Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Black Maria by Agricola

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 Jan 2020

Here we go with a new year of Listener crosswords. We don’t expect anything too difficult for the first of the year – afer all, there must be about six hundred potential ‘all correct’ solvers at this stage and it would be a shame to discourage about half of them with a missing hare or some obscure Russian orthography (wouldn’t it?) Yes, I know there is a hare in the moon (and, during four ski seasons of ski teaching in the Australian resort of Mount Buller enjoyed our slightly less than sober return trips up the slopes to our lodge where we would lie on the slope and gaze at that so-different southern hemisphere sky with so few stars compared to ours, and the unforgettable southern cross. No wonder the Chinese see a hare there!

And the hunt for alcohol? It looks like being a dry year with Agricola setting the tone with a decisive TT in 21 across. I hope we aren’t all in for diet coke at Stratford this year. Ugh!

What an enjoyable solve. Our grid filled as fast as I could write with a very generous anagram, ‘Hot plate damaging cibachrome (10, two words)’ giving CERAMIC HOB for a starter.

I wasn’t aware that the Russian Z looks like a 3 but 3 DIMENSIONAL was clearly how MEN replaced VI in ‘divisional’ and it was a short step from there to the LUNA 3. Wiki told me that flew to the moon 60 years ago and we already had SELENOGRAPHY at 1 across. A list of current missions fitted CHANG’E 4 at 1d so we had the theme and two devices.

The title was prompting us to look up the largest MARIA and MUSCOVY was an obvious contender, though it was only the fact that CLEVERNESS had word play only that suggested to us that that was the second of our two topographical features (Mare Ingenii). So we had a full grid with just 28 across to understand. Russia had something to do with it as we had understood that DIANA was IAN in DA, ‘Scotsman in for 28, yes? (5)’

We returned yesterday from Hogmanay celebrations in Glasgow with our Greek sister-in-law, Artemis, so had no problem sussing the answer to 25d – the Greek goddess of the moon, but knew that those two ‘personal names (DIANA and ARTEMIS) must be entered (wholly) in such a way that the foreign word at 28 appears correctly’. I tried for a while to fit MUSCOVY in Cyrillic script into my grid but got there in the end (‘Today 17’ told us that we needed MUSCOVY in today’s language, ‘get back’ gave us COP< and Cuba and Niger gave us the C and NR). Most enjoyable, and what a pleasure to have no extra letter or misprint device in the clues. Thank you, Agricola.


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