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Check This Out by Charybdis

Posted by shirleycurran on 6 December 2013

Tarantula 002The Numpties almost despaired with this one when, after almost an hour of grid-staring, we had about half a dozen very dubious solutions in place and no real sense of what was going on. Words like ONCE ‘A small number about a hundred – not any more (4) (ONE round C)’ and ‘AMOUR ‘Aflame, there’s uproar after chucking chlorine (5)’ (CLAMOUR less CL) seemed vaguely correct but not quite right.

After checking the surface readings and finding that Charybdis didn’t really qualify as a member of the drunken Listener setters’ mob with just one mildly boozy clue ‘Where post is put by Ted’s tavern, a feature of The Stag’s Head (6) (Spenser’s IN + TRAY – something to do with third-year antlers) we almost abandoned. Fortunately we didn’t abandon, as he redeemed himself with ALES in the pile of things at the checkout later on.

It was SPAN that gave us the way in. ‘Pair of horses dead in Senegal (4)’ “Well”, said the other Numpty “SN is Senegal and a SPAN is a pair of horses.” “PA!” said I. “It’s DAD, not DEAD. There’s an extra letter in the clue!”

Now we were able to make sense of the clues we had already guessed at. AMOUR is ‘flame’, so we get an extra A; it’s Ed’s tavern, so we get an extra T; it’s ‘cot’ not ‘coat’ that gives us the BED of BEDELL and so on. We laughed at the ingenuity of some of these extra letters. ‘Milton’s celebrated aquatic grass smothers what’s growing in pond with time (8)’ (clearly Charybdis has had a similar experience to ours where reeds dominate and completely squeeze out the water lilies!) We had REED going round PEA (what’s growing in pod) + T, giving REPEATED, which Chambers told us was ‘celebrated’ for Milton.

Tarantula 003Of course, we were now keeping a record of those extra letters and UNEXPECTED ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA – REMOVE IT! soon appeared. We had already fed I??O??P?C???S into TEA and learned that only INCONSPICUOUS served our purposes. The ODQ was not particularly obliging (the second time it has let me down this year, a mis-spelling in the work a couple of months ago left me with my tail between my legs!) However, Wikipedia produced that hilarious quotation from the second of Raymond Chandler’s novels, Farewell My Lovely: ‘He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel cake’.

For once, those words giving the unchecked letters were really useful. We had guessed fairly early on that 14 or 24 that ‘can be seen here’ in the CAFE of clue 6dn had to be TEA and COFFEE and soon we were able to complete NAAN, SALT, ALES, WATER, SUET, BUTTER, MEAL and TART. Bit of an odd diet, Charybdis seems to be adopting.

Naturally, with a full grid, we hunted for the anomalous item that had to be removed from the bagging area and, with a hoot of delight, I found the TARANTULA lurking there. I was all set to simply wipe it out when I read those words in the preamble ‘In the final grid there are no empty cells and all entries are real words’. We had already completed the words of group two with the only possible letter (ANIL, for example, had to have a V, making ANVIL and giving us the V of REMOVE). At first, we were simply doing that, but then there was another moment of glee when the obvious place for the TARANTULA appeared to be ANGEL FOOD. So we had to remove the TARANTULA and leave ANGEL FOOD below.

This was a superb endgame that took only moments but gave total satisfaction. What skill to ensure that only real words appeared in the final grid. Delightful compiling. Many thanks Charybdis (and who could resist illustrating this one?).

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