Listen With Others

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Hellside by eXternal

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 February 2014

Old lady 001The Numpties had no problem with this preamble which seemed to mean what it said as well as saying what it meant. We drew our usual highlighter stripe down the side of the across clues and that was speedily peopled with letters. But what letters! CDOCBISPIFLYDERRDATGOW. We had to somehow make these correspond to six missing definitions from down clues. Clearly we had six very short words here. (I have just now double-checked and, of course, found FLY, SPIDER, BIRD, CAT, DOG and COW all tangled up, as I suppose they would be by that gargantuan old lady’s digestive system! Perhaps SHE’LL DIE or HELLSIDE* indeed – and she deserves to die too! I compile, these days, for the Farmers Guardian (there’s a plug) and have been horrified to learn how much is paid for a first class beef Charolais, for example – on average £1,200!)

But ‘just now’ is three hours later. To begin, of course, I did a quick clue scan to check that eXternal had earned his/her entry ticket to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Club and I didn’t need to read far as he had his first strong drink in the second clue. ‘German gets criminal charge being in possession of pow[d]er and a strong drink (6)’ (G +  RAP A round P, giving GRAPPA). That membership was confirmed when we had a ‘Port selection from modest salesman (6)’, though sadly this port turned out to be ODES[T]SA in a ‘hidden’ clue.

After last week’s tough solve with Samuel’s nation of boutiquiers, this relatively gentle set of clues was a welcome relaxation and our grid filled very quickly (which was happy for me, as we are in the high ski-season with two metres of snow on the slopes, and a house full of enthusiastic ski-ing guests – it’s difficult to sneak away from the kitchen to add a few solutions).

I did enjoy the range of clues with the simple charade ones like ‘Notice wit[c]h scold flatterer (6)’ EAR + WIG, via the hidden ODESSA, to the more complex ‘Doctor not [g]one sensational, practice having one partner (8)’ MO + NO + GAMY. Indeed, I needed Chambers to convince me that GAMY = sensational. We didn’t know the word APERIENTS either but did appreciate the way we had to remove NT to get APERIES. (‘Imitations of laxatives leaving Northern Territory (7)’)

A confession: I don’t like that ‘leaving’ for ‘dropping’ or ‘losing’ but it does seem to be acceptable setting practice. I am having a little bit of trouble creating a visual picture for that clue too, but I suppose the editors have fertile imaginations and can somehow picture laxatives, or copies of them, parading south. Maybe I just haven’t understood the sublety of the clue? Perhaps a pharmacist might see the intention of the clue with the prevalence of generic copies being sold on the black market.

12d, too! I needed the men around me to explain the racy S&M imagery of ‘Cane rampant man in black rubber (6)’ Now what IS going on here? 4d is sweet, though, isn’t it? It has a quaint feel about it.  ‘Butterfly nets earl aims to show (6)’ (ARGUS round E). Some fanciful earl ponsing around with his effete hobby of netting butterflies?

34ac has to be the winner for beautiful succinctness and subtle inclusion of the extra letter; ‘He[a]t up one degree (5)’ giving I + RATE and 19ac gets the thumbs down as the worst surface reading of the lot; ‘Scots scallop’s feast for university network (4)’ What on earth is that supposed to convey as a visual picture? (Maybe one of my clever friends will explain?) I did feel that it was a mite sloppy, too, since we had just solved a clue that led to FEAST (12ac ‘Receive intense delight following beach road (5) F + EA + ST with the extra B in front of [B]EACH). We tend to get our hand smacked if we have used a word or an idea twice in a puzzle.

We didn’t have too much trouble working out that our six missing definitions were PLAGUE, HARVESTER, SUBDUE, PRISON, SOAR and LASH. But what on earth had they to do with those letters? FLY would clearly match up with SOAR but our p.d.m. stopped there. We had noticed GG and RIP at the top of the grid but over fondue our speculation (and that of all our helpful guests) was wide-ranging and pretty far from the mark. This is one of those Listener crosswords where I qualify for the elite ‘Grid Starers Club’. We ranged through the Battle Hymn of the Republic, Harry Potter, Les Misérables, Champion the Wonder Horse …. I’ll stop there, it is too embarrassing.

Of course, Mrs Bradford came to my rescue. I needed short words to anagram to those six definitions and what did I find? SPIDER = HARVESTER, BIRD =  PRISON, CAT = LASH, DOG = PLAGUE, COW = SUBDUE . Light dawned and the GG suddenly made sense, especially as it was being ‘swallowed’ by WIFE.

Wikipedia and a nursery book on the children’s shelves confirmed the words of the old Burl Ives favourite (except that in my ‘other” version she ‘just opened her throat and swallowed a goat’ and Wikipedia assures us that she swallowed a pig too).

  • Fly – “Perhaps she’ll die.”
  • Spider – “It wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her.”
  • Bird – “How absurd.”
  • Cat – “Imagine that.”
  • Dog – “What a hog.”
  • Goat – “She just opened her throat.”
  • Cow – “I don’t know how.”
  • Horse – “She’s dead, of course.”

This was great fun, thank you eXternal.

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