The title was encouraging – a Listener crossword that is ‘Child’s Play’. Ha ha! Then there was the promise of a bit of drawing at the end – if we got there. Lovely!
We started with the thematic clues and NAGA and COMPANION leapt into view, but I didn’t know what a naga was and didn’t spot the obvious. Typical of the 8X8 team!
We plodded through the clues with our satisfaction only mitigated by our tendency to opt for the corrected letter rather than the misprint, which led to a few strange instructions.
However, the word LETTERS soon appeared and then ‘DELETE ALL BUT SEVENTY-FIVE’ – that was almost half the grid but didn’t correspond to the totted-up total of thematic clue lengths. We have almost a year of experience now and know that all will be clear in the end (sometimes!) so we struggled with the last clues.
13ac. Informer fails to complete hotel check (4) We were hunting for CHICK or CHUCK for our corrected word and played with NESH for ‘cowardly’ or ‘chicken’ but the informer was likely to be NOSE (failing to complete – so NOS) with H for hotel. We couldn’t see the link with CHUCK until our wise friend told us that was a word for food. Of course, that letter made no difference to the final grid. I am beginning to understand why friends prefer crosswords where the corrected letters are the ones that count. Clearly, in a case like this, one can solve the puzzle without necessarily knowing what the correction should be – which doesn’t seem quite right.
I suppose the plural of an ancient Greek word is ‘child’s play’ to most of the regular Listener solvers but NAOI held us up too.
Having once played an infant Mustardseed in MSND, I had no problem with the Pyramus quotation and Bottom’s THISNE but we didn’t know where to look for it in Chambers. Is it there?
With all the clues solved and a sprinkling of white cells here and there, the grid began to look suspiciously like a familiar board game. The p.d.m! Wasp, losing W(ife) gave us ASP and all was clear. Once we knew that we were hunting for snakes and ladders, the thematic clues soon resolved themselves into a convincing knot of snakes and a slightly less convincing pile of ladders.
STY was up there near the finish of the game and was clearly the required ladder but that clue ‘Indeed in the past this would be frothy’ was almost too subtle for us – Indeed in the past (YEA) with this (STY) was frothy – so YEASTY. Hmm – clever!
The wretched ANACONDA was a threat too. If he stretched to his full length, he seemed to finish in the cell where the ASP started. That would be a vicious trick to play on any trusting little kiddy – to send him down a couple of snakes, one after the other. However, if those two brutes shared a cell, we were one letter short, so, clearly our little board-game playing friend was going to be allowed to climb back up the anaconda’s tail.
Had anyone told me, a year ago, that to complete these things, you need an encyclopaedia article on snake types, a set of coloured pencils and a modern Greek grammar, I would have assumed he was a crackpot. Ah well, the sting is in the tale.
This was great fun. Thank you, Dysart.