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Where Falls the Axe? by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 March 2017

hs-two-001“… and where the offence is let the great axe fall.” That title immediately takes me to Hamlet and I wonder where the offence is for Hedge-sparrow.  Certainly, on reading his preamble,  for the Numpties (yes, we appreciated the glancing recognition of our aggressive tendencies in 30d ‘Numpties trample tomboy under foot at last (5)’ (foo)T + ROMP) the offence is in that phrase ‘Six clue answers must be jumbled before entry: wordplay in their clues leads to the jumbled form. How we hate jumbles and hunting for them in that top left-hand corner of the grid kept us solving for an extra hour at least after we had spotted the theme and chopped all but one of the trees.

Yes, we found them all in the end COLLYO for COOLLY, ZILBAR for BRAZIL, TYCAMORE for COMETARY, TSEYA for YEAST, REHELL for HELLER and LOTSU for LOTUS, and, of course when the first and fourth letters of the extra words in the down clues gave us ENTER PROPOSED RAILWAY NW TO SE, and REMOVE SIX TREES BUT KEEP HS TWO, we realized that, in entering HIGH SPEED TWO along the leading diagonal, we were producing six trees almost symmetrically spaced: HOLLY, GARDENIA (yes, surprisingly Chambers confirmed that it is a tree), SYCAMORE, YEW, ELDER and SALLOW.

Have I forgotten to confirm Hedge-sparrow’s re-entry ticket to the Listener Setters’ Tippling Outfit? Of course not, but he had me worried as he seemed to have gone tee-total for much of his cluing. ‘At Land’s End, I once accepted Russian tea (3)’ gave us ‘CH + A = CHA with Russian providing an R and an S for the message, and ‘… special tea brewed by Russian Arab paralysed with hand-held weapon (7)’ gave us {S TEA}* + RED = TASERED with that Arab giving us an A and a B. ‘Yemeni pack leader raising a drink to spirit of ancient Egypt (5)’ ALE + KA< = AKELA finally gave Hedge-sparrow his ticket. Cheers, Hedge-sparrow, no doubt we’ll have seen you at the bar at Gateshead by the time this is published (three weeks from today!)

for-the-trees-001What held us up for so long in that North western corner? Well we do read about the proposed HS2 and the activities of tree huggers and the like hoping to thwart the plans, but to this northerner, the entire proposal is yet further pampering of the home counties dwellers – those spoilt southerners who could cycle from London to Birmingham if they honestly needed to go there. To my mind a truly imaginative move would be to take a high-speed rail track from somewhere in the midlands, say Stoke, via other disgruntled Brexitian areas like Gateshead then to head to the far north, Aberdeen, say, or Inverness. But enough curmudgeonly comments. We could see LONDON EUSTON in the South East but were misguided in thinking that the North West would, at least, be represented by a MANCHESTER or LEEDS station (which, I believe, is the second stage of the project – pigs might fly!) and flailed for far too long before finding CURZON STREET (Thank you Wiki).

That suggested ZAMBIA to us at 13 across, and there was more flailing before BRAZIL entered as ZILBAR (‘Country church leaving nothing to former sovereign (6)’ ZIL(ch) + BAR) allowed us to complete our grid. We replaced the leading diagonal with HIGH SPEED TWO and, of course, those trees appeared for us to axe. What was more delightful than chopping the trees was finding that the circled letters now spelled out a phrase: CAN’T SEE THE WOOD … So Hedge-sparrow is revealing his partisanship – he’s FOR THE TREES, I suppose a hedge-sparrow would be. He’ll be up there in the branches tweeting to those tree huggers.

Tree huggers

We obediently wrote FOR THE TREES in the space allocated for ‘phrase completion’ and silently thanked Hedge-sparrow (threatened species I believe, long may he flit amongst his trees – now we know where the offence is – that chopping to make way for the railway line!) for a challenging solve.

Oh the elusive golden HARE. I can hardly believe it. There he is at last, right in the centre of the grid where he always should have been. Of course, just as in Turner’s famous painting, the HS2 line is going to eliminate him, changing that YAW to YEW – so it’s squashed hare this time!hare-001

Golden hare, four letters in a straight line

Golden hare, four letters in a straight line

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