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Listener No 4355: Shorthand Crosses by Aragon

Posted by Dave Hennings on 7 August 2015

For some reason, I thought I’d come across an Aragon puzzle quite recently, but it appears that’s unlikely as his last Listener was no. 3948 back in 2007. (He’s probably been too busy editing the Times crossword.) Here we had two classes of clue, Class I clues sharing a feature lacking in the Class II clues. Wordplay in Class II clues led to reduced, or doubly-reduced, entries.

Listener 4355I was lucky that I had spotted that the gird published in the newspaper had its right column missing, otherwise this may have held me up for a bit. I also noticed that, like the previous week, there were only two links between two halves of the grid. This week it was courtesy of the two-letter entries at 19 and 30ac.

Despite having worked most of my life in the IT world, 1ac Display record long speech involving Nationalist politician (9, two words) eluded me (it was SCREEN DUMP). 7ac Mood the monarch exhibited in front of men (4), on the other hand, led to H[U]MO[U]R, and I was immediately minded of U and non-U, especially since this was one of the eight doubly-reduced entries.

I remembered that this was the subject from Nancy Mitford, primarily because it was the subject of an EV puzzle in November last year (no. 1149, Common Usage by Raffles). Not that this was to help me a huge amount, certainly not with the endgame, of which more later.

I did, however, have a doubt sown by 12ac, 10 having eluded me due a lack of knowledge of German philologists. At first, I thought 12 South Pacific Island vase recalled, where you hide gold (5) was NIUE, an island that I hadn’t heard of until recently but suddenly seemed to be in vogue. The wordplay didn’t fit though, so a bit more analysis was required before NAURA (URN< containing AU). Here we had a two-U word that didn't seem to want to lose either. (HIRSUTE would also be deprived of the thematic fate later on.)

I switched to the down clues, and slotted in 2 CUMBENT, 3 EOAN, 5 MAAED and 6 PNGA. Despite now having ·C·E···MP, I still couldn't see SCREEN DUMP! The top right corner was soon completed and I found myself going clockwise around the grid again with lots of Us being dropped along the way.

I liked the two females lurking in the grid: 27ac Anxieties when lacking head for taming female sharks (7) for [U]S[U]RESSES, and 1dn Spenser’s flat second soprano: cinema’s leading lady (7) for [U]SHERESS, both of which were fairly late being solved.

Sneaking ahead to part of the endgame, the initial letters of the doubly-reduced entries gave me MATNJB and Sir John just needed a couple of Es to be completed. I refrained from seeing what he may have said about the Mitford family, and continued with the grid which was filled in less than two hours.

The preamble now required us to “follow the thematic features of the Class I clues to read the name of an essay… and its author.” The occurrence of the letter U in the Class I clues had been obvious to me from an early stage, and the letters following them spelt out The English Aristocracy Nancy Mitford. This was the essay (in the literary magazine Encounter) where the U and non-U versions of English were discussed. I was pleased to see that I have a broad base of vocabulary, using U words like bike, false teeth and jam (not cycle, dentures and preserve) but non-U words like jack, mirror and cemetery (as opposed to knave, looking-glass and graveyard).

A bit of googling was now required, since there was no reference in the ODQ to any Mitford-related quotation from Betjeman. I soon tracked down the poem, with the first couplet to be taken as cryptic instructions:

The Mitford Girls, the Mitford Girls
I love them for their sins,
The younger ones like Cavalcade,
The old like Maskelyn’s.
Sophistication, blessed Dame,
Sure they have heard thy call,
Yes, even gentle Pamela,
Most rural of them all.

Listener 4355 My EntryTHEIR SINS running down the central column of the grid thus needed to be replaced by I LOVE THEM, and this enabled DIANA, DEBORAH and PAMELA to appear in rows 2,3 and 8. That, however, required only 9 letters to be replaced, and we were told there were 15 altogether. Plus there were surely more sisters to be found.

It was, I have to admit, only when I saw UNI·Y in the rightmost column that I saw how DGIRLS was to be replaced by THEMIT (The Mitford Girls). UNITY and JESSICA were the last sisters to be highlighted.

Many thanks to Aragon for an entertaining puzzle. I just need to work out what’s meant by the title!

One Response to “Listener No 4355: Shorthand Crosses by Aragon”

  1. eXternal said

    Dave, I think the title works as Short hand = Mit[t] + Crosses = Fords

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