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Posts Tagged ‘Birds and the Bees’

The Other Letter by Wan

Posted by shirleycurran on 28 Aug 2015

BEES 001Wan again! That was our cry, as we are still struggling with the August Wan Crossword, Star Turns, on Derek Harrison’s Crossword Centre (even tougher than this one! Take a look!) However, we worked our way through the preamble noting the different terms used: there were the extra letters, the displaced letters and the replaced letters. Two of these sets were to be paired off leaving a single letter that had to be represented in the grid. Our ‘extra’ letters, and ‘displaced’ letters were going to identify two different groups and six overlapping members of the first group were going to form a representation of that left-over letter.

It didn’t tell us much at this stage (well, preambles rarely do, do they?) so I consoled myself by a speedy scan through the clues to check that Wan still qualifies for that elite set of Listener topers, and, despite straying into crystal meth and opiate, ‘None managed to acquire brandy wanting money for opiate (7)’ (which became N[E]NE* round (M)ARC giving NARCEEN) he finally settled for a ‘stiff drink’., ‘From old galleon remove mead, a stiff drink (6)’ (we had to remove the [H]ead of the old carrack giving ARRACK).

I believe those two are fine examples of this set of clues which we found extremely difficult to solve. Until a very late stage in our pairing off of the ‘replacement letters’ and ‘extra letters from wordplay’ we were convinced that we were removing for the [L]ead of the word ‘carrack (not [H]ead), so that our two sets of letters simply didn’t correspond.

We had found that our down clues gave us a group of bees: MINING, DRUMBLEDOR (yes, he appeared in Collins Dictionary) and WORKER. A set of birds were produced by the letters we had extracted from the word-play of across clues: GNAT CATCHER, GOSLET and SEA COB. It was that set of birds that we had to pair off against the ‘replacement letters’: HATECCGNOLCRTTEASAOESG. Well, that was quite fun and produced the predictable letter B that appeared only in the set of birds, at the end of SEA COB.

The birds and the bees eh? What was Wan up to? His clues had told us about a ‘Boyfriend on hospital bed, upland in Alberta (6)’ (COT + [B]EAU = COTEAU) and ‘Rod’s image of one with an attractive young woman mostly (4)’ (I + DOL(l) – giving [G]od’s image) now we were in rumpy-pumpy country!

All we now had to do was ‘create a representation of the other letter (B) in the grid by highlighting six hidden members of the first group (BIRDS) arranged as overlapping pairs (43 cells in total) with mirror symmetry about the middle row. What could be easier! Hah!

Well, we got to that instruction after about three hours of tough solving, then gazed at our grid that had DOTTERELS, REDSHANKS, a CAPON and something CRESTED (no doubt a tit) as well as a range of jumbled potential fliers, and we came to a dead halt. It was Listener tipple time and bed – sleep on it! That often works and indeed it did. My first look at the grid in the early hours revealed that rather nicely spelled out BEE made up of ARCTIC TERN, NUTCRACKER, CARA-CARA, ARAPONGA, TERU-TERO, (yes he was the source of trouble in a recent Listener wasn’t he?), and LANNERET.

As I said, we found this cluing really challenging but one of the Listener star setters and solvers told me it was exactly what he likes: a very demanding set of clues, a fine, well-constructed endgame and an attractive final grid with plenty in it – so thank-you Wan.

Nearly three weeks later, someone has just emailed me the news that we were actually picked out of the hat, stocking, whatever … as winners of this one. That is something I never expected to happen. I was planning to run up the longest run of entries without a win of any solver and can’t have been far off – about five years of entering every week. That’s another record spoiled, but I’ve also learned that there is an alternative to Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable if you already have a copy (or two or three, as we do!) so this Wan crossword is even more memorable for us.

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