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Bream by Check

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 Sep 2022

Check seems to be a relatively new crossword setter. I find, in Dave Hennings’ crossword database, that he has compiled a pair of EVs (I wrote the hints on Big Dave’s site for one on ‘All You Need Is Love’) and an IQ. There is an ambitious pre-ramble here. It’s a lot harder for a compiler to omit a letter from each clue than it is to add one to the wordplay leading to the solutions. Of course, it’s harder for the solver too.

These were going to give us a message that would lead to ‘four steps in a process’ that we must ‘enter sequentially in the grid’ and then we were going to find and highlight the four-letter product and use a ‘by-product to fill the remaining blank cells’.

‘Bream’ suggested fish to us and it anagrammed to AMBER. “Maybe it’s something to do with gems”, I said, “Or ale – Amber is beer in Australia” said the other Numpty. That prompted me to check that we could admit Check to the Listener setters’ oenophile outfit and, of course his very first clue ‘Rupture in fantasy land, losing leading duo to ale (6)’ earned his place. We removed the first two letters of NARNIA and put the male ‘HE’ there to give us a HERNIA and an added M. Yes, a tough clue, and it went on like that!

The alcohol ‘went on’ too. ‘Wine runs accepted by the French (6)’ Gave us an extra I when we put ‘ruins’ MARS in front of A(ccepted) and the French LA giving us MARSALA. So at this early stage we had already raised our G and Ts to Check. Cheers, Check – see you at the bar somewhere in the south-west next March maybe!

The bottom half of the grid filled fairly quickly and we soon had the rather strange BREATHALYSERS as the only word that would fit that unclued bottom row. As the message emerged, I began to fear that Check was rather overdoing the booze. Our last clue in was LOADED! He surely was ‘under the table’ by this time. ‘Old Bill lies motivated under the table (6)’ We were not sure how we got the N needed for the message out of this after we had opted for O AD as the ‘old bill’ but by now we had four instructions: MIX IN MASHED BARLEY, DECANT WORT, ADD HOPS and FERMENT SUGAR.

We had a number of blank cells. Now we understood why ‘numbers in brackets are the lengths of grid entries’ – we had a completely empty top row and gaps on the bottom row. We also understood that we were brewing BEER which appeard as a diagonal at the bottom left. We put the CARBON DIOXIDE at 1 across creating new words, and completed our bottom row by mixing in the ‘mashed’ or jumbled BARLEY! Nice!

The other Numpty gave me a lecture about fermentation and brewing and prompted me to replace the sugar or GLUCOSE with ALCOHOL. He reminded me that we had been invited to smell the WORT during a visit to an Islay distillery and that we were being asked here to decant the WORT and add HOPS, so BELLWORT became BELLHOPS. What an impressive compilation, Check – absolutely swimming in alcohol! I suspect that a few solvers will be ‘under the table’.


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