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Scattered by Kea

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 August 2012

Just two weeks ago I was saying how good it was to get two for the price of one. Wow – here we go again.  I am surrounded by versions of Kea’s ‘Scattered’ and simply dazzled. (Learnt a new word, too: ANOESIS ‘Sensation or emotion not accompanied by understanding of it!’ That’s Numptyville, or was for a while last night after we managed to complete this challenging grid.)

Was that a new device? ‘In each clue a word in the definition must be unjumbled with the removal of one letter before solving; the removed letters should lead solver to a 16-letter description of what constitutes the final grid.’

Some of the jumbles were fairly generous and delightful too. How lovely that a ‘Lake tactitian’ became ‘Lake Titicaca’ or that ‘Airline’s literature’ became ‘Israel’s literature’. Words like Homerids (Dhirems), Gingko (going), Rapeseed (speared) and Intelsat (talents) were
gifts to solvers and we laboriously completed the grid with the usual numpty grumbling about unjustified capital letters (‘Pork pâté from fancier [France] back order, seized by Customs (9)’ (TELL rev in RITES), and an obscure OED word. I hope my CARROS for ‘Madeiran vehicles that shield arrival in island (6) is correct (ARR in COS) but have no way of checking that it isn’t some obscure ZARRUS  Well, I do have a way, actually! That superb endgame confirmed the word didn’t it. Wow, wow!
Clashes appeared, though, with our abysmal ability with wordplay, we are never sure that we have the right ones. However, it was fairly evident in all seven cases, which word had to be inserted and which was going to somehow become a real word. (For each clashing cell, one of two answers must then be entered normally.) We were going to opt for POSTDOCS, ROSOGLIOS, LOFTIER, SOAPIER, EGG, ORGONE and MINDANAO.


So we laboured to a full grid and an astonishing message: CELLS MATCHING IN GRID FROM THREE WEEKS AGO. Of course, I have just put up a blog on Hedge-sparrow’s ‘Here and There’ and the solution has appeared on The Times site. Can this be serious? We remove it from the file and highlight the letters that correspond with Kea’s (surely a kea is a big coloured chatty thing and a hedge-sparrow a tiny twittery dun thing – what has happened, is this one and the same bird lurking under two identities?)

We superimpose one grid on the other. Two remarkable things emerge: first a message with 16 letters, THESE ALL RECYCLED. Second comes the intriguing fact that of our seven clashes, five obviously correct choices are echoed in the Hedge-sparrow crossword. So what are we recycling? The rejected letters from the clashes (F,T,N,H,P,M and G) – obviously not, where could I put those? The letters we are choosing or changing in the unches? That produces a similarly unpromising set.

Our biggest problem is that we need to change ANTEFIX and ROSTRUMS which now look like ANOE?I? and ROS?R?ES, but these give us a few choices. We console ourselves by admiring the surface reading of the clues. Kea, of course, once again confirms his membership of the oenophile Listener setter crowd with a couple of tipsy clues; ‘Oraters wiser [rise] to speak on these rough sorts drinking liquor (8)’ (SORTS* round RUM) and ‘Vine fruit’s their key tenderising [ingredient] secret, chiefly imbuing inverted cane sugar (9)’ (SOIL + GOOR + S(ecret) all inverted).

My absolute favourite, though, is ‘Angler [learn] hastily beginning to coat with batter (4)’ (C + RAM) what a gem with its fish and chippy misleading surface reading!

We admit defeat (it is heading for midnight) and sleep on it. Saturday – we read the preamble again (remember the Numpty rule no 1) and fumble and flounder, attempting to redeploy varies series of letters. But what is that ‘ALL’ doing in the 16-letter instruction? No, surely not. We know Kea is dazzlingly brilliant (I shall always have his ‘Admission‘ ‘I can’t tell a lie, I did cut it with my hatchet’ as my long term favourite – that cherry tree falling, leaving the hatchet propped up on the stump) Surely he can’t be recycling ALL the letters of the Hedge-sparrow crossword – but we had noticed how those clash resolutions appeared in both this grid and the one from three weeks ago.

It didn’t take long to confirm that this was the case.  I deleted all the shared letters and was left with SSAI. They will confirm that ROSARIES and ANOESIS fill the two remaining lights. Wow wow wow! I don’t have words for this sort of brilliance so had better stop. It’s depressing really. Kea makes the rest of us feel very small indeed. Back to ‘stripey horse (5)’

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