A Conversation by KevGar
Posted by shirleycurran on 22 April 2016
There was a sigh of relief when this week’s grid looked normal (not last week’s slanty thing) and had clue numbers and no mention of jumbles, misprints or missing or extra letters produced by the wordplay. Sure there were going to be clashes in several (unspecified number – oh dear) cells and we had to highlight ‘six cells whose contents, if removed, would represent the position at the end of the conversation’. We had a suspicion already, that was speedily confirmed when SEALING WAX filled the light that shortly appeared at the right of the grid.
However, first of all, I needed to confirm KevGar’s continued membership of the Listener Alco Downers and that took a moment.’Echo reckless with spirit – ancient Greek measure (7)’ gave us ECHO* = CHOE + NIX which Mrs Bradford told us was a Greek measure. Three clues further down, he was into a different drink, ‘Different drink to follow tea series (6)’ which gave us CHASER, and we found a ‘Goblet, Chinese apparently (5)’ HAN + AP = HANAP, so membership confirmed.
As I skimmed through the clues, the other Numpty was slotting answers in as fast as he could read, almost, and the grid was quickly three-quarters full with OYSTERCATCHER appearing down the centre – a generous compound anagram ‘Story teacher made up about tale of exotic bird (13)’ STORY TEACHER [exoti]C* and, with CARPENTER obviously filling the light where we had C?R?E?N?T?R, we found lights where we could insert WALRUS, CABBAGES, SHIPS and SHOES and KINGS, since we were clearly on familiar ground – or a familiar beach, I should say.
The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings
All the same, I have to agree with Alice that ‘They were both very unpleasant characters’ even if they have entertained us and become part of most people’s literary vocabulary. I should imagine most solvers twigged the theme very quickly and filled at least one of the lights without working out the wordplay of the original solution, which was clearly not KevGar’s intention.
We had just one light left, 28ac TER?, ‘Bust brawling woman, suppressing a yawn at Ibrox (4)’. Mrs Bradford told me that TERM is a word for ‘bust’ and that ‘a yawn’ is A GANT, so we had a full grid after a little over an hour. Not just a full grid, but a degree of anxiety and befuddlement, since, shock horror, we had a handful of clues we hadn’t solved. We could highlight the poor OYSTER victim of the verse (a pity that KevGar couldn’t somehow remove him leaving real words) with sadness that those young things were so gullible, and, with no feet, walked a mile or so to ‘converse’ about subjects that really could have borne no interest at all for them.
It is too risky to ‘solve’ a Listener crossword without understanding all the clues, so we had to laboriously backtrack to discover, in all, 21 clashes. We had already spotted that MIFF (Become annoyed with note played very loudly’ MI + FF) clashed with SLOES (Fruit delays, reportedly) but now had to find ‘Old city pollution enveloping lake, almost rank’, which gave us STAIN around L[ake] + GRAD[e] = STALINGRAD, producing four clashes with SEALING WAX. Obviously SERPENTRY (‘Rare snakes close together, shut up inside’ SERRY around PENT) gave us four clashes with CARPENTER.
RINGS becoming KINGS had appeared on our first run through but we had a struggle to find HERBAGED (New Hebrides, half forgotten, old and grassy = HEBR* + AGED) to give five clashes with CABBAGES. TAURUS becoming WALRUS wasn’t so difficult but the one that really challenged us was SHIPS. Clearly our VESTA had to become VESPA but that left me a rather vulgar SHITS at 32ac and I have confidence that our editors would have drawn a red line through that. Of course, I didn’t have to solve the clue but later, a friend kindly told me that SLIPES are ‘runners’. There’s my new word for the week!
Many thanks to KevGar. I am a great Alice fan. Carroll is a wonderful source of material for setters isn’t he, and, as usual, this produced an endearing and entertaining theme.