 36ac, ‘Irish fellow leads with many a Scottish measure (6)’ suggested that the situation might improve (F + IR + LOT) but then the drinking bout finished with ‘Afternoon Irish tea dish (5)’ ([S]A + TAY = SATAY giving us another of those extra letters, the S).
The grid filled very quickly. These were polished clues but not the toughest that Schadenfreude can produce (as in his CAM crosswords). I appreciated the economy of the words used. I once commented to an editor that I aim at never exceeding twelve words in a clue and he replied that he aims at an average of five! A glance at our solving page demonstrates that Schadenfreude belongs to that superior category – not one of those pages overpopulated with words that Listener crosswords occasionally produce.
That’s enough eulogy, Numpty, – get on with solving! We had only a couple of doubts which were resolved by the endgame. ‘Kidder’s lost the head of this shocking implement (6)’ suggested (T)RICKER to us, but we couldn’t find any taser-like thing called a ‘ricker’ in Chambers, and ‘Stuff mostly found in volcanic rock and sun stones (7)’ suggested ASHLARS to us but we couldn’t parse it and decided (red herring!) that the L had to be an extra letter.
Thus we had a full grid with a rather odd message that looked like BUILD AN S ASS and it was the discovery of that DONKEY gracing the non-leading diagonal and a couple of carrots that led us to Wikipedia and BURIDAN’S ASS. Well, here was our ass with the dilemma of carrots equidistant from him (though actually he had no real problem in Schadenfreude’s grid with the CAM to drink from on his left, a river (AE) by his right ear, SAGE, SEEDLAC, and a FIRLOT all around him!)
However, we demolished the proposition and allowed him to swallow the higher of the two carrots and smiled again when the grid removed our RICKER dilemma, by changing it to KICKER and suggested that ASHLARS was correct, as it changed to a variant spelling, ASHLERS. Not only that, we now removed the R from SHERDS, producing SHEDS, which, Chambers tells us, can mean ‘parts’. I wonder how many solvers will put an A into that unch since both SHANDS and SHENDS are real words. It is just one more example of the need to understand every solution before putting the grid into an envelope addressed to JEG.
It was the finding of the real words both before and after the manipulation that, to my mind, added the polish to this most enjoyable solve. Many thanks’ Schadenfreude.