PD by Dragon
Posted by shirleycurran on 4 March 2016
My mail box was full, this week, of solver-friends’ moans about Printer’s Devilry, yet I thought Dragon’s puzzle was an absolute gem. It wasn’t just a word-lover’s tussle to find the appropriate word to insert to complete each of those phrases more coherently, there was also the topical theme in the down clues of decimalisation. Google confirmed that this weekend was the 45th anniversary of decimalisation, so we had that ‘digitally enhanced’ 1971 down the centre column and (P)ENNY(D)RO(PP)ING completing the column with the Ds then dropping from the left half of the grid and the Ps from the right.
Perhaps we were lucky in that the absolute give-away clue at 1 Across led straight to that. My non-crossword-solving niece had just arrived from a ski holiday in the Alps (a cold coming they had of it – just the worst time of year for such a journey -a ‘Journée Noire’ on the French roads with a foot of new snow and hours of queues and cars off the roads everywhere). I showed her the PD and she instantly said “It’s obvious that you have to spot the weak point in the original sentence – it has to be that ‘towel/coaster day’!” I imagine the editors asked Dragon to give an obvious one as his 1 across, to help new PD solvers to get going. ‘Hard work through Holy Week leads to welcoME REST ON Easter day. Not just that, but since the light had only seven spaces, here, obviously, was our digital adjustment. ONE had to become 1.
EVOHE and ISLA were just as easy and obvious: Visitors to Bosnia may find SarajEVO HEaped with materials for rebuilding’ (We were there last year and found Sarajevo actually disturbingly heaped with materials left over from destruction) and ‘The barehanded groom cried, “How could I MISLAy my ring?”. 3d clearly led to DEADHEAD so we realized that the Ds had to disappear and we were off to a most enjoyable solve.
Did I forget something in my enthusiasm? Yes, I had to confirm Dragon’s membership of the Listener Setter’s topers’ club and there were no obvious ‘Has tit bottled wine? (4)’ clues here, but a quick scan through the clues led to ‘If wine being poured, hail tits lightly (6)’ (obviously my tits who bottled the ASTI!) Dragon’s clue wasn’t much better and didn’t have a very convincing surface reading – but that is a welcome feature of PD clues, isn’t it? – and we finally sussed that we have to tilt the bottle if the wine ‘haS LEES Tilt it slightly. Wine with lees? Not a good qualification for the club, but further down Dragon has ‘Suck it, enjoying rickey – it’s the tops! (6)’ We had to look up RICKEY and the BRB tells me it’s a cocktail of gin and lime with ice. This one went into the side of the crossword that was dropping Ps so clearly we were sucking with a SIPPER (SIER). BRB tells me that this is a drinking straw (N.Amer). Cheers Dragon, membership confirmed – see you at the bar in Windsor.
I can understand the moans of gifted solvers who require their puzzles to be of the traditional ‘wordplay leads to word defined by definition part of the clue’ – style, but we had the advantage of all the help from a relatively easy set of down clues and those obvious fracture points in the across ones. I did feel that the astonishing number of &lit clues was a plus in the down clues and evidence of a superior setter, though some of them were almost double or triple leaps when the Ds or Ps were removed. Take ‘Characters of Mass. crime regularly pulled up (5)’ Working backwards from ERS which appeared in the light, we had the reversed regular letters of MaS scR imE and could guess that PERPS were our BRB (US informal) ‘Perpetrators of crime’, but there’s a double leap there from the quite plausible sense of the clue, to the ERS – PERPS that the solver has to understand. This is not ‘January Listener for John and Jane and Bob the dog’.
Back to the clues that I really enjoyed: we finally found:
Vanderbilt was a tycoon who haD OODLEs to invest/ Eventually Pygmalion saw his sculpture GALATEa in human flesh/ Campaign speeches help but to sIN DEEDs are needed/ Of my friends noNE ARE SToners, but a few take the odd line (you should advise them to stick to their RICKEYS, Dragon!)/ The Rose TheatRE LEAR Naps until poked by Regan (that’s what was so fine about some of these clues, a little knowledge of Shakespeare’s Lear prompts you that Regan was the nasty piece of work most likely to interrupt her aging father’s nap!)/ A disorganised bride wAS SORTed by a capable vicar/ Since my running in a damaged shoe worSENS IT I SEe out three pairs in a year (brilliant, Dragon!)/ The spike of a calTROP POking up may injure a hoof (not so brilliant but it must have been tough to find!)/ Then a stunning clue, A diva that beltS OUT HER LINES Sings like Ethel Merman/ Take out thAT TRITe line so your dialogue isn’t corny.
The next one was tough but all its letters were confirmed by L?STERI?E so we had all the prompts we needed to lead us to a rather awkward ‘Surfboard friction gets the bLISTER I SEe aching terribly’/ but an absolute gift followed, Life’s hard for poOR GYpsies being so often moved/ Then I learned that PULEX are fleas – I’ve identified your Majesty’s red spots MaAM PULEx is responsible/ Unexpected praise for way-out novel – I’ve never known a critic commend aN ODDER Story (that had to be the best-disguised of all of them – superb!)/ Italy’s debts make caPRIS AGEd worry about pensions/ One after wild photos of peRU BAIts traps for ocelot (hmmm – not particularly impressed with that but could I do better? I doubt it/ After our dinner I can wash up deaR OR I DRy superbly too/ The fat horse pulling theE CART Eats far too much/ After Guangzhou’s English Festival, CantONESE ATE Roast for dinner last Sunday as well.
Of course, the last one gave us another of our digitally enhanced clues as well, to prompt us to that essential date.
Lovely setting. Many thanks, Dragon.