Listen With Others

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Listener No 4631: Seconds Out by Stick Insect

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 November 2020

What’s this?! It was another Stick Insect puzzle following close on the heels of his purple cow puzzle in August, no. 4618 You Don’t Say. Well I do say. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that until writing this blog otherwise I might have wondered “Why so soon.”

Here we had misprints in most clues spelling out what needed to be used for the non-misprint entries. What’s more, it seemed from the preamble that we were in for a bit of leeway with 26ac. It seemed to imply that there could be one, two or three outcomes, or a best guess if necessary. “Sounds like the US election next week!” I sniggered to myself, immediately dismissing it as a possibility.

Of course, 1ac Steer behind crew, primarily (7) was obviously COX, despite the (7) and I wondered if the University Boat Race had been rescheduled from March! Next came an equally obvious 6ac Following old road, wade across (6) for FORD and it looked like the top row could be OXFORD. I checked Wiki only to be told that the race had in fact been cancelled.

A good smattering of entries came next despite some nicely misleading misprints: 10 ONION, 12 OMERTA, 14 ENTERAL and 17 EDDAIC. And then came 25ac Either end of Geordie parachute section (4) for GORE (probably helped by the (4) being correct) and Bingo! Good old Al Gore it was and my earlier sniggering proved unfounded.

I knew that Gore had been beaten by Bush (Jr) in 2000 and, dredging my memory, I got CARTER beating poor old Gerald Ford back in 1976. I had no idea who Cox was beaten by, but it turned out to be James Cox who was beaten by Warren HARDING in 1920. An interesting feature of that election was that Harding (Republican) won 37 states, which ran from the west coast to the east coast via the mid-west and the Great Lakes. Cox (Democrat) won just 11 states, all in the south and including Texas. How things have changed!

Filling the rest of the grid was reasonably quick, although not totally straightforward. My favourite clue was 38dn Ancient beret held up by Scrooge — bah! (4) for BEGO with beret the misprint for beset. The clue that nearly fried my brain was 21dn LA rodent passed through Universal occupying third of Tulare County (8) — (CUT + U) in (TU(lare) + CO) — I spent too long thinking that part of it was (Tu)L(are)!

Finally, the correct version of the misprints told us something that we already knew went in the grid: American presidential race winners, not losers.

And so to 26ac which could obviously be BIDEN or TRUMP, both providing real words for the entries they crossed. That requirement eliminated a whole slew of third party and independent candidates. But who should I enter? The polls indicated that Biden would win handsomely. On Wednesday morning, however, as I was getting my pre-Lockdown-2 haircut, I heard that he was only leading by 217-213 electoral votes and it was all up in the air. Depression set in as another four years of Trump made me feel quite unwell.

By Friday I was confident that Biden would win, despite all the hoo-hah from the Trump camp, so off he went to St Albans. But the thrid outcome mentioned in the preamble? Well that just referred to the date of the election. Nice!

Thanks for a fun puzzle, SI.
 

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