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Conversion, by Samuel – A Knock-out!

Posted by shirleycurran on 5 February 2010

Just about a year ago, when the ‘Stripey horse, Z???A (5)’ team started to seriously attempt these weekend-consuming Listener crosswords, we would probably have abandoned this early on. Not so this time. We had actually cold-solved twenty-three clues, not far short of half the crossword, before we began to have an inkling. Did we have some premonition of the satisfaction that was in store for us if we persisted? Samuel’s ‘Playtime’ last June, with those lovely dropping pennies, was tremendously satisfying. And so we laboured on.

It was a different type of penny-drop-moment this time. The lights were subdivided to hold all those extra down letters, then subdivided again to fit in across solutions that didn’t coincide and

Muddling along

we were fearing that our across clues were going to be the dreaded jumbles, until two areas of the grid began to make sense. The ORTI of STORTING (18ac) seemed to appear one light further on, intersecting with the O of SEASHORE, the R of EYESORE, the T of ST KITTS (what a wonderful clue – ‘skis three times round island’!) and the I of INYALA. Could it be that we were docking the last letter and shifting it to the start? We attempted the same trick with UPON, intersecting with KNOUT and OLEOS and it worked!

No, we were not out of the woods yet. Clearly down clues had to lose a letter. Even we could see that. However, docking the initial letter soon proved fruitless – ASSET at 1ac (now rendered as TASSE), needed the S of SEBAT and we needed that I for INYALA. So, clearly, we had to dock second letters. From this point on, solving was sheer pleasure and we soon had a complete grid – with, of course, two or three problems.

FAT FARM was a fine solution and fitted the clue perfectly. ‘Even (obviously FLAT) having lost a pound (L), advanced money (FAR M) for health spa’ (7, two words) (Does this count as an & lit clue?) However, for some inexplicable reason, we couldn’t find the word in Chambers. We had another word we couldn’t find in Chambers – PLASTOME at 25d. However, that didn’t fit the clue either and we were wisely prompted to look again for our misprint.

Ah yes, the misprints! We had a complete grid before we spotted that wonderful FAOAT LIKE A BATTERFLY: STING LIKE A BEE! and realized that we were in the boxing ring, with CASSIUS CLAY in pride of place at the top. The conversion was legendary and MUHAMMAD ALI completed the quotation correctly for us.

Only then did we reconstruct our misprints and find SECONDS OUT and, with Zebra-team-red-herring-lack-logic, we still could not find ROUND ONE, (We had the CACTUS as a spiky plant, too – which gave us ROUND ?KE) . Oh dear!

More joys were in store. The strange word at 15d resolved itself into F(O)REMAN, so evidently that other clue without a definition, ‘Company nearly works’ was CO with OPER (nearly OPERA) and as the cherry on the cake – or the final punch on the nose, we learned that Muhammad Ali was celebrating his 67th birthday as we solved. Brilliant! This one must surely rate among the stars of the year.

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