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No 4160 Stress Gauges by Calmac

Posted by shirleycurran on 11 November 2011

We are still downloading the crossword each week with trepidation, expecting that really difficult one that we simply cannot get our head round. How happy we were, as we worked our was through Calmac’s Stress Gauges, that this was not it.

Solutions slotted into the grid fairly speedily; that misprint device does tend to make the solving process easier, since some of them, like the Walsh family, are obvious. ‘Do up most of sleeping accommodation for Walsh family (3)’ UT< (the do note creeping in to mislead us again) and most of DOR(m) It couldn’t really be a Wilsh or Wulsh or even Wylsh family could it? It had to be that pack of Tudor opportunists.

I was happy to see that Calmac was in line with the usual compiler oenophilia with his ‘pints for women’ – a drink for the ladies, ‘Endlessly jolly Scots landlord lacking time to produce pints for women (7)’ Disappointment, though, was awaiting me when we had worked out that this was the Scots word GAUC(y) with HOST less T and that the women were only getting GAUCHOS, trousers – or not even! However, one has to admire that fine deceptive surface reading of the clue that had nothing to do with alcohol at all in the end.

I believe we are so fixed on sorting out the verbal elements of the wordplay, that we almost ignore the amusing surface readings of some of the clues. Take another boozy clue as an example, ‘Smooth drink slightly reduced in shop that’s open (6)’  Back in cheap drinks territory? Not so! It’s just a clever misprint, the shoe that’s open is SANDAL, so no drink, just smooth = SAND and our reduced drink is AL(e).

Clue after clue revealed the same skilful deception. ‘Lass imperceptibly turning heads (5)’ was a simple anagram of SHADE (pass imperceptibly) and not the dazzling bombshell who draws all the wolf whistles.

We were held up by our inability to work out why 32ac should be DACTYLS but the penny dropped when ANAPAEST appeared. This is my speciality, or it was when we used to have to teach scansion with little vs and dashes over impenetrable lines of poetry (I hope and believe that exercise has gone from the syllabus). This was only an hour into our solve, and it was immediately obvious that those clashes we had identified were going to produce TROCHEES and SPONDEES, so the rest of the grid fill was easy, though I still haven’t understood the solution that would have clashed with IAMBUSES.

That was perhaps a weak point in the crossword – the fact that we could complete our grid without solving the last clue. We had, of course, by this time worked out that our extra letters gave us FIVE CLUES ARE TO BE REGARDED AS EXEMPLARY. Calmac was particularly generous in showing us which five clues (just in case we hadn’t spotted them) by omitting those five from the statement produced by his ‘correct letters’.

I claimed this was my field of expertise, but we still needed to go to Google to confirm that the words in those clues did behave as the metric units they were representing:

as I say = an anapaest (what a clever little clue!)

Russian/ money/ tenor/ = a series of trochees

Period/ bracketing/ limited/=  a series of dactyls

An ar/ my corps/ dec lines/ = iambuses

We vouch/ young kids/ pro’s sons/ = spondees

This was fun, thank you Calmac and a polished set of clues, with those fine surface readings.

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