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Crossword No 4500 What Have We Come To? by Kea

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 May 2018

Well, we have come to number 4500 and we were expecting something special to mark it and when, in a London Internet café, I downloaded a crossword by Kea, we were clearly celebrating that event.  He did set my all-time Listener favourite, ‘Admission’, where the cherry tree that Washington (child) chopped with his little hatchet fell into its own shape. He set ‘Safe-Cracking’, too, which is the favourite of many other solvers (and gave us that TAPU/TABU that spoiled quite a few ‘all corrects’ ours included, some years ago).

A fine short preamble gave us an original device: ‘Taking the letter in each clue that immediately precedes the first occurrence of a letter shared with its answer, or the shared letter itself if it’s the first in the clue, will spell out a message that includes a one-word title. The message describes what solvers must highlight and where in the grid it appears (30 cells in total)’. Great to have no jumbles, misprints or extra letters in the wordplay but, instead, a device that developed the message as the solve progressed.

Did Kea qualify for the setters’ oenophile outfit? Well, we’d all be in a mess if he didn’t but he didn’t have much alcohol content in his clues (even if we saw him with glass in hand at the Listener three-monthly gathering at the Sir John Oldcastle in Farringdon the next day – the next one is the last Saturday of July). ‘Make blessed with spirit, tousling inwardly with corruption (6)’ isn’t, it seems a prompt to get completely plastered on whisky but a prompt to remove the outer letters of tOUSLINg and corrupt, or anagram them giving INSOUL. Then we found ‘Equips with juice, invigorating le sport (7)’ Clearly Kea is prompting us to take a hip flask along when we are ski-ing and to teeter and totter down the pistes – but no, it has to be an anagram again and all it gives is PETROLS so he is into drunken driving. Ah well, cheers anyway, Kea!

These clues had nothing like the complexity that we have grown to expect from Kea but they were clearly the clues of a master and we soon sorted out the message SONG FROM HELLO AND BAND IN SIX PARALLEL LINES. The search began. We know very little about British soaps, media and pop groups so ‘Hello’ said nothing to us and we searched in horizontal, then vertical and finally diagonal lines. ‘Hah here’s something! But surely this isn’t an editorial attempt to finally rid us of that little Poat Hare – A CAT ATE – then we find H?RE’ – but no, the little fellow seems to have escaped by a whisker when we put OBOLARY into that gap and we hunt on.

4500 Times – What have we come to!

STATUS QUO appears next. Of course, What have we come to? The status quo, 4500 crosswords – that’s nice. We have to Google to find something about 4500 on an album by Status Quo called Hello. And there it is: What a find! Forty Five Hundred Times  However did Kea spot that – even with The TIMES included? Many thanks to Kea.

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