Is the junior coffee-break 8X8 team turning into a pair of old dogs and learning the tricks, or was this one just a little bit easier than usual? We had a very late start but liked the look of fiDlEDE from the word go, as a couple of solutions leapt into view as it came off the printer (kEp for ‘Tend to look back’, and cOE for ‘New start anyhow from cotoneaster, and here I am’).
The promise of getting out the coloured pencils at the end led me to expect some astonishing dénouement, like that fabulous falling cherry tree or a forged Pollock, but it was not to be. I have even had it pointed out by friends, that there was a lack of symmetry in fiDlEDE, but I am blowed if I can see it, and, in such a complex construction, cannot really imagine that it matters a fig. (Yes, I can hear the experts telling me that it does matter, even for unclued lights and things revealed in the pdm.)
What was magic for this old-dog solving team was the fact that when we had sorted out another wonderful piece of wordplay, the definition fitted the one from Chambers perfectly – no hoodwinking subtlety there. We recognised fairly early on that every single clue was going to have either a letter or a group of letters repeated consecutively. Now that was impressive! Even the title, ‘Fiddle-de-dee’, when we expanded it and hunted for it in Chambers, produced precisely that – perfect nonsense!
pREquisite and komODragon appeared quite soon because of the clarity of the clueing and we were away. Sure, even old dogs occasionally encounter red herrings. Our French background meant that COTe was the obvious fireproof dish of ‘Half cook heart of Scots tenderloin employing initially fireproof dish’ (Cocotte) but we then threw up our hands in despair at the T?aT? that had to intersect with it. Did I say something about ‘French background’? We had attempted to rethink that entire section of the grid before tête-à-tête appeared to us (and it looks odd, for us, with no accents! ) We thought that tricky one and ASSin were tough to solve but so clever.
Within a couple of hours, we were there, with just ??oF and ?E left to puzzle out. Of course, it was the French word that threw us again – the née, intersecting with in-off – tough ones, I thought. We had a complete grid but some doubt about the word play of tO. Our wise friend explained that subtle clue, ‘Shut out, not do as well’ – the ‘shut’ meaning ‘TO’ and the ‘out’ without the note ‘do’ (or ‘ut’ for the French!) leaving us with another O. We’ll store that old-dog trick for future Listeners. Then there was TArs. Tatars was the obvious solution, but the wordplay where the ‘RU’ (IVR for Burundi) had to be divided and the two letters individually removed from TARTARUS completely dumbfounded us.
Wonderful, Waterloo, not to leave us worrying words till Wednesday. This was most rewarding and great fun.