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Sinecure by Franc – A Piece of Cake!

Posted by shirleycurran on 6 April 2012

A piece of cake? Of course it wasn’t! No Listener crossword will ever be that for the numpties but this one was delicious wasn’t it? We were in the UK for the Listener dinner (which we also found delicious and very efficiently and charmingly hosted by Jago, even if our table’s rather cryptic solution to his table quiz was rejected!). Our host on Friday evening had very kindly printed off a few copies of Franc’s puzzle and we all solved furiously.

My very first Listener ever was Franc’s three rings. Its circular construction (circus related) was the attraction and convinced me, almost four years ago now, that it was perhaps possible to sometimes solve a Listener (or at least two or three clues!) so this was a welcome setter, though those dotted lines down and across the centre this time didn’t immediately lead to a pdm.

Solving progressed at a furious rate with 10 year-old Wills on his iPad kindly checking words in Chambers and producing likely solutions when we had, for example ‘Angry sound echoed from below (4) ?NAR’ So GNAR is an angry sound! ‘Tear up vetch (4)’ – nicely &Lit. that one wasn’t it? It gave us an anagram indicator with the word to be anaground included in it, producing TARE.

Of course I had time, even with solving proceeding at break neck speed, to see that Franc shares the Listener Setters’ Achilles’ heel and had to introduce the obligatory tipple at 8d ‘Turkish drink, accepted tipple in the Balkans (5)’ Raki including A(ccepted) to give us RAKIA, and was even predicting some bar antics prior to the dinner in his 21d ‘Upset beer in careless error (4)’ – the Pils being tipped over to give SLIP. (No, honestly Guv’ I am not accusing anyone of being unusually tipsy – I was there and we were all amazingly staid and sober!)

So the clues were impeccable, not too difficult and a piece of cake? No way! We had slotted NEGLECT in with no thought at 6d. Well, it fitted the ?E?L?CT didn’t it and gave a word at 1ac? (Yes, I Know now that it should have been REFLECT ‘Judge chosen, loses head to cause harmful outcomes (7) and TEREBRA for the boring instrument) Oh how easy it is to go astray and lose sleep because one careless error leads to another. Could we solve 13ac? It had to be ??KE or a word with two clashes.

BBTAEERG didn’t give any very convincing words and we needed those two more clashes.

As it so often is, the light of day and several hours of the brain churning during sleep showed us our errors and we looked up CANT and found that it fitted that double definition clue at 13ac, ‘Sell ship’s timber’ so our last two clash letters were N and T. The solution came very quickly. “A piece of cake”‘, said Numpty No 2. “BATTENBERG”, said our host – Look, we are even told which colours to put where. That explains the YELLOW and PINK” (We stayed on Yell a few years ago. What a welcoming little island it is, and so rich in history!)

All that was left was the colouring, so out came the highlighters. Rather lurid! I tried to find a more appropriate picture in my cookery books but the only recipe I traced was on Mrs Beeton’s page 931, which includes the instruction ‘Victoria sandwich cakes made in oblong tins, one white and the other coloured pink or Patriotic Cake (p 919) may be used’! Well that dates my Mrs Beeton doesn’t it?

I do remember mum putting marzipan around the cake, but, fortunately, there was no requirement for that (an outer layer is not required).  So many thanks, Franc. Delicious!

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