Aelfre – a new name to us but Dave’s database tells us that he has had four previous Listener crosswords over a five-year period starting 27 years ago, then none since then. Of course I have to check that he still qualifies for his entry to the next cheery Listener ‘raise your glass event so I scan the clues, astonishing myself as I solve several instantly in that speedy skim through, and finding that there is no TT problem here. ‘Chinese etc, for instance, are found in what were once pubs (6)’ gives us A in AS INS = ASIANS and a few clues later Aelfre is enjoying his red in those pubs, ‘Rarely pour back wine with enjoyment in it (6)’ giving us FUN in RED = REFUND. Cheers, Aelfre!
Indeed, this was a speedy grid fill, starting with those ‘arcs’ with which we quickly ran rings round the grid. We had to check that an END is a region, and that ENID is in Oklahoma (Region around Independence, a place in Oklahoma), that JASS (J + ASS) was an old term for jazz (Ancient gutbucket, say, wanting joint for dope), that VAGI was the plural of VAGUS (Very active soldier’s nerves V + A + GI) and that AZAN (the returning half of NAZARETH) really was a name for one of those Muezzins’ calls (five times a day, Chambers told us!) but soon our grid was looking good and several of the radials were already almost self-evident.
What caused us problems there? We needed to check of RAPHIA, LEGLIN, IGNARO, APTOTE and ON SONG, then our grid fill was nearing completion with just that penultimate line of a song and some key characters to find. Of course we realized that it had to be a song as one of those scratches had told us that EMI completed the label. (I shamefacedly admit that when I downloaded the grid from the Times Crossword site, I thought they were a bit of editorial carelessness and that a couple of stray hairs had been allowed to dirty the image.)
Well, we had NOTH?NG REA?LY MAT?ERS TO ?E and despite my appalling ignorance of just about everything since the Beatles, that said something that was soon confirmed by Wikipedia which gave me the lyrics of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and filled the gaps in that third ring from the outside with SCARAMOUCHE, GALILEO and FIGARO. It is still early on Friday evening and I am sending Aelfre a silent vote of thanks for providing us with a bit of gentle fun that has left us time to cook dinner and enjoy the pre-pre-Christmas weekend.