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Play’s Opening by Shark

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 Jul 2013

Anfield Kop 001Shark! That is sure to challenge the Numpties. This one is competing with the Wimbledon men’s semi-finals for attention and that grid looks suspiciously like a tennis court. Play’s Opening indeed! We scan the preamble and see that not only do we have misprints but the correct letter is being passed on to another clue to become its misprint. This is the sort of innovation we are learning to expect from Shark and he follows it with a series of circles that have to be drawn.

These misprints are going to be in the clues but we are circling the correct letter in the grid entries. Blank cells too, and a small circle to draw, then a red line joining the circles in a thematic order and three thematic markings that must be delineated in a different colour. There’s the final Shark touch. He’s a purist and all final grid entries are going to be real words.

A quick run through the clues tells us that these are going to be typically tough Shark’s teeth. One immediately makes sense though. ‘Food from Dickensian dissembler with no smell (6)’ That has to be PECK[sniff] – the Dickensian character losing the sniff; PECK can be food. But that is only four letters. Something odd is happening here. Didn’t Bottom in his role as an ass in MSND desire a ‘peck of provender and a bottle of hay?’ Perhaps it’s that kind of ‘Play’s Opening’ or is Shark simply reaffirming his membership of the tipsy Listener setters’ club? He certainly produces the proof of membership.

‘Red X, something added for opposition (7)’ gives us CHIANTI (CHI + ANTI) and ‘Wine, just one after [L]nine, starting to trip (4)’ not only gives us another bottle of deep red Spanish wine (TENT) but also provides a misprint that we are now realizing we have to carry onward in the clues. That L moves down to turn CARTED into CARTEL. The D turns FERRY to DERRY. We carry that F down to FLAN’s head in the place of ALAN’S head. Our A moves to TANE in the place of TINE ‘Forge tane to produce stake (4)’ What superb trickery! Instead of a tine producing a metal stake, we are anagramming TANE to get ANTE.

The magic continues: that spare I turns BEN to BIN giving wordplay for BICORNE ‘Bin Elton’s first to hold my hat (7)’ (BIN + E round “COR” = “My!”) We carry an E foward converting TEN to TEE ‘Tee instruments must precede caller (5) giving GUES +T. We have seven letters now and we have circled them where they appeared in our solution. A rather unusual pattern appears but they do anagram to ANFIELD. Could it be a different kind of ‘play’? SCORE has appeared at 41ac. Is this thematic?

It is a long struggle to solve these clues and fill our grid. I acquire a few more conversation stoppers along the way: TREMATIC (not simply an S – Shark’s opening – ‘but related to gills’) ISOLECITHAL, FIRMLESS and GLIAL. However, that funny business with the PECK is confirmed when we are given two easy clues that lead to ILL and VARIES. Light dawns! There are two possibilities for filling the two empty cells. We could have COPECK, CILL and OVARIES or KOPECK, KILL and OVARIES.  The KO option is clearly thematic and a return to the preamble tells us that this hint will direct us to the drawing of a small circle. My football goes in the the centre of the field where I now have CENTRE CIRCLE drawn, and I kick off and join up the letters of ANFIELD until they fail to score and seem to send the ball off at the corner.

Wiki fills me in on Anfield and I learn that one of the stands is called the Spion Kop. I learn that the steep nature of the stands at this point of the stadium led to fans naming it after a battle that took place near Ladysmith in South Africa during the Second Boer War in 1900. That must be the thematic feature revealed by the KO abbreviation and, sure enough, I find PENALTY BOX beginning at the P.

There is no PENALTY BOX at the other end until I change letters and create one and, of course, Shark has managed to produce only real words. That is a brilliant achievement. I draw my ‘three thematic markings’ and return to the tennis. Andy Murray is producing similar technical mastery. Thank you, Shark. What an achievement.

One Response to “Play’s Opening by Shark”

  1. Jaguar said

    I don’t care that much for football, but then why should that matter? I enjoy crosswords, and this was a fun one. Thanks for an entertaining blog, too!

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