Stomach by MynoT
Posted by shirleycurran on 29 January 2016
These are early days when the editors generally treat us to relatively ‘easy’ puzzles and MynoT had actually told me that he had a puzzle due and that it was fairly easy (but we all know that setters are good at judging the difficulty of other people’s puzzles but not very good at rating their own) so it was with some trepidation that we looked at this large grid, and with even more anxiety that I copied it into Crossword Compiler (such a useful solving tool!) and saw the astonishing unching and almost total lack of symmetry. What were the editors and MynoT treating us to?
Did I say trepidation? It became sheer panic when we compared the word lengths with the spaces in the grid and found, for example, four eleven-letter words but not a single eleven-letter space in the grid, some eight-letter words, likewise with no place to enter them … and so on.
Nothing to be done – except do a quick run through to make sure that MynoT retains his place as an honorary member of the Listener Oenophiles club, though, with good reason (we have shared a glass) I had little doubt. His seventh clue immediately confirmed his place: ‘Stall with coffee or tea (4)’ GAVE B[Y]RE + W, then with that BREW, MynoT ‘Drank back in warehouse (5)’ DEPOT reversed, giving us TOPED. The toping wasn’t over. Later we encountered ‘Grape skins etc that can be fermented without agitation, liable to wither (11)’ – one of those worrying eleven-letter words that, only with the endgame gave us a new word (for the Numpties who should have recognised the reference to MARC) MARCESCIBLE.
MynoT hadn’t yet reached the end of the alcohol references. Next came ‘Foreign soldier to lubricate in bar (5)’ OIL in PU[B] giving POILU, and finally decanters: ‘America is engaged in conveyances for decanters (11 – another of those ‘over-long’ clues!)’ giving us US in TRANSFERS = TRANSFUSERS. Of course, at this stage we had no idea where we could fit that word.
These clues were a fine set and we raced through them, with about three-quarters of them solved in our first hour but, oh dear, the head-scratching about how to fill our grid. There was just one faint hope, as, running out of highlighters and pens, we had, nevertheless, managed to colour code our word lengths and had noticed that there were five spaces for ten-letter words and four clues that would fit. Putting PINSTRIPED and PANEGYRICS into the top left corner, and ESSAYETTES and STRICTNESS into the opposite corner was our way into the grid fill and we quickly slotted in almost all the words we had already found, leaving an intriguing white strip diagonally up/down our grid from top right to bottom left.
Now what? We could see elements of those extra long words in the grid that was appearing but there were, for example, extra letters like SAT in the centre of TETES-A-TETES and RUN in the middle of FORERUNNERS. ‘SATRUN’? AVENA and MUSE gave us VEN and US — Penny drop moment, ‘Venus’! Of course, from then on it was plain sailing – or almost. We still had to put those extra letters OYSSSAISECMLEHL into the clue order in which they appeared in the grid. What did we find? SYMBOLISE CLASHES.
That was clearly telling us that instead of squeezing the letters of Mercury into that tiny cell, we had to enter the symbol for Mercury. Which symbol? One of the Numpties has done computing for the European Space Organisation and he announces that the symbols conventionally used in these ‘modern’ days are the age-old alchemical ones, so we are rather bemused by that requirement to ‘resolve certain anomalies (in a modern scientific way)’. We put the traditional symbols in with just a hint of anxiety. It would be a shame to be knocked out by the endgame of the second puzzle of the year if the editors have superior knowledge of some ‘modern scientific’ way of representing the planets.
All in all, a lovely puzzle. Many thanks to MynoT for a most enjoyable solve.