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Castaways by eXternal

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 April 2016

EXternal 001Misprints in some clues but clearly not too many as they are going to spell out the names of a husband and wife. We also have to thematically modify six answers initially and a further two when our grid is complete. In addition we are looking for extra words in eight clues that will define the modified entries. That’s not too daunting so we begin our solve with ‘Castaways’ somehow identifying the theme.

Yes, of course I have checked that eXternal retains his membership card for the Listener Wine Lovers’ Gang and I was very close to the end of the clues before I was reassured by ‘Foam covering upended old man – he’s drunk (5)’ Did I say reassured! He seemed to be in very poor SHAPE (PA, in HE’s*)

We enjoyed these clues; they were sufficiently unambiguous for us to be able to tease out eight extra words or sets of words with little difficulty and we soon knew that our modified words were going to define STATIONERY CASES, JAWBONE, RELAXED, INFAMOUS BIBLICAL CITY, STEAM BATH, BARREL ORGANS, PRAYER and ELIZABETHAN INSTRUMENT.

Finding words to modify was not so easy and we had the grid three quarters full before the other Numpty, who had already commented that SAXONY was too long for the five-letter light (and, of course, led us to count the other five in the list of answers that were to be modified by the actions of the husband and wife team, establishing that 6ac, 40ac and 20d had modified lengths for the changed words). “SAUNA”, he triumphantly declared “that’s the steam bath”, and seeing that XONY became UNA nudged us towards the penny drop moment.

DEUCALION and PYRRHA came next. We had heard of Deucalion but needed Wikipedia to tell us that this pair, in an earlier flood myth than the Noah story, being told to throw mother over their shoulders, hurled earth or stones (Gaia) which became men and women. Modifying XONY gave us ONYX and that, obligingly turned into UNA so we now saw what the thematic ‘castaways’ were.

Time for a Numpty red herring. ATOMIC  fitted nicely into the letters we had at 20 and I mindlessly slotted it in. It was only later, when we realized that the clue led us to APYRETIC that we realized that TOM would rightfully belong in an across clue, and that we had to replace six letters of APYRETIC to give us the stone PYRITE and a female name, TONI (with ATONIC removing the ‘relaxed’ definition from our list) . I wonder how many solvers will be equally careless.

Of course, that was the danger of this crossword. We could fit DOM, MAX and PETER into the across clues and TONI, DORA and UNA into the downs, making words that corresponded with that CITY, JAWBONE, STATIONERY CASES, RELAXED, an INSTRUMENT and a STEAM BATH, without solving the original clues and working out that BERYL* had to come from SOBERLY, TOPAZ* from ZAPOTILLA, GARNET* from PAGEANTRY and so on. In fact it was just as I was falling asleep some hours later that I realized that we had not actually solved 1d (Curse to engulf market town (7)) I muttered at the other Numpty who, already half asleep, said “It must be BANBURY with the BURY giving RUBY.”

With a full grid and six names (including that rather anomalous DOM) we clearly had to find one more lady and one more man and the solutions were defined as PRAYER and BARREL ORGANS. That J in the prompts said it all. The stone had to be JET and only DES would complete a real word in its place, BEDESMAN (a prayer) which left us eight letters that conveniently turned SALOPETTES to SERINETTES (barrel organs).

I love it when only real words remain after thematic manipulations. From start to finish, this was a most satisfactory compilation. Thank you eXternal.

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