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SPAD by Wasp, Bits and Bobs

Posted by shirleycurran on 25 March 2011

What a strange-looking grid with its rather waspy waist and that unusual title (Signal Passed at Danger?) I expected a red light somewhere along the line here.

Solving went very quickly and, when we found SOFA, LAUND, PANG and LEETLE with a putative MORSEL (Bit of stone found in cherry) and CRATCHIT (End of government supporter’s testimonial) as two clues without definition, we had a method of entry for a ten-letter word. FINGERNAIL had to be entered as FiNgErNaIL or XxXxXxXxXX. This fitted HaLlOySiTE and clearly could be applied to the ten-letter words. ‘Cratchit’ was a red signal to us. It isn’t in Chambers so clearly had some function in the crossword that we were going to have to decipher.

It didn’t take us long to work out that eight-letter words had to be entered with a similar pattern. SoMeDeAL, ElEnCtIC and so on. Soon we had a full grid and no idea at all what our eight words (RESTRAIN, BURDEN, PENDANT, DIGIT, CRATCHIT, MAUTHER, MORSEL and CHEAT) were telling us about the entry method for words that we thought we had already entered!

This was disconcerting. There had to be a reason for that preamble. I always hear Erwinch saying, ‘If you are not sure of your solution, then it is probably not correct’. Were we expected to enter all those other letters as little ones, or perhaps perform some unusual cutting, colouring and glueing to create a Rubik’s cube with little doors that opened and revealed battered wrens? Where was the habitual Listener hoop to jump through at the end?

It was, of course, Bob Cratchit who gave the game away! Wouldn’t that unusual name have been signalled in the preamble, had it not been there for a specific reason? Bob, indeed! We soon found three other bobs – the BURDEN, the PENDANT and CHEAT. Obviously the others had to be BITS, and so they were: RESTRAIN, DIGIT, MAUTHER and MORSEL. (It even had BIT in the clue but that was to mislead us into not identifying it as one of the ‘wordplay only’ clues, wasn’t it? Tricky!)

Chambers completed the picture. What does it have under BITS AND BOBS but ODDS AND ENDS and those were precisely what we had selected from the across clues – odd letters and the ends. Sadly, we discovered the entry method in this way after we had actually entered our words but it was reassuring to find the logic of the whole procedure and that was obviously why Wasp had made those two sets of four words that were very subtly concealed.

We did wonder whether the Listener powers that be should have insisted that a box underneath the grid contained that ‘Bits and Bobs’ phrase, so that solvers would need to confirm that they had followed the complex trail that Wasp had laid for us. But it is too easy to be critical after the event isn’t it?

We were left with our hesitation about that signal passed at danger – or was it an old aircraft to go with the Sopwith Camel that was performing in 37ac? Aah, now isn’t SP starting price? The Odds of the title! So AnD ends must be the ends of ‘and’. Another piece of subtle wordplay that echoed the entry method.

I felt that the impressive quality of the clues in this crossword almost led to a problem, since solvers probably quickly worked out the entry method. We might not have solved it in the wrong order, had the clues not been so flawless. Many thanks, Wasp.

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2 Responses to “SPAD by Wasp, Bits and Bobs”

  1. OK, so now I do feel foolish!!

  2. shirley curran said

    What can I say, Dave? Of course, it is an old Yorkshire expression – ‘bits and bobs’ – that the other two-thirds of the country probably don’t use as much, and Erwinch’s message about struggling till you understand every step of the solving is tip-top advice – just a pity that we got there before having to suss out that logical step.

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