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Travellers by The Tall’n

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 May 2011

For those of us who download our weekly fix at 4 o’ clock on Friday (well, 5 o’ clock in these faraway places) the Tall’n’s Travellers came off the printer just as the royal wedding had its third replay. That clue at 24d (‘Girl with pet at home in this place’,  CAT with HERE around IN) seemed like an ominous foretaste of what was to come, so we began to scour the grid for WILLIAM, ARTHUR or LOUIS and to wonder whether the other travellers included the delightful little scowly bridesmaid. It was not to be!

The numpties forged ahead and had our twenty ‘now we’re OK’ clues in place in little over an hour. In fact we had all those lovely transparent clues solved (‘Subdue old poet without drug’ DANT(E), ‘Features not betraying emotion passed on by a god’ DEADPAN, ‘European firm with hand in legislative council’ ECOFIN) and even one or two of the more obvious jumbles.

The placing of the clue numbers identified 15 of the 17 jumbles and 4d (‘in the main Australia welcomes independent countries nearby’ OCEANIA), and 13ac (‘Court of Session, accepting dated verse, convicts’ CRIMES) soon proposed themselves as likely candidates for the remaining two places.

Weren’t we doing well! And then the struggle began. Hands up if you hate jumbles! Ah, I see that I am in a comfortable majority. It was midnight before we had untangled those jumbly clues and we were whining (MIAOWING ‘Whining back, to direct a remark due’) when we couldn’t find that definition in the BRB and were wondering what obscure word fitted our ?NA??D?N pattern (‘With constant repeated interaction senseless noise replaces energy’) Another sly comment on the royal wedding?

The trouble was that we still had to work out the perimeter. ‘Twas now the very witching time of night and most of the street party carousing was probably slowing down but we remembered the date. That ‘today’ in the preamble finally made sense. The last day of April? Walpurgis Night! Now we understood why Brocken seemed to be the only choice along the bottom of the grid. Our four travellers were going ‘To carouse with their masters on the Brocken on Walpurgis Night’.

The BROOMSTICKS appeared next. Such a clever compiler’s touch, isn’t it, to put a key word in backwards? Once we knew that we were looking for witches or wizards, HECATE and WICCAN were easy to spot and we slowly teased out CARLINE and decided that HAG had to be the last one, as we had only three letters left. (Of course, Chambers confirms that a hag was, originally, a witch).

No numpty red herrings? You must be joking. We know that the devil was believed to disguise himself as an old goat, and assumed that he was the one the hags were going to meet even if his position in the grid was not ideal (they were sitting on him!). Of course, the light of Walpurgis day produced OLD POKER and we were able to consign a couple of the witches to the MALE GOATS as riders.

All that was left to do was to find some sort of witch garment. It had to be the hats and CONICAL, BLACK and HAT appeared. Only the BRIMMED one escaped us leaving us with an odd permutation – one word, seven letters and four lines.  We did find it, after a lot of head-scratching and were so astounded at all the material that The Tall’n managed to include that I decided to get out the coloured pencils and add a bit more.

What an astonishing wealth of compiling. Many thanks to The Tall’n.

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