Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

You Don’t Say by Stick Insect

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 Aug 2020

We found a fine, clear preamble here, that told us exactly what we were going to do, though the highlighted ‘incorrect‘ warned us that, unusually, we were not going to highlight corrected misprints and, what’s more, these misprints were ‘not in the definition’. It is difficult to change such an ingrained habit and I needed my eraser as I kept highlighting the corrected word.

Could Stick Insect retain his place among the Listener Setters’ Oenophiles? I hunted through his clues and had almost given up hope for him until I saw that ‘Returned batches bound for Ayr (4)’ Those batches could only be one thing, so we raised our glasses of malt. ‘Cheers’, Stick Insect! (Actually we decided that our solution must be STEN, so we were returning Catches, giving us a B incorrect letter – but ‘Cheers’, anyway.)

A speedy gridfill spelled out HE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR CREATING BLURB and we needed a visit to the internet to learn that Gelett Burgess coined that word as well as ‘tintiddle’. We needed a couplet written by Gelett Burgess and the words PURPLE COW were appearing down the side of our grid.

I don’t think there are many purple cows in the UK but anyone living where we do has seen the one that frequently appears in the supermarkets advertising milk chocolate. She is a great children’s favourite but they had to repaint her nose which became very grubbywhen carressed by small hands.

When we were small, we had things called autograph books, and relatives and friends used to fill one of the pastel-coloured pages with a drawing, a joke or a couple of lines. I loved my cousin Malcolm’s ‘I never saw a Purple Cow/ I never hope to see one/ But I can tell you anyhow/ I’d rather see than be one’ accompanied by  his drawing of a purple cow – so that couplet leapt out at me – though we needed the ODQ to give us Burgess’ follow up: ‘Ah yes! I wrote the Purple Cow! …/ I’m sorry now I wrote it!/ But I can tell you anyhow,/ I’ll kill you if you quote it!’ Poor Burgess – he must have grown weary of having his lines quoted at him – he died in 1951, so I believe I can ignore his threat.

How delightful to be able to insert those new lines around the grid and find that we still had real words. (If I were an editor. I would gently reject any puzzle where changes in the grid led to jumbles or non-words, unless there was a really valid thematic reason) but Stick Insect is no amateur. We see him at least once a month in Wednesday’s Telegraph Toughie, as well as elsewhere).

Great fun, thanks, Stick Insect.



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