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Listener 4261: Chefs by Cubic

Posted by Dave Hennings on 18 October 2013

Another new setter this week in the guise of Cubic, and hopefully there would be nothing that would tempt me into making another silly mistake like putting Newton instead of Gessler under the grid as I did in Mango’s Nuts and Bolts. (My only slight relief is that I don’t seem to have been the only person to have messed up.)

Listener 4261Everything this week did seem pretty straightforward, with extra wordplay letters that would spell out a quotation. Six answers were too short for their entry length and would need completing. Finally, a bit of drawing would be required.

My first solve was 11ac Hidden depleted uranium found in South American country (5) PERDU. As I went to enter it, lo and behold the entry length was (6). A quick check with the other clues, and there were exactly six where the answer length was too short, one across and five down. It looked as though the resulting empty cells would be unchecked letters otherwise there would be more than six. I confidently wrote in PERDU· at 11. I felt that Cubic was being generous with this bit of free information. The empty spaces looked as though they would form part of a circle in the grid, but that needed to be filled before everything could become clear.

Unfortunately, not all the clues were as easy as 11ac, and I had only about eight of each of the acrosses and downs in my customary first quick pass through the clues. However, with SPOOM, SPAER, ANI and ODIST, these gave me a strong foothold in the top left corner, and from there everything spread out nicely.

It wasn’t too long before I had the beginning of the quotation: R·und·ndr··n·, and my ODQ obliged by giving Round and round the circle Completing the charm from TS Eliot’s The Family Reunion. It was an unexpected bonus to reveal the remaining extra letters in the wordplay with only about half the grid filled.

I was impressed by the entertaining surface readings that Cubic presented us with, especially the scrambled embassy call (34ac ALLOCATE), the smelly stew (39ac OLENT) and the dirty rugby player’s boot (4dn MUCKLUCK). There were also a couple of tricky constructions. 21ac So I regulate opening of channel, keeping back river in full flow? (10) was an &lit and anagram of (S[O] I REGULATE C[hannel] – R (river)) and 31dn Turn out almost the best possible team dropping aged back (5) was EVERT, being EVER[y] (the best possible) + TEA[M] – AE< (aged).

With the grid complete, it didn’t take long to see RED POLL, then TWITE and SERIN, forming part of the 32-cell circle. They were all birds; indeed they were all finches. That left SCOU··E·ATTICU·. Given that all grid entries in the final grid would become real words, my initial guess was for PERDUE at 11ac and PENNATE at 2dn, but that seemed to indicate SCOUT, JET and ATTICUE. Of course, PERDUS and PENNAME gave the required members of the Finch family from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: SCOUT, JEM and ATTICUS.

Listener 4261 My EntryThe trickiest part of the puzzle for me was drawing the circle accurately enough for it to significantly go through the 32 cells but only through the points between the cells containing O/L, E/S, O/U and T/I.

Thanks to Cubic for a fine debut.


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