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Listener No 4666: Octet by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 Jul 2021

Most of Hedge-sparrow’s puzzles have had a floral or faunal theme. Last year’s, however, was quarky so I wasn’t sure what to expect here. There was no hint in the preamble but the clueing technique had two adjacent letters being dropped in some clues and eight others containing a misprint, the corrections giving a thematic word.

Although 1ac Big bloomers in government projection following cuts (12) got me nowhere (it would eventually be G + LOBE + F + LOWERS), most of the clues were very forgiving yet solid, and the grid was finished in just under the hour. There were a lot of entertaining clues, including 10ac Bogs trapping black and grey wolves (5) [LOOS around B] and 23ac Defunct orbiting body — innards of Telstar reassembled by the French (8) for SATELLES [(T)ELSTA(r)* + LES]. 42ac had humour in spades, Liverpudlians, maybe, regularly amused? Yes sirree — delirious (12) for MERSEYSIDERS [((a)M(u)S(e)D + YES SIRREE)*], but 14ac brought me down to earth with a bang with Brexit rapidly destroying pound: that’s the price that must be paid (3) requiring Brexit to lose the Br such that exit rapidly = FLEE [- L = FEE].

The correction to misprints spelt titmouse and the dropped letters gave British Isles. Thus we were indeed in faunal country, more specifically avian. The definition of titmouse in Chambers begins “a tit…”, so I guessed we were looking for varieties thereof, and that turned out to be a little bit tricky but good fun.

Hats off to Hedge-sparrow for a very clever grid construction with most of the cell replacements that revealed the types of tit requiring what I can only describe as double-crossing changes! By this I mean that LOBOS/BOARDED had the O changed to E to give LOBES/BEARDED. Likewise, SPACIER/WALLOW became SPICIER/WILLOW and DEMEANE/CREATED became DEMESNE/CRESTED.

Very satisfying. Thanks, H-s.


3 Responses to “Listener No 4666: Octet by Hedge-sparrow”

  1. Alan B said

    Just to say I agree with your comments in praise of the construction of this puzzle, with the two different clue manipulations giving us the two keys. The incomplete keys TITMOSE and BRISHISLES actually helped with my last few stubborn clues because it was then obvious where this was going. The puzzle was as you say very satisfying, which is not how all Listeners turn out for this solver!

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