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Bun Fight by Kea

Posted by shirleycurran on 3 January 2014

December 2013 135Kea! One of the masters. There was delight and consternation in the Numpty household. I have said before that my all-time Listener favourites were his chopped cherry tree and Shackleton’s ‘dit, dit, dit, dah’. However, our ski-season has started early; we have a dawn start tomorrow and we have a whole string of weekend pre-Christmas parties. A Kea puzzle is sure to provide a challenge and eat into those weekend hours.

‘Bun fight’? It doesn’t sound too much like the mince-pie thing we are expecting. Gun fight? Are we in the OK Corral? An early solution EARP suggested that we were ‘Forcibly remove about 140 ml, dropping kilocalorie for recipe (4, two words)’ That gave us TEA CUP with the C being replaced by R – TEAR UP.

We realized early on that we really were entering only words or names, after removing two letters, so this , intersecting with EBB, WAE, HATRED and EXPEL had to be EARP. Our first red herring. (There were others: BAMBI led us down to another dead-end and those extra letters that were generously appearing soon convinced me that this really was Christmas fare as the WIDOW TWANKEY seemed to be there – but sadly no ALADDIN.)

I had to do a quick surface-reading check that Kea was still in the tipsy Listener Editors club and he confirmed his membership with ‘Those partaking in sack and light beer, splitting a type of it (7)’ What a superb clue! PILS was split by LAGER! He was frequenting French pubs too; ‘Bars around this Breton place would lead to aridity (6) (BARS round RENNES = BARRENNESS). It is ages since we had a TT puzzle. Alcohol in clues seems almost as necessary as the TSOTSIs, TSETSEs, URs, NEDs, PERIs, MERIs and ETON.

Kea Three Ships 001

There was a lot of food in this crossword too: mackerel, fleshy fruit, salmon, quince, Granny Smith, tea bags, and a dose of LSD. However, some of the clues led us into new areas. BODRAG and TOLSEY were new ones on me (tonight’s conversation stoppers!) but what a lovely clue for TOLSEY; ‘Raise a crowd of obedient followers perhaps in exchange for some (6)’ YES LOT reversed.

Surprisingly quickly, we had a full grid with some doubt about TEHRAN (TEHR +AN) ‘Settlement of Middle Eastern Country (its capital wanted) (6)’ which gave us THE* + [I]RAN, and HATRED, ‘Bore receiving what’s just more than due rancour (6)’ HAD round TRE which is ‘just more than DUE’ Hrrrummmph!

Numpty head-scratch time. It wasn’t US movies, Christmas pantomimes or the OK Corral and we couldn’t make sense of those extra letters. Fortunately, there was another way in to the theme. We looked for ‘thematic names’ and ELEANOR and DARTMOUTH leapt out at us. BEAVER had to be there, and sure enough, it was. (We participated many years ago in one of the Boston Tea Party Tours where the children did the ‘hands on’ thing and threw bales of ‘tea’ overboard.) Surely not another date-related puzzle after that recent spate of Dr Who and Kennedy assassination puzzles. But yes, a quick check with Wiki tells us that that tea party took place on December 16th 1773 so it is a kind of anniversary.

Home and dry … almost. We had to remove the T E A from the three ships and thematically drop it into what was clearly going to become BOSTON and reveal what the protesters in Mohawk disguise, the ‘instigators’ wanted ‘linked’: TAXES and REPRESENTATION.

Plunders 001How wrong can we go? Those were taxes on TEA and my nine extra letters completed BOSTON, TEA TAXES and REPRESENTATION. Now we knew what we were looking for and we soon found LAPSANG and TWANKAY (not, alas, my Widow Twankey), leaving us ESNRDUPL, which, obligingly anagrammed into PLUNDERS in those extra letters.

It didn’t seem quite right and a double-check showed that we had only 18 non words. Consternation! I moved the [TE]A from [S]TE[LA] to TE[HR] and had 19 non words but there was still a sense that it wasn’t quite right. That TEA had to drop straight down – into [H]A[RBOR] of course – but I still had a non-word count that didn’t tally. Oh how clever! It was a question of the placing of those As from BEAVER and DARTMOUTH that decided whether there were 18 or 19 non words.

Finished?  Well, no! There was still a word to write below the grid.  That sentence read ‘… the unused letters can be arranged to form a word that might describe the goings on, which must be written below the grid.’

The title is BUN FIGHT and Chambers tells me that is a TEA PARTY. The ‘goings-on, which must be written below the grid’ would seem to be that – but is it the ‘word that might describe the goings on’ that has to go below the grid? The ODE tells me that PLUNDER is a mass noun. (One of the Magpie editors has warned me about making those plural!) Use it as a verb and it doesn’t really describe anything. Oh the dilemma! I don’t think that comma resolves the ambiguity.

Well, it was a good bun fight anyway and we’ll learn who plunders or whether it was a tea party in the New Year. Many thanks, Kea.

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