4043: Dipper’s Green Fingers (or Crosswood Puzzle!)
Posted by Dave Hennings on 7 August 2009
One of the major benefits of doing the Listener, or indeed any crossword, is that it gives you a great excuse for not going out and doing any gardening. Dipper’s puzzles therefore have a tendency to nag at my conscience, as well as dealing with many words (like rose and tulip) that I am only aware of from a theoretical perspective. This is Dipper’s seventh puzzle on a gardening related theme, and they haven’t enthused me too much, although they have all been pretty fair and not too taxing (unlike my garden).
This time, tree’s in Dipper’s arboretum need to be replaced by a green cross (more trauma for the colour-blind), and in five cases the bark has been attacked by insects. Exactly how the trees initially appear is not clear yet, but I guess the bark relates to first and last letters. Every clue has an extra word with their initials spelling something relevant. I seem to remember that Dipper’s clues have been relatively easy, so I am surprised when a first pass of the clues only yields a handful of entries, mostly in the bottom half of the grid. Getting SPAR (3 letters) crossing with CALMER (5) after only about twenty minutes leads to PALM and shows how the clashing letters from acrosses and downs join up to form the trees.
The puzzle starts taking shape, with SPEEDFREAK, PANTIHOSE and DISHEARTEN helping a lot. ASSIMILATE, Become [incredibly] like … like … almost like … not like … not half, as well as being a bit too clever for its own good (;-]) reminds me of a 20-something girl I overheard on the tube recently when I counted 14 ‘likes’ in two (albeit extremely long and rambling) sentences. Incorrectly entering 32ac as PANIM doesn’t help with the resultant 29dn ?ATT having nothing to do with the US phone company AT&T; it should be B??T, ie BITT for ‘fasten cables’.
On and off, I’ve been trying to fit CALCEDONIC into 1ac, but it just won’t work. Finally I remember CATER being ‘move diagonally’ and L turns out to be an abbreviation for el which is an abbreviation for elevated railroad; the clue wordplay is CATER about L+C+SIN, ie CALCSINTER. 4dn was also tricky, with Among the characteristics of being just IN, and TENT meaning to take notice off, which I’d not come across before. Almost last to get solved is 19ac, with an entry length of just five letters, but an answer of eight, PENTAGON, deviously contributing to two trees (asPEN and manGO), as did PEARLITIC.
I end up with fourteen trees, having double-checked that there are no two-letter trees like OO, which would put me in a quandary as to whether the solitary O in the diagram needs highlighting! The extra letters in clues, which, for most of the puzzle, seem to be an incongruous sequence of letters, turn out to be five insecticides, DIMETHOATE, PYRETHROID, etc. Strange this, as they pretty much contribute nothing to the puzzle.
So, in the end, an enjoyable puzzle, with some tricky clues that are fair and with good surface readings, especially Rubber Michelin tyres are partly retreads.
Thanks Dipper, but please find another hobby for next time!
Finally, my catch-up checking of old Listener solutions, this time for puzzles 4025 to 4029, reveals, I believe, no errors. As these include 4026, Zero’s puzzle with Miss Jean Brodie’s Creme de la Creme rising to the top of all the columns, and 4028, Mr E’s tortuous game of golf, I am much relieved.