A miscellany of word-lovers?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, another year, continuing mediocrity!  Well it appears Stick Insect threw me a bone in last week’s puzzle and I didn’t even spot it for my “Clues of note”.  This could be a new level in thick.  Let’s see what can blow by me this week with Hedge-Sparrow.

What have we here – nine clues which need a string of letters before solution, the rest need a single letter and and there’s unclued entries.  Looks like we’re treated to real words in the grid and close to normal clues again, so woohoo.

2 is unclued so we have to go all the way to the 9 across test!  NEAR,ER gets us going with an extra O in the clue so a big pass on the 9 across test.  I made pretty good progress on the top left corner of the grid, including finding the first two strings that needed to be removed – UTTERL which could anagram to TURTLE and WORC that could anagram to CROW.  Animals?  Fairy-tales?  The message looks like it starts with OMNIUM GATHERUM, but that doesn’t seem to mean anything,  Hmmm.

1 down looks like it’s heading for UNKINDNESS… where have I heard UNKINDNESS before?  Look it up – oh… it’s a collective noun!

OK – I haven’t updated to the 2014 Chambers yet (I guess I’d better get on that) but those of us who are still relying on the 2011 version are well aware that if you’re looking up a word beginning with M you’re likely to get flustered by the positioning of those red pages… the first of which is a list of “wonderful collective nouns”.   That page has EXALTATION and MURMURATION so the theme is nailed!  Woohoo!

Hedge-Sparrow wasn’t letting us off that lightly though, since not all of the collective nouns are in the Word-Lovers Miscellany, so there was still a little dictionary trawling to do.  I had the hardest time with verifying WISP for SNIPES (it’s not given as a collective noun per se, just a flock… but I guess a flock is a collective noun so it’s a meta-collective noun) and finding where WHALES could be removed to give the definition for GAM.  The leftover collective noun is the one right in the middle – MURMURATION for STARLING.

My working grid for Listener 4329, Doubtful Association by Hedge-Sparrow

I didn’t submit this in time (a habit for the year, I’ll admit none of my Listener solutions for the year have made it to the UK yet… I’ll start sending in soon, maybe), but I wonder if STARLINGS would be graded as incorrect?  It brings up the interesting notion as animals being actual units, which shouldn’t be stated in the plural.  When I hear a U.S. chemistry educator spouting on about the number of “moles” of substance I die a little inside.

Clues of note:

While I like the “extra letters in clues” device, it seems there was a reliance on two or three letter words that became one or two letter words that had to be inserted as a container, so I had a harder time finding notable clues this time around.  There were some gems!

5 down:  Blacked up desert rat beheaded old Turkic warrior (TATAR)

(extra letter L for Backed up) so RAT and then another RAT with the top taken off, reversed.  That’s some nice deceptive clueing, lots of indicators for TAR but unraveling the clue to get the right ones was fun

22 across:  Art college stops folding chair transport using cusion  (AIRCAR)

(extra letter string FOLDING CHA for GOLDFINCH) so RAC in AIR.  The definition is a little bit of a giveaway but that’s a masterful hiding of a tricky letter group.

So I believe we have a Victory to George and the year is off to an unblemished (if unsubmitted) start, and a rather fun puzzle from Hedge-Sparrow

2015 tally:  3-0-0

Feel free to tell me you’ve memorized exactly at which letter the Word-Lovers Miscellany begins, and see you next week when eXternal for some reason has us chasing after briefs

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