Clean-up Operation by Aragon
Posted by shirleycurran on 24 February 2017
What a daunting preamble. I’m not sure where knight’s moves come in our list of Listener dislikes (somewhere amongst the Playfair Squares, jumbles, words jumping from clue to clue and so on – right down at the bottom) but there they were, together with clashes and some sort of a mess. Ah well, nothing to do but scan the clues to check that Aragon qualifies for his entry ticket to the annual Listener tipple (he’s the Editor of the whole shebang isn’t he so he has to be there). There isn’t a lot of evidence. ‘Kilgraston’s hea[R]d girl offers narcotic drink (4)’ gives us K + AVA, then Aragon descends to the level of second-rate tea, `Poor tea[L] rustic knocked back by local river (5)’ HOB< + EA = BOHEA. Well, cheers, anyway Aragon.
Solving isn’t quite as much of a struggle as we expected as these clues are fair and even generous. Who could fail to solve ‘Dancing girl excited male (4)’? Well, I could! ALME is such an obvious solution that we are left wondering whether Aragon is pulling a fast one and actually requiring a far more subtle answer. We spot one of the clues that is likely to lead a few careless solvers astray: ‘[I] hired out sets of three old desks (8)’ We decided this was LET + TERNS since Chambers tells us that those are ‘old’ desks, but we did wonder whether it was merely to add difficulty that led Aragon to opt for that word rather than LECTERNS (and would the editors have allowed an ordinary mortal like me to have the required extra letter as an independent word? Hmmm!)
We usually check answer lengths fairly early in our solve but this time it was only when 42 down seemed to have two extra letters that we did a speedy check, finding that that was the only solution-length anomaly. ‘Poet with books gets female star[E] (6)’ BARD + OT gave us BARDOT and we were finally beginning to see some of the endgame since clearly we had to enter her as BAR and a dot or full stop.
The clean-up instruction was appearing too. We were able to piece together ERASE ALL TRAIL CLASHES – and what to arrange to replace consecutive letters: DOWN TRAIL CLASHES. We had seven clashes in our grid and were told that we were looking for A ‘nine-letter trail of knight’s moves from the work area (8 cells) to the perpetrator (7 cells). The work area leapt out at us. A DOORSTEP was at the bottom of the grid and if we took the ‘across entries’ in the trail of clashes and moved in knight’s moves upwards, we were given the ‘tone’ for the work area which seemed to be a dingy DARK BROWN. (Indeed, for once the knight’s moves were a helpful gift and not the nightmare we feared). Does one really have a dark brown doorstep? Well the answer is apparently yes! (See photo.) I think that is Aragon’s doorstep. I wonder what he would do about the careless solvers who are likely to paint it yellow or pink.
Our instruction told us we had to rearrange DOWN TRAIL CLASHES (as well as erase them to operate the clean-up) and they gave us IPONATT. That is where the head scratching began. Who was the perpetrator of that mess that we had erased that led upwards from the doorstep. Our first Numpty red herring gave us CUMSHAW. Well, that’s a tip isn’t it, but not perhaps the sort of tip required here and Mr Cumshaw, whoever he may be, could hardly be a perpetrator. It was a while later that we spotted the POSTMAN.
We had just one hint. When we erased the clashes, we were left with real words, except for one – BOHE – so that had to be where we were going to do some letter replacement using those down clash letters IPONATT. BOTE seemed a likely ‘real word’, ALME could become ALOE, CHEWED could become CHEWET – and slowly we teased out the obvious message “WET PAINT ON DOORSTEP!” So we have a fine little story.
The POSTMAN paddled that paint all the way across the grid and now we have erased his mess and cleaned it all up and are putting up that warning sign, and yes, of course the I of TEPID combined with the BARDOT dot to give a warning exclamation mark, leaving us real words there too, ‘missing the point in one cell’. Nice one Aragon!
Ah the HARE – of course this week he was going to be just as elusive as ever but playing the game and performing knight’s moves – not just one, but a total of three! Time we got rid of him – I’ve included a vicious looking rabid dog to perform the task.