Wan’s last puzzle (no 4538, The Other Letter) required us to highlight six birds in the final grid to form a large BEE. It nearly tripped me up, but I got there in the end (as did a fellow blogger here who won a prize). On seeing the title here, I was reminded of Charybdis’s puzzle from 2013 (no 4628, Check This Out) with its “unexpected item in bagging area”.
There would be lots of food this week, with corrections to misprints arranged to form a dish, answers having a letter replaced to form more food, and the replacements forming yet another dish. An ingredient of the second dish and a relevant phrase would need to be identified before “check-out”.
I decided it was time for a cup of tea and some cake.
Next came a quick run through the clues to see how many I could reel off. On the across front, the number was hopelessly small. I remembered that Wan could be a tricky cluesmith. Luckily, the downs were a bit more forthcoming (courtesy of 3ac PEAT, one of my few acrosses), and TUNS, ESSOIN, APACE, ADRY and OPUS DEI were soon running down from the top row.
I was perplexed by 6dn Carmen Miranda was one time away, told to leave music in Romania (7), since the only thing I could remember about her was that she often wore a basket of fruit on her head. [It wasn’t till later than I found out that she was Brazilian and a SENHORA.]
Did I say that Wan was a tricky cluesmith? Here are a few:
Birds preferring a fruit tree to very white trees AVES with BEL for V
Double hot sandwiches of part of the loaf (5) IN IN containing O
Want say to obscure first bit of answer deviously (6) EG replacing first letter of FENCE
Boring holes in prime locations bothered wife (4) OLS* (positions 2, 3 and 5 of HOLES) + W
Scots plundering celebrate capturing whining earl (9) SING containing PULY E; I guess that’s how you spell the participle!
And they were just some of the clues without a misprint! Resolving 35dn Spent on ladies at first, mostly to allure, not now though (5) also took a long time with its misprint for Scent — L[adies] with TRAI[n] on it.
Misprints, eh? I think I need to check them more carefully in future. Take 22ac Cook for example; one’s likely to be found in a kitchen (6). The answer was obviously OPENER, but ‘cook’ didn’t define that did it? It seemed that it was a misprint for COCK, as in a tap or, indeed, the beginning of the morning.
As I neared the end of the grid, I could spell out the second dish, identified by the replacements in the food entries, as “spanakopitan a Greek dish of spinach and feta cheese in filo pastry.” It required that the central letter of CAPES needed to change to a K. It sounded quite scrummy… after all it had cheese in it.
The trouble now was that I had twelve misprints and, although they contained the letters of ‘spanakopita’, there was an O left over. So only one of cook in 22ac and trios in 28dn was a misprint. The latter certainly was, so it must be that blasted Cook. It took me quite some time to twig the cricketing theme!
That meant that the first dish was an anagram of DETIHAIPPCR. Now, I’m sorry, but I needed to cheat in order to get “crappit-heidn a haddock’s head stuffed with a mixture of oatmeal, suet, onions and pepper.”
Back in the grid, and the discarded letters were TCSPUPIHANO. SPINACH, an ingredient of dish 1, could easily be identified. That left UP TO. My only concern was that the preamble specifically said that the ingredient was “not found in the grid”. A bit of grid-staring and I found FILO at the bottom of the central column. Seeing Wan’s symmetry, I checked the top of that column, only to find FETE. It seemed that that should be FETA, and a quick check of 17ac Sugar cake and limitless coffees (7) showed that I had carelessly entered PANOCHE istead of PANOCHA. Thanks for the accidental help there, Wan.
It didn’t take me long to see ORACH in column 6 with ABOUT in column 8. Checking Chambers showed ‘about’ under up to, as in “What are you up to?” The two highlighted words gave us the number 11, which was the number of letters/ingredients in each of the two dishes. I’ll be interested to see exactly how the published solution ties together all the wording of the preamble.
A quick postscript on the clue front: my favourite was 16ac Paddy loses one tooth at the front leaving a cavity (6) with its nice surface reading.
Thanks to Wan for an action-packed grid with all its superbly symmetrical ingredients. It was a tough puzzle but very satisfying, and reminds us of the importance of standing in the right check-out queue at the supermarket.