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Up To 10 Items? by Wan: the Spinal Tap remix

Posted by Encota on 7 October 2016

With a Title including ‘up to 10’ and an actual Total ‘up to 11’, how can this not refer to the legend that is guitarist Nigel Tufnel of the (wholly fictitious) band Spinal Tap?  For those not aware, or needing reminding, then currently this YouTube link gives Nigel’s train of thought:

So was there an Easter egg or similar involved here?  Later, later…

The solving process here was great fun.  Some tough clues (anyone knowing me will immediately realise that from me that’s a real compliment – I love tougher clues, thank you Wan)!  Once I’d surmised that it probably involved two 11-letter dishes then things began to progress.  I soon stumbled on the spinach pie (having earlier had bANAna sPlIt in mind), then with a few of the letter changes beginning to appear I had PIHAD as five of the letters in the first dish.  Suddenly I had a brainwave: ‘Dauphinoise’.  The next letter lined up too and I only had UNIOS to find.  Unfortunately, I then solved 28d and ‘triOs’ became ‘triPs’ – and that gave me two Ps – drat!  Then various PIEs were briefly tasted and binned, including banoffee and perigord, until I found the disgustingly entitled CRAPPIT-HEID.  Now, let’s be honest, that’s not going to win anyone’s Marketing prize for Best Named Product, is it? [‘Most Accurately Named Product’ I hear you thinking – now you’re talking!]

I especially loved some of the features one got ‘for free’ in this puzzle.  I particularly liked the Preamble’s ‘vital ingredient of…[SPANAKOPITA] not found in the grid’ throwaway comment.  So if SPINACH isn’t found in the grid then it infers that other ingredients are.  There two of them are, symmetrically down the middle – FETA and FILO.  There might be more, perhaps I should have looked further.

lighter-spanakopita
[(c) bbcgoodfood, the site for amazing recipes]

First admission: I’m never very good at gridstares.  So I approached the last stage of Wan’s puzzle with trepidation.  Ten squares?  Total?  Surely there can’t be a dish whose ingredients are…

peaS
sPam
tunA
flaN
mAngo
caKes
Onion
Pear
rIce
nuTs &
slAw,

…can there?

Forgive me, but yes, I admit I did Google it.  And no, no appetising recipe did appear…

As an aside, perhaps it’s just me (probably), but am I the only one tempted to set up such a spoof recipe site, just for fun?  i.e. such that come Saturday a Google search directs hopeful solvers to a wholly fictitious site declaring the apparent name of the dish with all those ingredients as a suitable ten-letter word, ideally one apparently in the Grid, such as AUSDEONTRA in Column 9.  Perhaps I’ll try and remember to do this one day – next 1st April perhaps?

Anyway, back vaguely to the gridstare:  a Google of ‘spinach substitutes’ gave a few possibilities: arugula (sp?), kale, chard, curly endives etc, though none of these seemed to appear anywhere in the grid.  Four-fifths of CHARD at 37d didn’t seem to count.  With one letter change there appeared to be AS FAR AS on Row 1 – as an alternative for UP TO – but with no instruction for letter-changing that had to be a Red Herring at best.

So, get a grip, apply some logic…  I had noticed how Wan had beautifully constructed the puzzle such that all eleven words that had become Foods were 180-degree symmetrically placed – impressive, especially given there was no mention of it anywhere!  So, if you were planning to have ten hidden cells, surely you wouldn’t spoil such delightful symmetry?  That cut down the number of possible locations to ‘very few’ (answers on an e-postcard if you can tell me exactly How Many) and the sensible subset of these to even fewer.  ABOUT came quickly into view as an alternative for UP TO and, with a double-check that I hadn’t just dreamt ORACH to be a word, it was sorted.
[And by chance, adding to the symmetry, 2d was my FOI and 39d my LOI.]

So back to the list of 11 ingredients and Spinal Tap.  As a job lot of 47 letters they look ideal anagram fodder.  Perhaps there’s something in there…

Some minutes later I was envisaging the headline describing the psychological and physical pain that could have been inflicted on the ‘Tap guitarist when he later found out that his amplifier hadn’t actually been made louder, that someone had only changed the faceplate behind the volume knobs and that he’d been conned:

“A famous amp ‘Ten’ rework can con: Spinal Tap’s Nigel’s nausea”

I’m sure someone out there can do better…

Thanks Wan for a challenging and very clever puzzle!

Tim / Encota

P.S. I was also just trying to arrange the 11 foodstuffs into two groups so that II could be interpreted by some other means (in Roman numerals maybe?) and hence be back under 10.  Pear Flan or Pear & Mango Flan sounded plausible, but the other eight in combination sound more suited for the dog’s dinner!  I also tried pairing off the symmetrical pairs, but couldn’t immediately see Mango & Onion being combined (having said that I’ve just found it as a salad – sounds very tasty)!
So perhaps it’s:
PEAS SLAW (as in snow peas slaw)
TUNA & NUTS
SPAM & RICE
PEAR FLAN
MANGO & ONION (e.g. mango & onion salad)
and then just CAKES (& perhaps more CAKES symmetrically laid upon it)
with
FETA & FILO being the ‘bonus’ symmetrical pairing of SPANAKOPITA ingredients
No, I think I’ll finish assuming that it’s social comment on people in front of you in the ‘Up to 10 items?’ queue in the supermarket who always seem to have 11 items.  Should we let this niggle us?  I think, on balance, probably not.  However, if you are desperate to stop it happening then you can always distract them, then surreptitiously then add several more items to their basket and let the person serving decide what constitutes too many.
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