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Homer by Dysart

Posted by shirleycurran on 31 October 2014

Colditz 002I wonder whether we were the only solvers to immediately decide that this crossword was going to be about Odysseus and three of his companions – maybe the unclued light was going to be some geographic feature encountered in the Odyssey – nice bit of subterfuge there, Dysart!

Isn’t it intriguing that almost every Listener setter incorporates at least one clue referring to alcohol or drunkenness! (And, of course, Dysart qualifies emphatically for the tipplyListenerSetters.org with his very first clue, ‘Cleared up and started imbibing a drop of aquavit (6)’ (giving FARED round A[quavit]), his follow up where he was mixing his drinks, ‘More fragrant vin rose, though not very fruity (for Californians) (6)’ (VIN ROSE less V* – an intriguing use of the anagrind ‘fruity for Californians’ which Chambers tells me means ‘crazy’ though the fruity wine we were sampling in a Californian vineyard just a few days ago was far from crazy), and naturally, by the end of his clues, there was quite a gang imbibing, ‘Fifteen Scots relish drinking time (5)’ (15 – STEP had been our first word to go into the grid so we quickly recognised that it was acting as the definition here and we needed to put T[ime] into SAIR – Scots for ‘relish’).

Another clue cross-referring to a second one appeared at once, ’11, after dismissing buffoon, played perfectly (6, two words)’ (We had to remove MIME from PANTOMIME leaving PANTOE, which, of course, when ‘played’ or anagrammed giving us A POINT, produced (or failed to produce) one of the letters missing from the wordplay, the I).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe usually dislike clues that refer to or link to another, but couldn’t grumble here as Dysart spared us any other gimmicks in the wordplay (none of those oh-so-tedious extra letters in the wordplay of every clue/ a misprint in every definition etc. just ten clues with one letter of the answer omitted from the wordplay – yes, I know about people in glasshouses). We were in the hands of a master and the clues had lovely surface readings and were fair, so that our grid filled steadily and we were soon able to identify RIVER MULDE as the unclued light. Surely Ulysses didn’t cross that? The Internet told us who did: REID, LITTLEDALE, STEPHENS and WARDLE in their escape from Colditz. (Here’s a friend’s photo, taken this summer: I should think it looked slightly more like a prison when those four men were incarcerated there.)

Of course, those four names were apparent in our grid when we realized with relief that the mutilation we had to perform was merely the alternate letters of WARDLE’s name, leaving a fine set of crenellations at the top of what would have looked even more like a castle if we had been instructed to cut out the other names. But no, ’empty cells’ were spoken of, so we had to merely erase the letters of REID, LITTLEDALE and STEPHENS.

One task left to perform, the highlighting. Oh dear, that took me as long as the rest of the solve as I was unsure which O of GOODOH to use, and, at first, unable to produce ten affected clues (having decided that LD (Ld = Lord) was the Lord caged in ‘Move on after caging Lord Glencoe’s bird of prey (5)’ (GEE round D – Dominus, Latin for Lord). I slept on that one and woke to the realization that the sneaky ‘of’ in the OFFROAD clue was part of the definition ‘of vehicles designed for tracks’, and my problem was solved.

It wasn’t until I was copying out my solution that I realized, first, that the grid was not symmetrical, and second, why. What an astonishing feat Dysart had performed to produce only real words after the characters were removed! Great fun, thank you, Dysart.

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