Only five lines of preamble – just the job! Misprints (again!) a rhyming couplet and clashing letters. Hmmm. We set to with great enthusiasm and had soon reached our usual Friday solving total: ten clues solved. POINSETTIA (that obvious misprint spunge/spurge and the clear prompt that we needed to work out an anagram of saponite + it) appeared straight away, together with a few very promising long words RHOMBOIDAL and ASSONANTAL and ALMANDINES (after we had looked up ‘hoofer’ – Alma dines, taking in the N of new).
After last week’s long, hard labour with numbers, this was light relief and we were hooked (more of the hooker later!) We kept going and the grid surprisingly filled up. The clashes began to appear, and the location of the clashing letters was soon evident as ‘OVER THE RIVER’ seemed to be in the left-right diagonal.
TRANS.., I muttered and Mr Clever beat me to it: ‘TRANSNISTRIA’, he proclaimed, ‘along the Dniester, between the Ukraine and Moldova. I had to get the Atlas out to complete my geography lesson (and have copied a bit of it into my grid – always enjoy the colouring in bit!) but, of course, solving was now rendered much easier. We had enough letters to insert UKRAINE and MOLDOVA and completion was in sight.
Oh how smug that all sounds! It is never so easy for the Easy clues 8X8 team. Lots of word-play held us up. Our rhyming couplet produced by the misprints was clearly something about trains but, apparently, all trains come to a halt in Transnistria – could it be SLOW LINE at the end of the couplet? Much later, it was Mr Clever who pointed out that TRAINS + TRAINS was a fine anagram of TRANSNISTRIA, and so trains had to ‘collide’ with other trains. Nice one! It was then that we understood that the first line must be, ‘Located on the farther side’. The best surprise of all was still to be understood – that title RESIDENT seemed rather irrelevant (there are not very many in Transnistria, are there?) until it was pointed out that it is an anagram of DNIESTER.
Our troubles were not over. Oh dear, the word-play! We had ICIER but, as usual, missed the French connections in the wordplay. We hear the language all day long so there must be some mental block about looking for it in Listener crosswords. Of course it was the grocer/épicier, losing the ‘ép’ from the middle ‘képi’ – his French hat (though our épicier is never seen in a képi!) Then there was DAE; it had to be half of ‘sundae’ but does that make ‘dish’ in Scotland? (We have some vague notion about ‘dish’ being to ‘cheat’ or ‘do’ you – perhaps Denis will explain!) We chose HOWLET for our minor strix, and that put a W for ‘wife’ into a ‘hole’ on T – but the word-play escapes us. Still, the grid filled up with the exception of one square. We had ?OER for the TART. Was she going to be a GOER, a DOER or just a simple Dutch HOER? And what had the gardener to do with it? That was our last struggle and after sleeping on her, the hooker appeared – not OK at all! We had our HOER.
We enjoyed this one thoroughly, Hotspur. It was just what we needed after the last few weeks. Thank you!