Lots of fascinating new words to drop into our erudite conversation this week. “Looking for a meuse, we wandered past the proseuche and dropped an inchpin into the snye …” However, the grid fill gave us surprisingly few moments of total despair. We wondered for a while who the Irish virgin could be (of course, the ‘elder’ who was guarding her was our French word ‘AINE’, and, as usual, that was the last word to spring to mind – we just shut out that part of the brain when solving Listener crosswords) but when we had put IRL into AINE and produced AIRLINE we had a moment of glee. What a fine clue!
The Audis turning up at the end of RESIDUA (Are German cars turning up delivering things left behind?) gave us another moment of clue-admiration. There were a lot of those, as these solutions slotted together with only eight clashes to discover and agonise over. I had trouble, though with GENTLE. I am wondering whether now is the moment to read through all 1871 pages of Chambers to learn obscure, quirky things that Ploy obviously knows – like the fact that ‘gentile’ means ‘denoting country’, or that ‘peter’ is an Australian word for a till.
We continue to learn and our very first observation had been the strangely unsymmetrical nature of the grid. 13 X 11 with no symmetry that we could recognize. Warning lights! There has to be a reason for that. Are we looking for a thirteen-letter author’s name? Gertrude Stein loomed into view in the obvious place right across the centre; and that is where ignorance is bliss. We only know one Gertrude Stein quotation, “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose …” The roses were blossoming all around her name and four clashes were immediately resolved – 25 letters to highlight.
A quick check in the ODQ gave us SACRED EMILY (I am told that counts as BOGOF – ‘Buy one, get one free’ in current youfspeak) as there were the words, right down the centre of the grid, giving us more than we had bargained for in highlighting terms. Don’t I make it sound easy? The ‘Stripey horse (5)’ team was gloating.
BUT we had to find six letter pairs that could be removed from clues before solving. Oh dear. I believe the difficulty of that task balanced out the ease of solving. Two appeared with relatively little pain: ‘Distant call – MUso who’s first to go?’ gave us MU and ‘Is he, by TOday, in cast’ gave us TO. How cunningly the rest were hidden: ‘Has a NOmad party in governor’s office’ – I thought ‘nomad’ was a fine anagrind – why bother to remove the NO? ‘Bear in Banff is TAking in river’ It seemed to me that that insidious little R for ‘take’ was hidden in the River DEE – why look any further to find that TA?
As for, ‘In a MIrage, a lion deserted swallow hole’: clearly I needed an anagrind, but ‘in a mire’ seemed to be a lovely original one giving me AG as a pair of letters. Why look further to find ‘in a rage’? Lastly there was ‘Heavy knife mostly protecting DaNE in foreign field’. It took a careful count of those As to find that we could use the NE of Dane.
With all those consonant vowel combinations, it had to be Latin. MUTATO NOMINE – ‘The name being changed. My only remaining problem was a moment’s doubt about whether EIGG counted as a name. I decided that it didn’t, as, with excitement (yes, I know that I have to get out more) I recognised that when we removed the clashing letters of DOLINA, PETER, CHERRY and TAMARA, we were left with real words (DOLING, DETER, CHERTY and TAMARI). Oh the brilliance of it! Thank you, Ploy!