A new name and an original gimmick. We quickly understood that it was in the clues that a letter was to migrate east or west, whereas in the solutions the letter would go north or south. That’s a fine change from the extra letter in the wordplay or the corrected misprints spelling a message. It does, however, mean that the down clues are going to be just a refined, controlled sort of jumble – yes, I hate the things but had better not start off with a moan.
Of course I had to check whether this new setter qualifies for entry into the Listener topers’ club and to my amazement, I read through the across and down clues and found not a trace of alcohol. Food abounds: there’s ‘Where a Scot might keep crummy bread after opening of bakery (4)’ – Difficult one that. We decided that the Scots cow, or crummy would be kept in a B(akery) AWN since the R of ‘bread’ was going to give us ‘beard’ – an AWN. I wonder how many solvers will opt for a BARN.
Then there’s ‘Taste of fruit, not in perfect condition (4)’. Another tough clue. We opt for OMAN O’ + MANGO with the GO removed. Indeed I had to read right down a long column of definitions of GO to find that it can be ‘in perfect condition’ in popular parlance. This is not easy January cluing. Our next foody clue is ‘Botswanan elders talk excitedly about steak (6) TALK* round GO giving KGOTLA (Back to the Chambers’ list of GOs again and this time the GO is a stake.)
So on we GO. We have old meat recycled, Rosalind’s tarts, tinned beef, spice, old chicken, and a trimmed piece of meat and the only relevant tipply word I can find is ‘Thirsty’ – no wonder! ‘Dry number including soprano (7)’ = THIRTY round S.
We solve steadily finding an astonishing number of obscure words: HUSO, BAWN, KGOTLA, MEROSOME, SKRIKS, ARTEL, HIELAMAN, ALFORJA – and those were only the across clues. If I come out with all of those in conversation this week, my friends will ask me to speak English. But they were honestly clued so the solve was quite enjoyable and soon we were left with only the south-east corner to complete with one clue holding us up, ‘Old meat recycled by eastern recipe for joint. (6)’ The ER gave us a hint that Malva was now resorting to a dubious smoke after all that food, a REEFER and we slowly teased out that ‘old meat’ was to become ‘old mate’ and that a FEER was an old mate. He could be’recycled’ to give REEF. That was a fine, deceptive surface reading wasn’t it?
All over bar the shouting and while I hunted for the stopping place for those swans, the other Numpty stomped off downstairs (as it was time to cook dinner) shouting “I’ll turn the oven on then we can cook the b………. swans.” Fortunately, I found MINSMERE, the nature reserve, so the swans live to migrate one more time. Thank you and welcome Malva.