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No 4041 Motley Collection by Merlin (Rat hunting)

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 July 2009

How slow can a solver be? It has taken the Junior 8 X 8 easy clues team until now to understand that subtle title. As I was typing it, the significance of ‘Motley’ (Pied Piper, of course) and ‘collection’ (of all those rats and infants) suddenly struck me. Rats!

That’s what I was saying when, by Monday morning, we had still cold-solved only ten clues. By rights, we shouldn’t be here at all this week as Merlin’s Motley Collection tested us to our limits. We had LABRADOR RETRIEVER on the bottom line, which gave us four Rs, and RATTEEN and RAT-TAIL as well as IMPEL, SERAPIS and SANTA MARIA (how I liked that gift of a clue – An early crosser of the Atlantic, bringer of gifts over seas). Naturally, as usual, the problem was fitting in words that clearly clashed with each other – how to identify the large number of three-letter-words-to-remove from across clues, and even odder series of small words from the down clues.

CAPRATE was a fine clue, too, but my Bradford didn’t include it in the compounds. However, I couldn’t wait to get to the Chambers to see if it existed as, if it did, we seemed to be smelling a rat or two. Suddenly it all fitted together. CHIC, DI and HANS were all very diminutive children and, of course, when removed from TETRASTICHIC, DIECAST and SABAHANS, gave us the necessary adaptations for the down clues. We already had a fair number of RATs in CASH-RATIO, PRO-RATA, ABERRATES and NITRATE (though, Denis, please, I am not sure we are right with that last salt, the wordplay isn’t clear to me!)

1ac. (NIPPERTY-TIPPERTY) was a real stumbling block and we needed a kind prompt to look for yet another six-letter small person, before we had that wonderful aid to our filling of the grid. But how we struggled (pleasurably, though, Merlin, as each solution that went in made the rest easier – just how a crossword should work, I think). PICARDY THIRD was a rare find and I am still wondering why Chambers has it under THIRD but not under PICARDY, and we were suspecting a Paul-style rather louche clue in ‘Try out bed without first woman leaving’ – and it was Paulish in its logical TEST(M)ATRIX solution, which gave us another tottie (TRIX).

That word led us to ALL-FIRED which seemed a rather strange solution for ‘The Underworld’s’ and I struggled to cope with MAN SEIZED losing one E to give MAN-SIZED, then another E as part of PIPER. However, these were rat droppings compared with ONOMATOPOEIC. It is a good thing that the solution sprang out at us, for we would never have understood the wordplay of ‘Called for sound of a language raised subject about Old English’ without the gentle prompting of our wise friend. (We have TOPIC round OE, then O for of, and A NOM – the language, backwards). Rats! I repeat.

Enough! We made it with a wonderful sense of achievement. This was magic, Merlin. All the same, if the Listener offerings continue to become more difficult, week by week, we’ll be disappearing with the rats and children.

2 Responses to “No 4041 Motley Collection by Merlin (Rat hunting)”

  1. Denis Martin said

    Shirley, the Italian restaurant in the NITRATE clue is TRAT which is in Chambers under the entry for TRATTORIA.

    Well done to the 2x2x2x2x2x2 team on completing what I thought was a very difficult puzzle.

  2. shirley curran said

    Thank you again, Denis. I am always rather miffed by the foreign bits of clues (possibly because we are surrounded, here, by foreign language speakers and I tend to subconsciously shut out the foreign words that come instinctively to mind). We are just heading to the local ‘trat’ for a pizza but the word (and how it jars) was new to me – I don’t think the Italians would like it!

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