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Class by Augeas

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 Jul 2013

Europcar claim 002We should start checking topical anniversaries which seem to be the subject of Listener crosswords at the moment, though we would probably have to troll through a number of sources to spot the right one. We have seen a news item on the Mallard on Scottish television this morning, as, indeed, today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of what was quite an achievement on July 3rd, 1938. 126mph! When I was small, I saw the Mallard crossing Ribblehead viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle line. She was a wonderful sight (I suppose engines, like boats and cars, are female?)

The numpties were in the far north (Shetland) with no resources, so we were rather grateful for this relatively easy gridfill. Three quarters of the solutions gently slotted into place and when we had a potential MALLARD and DUCK (after wondering who PANISC could be: ‘Deity rattled Spain over Catholic synod SPAIN* + C’) we decided that the STREAK (Line of bacteria runs in slice of reasty meat R in STEAK) had to be blue and that, if we looked a little further, we would find Sir NIGEL GRESLEY, as indeed we did, streaking down the leading diagonal.

photo (1)We looked to see whether Augeas was earning his place in the tipply Listener setters’ club but he was somewhat of a disappointment, producing ‘reasty meat’, ‘army biscuit’, ‘cold drink with traces of elderberry’, and watching his figure with a ‘late light meal’ but there wasn’t much alcoholic cheer. However, there was a mini challenge and a head-scratcher in the south-west corner of the grid. We still needed an answer for 20ac which was an unclued light. Four clues were suspect and we had noticed that remark in the preamble that ‘Numbers in brackets are the lengths of grid entries’. Something wasn’t going to be what it was pretending to be.

It was 3d that gave the game away and we were reminded of a recent crossword by Nutmeg in the Magpie (time for a Magpie plug!) where she had bastard words composed of combinations of letters and numbers (a bit of sl8 of hand!) We made an error in that one (as did almost half the solvers, I believe) so we were especially careful this time. What a devious clue that was! ‘Many models are shunning most of late light meal, initially watching figure (7) Well, those models are UNDERWEIGHT aren’t they? We had most of an obsolete or ‘late’ word, UNDER[n] and the initial of W[atching] and the figure 8.

Working backwards, we were able to work out now that the Mallard’s famous 4468 number was giving us three more of those difficult answers. We had 4-FLUSH, 4 BY FOUR and a brownie SIX with an AINE giving us 6AINE for half a dozen lines. Clever stuff!

By now, of course, we had worked out that our date was THIRD JULY NINETEEN THIRTY-EIGHT and a visit to Lerwick library confirmed for us that STOKE BANK was the scene of the achievement.

photoWe still had to decide what we should put under the grid. I’m told that the achievement was that the Mallard didn’t fall off the rails when she went through Peterborough station, but we were somewhat nonplussed about how we were going to squeeze that information into six characters below the grid (the driver, the guard, the stationmaster, the fireman and a couple of other small characters … hmmm!) We rejected that one and decided that RECORD would fit the bill. She went at 125.88 mph. didn’t she? (Well, Wikipedia claims that, but I am surrounded, at the moment by experts – one of whom recently took the attached photos during one of those pilgrimage visits, who assure me that the instruments of the time couldn’t efficiently measure to even one decimal place, so that was a bit of Wikipedia fabrication.) Anyway, could we count the decimal point as a character? Chambers seems to think that we can – ‘punctuation mark of any kind …’ Wikipedia finally solved the dilemma. ‘The speed recorded by instruments in the dynamometer car reached a momentary maximum of 126 mph (203 km/h)’ – so we opted for that.

I like the way there was so much thematic material in this grid and the way it all came together in the end and led us down memory rail. Thank you Augeus.

6 Responses to “Class by Augeas”

  1. Jaguar said

    A nice puzzle by Augeas — Steam Trains are before my time, of course, but I have heard of the mallard. For a long time I had something like ??OKE BANK at the end of my message and was put in mind of “the man who broke [the] bank [at Monte Carlo]”! Got on the right track (no pun intended exactly) in the end.

    Didn’t find the right highlighting so didn’t bother — I had “world class” as vaguely thematic, but thought that it was safer not to touch it. Pleased that those who did bother and got it wrong aren’t penalised, although it’s perhaps a shame that the puzzle had it as optional. Seems to me that this weakens a puzzle. But other than that I had no complaints and enjoyed this one.

  2. Dave Russell said

    Wikipedia can only rarely be trusted for railway information. I understand the maximum, recorded in the dynamometer car, was 126.4 mph between Little Bytham and Essendine.

  3. linxit said

    Glad to see I got this one all correct. I had 125 MPH below the grid at first, but then noticed the photo of the plaque on the Wikipedia entry and changed it. I also found the correct word to highlight by Googling for “mallard streak” on a hunch.

  4. shirleycurran said

    I did wonder about putting MPH in caps (after the KOHb event that I shall never stop carping about) as it is in Chambers as lower case, but that issue hasn’t been raised.

  5. olichant said

    Oddly, I wondered about mph/MPH (and went for mph) but fortunately it does not appear to have been an issue. Had I highlighted, I would have gone for “world class”, so am quietly grateful that highlighting was discounted!

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