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An Unsettled Spell by Nutmeg (Where was Eeyore?)

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 June 2011

After last week’s struggle with the numbers (we had just a few sheets of paper and a sticky calculator) the numpties were almost looking forward to the first of twelve ‘normal’ Listener crosswords. However, it was not to be – not for us anyway. We were basking in Ibiza sun when disaster struck. A beekeeper accidentally lost control of his equipment in gusting winds and the northern part of the island caught fire and burned out of control for three days causing ferocious damage to thousands of hectares, villas, cars – and it raged very close to the villa we were in.

Evacuated in the clothes we stood up in, with no Internet, prospects looked bleak. I couldn’t even save my Bradford! (but rescued it later). All the same, needs must. We got to a wifi cafe outside the burning area and downloaded the weekly fix – then stared at it in dismay and chewed the one pencil stub for twenty-four hours.

Samuel, commenting on Nudd’s Pushmi-Pullyu, said how pleased he was to have a break from cartes blanches. Well, so were we, but this was almost worse. We were cold solving, as no word was actually going to appear in the grid in its true guise.

Ten clues yielded to scrutiny – ARDENT had to be ‘Full of hea(r)t, perhaps worker crosses road with energy’ (ANT round RD with E, with the R creeping from the solution into the clue, so we entered ADENT, REBEC was ‘Dissenter not h(e)aving last century’s instrument’ (REBEL losing L and gaining C with that E from the solution again creeping into the clue) – and so on.

Clearly we had about as much chance as a chocolate rabbit in Hell of solving this crossword the way we were going (we got the RABBIT clue – Top monk – ABBOT – shuns holy books – remove the OT – in scripture lessons (RI) – (T)his teacher wouldn’t – well a RABBI wouldn’t shun holy books would he? We added the T that had slid down into the solution and it gave us that RABBIT but we were slow on numpty uptake and didn’t see where this was leading us.

It was a full day later that just a few letters in 5d, when fed into a search engine, suggested Winnie the Pooh! Of course, the ODQ at once yielded the quotation that fitted the title. ‘It wobbles and the letters get in the wrong places (Milne)’

Even with those helpful letters, solving was difficult, mainly due to Nutmeg’s astonishing mental agility in those fearsome clues – including the one slightly risqué one that we loved ‘Adult left in Bristol tipping lover’. A + L in TIT, giving ATILT with the L leaping up from the solution into the clue. There was a touch of typical sheer Nutmeg brilliance there, in the wordplay and the superb surface reading.

This crossword was a step up in difficulty but the work of a superb setter and we could only admire it. We had almost filled the grid when we found RABBIT, BEETLE, OWL, PIGLET, KANGA, BEAR (and his HONEYPOT) and, of course, TIGGER.  Working backwards from TIGGER solved that clue for us (‘What’s needed for sho(r)t horse on screen’ – T(R)IGGER, a double definition). Undoubtedly Nutmeg deliberately led us into the red-herring box, looking for ‘short hose’.

Yes, this was one of the unforgettable stars of a year of extremely difficult crosswords – or so it seems to us so far. I have only one mild reproach for Nutmeg. Our old friend Eeyore, as usual, drew the short straw and was missed out – so here he is!

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One Response to “An Unsettled Spell by Nutmeg (Where was Eeyore?)”

  1. erwinch said

    No Christopher Robin either but my main concern was being unable to find the one answer that was an abbreviation according to the preamble.  This was later corrected on the Listener site’s Stop Press – there wasn’t one.

    Also, I wasn’t too happy with the clue for 32ac so it was lucky that it was a thematic entry.  Here is my reading of the clue:

    Exclude bit of code from shops (4) bear – BAR(CODE)

    I hear that Winnie-the-Pooh has managed to hack into the LWO site but that his spelling has not improved.

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