Listen With Others

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Tale of the Unexpected by Lath

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 Jun 2020

A new setter? We weren’t too daunted by the preamble, though yet again it looked as though there was some elementary numerical work to do in the endgame. We began solving at once and a fine set of clues with very clear definitions which tallied exactly with Chambers’ definitions appeared. I like that! I liked Lath’s numerous alcohol references too. There’s no doubt that he earned his place in the Listener  Setters’ Oenophile Elite. ‘Possibly local fruit’s not in (7)’ prompted us to think of our local fruit which tends to be grapes, and isn’t anywhere near ‘in’ yet, but we had to remove IN from AUBERGINE giving us our local, which is, in effect, a rather splendid Auberge with first classs wines.

Soon afterwards we found ‘Shrub-like draught to drink (I’m dubious) (6)’ Well, I’d be dubious about drinking a shrub-like draught – better stick to the crosswords favourites, RED and ASTI, but we parsed that as DOSE ‘drinking’ or containing UM, giving DUMOSE = ‘Shrub-like’.

Fortunately there was a ‘Shelf with wine angled in a certain way (8)’ (on its side gathering dust with maturity, I hope, as we decided this was RED on the LEDGE = LEDGERED). Then we had a reverse hidden clue – one that wouldn’t go into the light we had for it, as LEFTY seemed to be fitting into that space at 20d, and LEFTY had to be the solution to  clue 17 (Pink length of yarn wrapping feet (5)) ‘What Newquay only bottles up is drink (5)’ Chambers tells me that NOYAU is brandy flavoured with bitter almonds or peach kernels. Sounds as if Newquay is this week’s Listener destination. Well, cheers, Lath!

The clues that had to be swapped quickly fell. We exchanged DARFUR and SHREIK, CARDIO and OEUVRE, VIGILS and USNEAS and GISARME and ISATINE and our grid was full. TEA unjumbled the initial letters of the relevant clues and gave me EPSOM DOWNS so I feared the ‘Unexpected’ of the title was going to be the suffragette Emily Davison throwing herself under Anmer, the King’s horse (yes, that was the theme of my own very first Listener crossword many years ago) but no, this was a far happier event.

18 was clearly the ‘dummy clue’. ‘Badge pair go in Derby again (4)’ certainly didn’t win ‘Clue of the year’ for its total lack of surface sense and it clearly didn’t lead to the solution YAWN that had appeared all by itself, but I had to do the elementary maths to discover what two names we were looking for, 18 40-1 2017 emerged and, of course Wiki provided the rest, telling us that WINGS OF EAGLES, horse no 18, an absolute outsider, won the 2017 Derby for Aidan O’Brien with Padraig Beggy in the saddle.

There was the horse, tearing up the non-dominant diagonal and FURLONGS had galloped out at us some time before, but we still had to find some semblance of the Epsom race course in 27 contiguous cells.  We were indeed faced with a poser there, as I imagine most solvers were. Which N of TANNIN? Neither gives the gentle curve of the course and I can imagine the fury of solvers who bet on the wrong horse (Don’t you mean letter? Ed.).

But this was beautifully set and great fun. Many thanks, Lath.



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