I’ll trade you HS2 for HB2 anyday!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener crossword, the blog that is on time due to Daylight Savings Time having already started in the US.

Hedge-Sparrow time! Interesting grid shape, some jumblies, something in circled cells, two things to change.  This could be a tricky one!  I remember starting this at a small burger chain (I don’t eat meat but this place does a grilled vegetable sandwich I love), and maybe I was so excited about the upcoming vegetable sandwich that I utterly outdid myself on poor starts – I looked at 5 across, figured it had to be some anagram of G-AGED-L (maybe LAGGED or DAGGLE) and confidently wrote it in at the top, which of course was one of the unclued entries.

I don’t think that’s likely to be topped as a pathetic start.

Realising how bad that was, it took me until 23 across, P(HOT)O to finally make a start in the grid.  Very strange grid fill, I had most of the right hand side of the grid done in the first solving session, but nothing other than AKELA with a question mark on the left.  My messages from the words removed in the down clues didn’t make a lot of sense either, it looked like PROPOSED was one of them, but at the end I had T?SE and S?WO which didn’t look promising as the end of messages.

I came back to it after a few days, and the penny dropped on 14 down – B(L)OATING was my entree to the left hand side, and suddenly the bottom left was complete.  LONDON looked good at the bottom right, and some anagram of EUSTON with it – aah – is that RAILWAY NW TO SE at the end of the message?

I had to Google “Proposed railway London Euston” to find out about High Speed 2, connecting Euston with CURZON in Birmingham (BIRMINGHAM doesn’t fit at the top left, but STREET does, so I assume CURZON is a STREET).  Now it looks like the messages read ENTER PROPOSED RAILWAY NW TO SE and REMOVE SIX TREES BUT KEEP HS TWO.  With that I finally finish the top left corner – ZILBAR as an anagram of BRAZIL was the last one in.  CURZON and EUSTON aren’t anagrams, they are just reversed.

Putting the letters of HIGH SPEED TWO across the diagonal reveals the six trees – HOLLY, GARDENIA, SYCAMORE, YEW, ELDER and SALLOW – rather nicely only in the spots where letters had to be changed.  That was a nice touch, Hedge-Sparrow, and the beginning of the phrase CAN’T SEE THE WOOD which means FOR THE TREES goes in the bottom.  I’ve highlighted the trees, I know they have to be erased for the solution.

My working grid for Listener 4439, Where Falls the Axe by Hedge-Sparrow

Intriguing solve – very slow start but a fast finish (just like the trains, right… I slay myself).  I liked the final grid very much – my only quibbles are that I can’t see the wordplay for AKELA or DEISM, but I don’t think they can be anything else.

Game over – Victory to George, 98% completion.

Feel free to tell me why people need to get to Birmingham in such a hurry and I’ll see you next week when Mr. E apparently tells me to stop playing the guitar.

 

 

 

 

 

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