Nobody’s ever been particularly fond of me for my sins…

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your #2 source for all things barred-crossword-related.  Coffee is on, and if you’re me, you’re not enjoying the cricket one little bit.  So let us see if Aragon has dished up something enjoyable?

Aragon!  Oh dear, another puzzle by a setter who knows my personal email address.  I was surprised to see that there hasn’t been an Aragon puzzle in eight years, probably been too busy editing another puzzle I comment on every other week at another blog.  So hi if you are looking in, really I’m going to say nice things about your puzzle.

Let’s cut to the chase… I’m calling it – the Ascot Gold Cup is over!  This puzzle kept me riveted from start to finish and was rather fun all the way through.  Every classic element of the Listener was there, the starting off head scratching, the sneaky bits of the preamble, and the endgame that revealed all.  The only two mini drawbacks could be the two 2-letter entries (though they are both thematic) and that the poem itself wasn’t that easily available.  I had to hunt and peck online to find it, along with a list of all the names in the final grid.

Even Australia losing three wickets in the time it took to write that last paragraph isn’t going to dampen my enthusiasm for this puzzle.  Is it really going to be a two-day Test?

OK, there’s a crossword to talk about…

What have we here – a rather long and strange-sounding preamble.  Some clues have something, some are missing it.  OK… I guess we get to solving and see where it goes?

There is a 1 across but I had no idea what it was… ditto 7 across… ditto 10 across…

OK, plan B.  Let’s work from the bottom – 32 down looks like it could be wordplay for P,EST?

10 minutes in and one (ultimately incorrect) entry in the grid, I decided to take a break.  This one probably needed to be looked at in a venue other than the dressing room of a play that was about to go on.

Take 2…  fresh eyes, access to dictionaries, this should be better, right?  Let’s try downs first, shall we?  2 down looks like it could be RECUMBENT from the definition, and then the wordplay could be CM,BENT… so this could be a doubly-reduced clue, losing RE and U?  If 21 is STENTOR (normal clue) and 10 across is HUMBOLDT then it looks like the removal of U is a go.  So 4 down looked like an anagram… add a U into the anagram mix and there’s UNDERTOW.  Not sure what this has to do with shorthand or crosses, and I haven’t found another RE to lose.

Soon after I got HUMOUR which was shortened to HMOR and now the double removal is all U’s… could 2 down be CUMBENT?  Yep, that’s a word.   OK, the U’s are going.

At this point I think I’ve sussed the theme – since there was an EV last year (1149 – Common Usage by Raffles) that had the theme of U and non-U English.  So now the challenge is to fill the grid and find the poet (there was no mention of a poet in the Raffles puzzle).  All the clues with a U in them are normal, those without need to have U’s removed from the answers.

Late in the grid fill I had a horrible realization – I had five clues left and still four “double elimination” clues to find, most of them in the bottom left (one of them being my original mistake PEST which turned to to be BST,P being BUST-UP with the two U’s removed.  This also left a crucial J as part of the name of the poet.  Isn’t there a poet BETJAMEN?  Or BETJEMAN?  Yes, there was!

Finally a full grid, and down the middle is “THEIR SINS” – a google of “BETJEMAN and THEIR SINS” brings up the poem we are looking for…

The Mitford girls, The Mitford girls

I love them for their sins

Aaaaaah – so take THEIR SINS and replace it with I LOVE THEM… that makes DIANA, PAMELA and DEBORAH appear in the grid.

Hmmm… but that’s only 9 letters replaced, and there’s meant to be 6 more letters replaced.

On the right hand side in a column is UNISY… if the S in RLS is changed to T…  oh I see what you did there, Aragon – THE MIT for D GIRLS which appears in the fifth row.  Now there’s UNITY and JESSICA.  NANCY is nowhere to be found.

I left off my favorite part of the whole construction – although I had the thematic material and didn’t need it to complete the puzzle, there’s still the name of the essay… the characters after U’s in the Type 1 clues give it to us – THE ENGLISH ARISTOCRACY, NANCY MITFORD.  How all these letters were hidden in so few clues is a work of art.

Which brings me to our randomly appearing and disappearing feature… clues of note

39 across:  Pursuing horse, tire us out: hairy

At first glance an innocuous clue – H + an anagram of (TIRE,US) for HIRSUITE.  But the wordplay is hiding thematic content – four letters of the title are hidden, two in the one word!

My working grid for Listener 4355, Shorthand Crosses by AragonMy hat is off you you Aragon (and no more wickets have fallen in the time it took me to finish this blog – the Fourth 2015 Ashes Test may live into Day 3 – RAIN BLOODY HELL IN NOTTINGHAM!!!), and I think I can claim a Victory to George in by far my favorite puzzle of the year.

2015 tally:  22-0-5

Feel free to tell me that this poem in today’s society would have gotten Betjeman sent straight to jail, and see you next week when Raffles attempts to cover a continent in potatoes.


3 Responses

  1. “Is it really going to be a two-day Test?”

    Looks like it might be George – five down with 26 overs left in the day. Love it!

  2. Grrrr – it poured buckets the one day I went to Nottingham, can’t we have some more, please?

  3. Very belated thanks for your kind words, George.
    I don’t visit these blogs very often, not being a regular Listener solver at the moment,
    I was afraid at first that this one would not get past the editors, due to the obscurity of the verse, and my vetters were of the same opinion, but a bit of tweaking of the preamble hopefully made things a bit fairer in that regard. And it turned out after all that the verse appears in print in a biography or two, tho I am willing to bet very few solvers used that avenue to arrive at the solution.


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