Ploy’s last puzzle was less than a year ago and had Big Ben as its theme. Drawing the bell through all the necessary squares and no others caused me problems, not only in the solution I sent to JEG, but also in the animation that accompanied my blog. I hoped this week’s puzzle wouldn’t cause me similar problems.
Here we had a Right and Left puzzle with a grid that was interesting, not least because it had a great big gap gouged out of its centre. Ten of the nineteen double clues had a word that needing moving before the clue could be solved, their initial letters spelling out what the central space was and a comedy duo.
There was no point in starting with the top row, since that was given by synonyms of extra words in three clues, (4,3,4). 1, 2 and 3 down would hopefully make two of those words obvious. 1dn-2 was a simple anagram of ‘use love’, EVOLUES, and I slotted it into the left side of the grid. Next came 2dn-2 IDEATE, and a quick scan of the intersecting across clues gave me 7ac-1 SMETANA.
Unfortunately, I now had only one letter on each side of the top row, so I decided to try the four 10-letter entries. I only got SANITISERS and put that down the right side of the grid. The anagram of GIANT DRAIN would have to wait. UNRENT, SPY, SEMINAL and IOTA all went neatly into the left.
Most of the left was completed in about forty minutes, but it looked as though I had the sides the wrong way round since the top row began EG•E and it was more likely to be EDGE.
It was interesting that having just one or two letters in an entry enabled me to focus on the appropriate half of the clue leading to it. Even so, the remainder of the grid took me much longer than I had anticipated. Even if I could see the answer, some of the clues needed careful analysing to be sure there weren’t any hidden surprises. For example, 10ac Ignore dying interest in people without a will – properties for some of those flogged for a single purpose (7) led to ESTATES and ONESHOT, the latter wordplay being ON + THOSE* where ON was a dialect word for ‘of’. Also, 8ac Estimates veteran cars bringing in money from Asia: not just one, by the sound of it, a hundred (6) had ‘not just’ as the definition for WANTON.
In the top row, I had WIND (defined by ‘burp’) and EDGE (‘border’). At first I thought that the third extra word was the ‘Figure’ from 1ac which might give WIND ONE EDGE, but I finally managed to put that with ‘square dance’ to define DOS-A-DOS. That left ‘wiseacre’, but no 3-letter word came to mind.
However, the initial letters of the moved words in the clues gave A door and Fands. Obviously that last bit had to be taken as F and S, but initial thoughts failed to bring a comedy duo to mind. Two minutes later, and don’t ask me how, but Flanders and Swann popped into my head. I had already spotted HONEYSUCKLE AND BINDWEED climbing up the grid, and a bit of research revealed an F & S song with the relevant words:
The fragrant honeysuckle spirals clockwise to the sun,
And many other creepers do the same.
But some climb anti-clockwise, the bindweed does, for one,
Or Convolvulus, to give her proper name.
Rooted on either side a door, one of each species grew,
And raced towards the window-ledge above.
Each corkscrewed to the lintel in the only way it knew,
Where they stopped, touched tendrils, smiled, and fell in love.
This is the beginning of a song entitled Misalliance which Ploy obligingly wove into the clue to 7ac, although I suspect that didn’t help anybody. When I came across the window-ledge, OWL was the final piece of the jigsaw, defined by ‘wiseacre’ and was slotted into the middle of the top row.