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Fieldwork by Ferret

Posted by shirleycurran on 2 December 2016

crop-rotationThe pseudonym Ferret conjures up fears of ferocious mustelidine battles (mainly based on Magpie experiences) so there was a hint of trepidation as the Numpties downloaded this wee thing with its very economical clues, but we were delighted by the clarity of the pre-ramble and immediately identified four clues in each quadrant that needed special treatment and the one that was unclued, that was to be completed by the corrected misprints from two others in the quadrant.

We have seen Ferret, glass in hand at both Listener and Magpie events (time for a Magpie plug – if you were the moaner who complained that this was one to attract new solvers and too easy for you, the Magpie provides six more Listener-style puzzles each month including one numerical one – Oh no, did I mention those anathematical monstrosities – and do we suffer one next week? … misery!)  but I did still need to confirm Ferret’s admission to the Listener Setters’ Drinkie Elite – and scanned his clues.

Disaster, what do I find? Some soft cheese, ‘Inclined to eat small volume of soft cheese (9)’ a normal clue that gives us PRONE around VOL O = PROVOLONE, ‘Foul-smelling assorted salami sandwiches taste of mace (7)’ SALAMI* around M[ace] = MIASMAL (What a superbly deceptive clue with that verbal  use of ‘sandwiches’ disguised as someone’s olid packed lunch!). There were fish and mutton too, ‘Finally trap fish in dune, slippery with its skin still on (8)’ [tra]P + EEL in DUNE* giving UNPEELED, ‘Buff fellow consumes mutton (4)’ (of course that led to DON round EM giving DEMON but it was at once clear that we had to dock the last letter as only four cells were available; so in went DEMO).

There was a copious drug use (or abuse), ‘Decided a long time ago to give up ecstasy after heroin became difficult to obtain’ (HARDGOT though the word play foxed me) and ‘Cherished a desire for something mood changing: dope and a bit of horse (5)’ DOPE + H[orse]* = HOPED (with our first misprint, a G when Mood changed to Good). And the alcohol?

‘Very good daughter gets a fizzy drink in Disneyland (4)’ (yet another superb surface-reading with that subtle transition from word play to definition) – SO + D + A. I suppose I have to give Ferret the benefit of the doubt. He’s hardly going to drink that soda without a shot of whisky is he? Cheers Ferret!

Our grid is almost full as we have immediately spotted with delight that the five different clues in each quadrant are placed symmetrically so we know where to look for those that are to be entered in reverse (LOOT, SODA, FEER and RIAS) and the ones to be curtailed (SCULL, EARLY, DEMON and BERET) and as we ferret out our eight misprints and slot them into the spaces in the unclued lights we have a delightful penny drop moment when four ‘crops’ appear (well, three and one that ‘isn’t’) GARLIC, BARLEY, CARROT and FALLOW.

Suddenly light dawns and instead of looking for some dubious phrase like ‘cut back’ we understand that oh so appropriate title. We are working in the fields – we CROP and ROTATE.

I loved every minute of this solve with its thematic unity. The late Roddy Forman who coached so many of us in crossword matters used to insist that the device used had to relate to the theme. It would be difficult to give a better example than this one. Many thanks Ferret.

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