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To Have and Have Not by Lavatch

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 November 2011

“Ah,” said the Numpties, “a familiar name!” Of course, we see Lavatch regularly in the Spectator and the broadsheets and in the BBC CiNA 3D crosswords too, and we know that we can expect a high quality of cluing and, more likely than not, a challenge.

And what a challenge this was! After an hour of staring at the grid, we had half a dozen solutions in place. “HAYES was a President wasn’t he?” queried Numpty No 2 and Google confirmed that, so we shook off his head, ‘Votes for US President shaking head (4)’ and were left with AYES. ‘Expansionism’s beginning with  Yankees’ damn outgrowth (7)’ “Don’t they say ‘nation’ for ‘damn’?” E + NATION must be ‘outgrowth’. ENID went in next; ‘Feast lifted Welsh gala (4)’ The ex Big Red Book confirmed that she was a Welsh ‘gal’, so we had the first of our extra letters – the A of galA. (What are compilers going to do without those useful names when the 12th Edition becomes the official work of reference?)

Fortunately, our next two solutions gave us the first breakthrough. TRISYLLABIC appeared as a generous anagram, ‘Political party stopping original lyricist halving a number of linguistic units (11)’ and produced another extra letter (an L), then an anagram solver produced SNICK OR SNEE at 6d and we postulated that it had to go into the grid upside down. We were on our way!

With revolution established as the modus operandi, the left side of the grid filled fairly rapidly. No numpty red herrings? Of course, I had happily slotted in IN RE for ‘Latin’s “essentially”covers it (4, two words)’. This gave a rather peculiar ARIA for ‘Group of counties nanny state’s head entered (4)’ It wasn’t until the final stage of solving, when we were contemplating losing our chainR, that the silly error was revealed. (Of course, it should have been IN SE.)

A couple of hours into solving and much of the right-hand side of the grid yawned empty but TRIPPLERS, INVALIDATE and PRELECT seemed to show us the way forward. ‘In the right half, the problem of excess requires some answers (which have normal definitions) to undergo a different thematic treatment.’ Isn’t it delightful that, in retrospect, this is so blindingly, dazzlingly obvious?

We stumbled along, deciding that real words were going to be entered with a few letters removed from the original defined word (so TRIPLES went in in the place of TRIPPLERS, removing the extra P and R, HIVING was entered as HING giving us an IV, INVALID gave us ATE, ELECT produced an extra PR, OPPOSING produced OP, NIPPERED gave us ER, REPOT gave the T and IRONY completed PRIVATE PROPERTY.

A fellow solver asked me how we know that we should look for that kind of device. My answer is “Just keep on doing these brutes, week in, week out, and eventually one learns to look up every troublesome word in BRB, search for tricks reading upwards, backwards, diagonally, in circles and so on, to chop and reconstruct grids, fold them into bird shapes or tori with peculiar graphs winding their way round them, divine the meaning of invisible inkings, or draw gothic keeps”.

From PRIVATE PROPERTY and REVOLUTION, with the letters RWRKSOE and LAPAICT appearing as the missing and extra letters (what fine thematic symmetry – the poor workers were defined by the missing ones and the rich capitalists by those with an excess of letters!) it was a short step to MARX and ENGELS and we clearly had to find those chains so that we would have nothing to lose but ‘YOUR CHAINS’  Sure enough, losing the chains was part of the revolution.

I think it is the touch of the master when the insertion of different letters still provides real words. Especially pleasing were the HEMATOLOGIST becoming a NEMATOLOGIST, and the new word for me, GRIDED (from GUIDED). However, my favourite clue in the entire crossword (surely it must be everybody’s) was ‘Prestige inverted anti-British sentiment? (5)’. I can picture Lavatch’s broad smile as he thought of that one (KUDOS, of course, entered upside down!)

This was a triumph. Many thanks, Lavatch.

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