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Overseas Outing by Chalicea

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 April 2018

‘Overseas Outing’ began for me with a real overseas outing. We were with Irish friends at Kilkee on the Atlantic coast, enjoying Irish hospitality and celebrating the other Numpty’s acquisition of his Irish passport which, as the son of an Irishman, he has the right to. It’s his personal reaction to Brexit. We Europeans wish to stay that way! Enough of that.

We were all happily working our way through Shackleton’s Listener and one of the Irish ladies said, “You should set one on Ireland. You could have St Patrick chasing all the snakes into the sea. That is, of course, the myth that explains why there are no snakes in Ireland”. (Actually, she explained, there are slow worms that were probably introduced into the beautiful Burren area. It was the fact that after the last ice age, Ireland split off from the European mass earlier than the rest of Great Britain and the snakes that recolonised arrived too late to get to Ireland that means that there are no other snakes.)

My early grid attempts, Ireland Mark 1, Ireland Mark 2 and so on, were on symmetrical grids with relatively Ximenean unching (to please the purists who are sure to grumble about that double unch the LANGAHA seems to have swallowed, for example) but I soon realized that symmetry had to be thrown to the winds and a bit of licence allowed, making Donegal rather bulky and square. Ireland is not conveniently symmetrical and there are those jagged bits in the north-east and down by the Skelligs – there are no two-letter snakes to fill those. My first test-solver suggested that I should simply  ask for an irregular grid with those six marked off cells absent, and the first editor didn’t like them much either, but the second editor preferred to have sea almost all round Ireland (as did I).

Saint_Patrick_Catholic_Church_(Junction_City,_Ohio)_-_stained_glass,_Saint_Patrick_-_detail.jpg (2388×2991)Saint Patrick went in next (well, obviously he had to, he could hardly chase out all the snakes if he wasn’t there!) then came the snakes. The key issue here was having them removed leaving only real words. I was already disobeying symmetry and unching rules and my word count was dropping below the required 5.5 mean that is the rule for the Listener. so things were not looking good and real words before and after the expulsion of the snakes were a must.

Then, of course came the message that had to be somehow thematic (that was what Roddy Forman used to advise us). In this case, I was now working with the title ‘Removal’ and it was ‘removed’ letters that spelled out those three instructions. So what happened to the removal?

The test-solvers (thank you to them as always) liked it and suggested some clue tweaks. They found it ‘on the easy side’ – but mine usually are and some solvers are happy for a breather, I know. When I saw that St Patrick’s day, March 17th, 2018 was on a Saturday, I submitted it with some trepidation as a date-related crossword. At that point, it was most unlikely that the Listener setters’ dinner would be on that date – that was arranged later.

Overseas Outing

Some time later, both editors solved the puzzle in an embarrassingly short time and the Paris dinner had now been arranged and was unusually early, falling on St Patrick’s day. One editor entertainingly suggested that a more imaginative title might be thought up, that would, perhaps, be a red herring related to the fact that so many Listener people would be enjoying their overseas outing to Paris, courtesy of Sylvie Vanston, on the day the puzzle appeared in The Times. “Outing” has, of course, in Chambers, that meaning “ejection” so ‘Overseas Outing’ it became and I hope all the participants thoroughly enjoyed the overseas outing – and this one.

There had to be a Numpty illustration but, as usual in such questions, we were at odds. (He’s the one who sent the Poat hare off on his hols when I was intent on burying him.) I was all for just having St Patrick drive them into the sea but the other Numpty has a soft spot for them. We have some beautiful natrix natrix (the ring-necked grass snake) in the ponds and they are superb swimmers but he is convinced they wouldn’t manage the long swim to the nearest islands (that’s Jura in the background where the west coast has an astonishing number of snakes). So a raft it was for their Overseas Outing.

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One Response to “Overseas Outing by Chalicea”

  1. Steve said

    I quite agree that a breather is often welcome; as a relatively new Listener solver, I prefer a puzzle with an interesting theme and/or endgame to something that’s difficult but unimaginative. I read grumblings occasionally on message boards that a puzzle took “only N hours” to complete (with N always much lower than the time I took!) but really difficulty should not be the only goal. I understand from other posts that this isn’t the first map-forming endgame but it’s the first I’ve seen and I was delighted when I figured out what was going on.

    Thanks!

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