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Mad Tom’s Traps by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 March 2018

“What a lovely short pre-ramble” said the other Numpty and added, “Looks as though this might be about butterflies if he’s rambling amongst the wild summer flowers”. I was too busy commenting with disbelief on Hedge-sparrow’s amazing count of alcoholic clues. I suppose that with the setters’ dinner in Paris only a couple of weeks away, he’s getting ready to prop up the bar – but what an appalling mixture of drinks!

‘Strength of Perth’s Aussie plonk mostly makes a terrible weapon (10, 2 words)’  gave us FUSION for the Scottish strength, then BOMB(o) for most of the Aussie plonk so we had our terrible weapon. (I instructed in an Aussie ski resort, Mt Buller, for four seasons and can remember lugging boxes of the bombo up the icy slopes to our flat after the lifts closed, quite a terrible weapon some of it was!)

‘Going – gone? Knock back this vintage Norwich ale to get some of that (4)’ There’s NOGG reversed in that lovely clue. But what is it the Germans say? ‘Bier auf Wein, dass lass’ sein: Wein auf Bier dass rat’ ich Dir. I believe that advises us not to start with the wine then go on to the beer.

‘Cut consumption of wine (cut by half) (5)’ Gave us TB then ONE – that sounded promising but then ‘Drinks, spending day in the lowlands (4)’ told us to remove D from DALES and Hedge-sparrow was back on the ALES. It got worse, ‘Overlooking loch, recall Scottish island with a bit of a dram (4)’ Gave A MULL losing that L and we found that a LUMA is a bit of a dram in Armenian currency. So he’s into the whisky now. Then ‘Wilhelm’s blood left in cask (4)’ put an L into BUT giving BLUT (and no doubt back on the ale in that cask!) Next comes absinthe! ‘Bleating elderly couple swallowing a spot of absinthe (6)’ We found that a MING is archaic for couple and A A(bsinthe) made that into MAAING. ‘Head north on the sea (6)’ produced N + OGGIN. That NOGGIN could be wine or ale, and the whole alcoholic orgy finished with ‘Reach European port? (4)’ WIN + E. What is there to say? Cheers, Hedge-sparrow. I am amazed he was sober enough to produce such a delightful compilation after that binge!

But it was a delightful compilation with clues that had fine, sometimes deceptive, surface readings that steadily led us to a full grid with thirteen clashes obligingly appearing and an unambiguous instruction in the preamble telling us how to deal with those. In any case, it was fairly evident which letters had to be extracted, as in every case, we were left with real words in both the down and the across answer. That was a lovely achievement, especially as the ‘wild’ or anagrammed SUMMER FLOWERS were being trampled and the remaining letters TLDOTRPPSIEIE gave us our rambling hunter. – Oh no, surprise, surprise, no wonder there were all those alcohol references, they are all in it together: it’s an EDITORS’ TIPPLE so I suppose I am going to find empty bottles scattered all over the grid.

It was not to be, so I tried again and found a more satisfactory LEPIDOPTERIST.

We had to find MAD TOM’S TRAPS scattered around the grid (12 letters of course) and replace them with ‘the hunter’s usual equipment (two words – obviously the 12 letters of BUTTERFLY NET, though I had, by this time sorted out my usual equipment, a rather dated set of reference books that were all rather insular. Can you believe it, there wasn’t a BUGONG or a SILVER-Y in any of them! Chambers and Mrs Bradford, of course, came to the rescue and I was aided by the fact that I was soon left with only a couple of Ts and an S that had to be changed to an E an L and a Y.

I had my twelve victims, ORANGE TIP, RINGLET, ELFIN, LUNA, OWLET, BURNET, EGGER, BUGONG, GATEKEEPER, SILVER-Y, BLUE and LAPPET and could only marvel that Hedge-sparrow had managed to fit so much into his grid, with twenty-five of the original letters changing in a symmetrical grid, all in two series of moves in such a thematic way. Superb, thanks.

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