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Listener No 4622: Kew Knowledge by Brock

Posted by Dave Hennings on 18 Sep 2020

OK, how long since Brock’s last Listener? Less than six months by my reckoning since No 4597, Bunch of Fives with its starfish grid and piscine theme. That probably means that we were looking at a last-minute date-related theme this week. [Smart arse. Ed.]

The preamble tells us that seven answers are, thematically speaking, 21 3. That didn’t help much since both were unclued. Definitions in these clues were thematically affected, one way or another. Remaining clues had an extra letter in the wordplay and would spell out a thematically posed question. It sounded as though we were going to be stymied until we got the theme!

The clues were a mixture of straightforward and tricky with the seven thematically affected answers generally being tricky. 9ac Hardly long-lived, half-blinded king at Hastings losing life ultimately? (10) was probably the most fun, leading to ONE-YEAR-OLD (ONE-EYE + (H)AROLD – (lif)E).

With most of the top-left and bottom-right complete, it looked as though 21 3 was FLUTTER BYES. Moreover, 1dn looked like COMMA which was a butterfly, so I was on the right track. Mind you, its clue looked odd, Stupor broken by am coffee (5) until you realised than “‘m” was a variant of “am” and we had M in COMA leading to… well, not a type of coffee that was certain. MOCHA, however, was and we seemed to be dealing with Spoonerisms. (If I’d looked at the title again, I’d have been certain.)

Eventually, all came good with the thematic clues which were either spoonerisms of the entry or had a spoonerism in the definition:

19ac Principal pitting gym associate against Rick (7)
34ac Wondering band identifies one task re working on hard tune (10)
Underwing band identifies one → HAIRSTREAK
1dn Stupor broken by am coffee (5)
8dn One’s marked with spite what’s scuppered Real Madrid (10, two words)
One’s marked with white spots → RED ADMIRAL
11dn Done guarding war fortress with gun, always circling (10)
One guarding door → GATEKEEPER
22dn One resembling Buffalo Soldier in Alabama is tense leaving Confederacy (4)
25dn Collapsed during cycling, fine going around lake (5)

The one that caused me most grief (don’t laugh!) was GNU JOE — I’m so use to pronouncing it à la Flanders and Swann, “I’m a g-nu”, especially since it’s not a word that crops up often in casual conversation! My favourite was probably the “wondering band” that became “underwing band”.

And so the extra letters in the wordplay of most clues told us who needed highlighting: Do hide on this day in nineteen thirty needing to be thematically adjusted to ask Who died on this day in thirteen ninety?. Well, not quite!

W(illiam) A(rchibald) SPOONER (1844–1930) was there in column 9. I wondered whether the REV at the beginning of 24ac was also originally meant to be highlighted. He was, of course, a fellow at New College, Oxford.

Thanks for some good entertainment, Brock.


2 Responses to “Listener No 4622: Kew Knowledge by Brock”

  1. Alan B said

    I haven’t come across Brock before, but I got into this puzzle easily enough. Then the meatier clues came along, which I enjoyed very much. When I saw the possibility of FLUTTER BYES (Butterflies?) forming in the unclued lights I realised the significance of COMMA and GATEKEEPER that I had already pencilled in. The title obviously referred to New College, but it meant nothing to me at that stage.
    My last discovery was the true meaning of the message (DO HIDE … -> WHO DIED …), which had been a mystery for a while, and everything then clicked. How appropriate that the anniversary date fell on that Saturday.
    Thanks to Brock for a super puzzle – the theme was brilliantly executed. And thanks (as always) to Dave, Encota and Shirley for their interesting blogs.

  2. Brock said

    Thanks, Alan for your kind comments. I am glad that you enjoyed it.

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