Listener 4279: Hellside by eXternal
Posted by Dave Hennings on 21 February 2014
The first debut setter of 2014 with a puzzle from eXternal, although he/she has had a couple of Inquisitors in the last year or so. This week, we had a version of a song to find, and I wondered how similar it might be to John Lennon’s Imagine in the same weekend’s EV puzzle, Dreams. Here we had definitions missing from six down clues, but provided by extra letters in across clues, thematically presented.
1ac Beast tucked into American spices and cinnamon (6) looked like it should read East tucked into American spices, but CASSIA meant that it was Beast tucked into American spies, ie ASS in CIA. Next came 5ac, where the extra letter was almost certainly the D in ‘powder’, and we had G + RAP + P + A giving GRAPPA (a quite disgusting drink from what I remember when I tried it back in the 70’s).
With the two clues across the top of the grid, I tried a few downs. 1 CLEF, 3 SEWER, 4 ARGUES, 6 APERIES and finally 7 Empty pool linked to shivering fit (6) PLAGUE provided the first thematic clue without a definition. It sounded like we might have quite a gruesome theme!
Down the left-hand side, and I got 11ac Notice wit[c]h scold flatterer (6) EARWIG, although I wasn’t too sure that ‘ear’ = ‘notice’, but Mrs B gives both under attention. A flurry of clues followed, including 14ac FRIER, 15ac USER and 30ac DUST. HARVESTER, undefined at 9dn meant the left side was nearly finished, but gave no clue as to what it had in common with PLAGUE … or even SUBDUE sitting mysteriously at 17dn.
As I moved on to the right-hand side of the grid, I was also becoming a tad concerned about the extra letters being dropped from the across clues. My inability to make anything logical from them reminded me of Pointer’s Conflict a few weeks before. The right side was finished reasonably quickly, with my favourite clue at 12dn Cane rampant man in black rubber (6), which had nothing to do with S&M but the referee in football (REF< + ULE).
And so, the six words without definition were shown to be, in clue order, PLAGUE – HARVESTER – SUBDUE – PRISON – SOAR – LASH. The extra letters in the across clues spelt out .
Actually, looking at it there in nice neat Tahoma font rather than my scrawly pencilling alongside the clues, it almost seems obvious, although perhaps that’s just hindsight talking. Harvester made me think of reaper, perhaps the Grim Reaper, which could tie in with PLAGUE and the Hellish title. Needless to say, I was stumped so I looked up Seven in Brewer’s to see if that gave any clue… which it didn’t.
I decided to come back to it the following day. 24 hours later and I looked up subdue in Chambers Crossword Dictionary (Mrs B had gone walkabout). Staring me in the face was 03 cow. I didn’t need to look at the extra letters to realise that we were singing about the old woman who swallowed more than a healthy person should, namely:
a FLY (soar) in a SPIDER (harvester) in a BIRD (prison) in a CAT (lash) in a DOG (plague) in a COW (subdue)
All that was left was for her to swallow a horse. Easy? Well, not quite. How could “cryptically representing the main protagonist and the final member of the set with a comment on their fate” be represented in nine characters? All I can say is that after about a quarter of an hour, NAG and HAG came to mind, and the two Gs enabled me to see GG in row 4, surrounded by WIFE. Above was RIP — she’s dead, of course. The title is the answer to the cryptic clue “Perhaps she’ll die”.
Great fun. Thanks, eXternal.
Of course, the song is nothing like Lennon’s Imagine!