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Posts Tagged ‘Strange Meeting’

Escapee by Dysart

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 November 2018

I’ve been producing crosswords on the First World War poets for the last few years and worked feverishly to create some to commemorate the Armistice since this weekend is the centenary of that longed-for moment. Wilfred Owen is my particular favourite of those poets, with Sassoon a short step behind and it is difficult not to be moved by those words from Binyon’s The Fallen that we will br hearing in tomorrow’s services, ‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old … at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember’. MacCrae’s ‘In Flanders Fields’ and Brooke’s ‘If I should die …’ are classics, even if later attitudes have denigrated that early patriotism and optimism Brooke displayed. Jeremy Paxman, in Great Britain’s Great War, writes a most instructive analysis of how a century has adapted our attitude to those dreadful events of 1914 to 1918.

So I was expecting a crossword in some way related to the centenary of the Armistice and we had solved for only a few minutes when those letters we were adding to across clues began to spell out I AM THE ENEMY YOU KILLED (my friend), possibly the most moving of all Owen’s poems, though the saddest must be Futility, and the most shocking Dulce Et Decorum Est, with its graphic reaction to a gas attack. For me, almost the saddest moment of the whole war was the doorbell ringing at Owen’s home to announce his death, as the Armistice bells celebrated the end of it all.

Of course, finding the quotation from Strange Meeting made this a speedy solve for us, though we were puzzled by 1ac CO?F?CT, until we realised that this was the clue where the Escapee was coming into his own, ‘It seemed that out of battle I escaped …’ the first line of the poem. We removed I from CONFLICT and all was well. This was perhaps a precursor for the cryptic manipulations of 26 letters that were needed for the completion of our crossword.

‘A later work that features the first work (Strange Meeting) and others by the same author’…  Friends are performing in Britten’s WAR REQUIEM this weekend and those misprints in down clues obligingly spelled out that title, so that we were able to interchange the letters of SLOB and WRITTEN producing OWEN and BRITTEN in the grid. All that was left to do was the highlighting of 26 letters.

One of them EMITEGN* for a strange or anagrammed MEETING was immediately obvious but I had to read about the nine poems included in Britten’s Requiem to work out what the other two to highlight could be. EDISON was obviously the next (Are you sure? Ed.) as that unexpected proper noun in the crossword clearly had to be there for a reason. How clever! We read it the other way up and got NO SIDE and the BRB tells me that is ‘The End’ (of a rugby match). Obviously this clue has no side if it is cryptically sending us to THE END. The next that we saw was obligingly EXTENTH* (THE NEXT with ‘War’ functioning as the anagram indicator). So we have our three and I get out my highlighter. “Hang on!” says the other Numpty. “They add up to only 20 cells. We have a problem!”

So we head scratch. ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH took longer. We could see that the ‘Doomed’ could be an anagram indicator but I had a bit of an issue with ANOTHERFMLAD* on the third row of the grid, as that anagrammed to ANTHEM FOR LAD, whilst the archives show very clearly that Owen and Sassoon, in their discussion of the title, were discussing ‘youth’ as a state of being or a collective term for all those lads, not just one lad. Of course, Dysart had foreseen this and ’26 letters’ made it clear what was required and those words in the preamble removed my worry ‘the titles of … two others used in the later work’. Yes, Britten’s script refers to A doomed youth, justifiably focusing, possibly on Owen. So we abandon poor EDISON and highlight the other three.

What a fine tribute. Many thanks to Dysart.

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