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Edwardian Pioneers by Dysart

Posted by shirleycurran on 5 May 2017

We know that Dysart is likely to give us tricky but fair clues and this was no exception. The first line of his preamble had that word ‘unjumbled’ in it and we groaned. What was worse, we had to remove a letter from each of those ‘jumbles’ and those letters were going to spell out what we must do with thirteen across answers. I suspected at once that we were going to jumble those, as soon proved to be the case when we attempted to enter our first two solutions, NERITES and GEST. ‘Gastropods found in briny wreaths become prevalent across middle of area to the north (7)’. ‘wreaths’ clearly had to become ‘waters’ giving us an extra H and SET in< went round (a)RE(a). GEST  came from ‘Old romance’s synopsis overlooking princess (5)’. This had to be DIGEST losing Di, but we had the intriguing situation that that had only four letters and the light gave us five.

I immediately attempted to jumble GEST with an I in second place and came up with GITES or TIGES. Hmmm!

Yes, I hadn’t forgotten to confirm Dysart’s right to admission to the Listener setters’ tipsy outfit and he applied for his re-entry in no uncertain way with ‘Canting like a dissolute, he enters really sloshed later than knight does (9)’. Of course, the extra letter in the jumble stood out – it had to be ACTING with an N but this clue really delighted us as we made a word from the wordplay K + HE in REALLY, looked it up in Chambers and found that there really is a word RAKEHELLY – an adjective that says someone is utterly debauched! Well, ‘Cheers, Dysart, see you at the bar!’

Not all of those jumbles were quite so obvious and we delayed the penny drop moment for quite a while by guessing that ‘Mathesis? Short sermon inspires essence of work (8)’ was going to give us ‘Atheism’ with an extra S, and not, in fact ‘Messiah’ with a T. Thus our message would begin with SHE and not the THEY that we needed for THEY WENT TO SEA IN A SIEVE. It wasn’t until we had THONGS with an extra I going in as ON SIGHT (Footwear, no socks in those Chinese stores = ‘hose’ removed from T(hose) + HONGS) that we realized that  OR?TOR?O had to be ORATORIO, which has a lot to do with ‘Messiah’ but not much with ‘atheism’. So we had that T of THEY.

The grid was filling nicely and our initial guess that thirteen across clues had to be jumbled with an extra letter (which seemed like a really tough task) was going passably well, but having the first words of Edward Lear’s ‘Jumblies’ speeded things up enormously, especially when we realized that an I was being added to ‘jumbles’ to produce them, and that that same I was being added to all of those across jumbles. That explained the title, too. We were not looking for some pioneers from the start of the last century but for Edward Lear’s rather foolish creatures who embarked for exotic places in a rather comical way. We still had some unusual words to find (DITOKOUS for dropping two offstpring at once, PENK for a fish and RILEY, a US version of ‘ratty’) but slowly and steadily we completed our grid.

Auntie Google told us what two geographical names we had to find and the hills of THE CHANKLY BORE appeared at once with appropriate peaks. The TORRIBLE ZONE was not quite so easy to spot but, of course, with such a difficult pair of words to fit into the grid, Dysart was obliged to adopt the rather unorthodox ‘two words touching at a corner, each of which can be traced in order from cell to cell’ (his HARE was not quite so elusive, sitting appropriately at the base of the Chankly Bore Hills and wisely keeping out of the torrible zone. A fellow solver has sent me a photo of his delightful little bronze hare suitably dressed for Easter Saturday – today – so I must include it too. I receive quite a lot of amusing ‘hare mail’ including one entertaining suggestion that there should be a Hare Trophy awarded each year to the compiler of the crossword that produces the highest error rate – a kind of wooden spoon/hare!)

What was left to do? ‘Lastly one normal entry must be changed to the thematic vessel.’  Well it’s staring me in the face isn’t it? SIEGE will convert to SIEVE. What comes next? ‘All final entries are real words or phrases’. I’d better check TIVES in the Big Red Book.  I find ‘tav’ a letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and ‘tiv’ a member of a people living in SE Nigeria (that would give me TIVS) and ‘tivoes’ is recording a TV programme making digital recordings on a hard disc but no TIVES. Just a touch disconcerting.

Of course I check the preamble (smile) – maybe there is a Poatish SINGE or LIEGE there that would change to SIEVE – but it was not to be. I believe Dysart has set a trap for the unwary. I wonder whether anyone will fall into it!

There must be another word that we can change to SIEVE leaving all real words – and I don’t need to look far. LERNA produces CERUSE from CERULE, SERAPIS from SERAPES, ACKEES from ACKERS, and SHIES from SHIAS. Clever but just a mite sneaky, I feel. Thank you, Dysart for a great challenge.

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