Listen With Others

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Listener No. 4393: Vingt-et-un by Little Hare

Posted by Dave Hennings on 1 May 2016

Apologies for the late appearance of this blog, but it has been a bit of a hectic week for yours truly — golf, stag dos, dining out and theatre occupying more of my time than normal. [Here I must plug The Comedy about a Bank Robbery, currently playing in the West End. It’s from the same crew that gave us The Play that Goes Wrong which is still on. Both are hilarious.]

Listener 4393Back to the matter in hand, and no history for Little Hare since this is his first puzzle. Bravely, he admits to being a gambler, if only at vingt-et-un… or pontoon for those of us who play it for fun! The down clues here had to have two or three letters omitted before solving, so it seemed logical to attack the acrosses first, which I normally do anyway.

5 ICEBERG, 11 HONOURS and 13 RUE got me off to a good start. I decided to carry on with the acrosses, rather than get tempted by the intersecting downs. This turned out to be a bad move, since the rest weren’t as forthcoming, yielding only huit. The downs were a bit more rewarding, but not a lot, A nice round douze were slotted in. Unfortunately, 20dn Mardy, having dropped mobile taking tea outside, is madder (5) seemed like MARDY – M in CHA, but, although CHARA is a plant, it didn’t seem too have any connection with the madder family. I wrote it in anyway… shameful!

Solving sped up quite nicely then, and the down clues were great fun to unravel. My favourites were:

8dn BRONZERS Top twin Sydney is keeping right cosmetics (8)
BONZERS (top, Australian) holding R
10dn GEEK Athenian possibly spurning runty misfit (4)
GREEK – R (run)
23dn EAST CAPE Let him take nibble of éclair after tea was drunk in part of New Zealand (8, two words)
CAP (let him) + E after TEAS*
4, 38 and 40 were sneaky, each losing a whole word.

I also liked 15ac and 32ac:

15ac GANOINE Bacharach maybe loses weight on curried peeled mangos: it’s evident on scales (7)
WINE (Bacharach, maybe) – W after [M]ANGO[S]*
Nothing to do with Burt, still going and soon to be 88
32ac Listener 4393 Woo-Moo Spin first in low court (3)

Of course, near the end of my grid, 20dn CHARA finally came back to bite me, resolving itself into CHAYA and crossing 30ac SPRYER.

And so we were presented with the opening of AE Housman’s poem:

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,

… and on to the highlighting and what needs to be omitted from the puzzle, despite the advice:

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.

Listener 4393 My EntryYet again, a poet has made life so much easier for the setter, almost as if he knew that his poem would be the subject of a crossword quatre-vingt years after his death. Here, all six major elements of the first verse are 6-letters, and neatly form the Roman numeral XXII, vingt-deux.

For me, the puzzle was done and dusted in about quatre-vingt-dix minutes, but that does not detract from its enjoyment. Thanks, Little Hare — hopefully you’ve kicked the gambling habit and will entertain us with another œuvre soon.

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