Listener No. 4357: Aft by Nutmeg
Posted by Dave Hennings on 21 August 2015
Nutmeg has set some tricky little Listeners in the past, but they have always been a joy to solve. Recently, we’ve had the Knights of the Round Table, mobile phones, and the Grand Old Duke of York. This week we had a sneaky little 3-letter title that gave absolutely nothing away, and some thematic answers clued by wordplay only. Oh… and just for good measure there are some clashes. Actually, there are “a few”, but I’m really not sure what that means: 5, 10, 12?
On with the solve. 1ac was HOB, but, like the title, a puny three letters. Perhaps 4 Salary increase sharply cut by northern timber producer in SA (9) would give me more of a helping hand. Answer: No. HOB will have to give me the start I need. Unfortunately, 1dn is unclued, and, although 2dn Unlikely to change word for “wing” in dictionary? (9) is probably O······ED, it escaped me until a bit later (OPINIONED).
3dn Article, concealed in bed, nurse finally removed (4) was straightforward wordplay only, but in what way might BAND thematic? Musical, perhaps. 5dn Supporter keeling over, one sent up in hearing of Scots judge (8) looked like it was ARBITRAL, but it took me some time to work out the wordplay (BRA< + TRIAL with I moved up).
8, 9 and 10 gave me BIHARI, OPERON and MISLAY, although somehow BIHARI had to fit into a 5-letter space. All these enabled me to get WAGENBOOM for the South African tree, and it seemed that I was destined to get the top of the grid finished first. 16ac ASTRAL also had too few spaces in the grid. I reread the preamble to see if it gave a hint as to what was going on with these clashes. Although it didn't say, it looked likely that more than two letters were involved. That may give ARTS or RATS or STAR represented in the one space and replaced by a dot.
Onward, and a few more in the top left and bottom right, and HOLMES and WATSON were soon spotted, together with ADVENTURE at 17dn. So we were in familiar territory this week, with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Only an hour in, and the theme was cracked. When the grid was complete, The Copper BEECHES, Blue CARBUNCLE and Red-Headed LEAGUE were there for the taking, but I needed to go elsewhere to remind myself of the unorthodox entry of PHIPLI, The Man with the Twisted LIP, as well as The Adventure of the Speckled BAND.
That source also enabled me to see what was going on with the dots I had in the grid… The Five Orange Pips. The letters in each of the clashes spelt words giving five of the six meanings of pip in Chambers: SEED, BLEEP, BLACKBALL, STAR, SPLEEN.
I also needed Google to confirm 19ac Merkel’s former self, say, for whom scandal’s out of bounds (4), specifically that Angela Merkel was originally from East Germany and therefore an OSSI. Among many other fine clues, I liked the surface reading of 30ac Toerags from Delaware held by violent rebels (8), and the sneaky definition in 34ac Di’s singular daughter returned to court previously (4).
Colouring pencils by my side, the grid was soon ready for dispatch to St Albans. So thanks to Nutmeg for an enjoyable and very picturesque puzzle. And thanks to the editors for the latitude allowed in colouring and shading.
And the sneaky little 3-letter title? Nope, haven’t a clue!