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Shock Therapy by Serpent

Posted by shirleycurran on 4 August 2017

I have a tiny suspicion that there has been some collusion between Serpent and Poat as YES, that elusive HARE in four letters in a straight line has finally climbed prominently to a glorious place at the top of Serpent’s grid. I’ve been saving my best HARE for this long-awaited event and here he is. Thank you Serpent (BOA – BOAT – POAT?) Not just a HARE but a stripey horse too. He has long been the Numpty bloggers’ favourite – ‘Stripey horse (5)’, though Serpent’s clue was rather more complex, ‘Foreign football official hounded Zagreb (5)’ as we had to remove a letter from the wordplay ‘hounded Zagreb’ (with that rather lovely anagram indicator ‘hounded’) and place it at the top of the ‘Upper down’ clues instead of whatever jumble that clue produced. This was the first clue we solved and we hooted with delight as the ZEBRA was slotted in. We took the C to the top of the column and at once opted for GREAT (or GRATE) as the unjumbled entry of ‘Find time to compete (5)’ T + RACE as GRACE would involve no unjumbling. That put a C above our grid.

Of course, I had scanned the clues to check Serpent’s continued right to membership of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit and his clues were astonishingly TT, so that I had to scan his final grid to find evidence of a CRU at the bottom of column 11 (hidden in ‘Material used in hire car upholstery (4)’ – ECRU) and RED at the top of column 13 ‘Death by hanging with decapitation (6)’ which gave us decapitated PENDING = ENDING = DEATH, which unjumbled to REDING or ‘advising’ when we had replaced one of its Ns with the R that was extra in ‘Gloomy literary sweetheart (4)’ D[R]EAR.

I had, a first suspected that SUAVE, ‘Sophisticated aircon in 4X4 with electronic starter (5)’ (AC in SUV + E) was a translation of SOAVE suggesting that the Italian wine was sweet and sophisticated, but Chambers disillusioned me – the dry white wine is named after the village of Soave! However, that clue did send a C to the top of the column that finally converted DINGY to a ‘Woman’, CINDY, and gave us another letter of that two-word condition – G. So cheers, Serpent, see you at the bar in Paris. Well, maybe we should be opening a bottle of Champagne to toast the HARE!

This was very clever and very meaty compiling wasn’t it? The lower half of our grid filled fairly quickly and we had taken enough letters to the top of the grid to see the humour of the title. WIG, TOUPEE and HAIRPIECE were slotted in, so that solving could speed up, though we took far too long to work out what the condition was, as usual because of our careless reading of the preamble. It had to be, and of course was, a form of ALOPECIA but I had overlooked those words ‘(starting at a point to be determined)’ and our solve was almost complete before we nudged ourselves and saw that ANDROGE…NIC was split.

Completed with a real sense of satisfaction but we had to do a careful check that we had selected the correct extra words to use as definitions since we had one slight doubt. HURRIED, WOMAN, EULOGY, EDDIES, PASS, FIGURE, IMPLEMENT, JUDGEMENTS, LEGEND, WILLOW, ADVISING, SIMPLE, VAINEST, FISH, FLAP LABOURERS, and RIVER all fitted with the words that had appeared at the top so that we realized that we had assumed that ‘reversal’ was our anagram indicator in clue 50, when, in fact it had to be ‘abuse’, leaving REVERSAL as our missing U-TURN. What a superb compilation, thank you, Serpent.

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