Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, hastily being typed mere moments before the presumed deadline.
It appears Nelson Mandela could not live in a world without Araucaria. I will miss one for being a leader, a trailblazer polarizing figure, controversial and unorthodox – not exactly my cup of tea but I had a grudging admiration. The other one was a crossword setter or ran a country, take your pick. Or something like that…
Let us wind the clock back to November 15 – I was on my way (broken shoulder and all) to a meeting in Washington, DC. I printed off Check This Out just before leaving for the airport – I had forgotten to pack Bradfords, though that may not have been a bad idea, as I couldn’t carry both my bookbag and my tote bag with one operating arm, so I had everything shoved into the tote bag. My first flight was a pretty short one (I think I did the Phi Guardian crossword on that flight), so I started this one on a flight from Charlotte to DC. Charybdis is a setter we know from more than one place – I am usually happy when I see Crosophile’s moniker on the Independent crossword, and Charybdis’ contributions to the Listener have also been fun – it’s been a while since The Bottom Line told us we’ve overpopulated the planet (I’m doing my bit, I have fewer kids than Seth Mould), a stick-figure in Out To Work, and the Bundt-cake grid in How to Put on a Little Weight.
What have we here – clues in “groups” but no indication in the preamble what the groups mean. An unclued 1 across (direct defiance of my 1 across rule!), other unclued entries with unchecked letters indicated (hi Spectatorville), and surprises. Hmmm, surprises?
OK, let’s go. The lack of a 1 across is rectified in one of the most brilliant surfaces EVER at 11 across. Didn’t solve it straight off, but it made me laugh.
16 across gets me going and gets the head scratching – the definition looks like ARCS, SCRAM reversed almost makes ARCS, but it needs to be CUT on reflection… aaaah – let’s go back to the diarrhoea clue (isn’t always that way, diarrhoea keeps coming back?) – if it’s CASES diarrohea then we have SA(A)G. The clue after SCRAM could be RA(SHE)S if we lose the X. So maybe all of Group I need to lose a letter.
Hmmm… so what of group 2? 12 across is definitely ANIL and 8 down is OVER… if I put the V of OVER in the N of ANIL I get ANVIL… so maybe the down clues need to gain a letter in the wordplay. Maybe OVER becomes OVERT?
By the time I landed, things were looking good – I had a bunch of the clues solved… 1 looks like it could be INCONSPICUOUS and the message looks like UNEXPECTED something IN THE somthing AREA. The unclued items looked like a shopping list – WATER, SALT, COFFEE, TEA, SALT.
When you land at DC Reagan, there’s often a long wait between landing and actually getting off the plane, particularly if you prefer sitting near the rear of the aircraft. So it was phoney pokey time – INCONSPICUOUS AS A TARANTULA appears to be a Raymond Chandler quote from “Farewell my Lovely”. Googling UNEXPECTED IN THE AREA brings up UNEXPECTED ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA, PLEASE REMOVE ITEM (the latter part seems to fit the extra letters in Group II).
AHA! This should be all done right? Unfortunately, RAYMOND CHANDLER was nowhere to be seen in my three-quarters finished grid. Is it a pseudonym? Doesn’t appear so.
Hmmm…. and where is the item?
This sat for a while in an unfinished state while I did my workshop.
A second, fresher look back home… I do have a big gap on the left hand side and MONDIAL… can 1 down be IN-TRAY? It fits the definition but I can’t see the wordplay… that would make RAYMOND… he can’t be on the other last column, but beside it was the boxer clue… I have the C from ARCS – could this be the spot for CHANDLER… aaaah, second is part of the definition! It’s a HANDLER! That’s two problems down and now he’s found. That makes 37 PULE and 31 down is probably BUTTER, knocking a few more letters off the shopping list. So where’s my item?
I bet it’s hiding in the last unsolved area – around 22 across and 23 down… TAR???ULA looks like a spot for a TARANTULA, and Amazon apparently has one ANT (there’s a thing called an Amazon Ant, I guess that’s it), and as soon as I’ve found my TARANTULA, it’s time to remove him. I’ve got to replace him with something that makes all real words. Hmmm… well REPEATED probably becomes REPENTED, and AURIST probably AORIST… but where to find this?
What was the quote again – INCONSPICOUS AS A TRANTULA ON A PIECE OF ANGEL FOOD (presumably CAKE, some versions have CAKE there, some don’t). Replacing TARANTULA with ANGEL FOOD leads to real words. I think we’ve got it!
That was a bit of fun – Google fleshes out the rest to me, the annoyance of the phrase in stores. Here the machines just beep at you. I go most often to Harris Teeter, and they have modified your machine so that if you bring your own bag you can pre-weigh it and not have to deal with the admonishment of the machine for having weird weights on the scale. I believe we can call this one a Victory to George!
2013 tally: 33-7-6
Feel free to tell me that angel food is not a cake, it’s what you feed pet angels, and see you next week when Ilver (rather cruelly in this holiday season) sends us to the shopping centre.