When we saw the ceremonies and vigils to commemorate the opening of the Battle of the Somme, this morning, I commented to the other Numpty “Listener tonight – what’s the betting it is on a Somme theme!” Of course, I had forgotten that when we downloaded Tangram’s puzzle and learned that we were looking for the name of a poet and the first two lines of his poem (with a couple of words shifted into the crossword clues). Our earliest solutions suggested SEEGER to us but the only Pete Seeger verse I know is “Where have all the flowers gone …etc.” and that clearly wasn’t emerging from the letters we were omitting from our wordplay and answers.
Of course I didn’t forget to confirm Tangram’s continued membership of the Merry Listener Setters’ Toping Club and he quickly reserved his ticket with ‘Drink aroused greed, but no one acted like roisterer (8 with an A removed)’ giving (SWIG less I + GREED*) SWAGGERED. Fortunately, Tangram’s taste improved as the clues progressed, culminating with ‘Good water spring; great Scotch, Elgin’s capital extra mature (4 losing a couple of Rs)’ That was more like it – a drop of the mature Scotch – though we were rather puzzled as this clue seemed to give us two sets of wordplay, assuming that ‘Good water spring’ led to G + EYE’ and that GEY = ‘great’ in Scots + E(lgin) also gave us the GEYE of GREYER (extra mature).
At first sight, this crossword looked fearsome, but, in fact, the clues were relatively gentle – obviously they had to be as we were virtually cold-solving as no crossing entries totally confirmed what we assumed to be an answer, since that letter was missing from every word (surprisingly only once was it doubly missing – that R from GREYER). Words like SHADOW quickly appeared ‘Singular trouble with shade (5)’ S + ADO W(ith), and it was immediately evident that this was the word that was to be entered jumbled, as we already had the S?OD? in place.
At that point, we noticed with amazement that our editors or the setter had kindly indicated for us which word was to be entered in reverse and the clue, with the hint of the letters already in place, told us to put BRINEPI[T] there, ‘Recipe in prison ruined pie; it’s full of salt (7) R in BIN + PIE*.
Of course, by now, we had realized that this was not Pete Seeger but his uncle Alan Seeger who appears just above him in the ODQ and that the line of poetry was telling us, sadly that ‘I HAVE A RENDEZVOUS WITH DEATH AT SOME DISPUTED BARRICADE’ … Sure enough, there were the barricade ‘One in command runs close to barricade (5 less D)’ CO + R + [D] ON, and the Rendezvous, ‘Over a scrap in the country (5 + S)’ RE[S]ORT, so we had the third line of the poem confirmed. The ‘spring’ was returned and the ‘shade’ rustled.
We completed our solve after reading that Alan Seeger did indeed not ‘fail that rendezvous’ as he died on the fourth day of the Battle of the Somme.
Many thanks to Tangram for alerting us to this poet and poem on the hundredth anniversary of that dreadful event.