Vingt-et-un by Little Hare
Posted by shirleycurran on 29 April 2016
I had the pleasure of test-solving this crossword by Little Hare some time ago. I should add that test-solving didn’t provide me with an instant solution to this one this week, as Little Hare has worked on it and almost completely re-written his clues since the earlier versions I am familiar with. That’s evidence, yet again, of the hours, days, weeks, no even years when we add the editors’ input, the rewriting and the final polishing, that go into the production of a single Listener crossword.
There was plenty of confirmation of Little Hare’s membership of the Listener Topers’ Club in his earlier versions, Angostura bitters, French wine and fermented fruit, but this version was ‘spiritless’ (29ac, ‘Band, spiritless, returned to Thailand = POOR< + T giving TROOP) I was rather troubled about confirming Little Hare’s membership but he redeemed himself in his grid: right at the bottom we find RED (Golden boy follows rule of law (3) = R(ule of law) + ED) See you at the bar Little Hare!
Those extra letters in down clues were so subtly hidden that they didn’t at once give the game away, and we had to tease out the A E HOUSMAN quotation, “WHEN I WAS ONE AND TWENTY I HEARD A WISE MAN SAY …’ that introduce a familiar poem.
When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
‘Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.’
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.
When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
‘The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
’Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.’
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.
Of course, for those who made a lucky guess at the theme on seeing that very helpful title, Vingt-et-un’ and teased those first two lines out of the down clues, the solving was rendered slightly easier since identifying the six items (PEARLS, RUBIES, POUNDS, CROWNS and a couple of GUINEAs) that the voice of the poem and the compiler kept, was a great help with some of the solutions, and we knew, in advance, that the HEART was given ‘with sighs a plenty’ and must disappear from the completed grid.
It wasn’t all so easy though. Surprisingly (or perhaps not as I usually find it to be the case) it was the shorter solutions that were tough. ‘One following from map (3)’ giving FACE minus F(ollowing) = ACE’, ‘Spades pulled from ridge on European island (5)’ giving CREST less S(pades) +E(uropean) = CRETE, and the most original and ingenious, ‘Spin first in low court (3)’ giving MOO with its first letter ‘spun’ = WOO. I don’t think I have seen that device used before – brilliant!
The entire puzzle was, as I said before, elegant, and a joy to solve. Many thanks, Little Hare.