QVWKE VBCFA (Round Table) by Nutmeg
Posted by shirleycurran on 8 August 2014
Oh how our hearts sank when we saw that Playfair square to the right of the grid. We really didn’t need to panic did we? Quinapalus has provided us with a way to spot the codeword and there’s a Braingle Playfair Cipher available at the click of a button. Gasps of horror from all the purists but I’ll wager over fifty percent of solvers went there rather than drawing their own little square once the theme had given us enough words to ask the Internet for help. (OK, get your coat Numpty!)
Nutmeg is one of the very few lady Listener setters and, as I scanned the clues, I wondered whether she would be allowed into the company of the habitual tipsy crowd, but sure enough, there she was heading into the bar in 7d, “Partner releases hold entering English bar (5)” (Lover exchanged [H]O(ld) for E(nglish) giving LEVER or bar). And what was being consumed in there? “Scots not at home in Geneva, for instance (6)” (The Scots were AWA or well into the GIN – giving us GAWAIN, our first hint as to the theme).
There were a few unladylike clues: ‘Be[D]sides where all patients bare … their bottoms! (4) (Last letters, of course, ELSE) Hmmm, Nutmeg!
GAWAIN was soon followed by GARETH, “Good earth ploughed up (6)” though I admit we parsed it as GATHER before realizing that we were looking for another of the Knights of the Round Table to go with LANCELOT, “Old cavalryman losing right allowance (8)” LANCER less R + LOT, TRISTRAM, “Dismal old sheep (8) TRIST + RAM, LIONEL, “Row about old Liberal (6)” LINE round O + L, and MODRED, “Doctor caught in unruly demo (6)” DEMO* round DR.
That title must say ROUND TABLE, said the other Numpty and a few minutes of fiddling with the Braingle Playfair Cipher gave us the KNIGHTS’ MOVE codeword and a hint about what the final move in the game was going to be when we had to locate and highlight two further thematic names, each going across the grid in appropriate fashion. Oh dear, yes, that takes me back to Sabre and his knights. I believe he promised us that his next one would not involve Knights’ moves, so the baton is being passed on to Nutmeg.
Once we had our codeword, we were able to fill in the enciphered names of the six knights, and the completion of the grid was just a pleasurable joust. With a full grid, we knew what we had to do and those words ‘Each going across the grid in appropriate fashion’ obliged us to go from one side of the grid to the other, rather than allowing PERCIVAL to backtrack on himself and finish in the fourth cell of IDOL.
There has been a lot of discussion lately about the comparative difficulty of the advanced thematic cryptic crosswords (the EV, IQ, Crossword Club, Our message board and, of course, the Magpie). To my mind, Nutmeg (and the editors) got it exactly right here. There was a rather frightening preamble, a pleasing challenge, a reassuring penny-drop moment, then an enjoyable grid completion with no fearsome grid-staring at the end. Many thanks, Nutmeg. This was lovely.