If this puzzle was about the current President of the USA, the hairpieces wouldn’t be so nicely arranged

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  I thought this might have been the first Serpent puzzle in the Listener (I have seen Serpent elsewhere), but it is the second, and the last one was the snakes and ladders game I also solved during breaks in a musical last year.

Two weeks in a row for an unusual clueing system – we have many entries that wrap around the grid, and down clues that are either jumblies or lead to an extra letter in wordplay.  Interesting concept.  There’s no clues for 8 or 9 down.  Hmmm?

OK – so I know I usually do the 1 across test, but when the acrosses don’t even start until 19, I got started by scanning the down clues for a way in. The hidden ECRU at 41 down (with an extra A) seemed as good a place as any to start, and there I did.  Even though the across clues were fairly brief and had extra words, I had a hard time with the across clues, and ended up fitting most of them in from the bottom half of the down clues I had solved.  One of the good things about solving so many of the bottom half was that I had quite a number of letters for the top replacements, and HAIRPIECE stood out as a possibility for the end of the row, with TOUPEE and WIG making up the rest.  Shark is giving us a little hair replacement therapy?  My first solving session ended with a remarkable grid – the top replacements were written in across the top, the bottom half was close to full, the top half was practically empty.

Oh, I checked the puzzle again when I got home and it appears my printer is back to an old trick of not printing a few lines at the bottom of the page – so there were clues to 8 and 9, they just didn’t print for me.

Back to it the next night of the show, and I was starting to fill in the rest of the puzzle.  I don’t know if I did this the correct way or not, but a number of the top down answers I got retroactively, finding a definition for an extra word that fit, and rearranging to get the original answer (DINGY at 17 down was one like this – not sure why, since looking now it seems like a perfectly solveable clue).

Somewhere along here ALOPECIA appeared – so with the wrapping around, it is probably another word that goes along with ALOPECIA… ANDROGENIC ALOPECIA?  Quick check of the phone, yep, that’s a thing (not a thing that appears to be in Chambers, but a thing nonetheless).

Everything is in there – so there was just a little sursolving – the last one to fall was CLOVEN becoming ELEVON (how tempting was it to write ELEVEN in there knowing that FIGURE was an extra word).

My working grid for Listener 4459, Shock Therapy by Serpent

Not as tricky as it started out, though cottoning on to the theme helped. Funny story around hair loss – my father, brother and both grandparents went close to bald at fairly young ages.  I just went grey.  I’m not sure who has it easier – I keep my hair pretty short because it becomes an unruly grey mop at the drop of a hat (sometimes my hat), so I’m forever visiting Kim for a trim.

Anyhoo – two sessions of solving waiting for my cues, so a slight notch up in difficulty, but a rather fun puzzle and a nifty way of getting to the theme, and best of all a Victory to George.  Woohoo Serpent!

Game over, 100% completion.

Feel free to tell me that even though I have an unruly grey mop I should shave most of it and get a combover, and see you next week when… oh, it’s Sabre, isn’t it?  When is my week off?

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