Listen With Others

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Theme of the Day by Kea

Posted by shirleycurran on 29 September 2017

What a beautiful grid – it’s a flower. Hang on a minute, isn’t tomorrow the ninth day of the ninth month? Chrysanthemum Day in Japan? A quick check with Wiki and we have the theme before entering our first solution. Kiku no Sekku, Wiki tells me, one of the five ancient sacred festivals of Japan. My pleasure is doubled when I see that the setter is Kea. He set my all-time favourite Listener crossword, ‘Admission’, the one that had the cherry tree that the juvenile George Washington is said to have chopped with his hatchet. I won’t be able to grumble about the quality of any of the clues this week!

There’s no way one of the editors can be excluded from the Listener setters’ boozy outfit either, but Kea gives me no cause for concern; ‘Dry run barring prisons (4)’ doesn’t sound too auspicious until I realize that that gives BUT around R(un) so we are celebrating the chrysanthemums with champagne. I have seen Kea, more often with a glass of beer in his hand, and, sure enough, ‘Germany no longer has strength in beer (6)’ proves to be not a comment on the weak quality of Germany’s favourite drink but MAIN in ALE, ALMAINE, an old word for Germany. So cheers, Kea, see you at the bar in Paris.

I haven’t enjoyed solving a Listener crossword so much for ages. Why? Because there is no gimmick – no misprint, jumble, missing letter from the wordplay, extra letter in the clue or any other of those tiresome thingumajiggies. Once we have seen that the clues are separated into ‘Clockwise’ and ‘Anticlockwise’, (which tokk us a moment – the alternative was rather fearsome to imagine!) this is a steady solve with smiles along the way.

‘Hunky beast associated with vinegar (9)’ has us resorting to Chambers; COPACETIC fits the cells that are already half completed and the BRB tells us that it means ‘excellent’ so we work out that ‘beast’ must be the COP bit and the ‘associated with vinegar’ not more leftovers from the boozy club but the ACETIC bit.

We have known from the start that the unclued  entries are associated with the theme and CORN MARIGOLD quickly appears, shortly followed by SHASTA DAISY, YELLOW OX-EYE and BUTTON, with ?OREAN prompting us to select KOREAN since we know that the chrysanthemum is celebrated in Korea. We are left with just one cell to fill and Kea is not going to give us everything on a plate (remember that TABU/TAPU event! Beware!) The ODE confirms 15, we were told and the ODE gives us a choice of POMPON or POMPOM.

Sly,  eh? Rather than obliging us to clumsily write CHRYSANTHEMUM below the grid, Kea is telling us to form the word from the letters in the asterisked cells thus fixing that final letter as M. A lovely final touch.

Did I say final? Well, I scoured the grid for Poat’s HARE and found a couple of HEARs as well as ‘Hear again’ in the clues but surely Kea wouldn’t descend to such subterfuges. Then I spotted that DOE cavorting with one of the HEARs so all is well.

No hare drawings from me this week – instead here’s a hare who came to me via Kea. He’s the one who was spotted at Dublin Airport apparently smoking a cigarette.

Hare was spotted having a cigarette

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