Listen With Others

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Head-start Clues by Elgin

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 Jan 2021

At the end of the Listener year we always expect a slightly more difficult crossword so it was no surprise to see Elgin’s name at the head of this one – and an unusual grid. Eight lines of preamble were rather a lot to take in at first sight so we poured ourselves strong ones and I hunted through the clues to see how Elgin fares in the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite.

He didn’t do too badly. It would be mildly rude to use his final solution ‘Going north to south at Hogmanay – au contraire (3)’. We turned TO S round and got a SOT (which Chambers tells us is ‘au contraire’ in Scotland). Our sot was passing the port round the wrong way. ‘Port after opening. passed round the wrong way (6)’ We opted for ODESSA for our port O and (p)ASSED<. ‘Ground provided with bars (6)’ gave us a double definition GRATED but with all those bars, and the port, our sot is certainly fine. We couldn’t solve ‘Who is served from yonder vessel (6)’ but were told ‘they now have no answers’ with regard to that clue, so we assume it is our setter. Cheers, Elgin!

The clues were surprisingly easy for Elgin creations though we were bemused by ‘Second out of three sets upset some players (8)’ until we realised that we had to ‘upset’ or anagram SET SET and (s)ET, giving us SESTETTE.

By a stroke of luck, BORS appeared very quickly and (going back to my Waste Land and The Golden Bough studies) I was able to spot GAWAIN, LANCELOT, the FISHER KING and PERCIVAL in our grid. Yes, we needed to spell out CHRETIEN DE TROYES to realise that it was the spelling PERCEVAL that we needed to give us an ELOIN/GRATED clash.

Head-scratching now as we battled with the second half of the preamble. Clearly we were back with knights’ moves (Sabre will be enjoying this!) but a putative SIR GALAHAD turned into SIR GAA gobbledygook and, in any case, we needed a ‘successful’ ‘more modern’ hunter who had to negotiate the two items that were going to fill 33d and 44ac (our empty lights). Of course, reading those knights’ moves in the other direction produced INDIANA JONES and a visit to Wikipedia told us (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade):

‘Indy safely overcomes the traps (which include fast-moving saw blades, a word puzzle, and a hidden bridge over a bottomless pit) and reaches the Grail’s chamber, which is guarded by a knight.’

BLADES and BRIDGE! and, of course, the WORD PUZZLE was there in front of us – Nice! Like Indy, we had our ‘Head-start clues’. The letters we hadn’t used in our knights’ moves were GRAILS and, sure enough, ignoring those that appear more than once (B, D and E) in BRIDGE and BLADES, they are ‘precisely those that occur only once in the two items (not in both). Clever stuff this! What’s more they spell GRAIL and we highlight those five letters. Thanks to Elgin.



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