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Cruciverbalism by Poat

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 May 2011

Is it St George’s day today? Is it Shakespeare’s birthday? Are the numpties just a little bit slow on the uptake? This must be the first time that we have ever gazed at a grid (not another carte blanche!), the preamble and the clues for two hours without putting anything at all on paper. I think the Times must be saving ink as we keep getting these grids without a single bar!

Enough, or as Henry V would have said, “Sessa!” A single clue, ‘A Bacchic cry set Hythe resort aback’ finally gave us a solution, EVOHE! (Yes, clearly Poat is a member of the Listener setter oenophilic club, managing to fit two boozy clues into a total of twenty-two, ‘In Perth, near drunk, three barrels used for knight’ gave us INKY, leading to INBYE/INBY)

Out of EVOHE, we teased the notion that we had to remove one letter from the definition to produce our wordplay, and that that letter could be established  by using the position of the extra word; in this case, the E appeared last in the fifth word, HYTHE. Thus we had to enter EVOH (though in numpty fashion, we turned it ‘aback’ and entered HOVE – just to lead ourselves up the garden path).

We struggled! I would say that each clue took us just about as long as a complete FT solve (and we are slow, even with the Financial Times!) However, as we wormed solutions out of those fearsome clues, we became more and more amazed at Poat’s ingenuity – this was brilliant compiling!

Our next problem was that for a while, we found only solutions that were real words, INBY, TEPID, OVER and GEAR, yet, clearly this couldn’t be the case for LYASE (‘Dissolvent enzyme changing ends in Yale’) The fifth letter, E, had to go, as was indicated by the fifth word in the clue, ENDS, but changing ‘Yale’ and producing LYAE gave us an odd non-word. Our task was more difficult than we had initially thought.

We struggled our way to (H)ORROR FILM and BREAS(T)DEEP – a bit of vulgarity there in that reversed slash (result of all that oenophilia?) –  and daylight finally dawned, well, actually we were well into Saturday when we managed to work out that, yet again, our first entry didn’t begin in the first square of the grid. Putting FETC(H)ER in the 1 Down position (OK, I know numbers and bars are not to be added!) gave us the skeleton of a grid fill.

Things moved quickly now and HENRY V ACT THREE SCENE ONE was all the cue we needed to set the Branagh film addict (the other numpty) quoting, ‘Cry God for Harry, England and St George’, and, sure enough, there it was, forming a fine St George’s cross. (Didn’t we do something like this for Switzerland a few weeks ago? Except that Poat is economizing on the red pencil this time!)

Fortunately, filling that in gave us the help we needed with those final clues in the south-east corner, ‘A nudist painter, Swiss, shaved lower leg’ Hmmm, a bit vulgar again, Poat! It had to be Klee (just about the only other Swiss painter who springs to mind after Hodler) and the lower leg must be the ANKLE, so we remove the second letter (the N provided by ‘nudist’) and shave a bit off Klee and there we are. A full grid.

And a post-script – was I alone in wondering why ‘aback’ appeared in that EVOHE clue? It took a nudge from a friend to send me back to the clues and  to get me to read them aloud – what a wonderful extra touch. I spent one entire university year studying nothing but Hamlet and should have spotted the iambic pentameter at once. Superb, Poat!

I repeat myself – this must be the most difficult Listener crossword for some time. However, that doesn’t detract at all from out immense admiration for a spectacular work of compiling. Amazing, Poat, thank you.

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