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Mairi’s Wedding; Homer Going Out in Style

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 May 2014

Homer Mairi's Wedding 001We had the Glasgow Clockwork Orange a few years back and, with the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn coming up and a significant referendum, we are expecting a few Scottish themes to surface in the crossword world. Even the name Homer was a kind of hint, but what a surprise to complete this crossword by highlighting a tune that resounded all through my childhood and even in Scottish dance classes in secondary school.

Oh but we were a long way from that highlighting when I scanned the clues to check that Homer was still a member of the Listener tipplers’ esoteric coterie – not that I had much doubt – the last time I saw him was in the pub in Cheltenham before the Listener dinner, this year, and he was certainly not sticking to the gruel and poteen that figured in his clues – nor were there any nude ladies ‘Fame of woman spotted in nightclub, naked (5)’ (which gave us Name of woman and a hidden LUBNA). Long may Homer live with his illusions!

We found this the most difficult solve of the year so far, even more difficult than the last Radix crossword, mainly because there was so much going on.

This must have taken forever to compile with two different aspects to identify – the theme, where we had to find all those misprinted letters but then put them in alphabetical order of clues, to produce MAIRI’S WEDDING, (sneaky device that, deliberately delaying the pdm. until the solver has sufficient solutions to feel it is worthwhile attempting to sort them out!) then the actual misprints that we had to put into the grid, and a third series of misprinted letters in the definition parts that would give us instructions for manipulating the grid (Oh, no, please not another origami bird!)

We struggled to a half grid fill but things just didn’t seem to work as we had a clash where, for example, REUNIFY had to cross AIRGUN, and one where MICRO should be crossing TERNION, and despite that rather complicated preamble, nothing had been said about clashes. Yes, it took us about two hours to do what I ought to have printed in massive letters on the wall. READ THE PREAMBLE! Oh we were being more numptyish than usual. “…the entry which is the answer with one letter misprinted.” I haven’t encountered that device before and we were going to encounter it thirteen times.

Once we had sussed that, progress was a little less frustrating and those letters spelled out M….I…I .. WEDDING. Surely not – but then, why not? A Scottish compiler for once introducing a breath of Scottish air into a pastime which certainly seems to be centred round the home counties and the crossford mafia. I heard myself tunelessly singing ‘Step we gaily, on we go, heel for heel and toe for toe, arm in arm and row on row, all for Mairi’s wedding’.

May 2014 011This Listener thing is a bit of an addiction isn’t it? Even though I had just realized that with the most stupid of errors (TABU for TAPU in the Tibea crossword three weeks ago) and spoiled what might have been an ‘all correct’ that had lasted nearly a year, I still couldn’t stop worrying at these tough clues and only had a full grid at 3 a.m.

It was the Scottish WADSET (Big bucks etc. – mostly, it’s given if Ian sorrows (6)’ WADS + ET[c] – the mortgage that a Scot Borrows) that was the final breakthrough for that difficult top left-hand corner, and that was after I had simply guessed that DAMOISEL had to be the ‘girl in Verse’ (well, it was a pretty obvious misprint wasn’t it! Quite a lot of them were and the surface readings were often execrable – sorry Homer!)

So what emerged then, when the misprints were put in alphabetical order of the answers? MAKE ELEVEN FOLDS IN GRID. PLAY SQUEEZEBOX. Not quite an origami bird and I actually folded my grid into a squeezebox, spotting that there were KEYBOARDs at both sides. I suppose it depends how you interpret ‘fold’ but I think I actually only had TEN folds, in the middle of columns that had no letters with the keyboards occupying a couple of columns on the left and three on the right.

If you attempted to make your squeezebox, I am sure you will understand why that wasn’t actually a requirement (I can see Dave’s two editors, on the big and little chairs in that office, snarling at each other as they attempted to make the thing and deciding that it simply couldn’t be a requirement, especially with that flimsy Times newspaper tissue – mine needed Sellotape to hold it in place! And I can’t see eleven folds!)

Either way, it was clear that I had to pick my tune out on the columns that wouldn’t be out of sight and there it was. (Yes, that’s the Magpie in the background! Time for a Magpie plug!)

securedownload (2)I have seen a friend’s squeezebox – he found eleven folds and obviously made a far better job of it than I did, so here’s a photo of securedownloadhow an expert does it!
I wondered whether there was some ambiguity about which N of ANRGUN to highlight and which O in the penultimate row for the FOR. After all that hard work solving, I am sure some solvers will be miffed if Mr Green decides they have highlighted the wrong one! But making the mini squeezebox seems to remove any doubt about the second O and N.

However, having been rude about your surface readings, Homer, let me say that I thought this was a spectacular construction, a mind-boggling challenge and a fabulous piece of work!

2 Responses to “Mairi’s Wedding; Homer Going Out in Style”

  1. Alastair Cuthbertson said

    Whenever I hear of Mairi’s Wedding I automatically think of the Billy Connolly sketch. Appreciate boy, appreciate!

  2. dyste said

    Like you, Shirley, I ended up with folds in the middle of some columns. I did make 11 folds, but one of them was unnecessary except in the interests of symmetry. I’m glad I’m not alone in finding it very tough, but I ended up admiring the construction.

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