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Continental Drift by Shark

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 April 2012

For the second week running we have a new Listener name, though Shark is familiar in the IQ, EV and Magpie series (one of those rare compilers who can set a numerical puzzle too) and well-known to us for the flawless cluing.

We set to work with more than a little trepidation, especially seeing that odious word ‘jumble’ in the deliciously short preamble. Originality is clearly what our editors are looking for in their new setters and we breathed a sigh of relief when we read more carefully (Remember Numpty rule no.1, ‘Read and reread the preamble’) ‘In across clues the wordplay refers to the grid entry, which is a jumble of the defined answer.’

Exactly what that meant quickly became clear as the most obvious clues yielded their secrets. ‘To be fed contents of fromage frais (4)’ FARE is ‘to be fed’ in BRB and there were the jumbled letters hiding in ‘fromagE FRAis. ‘Overcharge nursing home initially – it is to be spent in Korea (4)’. That had to be the old CHON, coming from OC + N(ursing) H(ome).

What about the lovely ‘Deer beginning to emerge over ridge (4)’ A fine surface reading with ELK + E(merge) ‘over’ or returning to give EKLE – a jumble of KEEL or ridge. There was a fine range of fields of knowledge touched on in these clues, with, of course, the usual Listener compiler’s touch of the hard stuff in ‘Cooks in fine wine – half left (5)’ F + RIES(ling), ‘Practically rush drink (3)’ TEA(r) and the inevitable result in ‘Urine container with unknown disease (3)’ PO + X.

A touch of humour there, but not half so racy as the delightful in-joke about our Editor, ‘Roger removed from annual dinner in style (3)’ WAYGOOSE less ‘goose’. All the letters of WAY were confirmed by intersecting ones but it was days after completion that I finally stopped worrying about whether Roger had just gone rather over the top after I last saw him in the bar at about 3 a.m. after the Listener annual dinner. How on earth did Shark find that obscure word for a printer’s annual dinner and spot the possibility for a hilarious (and rather scurrilous) clue?

We were thoroughly enjoying this solve as the grid speedily filled, and rather reluctant for it to end too quickly but we must have struck lucky, as the potential adjectives for our first half-dozen solutions established a pattern that was soon confirmed. (That is what I meant about the editors looking for originality – something new); those adjectives. We had FRENCH MUSTARD (yes, we know that ‘MUD’ can be gutters in Scotland), GREEK NOSE, ITALIAN SONNET, SPANISH FLY and RUSSIAN TEA. It was obvious that one adjective was going to stray outside Europe and it just could have been China or Mexican tea, but we held our breath and completed the down clues, and, sure enough, a far better candidate presented itself.

AFRICAN VIOLETS! The second pdm quickly followed. We had to highlight ‘all occurrences of letters in the nounal form of this “odd one out” in the grid’. At once a familiar shape appeared and we were struck with amazement at the skill of this compilation. Unobtrusively, Shark had managed to restrict the presence of those letters A F R I C A to the continent’s outline: he left himself just three vowels, E O and U. Now that is mastery!

A very high standard is being set here. A solving friend said ‘These clues were of the quality of the early Sabre – and that is no small praise.’ I wonder whether coming crosswords are going to live up to the standard set by this one and last week’s by Ron. Great, Shark!

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One Response to “Continental Drift by Shark”

  1. I breathed a sigh of relief too on reading that the wordplay gave us the jumbled entry, but in the end I’m pretty certain in made things harder, at least for me. Being able to write something in as soon as the clue’s solved is a help of course, but I found the actual solving much harder without as much of the normal interplay between definition and wordplay (get a bit of wordplay, think of a word that fits it and matches the definition, confirm the rest of the wordplay, or whatever).

    I wonder if it was a fairly late decision in the setting — the two acrosses with more than one unchecked cell (that I can see) both have the same letter in both cells, as if to avoid ambiguity in jumbling, even though the wordplays don’t leave that ambiguity.

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