Xannthippe’s last puzzle was only nine months ago and was the very enjoyable game of golf in which he allowed us to beat him 2&1. When I first saw the grid in this week’s puzzle, two thoughts crossed my mind: how was I going to describe it in my Crossword Database , and how difficult would my animation end up being!
From the preamble, it looked like we were in for a novel solve. There were three thematic answers in each quadrant clued by wordplay only and entered as suggested by an extra word in one of them. Moreover, the remaining cues in each quadrant had a different gimmick, quadrant A requiring us to remove two letters before they could be solved. That would reveal how to deal with quadrant B, which in turn…, well, you get the picture.
Each quadrant would need to be solved independently, since they were connected to each other by a single cell which formed part of an unclued entry.
Quadrant A clues were reluctant to be solved. This was primarily down to the devious requirement to remove two letters, not necessarily consecutive, before solving. The first two I cracked were 12ac Iron mover to wield discharge (6) — Iron over to weld discharge (6) — giving EFFUSE, and 10dn Grand arena turn’s opening German district (3) — Grand area urn’s opening German district (3) for GAU. The two letters dropped were MI and NT, and I immediaely saw that quadrant B would involve misprints. Not that that would help me with A, so I persevered and had it finished in 45 minutes.
The three thematic answers in this quadrant were all fish — SOLE, SANDER and SAMLET, and the extra word in 2dn told us they had to go swimming, so were anagrammed into LOSE, SNARED and METALS. I particularly liked the clue to 8ac Eg, role with stage actor making return (4) where L and E were dropped (although I wondered why Oliver REED was described as a stag actor before realising that stag was part of the definition!). Also, I felt sure that Boarders in wipeout in 3dn would end up being Borders in wipeout, WT.
On to quadrant B clues where we had to Amend a letter misprint and we were in familiar territory. These were somewhat easier, and getting 13ac UPRAISE set me on a good start. I wasn’t sure whether the original letters and corrections in the misprints would be relevant; in fact, it would just be the corrections. For some reason, I liked 21ac Some vitamin E, dense coenzyme (3) which needed vitamin E changing to vitamin A to reveal NAD (the abbreviation mentioned in the preamble). I’ll call that a ‘misprinted hidden clue’.
And of course, 16dn I will square ratio, neutron quantum number (7) was a doddle since we had ISOSPIN just a few weeks back. And so the thematic answers in this quadrant were trees — NUT PINT, MANGROVE and OIL PALM, all to be pollarded and entered without their first letter.
That went slightly quicker than the first quadrant, about 40 minutes, and quadrant C simply required us to Add a letter before solving. The smart ones among you would have twigged the theme for this quadrant from 26ac Meandering wife drinking, no good leaving (11), with meandering being a dead give-away as the extra word. Unfortunately, I was on the lookout for birds, mammals or plants, rather than rivers. Of course, the somewhat confusing numbering stopped me in my tracks and I wondered if Afrit had been at work!
The clues were quite solvable with 33ac Icy period — girl ditches Ike for Romeo (4) being my favourite with MISS having Mike being replaced by Romeo. I also liked 27dn Ancestor of CI, Iceland or East Germans (5) which had nothing to do with Guernsey or Jersey but the CIA.
At some point, 32dn OTTER steered me even further away from rivers. In hindsight, I’m sure this was a deliberate red herring from Xanthippe. Even so, I should have got 31dn sooner Me drinking one southern whisky and lime? (8) even though I like neither whisky nor lime (MI containing I S SOUR). MISSISSIPPI was the final one that wended its way through the grid.
The instruction for quadrant D clues was Remove a word, and a quick scan of the clues suggested that we had to Complete quote using letters… in the endgame. 41 and 43 down finally gave me my birds SPARROW and PARROT with REDPOLL also coming to light at 40. This had to be entered upwards as determined by up in 43.
The full message from the extra words read Complete the quote using letters from sprint, rover, catch, and a quick check in my ODQ under connections led to Adam Smith’s description of Philosophy, “that science which pretends to lay open the concealed connections that unite the various appearances of nature. (Sprint, rover, catch provided the unchecked letters in the quotation.)
There remained one outstanding clue to be resolved, 40dn Prone to vote Republican on a register (7) which led to REDPOLL. This seemed to be double wordplay, the second being RED (Republican) + POLL (a register). However, I was stumped by prone in the first half of the clue. My entry was posted without sussing it. And I’m still stumped!
All in all, about 2½ hours for this enjoyable puzzle from Xanthippe. But please, a nice simple grid next time!