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Posts Tagged ‘Stick Insect’

Imperial Age by Stick Insect

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 Dec 2022

With a sigh of relief, we download a puzzle with a short preamble. That bodes well – no complicated endgame and hours of head-scratching after the grid is filled (at least, we hope there will be none). Stick Insect has been producing Listener crosswords regularly since 2010 so I clearly do not need to check his right of entry to the elitist oenophile Listener setters’ outfit (but I do scan the clues anyway and find that, although concise and with some fine and entertaining surface readings, they are a depressingly sober lot – but see later!)

We solve steadily – at least, the other Numpty does. I find it difficult to see solutions appearing in the grid when a letter is missing, OPEPRISOS, for example, for OPEN PRISONS (‘Porpoises smashed looser cans’ with an omitted couple of Ns and an anagram of porpoises’). However, a description of a work is steadily appearing, and its writer’s name is being spelled out almost simultaneously. WARNING FIRST SEEN IN THE LISTENER SIXTY YEARS AGO and JENNY JOSEPH.

I was a student when this amusing poem appeared and remember that well, but I wonder how many of us knew that it first appeared in the Listener magazine (that to us was a somewhat highbrow publication) and I remember it with that wonderful first line “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple” – not with the title ‘Warning’. It takes a visit to our loyal stand-by Wiki to confirm the theme.

We find there that this was identified as the most popular postwar UK poem in a 1996 poll and we also read the first line: “”When I am an old woman I shall wear purple, With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me” and I am able to shade the unclued entry purple, of course, but also add the RED to the HAT on the head of the purple JENNY JOSEPH – well there had to be a hint of wine somewhere.

But, wait a minute, we read on:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.But wait a minute, we read on:

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

© Jenny Joseph, SELECTED POEMS, Bloodaxe 1992.

– and what do we find? She’s spending her pension on brandy and hoarding beermats – making up for the sobriety of her youth. Well, cheers, glasses of brandy raised, Stick Insect, and thank you for a most enjoyable puzzle.


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Listener No 4696: Mint Sauce by Stick Insect

Posted by Dave Hennings on 18 Feb 2022

The last Listener from Stick Insect preceded the US Presidential election in 2020 with previous losers clued but winners entered. This week, we had an entertaining clueing device with one word in most clues needing a letter removed and the remainder unjumbled. The removed letters would spell out information about the ten thematic clues.

The unjumbled words proved to be quite taxing, but thoroughly entertaining. Moreover, the disguises adopted by the thematic clues enabled them to blend in as (almost) normal clues.

For me, the way in was provided by the extra letters seeming to start Anagram, and 25ac Roger’s bony staghound (5) where I had •••OG and DROOG seemed the obvious answer, being a thug in Anthony Burgess’s novel, A Clockwork Orange. Of course, as a normal clue it made no sense, but it wasn’t too long before my brain obliged with unravelling the clue as an anagram of both author and entry.

The full list was:

  • 1ac Wellingborough lot reeked (11): George Orwell, DOUBLETHINK;
  • 15ac We’ll call retro choirs (7): Lewis Carroll, CHORTLE;
  • 25ac Roger’s bony staghound (5): Anthony Burgess, DROOG;
  • 41ac Player managers phoned in sick (7): Gerard Manley Hopkins, INSCAPE;
  • 44ac I copy rowdier elephant seal (11): Horace Walpole, SERENDIPITY;
  • 6dn Muss Jim’s cloth (6): JC Smuts, HOLISM;
  • 9dn Chaffinch tricks merciful god (8): Sir Alfred Hitchcock, MCGUFFIN;
  • 19dn Confrontation via officious animosities (8): Institution of Economic Affairs, AVOISION;
  • 29dn They stress novel run (7): RL Stevenson, TUSHERY;
  • 31dn Error is a mistranslation (6): Alastair Morrison, STRINE.

I particularly liked the idea of player managers phoning in sick. My favourite clue was probably 26dn Some of cognac is eventually put in bladder (6) with put becoming up to give VESICA [((cogn)AC IS EV(entually))<]. We also had the strange surface reading at 1dn Underarm made dirty, money spent going after doctor (7) leading to DRESSED [MESSED – M after DR] with Underarm becoming Manured!

I thought this was a great idea and I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle. Thanks, Stick Insect.

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L4631: ‘Seconds Out’ by Stick Insect

Posted by Encota on 20 Nov 2020

Fun! But am I tempting fate?

[update] Re-editing this 2 weeks later and I think I’ve got the middle row right. Maybe …

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4631: Seconds Out by Stick Insect

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 Nov 2020

What’s this?! It was another Stick Insect puzzle following close on the heels of his purple cow puzzle in August, no. 4618 You Don’t Say. Well I do say. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that until writing this blog otherwise I might have wondered “Why so soon.”

Here we had misprints in most clues spelling out what needed to be used for the non-misprint entries. What’s more, it seemed from the preamble that we were in for a bit of leeway with 26ac. It seemed to imply that there could be one, two or three outcomes, or a best guess if necessary. “Sounds like the US election next week!” I sniggered to myself, immediately dismissing it as a possibility.

Of course, 1ac Steer behind crew, primarily (7) was obviously COX, despite the (7) and I wondered if the University Boat Race had been rescheduled from March! Next came an equally obvious 6ac Following old road, wade across (6) for FORD and it looked like the top row could be OXFORD. I checked Wiki only to be told that the race had in fact been cancelled.

A good smattering of entries came next despite some nicely misleading misprints: 10 ONION, 12 OMERTA, 14 ENTERAL and 17 EDDAIC. And then came 25ac Either end of Geordie parachute section (4) for GORE (probably helped by the (4) being correct) and Bingo! Good old Al Gore it was and my earlier sniggering proved unfounded.

I knew that Gore had been beaten by Bush (Jr) in 2000 and, dredging my memory, I got CARTER beating poor old Gerald Ford back in 1976. I had no idea who Cox was beaten by, but it turned out to be James Cox who was beaten by Warren HARDING in 1920. An interesting feature of that election was that Harding (Republican) won 37 states, which ran from the west coast to the east coast via the mid-west and the Great Lakes. Cox (Democrat) won just 11 states, all in the south and including Texas. How things have changed!

Filling the rest of the grid was reasonably quick, although not totally straightforward. My favourite clue was 38dn Ancient beret held up by Scrooge — bah! (4) for BEGO with beret the misprint for beset. The clue that nearly fried my brain was 21dn LA rodent passed through Universal occupying third of Tulare County (8) — (CUT + U) in (TU(lare) + CO) — I spent too long thinking that part of it was (Tu)L(are)!

Finally, the correct version of the misprints told us something that we already knew went in the grid: American presidential race winners, not losers.

And so to 26ac which could obviously be BIDEN or TRUMP, both providing real words for the entries they crossed. That requirement eliminated a whole slew of third party and independent candidates. But who should I enter? The polls indicated that Biden would win handsomely. On Wednesday morning, however, as I was getting my pre-Lockdown-2 haircut, I heard that he was only leading by 217-213 electoral votes and it was all up in the air. Depression set in as another four years of Trump made me feel quite unwell.

By Friday I was confident that Biden would win, despite all the hoo-hah from the Trump camp, so off he went to St Albans. But the thrid outcome mentioned in the preamble? Well that just referred to the date of the election. Nice!

Thanks for a fun puzzle, SI.

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Seconds Out by Stick Insect

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 Nov 2020

Stick Insect’s Purple Cow appeared in a Listener crossword just three months ago and that leads us to be very suspicious. To have another just three months later prompts us to conjecture that this one must be ‘date-related’ and we haven’t solved long before a few words that don’t fit their lights appear. COX, FORD, CARTER, SMITH, KING, DOLE. They provide an early ‘aha’ moment. But I am going too fast. I haven’t checked whether Stick Insect meets the oenophile requirements yet.

‘Rob the French charity no more (4)’ = DO LE. DOLE is one of our favourite wines. Originally from the Jura mountains it is now a speciality of the Swiss Valais region. But sadly I fear Stick Insect is referring to Bob Dole here, the ‘Second Out’ in the Bill Clinton electoral race.

‘Manufactured materials, lacking tellurium device to catch wine (7, two words)’ Now that’s more hopeful. A decanter, I suspect, but the other Numpty (the sailor/scientist) subtracts TE from an anagram of MATERIALS and announces that it’s a device to catch winD – a SAIL ARM. And we have another of our corrected misprints (which have already given us AMERICAN P…)

NUTMEG has appeared almost by itself as ‘Dali’s kid overturned stone cask (6)’ We upturned the GEM TUN so there wasn’t much hope of  wine there. This really had me head-scratching. I thought Gala was Salvador Dali’s ‘kiN. Stick Insect must really have been hunting for a misprint that would produce the N of PRESIDENTIAL (yes, we have guessed that and are ‘back-solving’). Fortunately The Big Red Book comes to my rescue. Dali n a tropical American tree related to nutmeg, yielding staves etc. and wax seeds [Native name].

I’m fearing that Stick Insect has to be relegated to the TT zone when we almost reach the end of the clues with a dismal alcohol drought. ‘Boer adult ejected from defensive ring (5)’ That’s a crossword favourite isn’t it? We remove the Adult from the LAAGER and get LAGER. All is well after all!” Cheers, Stick Insect!” We have to change our Boer to bEer.

That E also completes the message that has been emerging. PRESIDENTIAL RACE WINNERS NOT LOSERS. We were suspecting something of the sort, as our grid has produced HARDING, CARTER, MONROE, CLINTON, HOOVER, BUSH, POLK and clearly we need to insert next week’s winner in those five central cells. We needed Google to tell us who the remaining ‘Seconds Out’ were in those electoral races: GORE and CLAY, of course.

If we had a vote, I suspect that we would, like the US electorate, overwhelmingly vote for BIDEN. How can the US tolerate an antiquated electoral college system that allows a minority to potentially hold sway? Is that democracy? But this isn’t the place for a whinge. My small American granddaughter’s fifth birthday is on the election day and I believe she will grow up in a better world with a President who believes in a generous immigration policy and health care available for all. My vote is here!

Living overseas, we had to mail our crossword solution before it was all decided, but there wasn’t a lot of doubt in our minds and how we rejoiced when BIDEN had such a strong lead. I wonder whether any Listener solvers voted for the other fellow.

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