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Descent by Gnomish

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 Apr 2021

I wonder how many others thought that the ‘Descent’ was somehow going to be into Dante’s circles of the Inferno – but it was not to be. We read the lengthy and complex preamble with some alarm – jumbles, extra words to be removed, initial clue letters to be used numerically – this sounded like hard work and it was, as we soon had solutions to all the normal clues with eight sets of extra words including RUN IN, BINGO-HALL, BIN, IN LIMBO and SEX PARTY – all sounding rather like justification for a descent into the netherworld – but a sadly under-peopled grid..

Gnomish, I found, by looking on Dave Henning’s crossword data base, is setting his first Listener crossword with two Magpie crosswords to his (or her) name almost twenty years ago. (Magpie plug – we were surprised to read in the Magpie introduction, this month, that there are only about 200 subscribers. There must be about 400 Listener solvers who don’t participate in the monthly joys and agonies of Magpie solving – six puzzles ranging around Listener quality and including – that’s the agony bit for me – one numerical puzzle each month).

There was our grid with a great yawning gap in the centre that had to be filled by anagrams of EITHER, DARWINIAN, SEMEE, ORNIS, SELF-STARTER, FALLING THROUGH, CANEBRAKE, ARRAIGNMENT, STOAE, REGROUPING, GREYHEADED, RUSHEE, KITS etc. The task looked impossible and we sat back and poured a stiff drink. Drink! What did I say, I haven’t even checked that Gnomish is allowed admission into the Listener Setters’ Elite Oenophile Outfit – he/she left little doubt with the wedding reception and sex party and, of course, ‘Indian princess has 250 for noon aperitif (4)’ was really promising. We put K into RAI producing RAKI for those 250. What can I say? Cheers. Gnomish!

We had highlighted the initial letters of the clues that were not producing jumbles and didn’t have extra words to be extracted, (Q I J T N W B W R K M N Z). The other Numpty sneaked off to prepare supper (yes, a modern man) and left me fumbling through the solving of ‘distances between’ which, fortunately soon produced a convincing A RAKE’S P…. I wonder how anyone managed to solve the jumbles without the help given by that!

Of course, the Internet supplied the rest (with a rather boozy tavern scene – lots of alcohol there too!) and we could see where WILLIAM went. HOGARTH took a little longer as we still needed to realise that those eight scenes; HEIR, ORGY (more alcohol, I suppose!) ARREST, LEVEE, PRISON, MARRIAGE, GAMING HOUSE and MADHOUSE, could go into the middle of rows or cross barriers and combine elements of clues (like M/A/DHOUSE). In the end, it wasn’t too difficult though, and what an impressive construction. Thank you, Gnomish!


2 Responses to “Descent by Gnomish”

  1. JB said

    I’d love to be a good enough solver to be able to polish off six extra barred crosswords a month, but the Listener takes up most of the time I can devote to crosswords as it is!

  2. Nick G said

    As a relatively new listener solver and avid convert, I followed your recommendation and signed up for the Magpie May edition. I am so glad that I did – it was really fantastic. Thank you for signposting it.

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