Enigmatic Variations 1469
It’s a Funny Old Game by Gaston
Hints and tips by The Numpties
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EV 1456, Cover Story, that had us recreating the Abbey Road zebra crossing with the four Beatles was by Gaston so he needs no introduction.
Preamble: The unclued left hand column is in charge of the game. Each of the first 14 across clues and the last 14 down clues contains a single letter misprint. Read in clue order, the correct letters from across clues give three elements of the game, each of which is thematically reproduced and positioned in the completed grid and must be highlighted by drawing lines through the relevant cells (28 in total, each item symmetrical); correct letters from down clues spell out a thematic phrase which brings the FUNNY OLD GAME to its conclusion. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended.
We took note that we had 13 cells in the left hand column to fill with who (or what) was in charge of a game that was ‘funny and old’. We also noted that twenty-eight clues would contain misprints somewhere in the clue (not just in the definition as is often the case).
Our tactic here was to tackle the 22 clues with no misprints first. That gave us a good partial fill but the real penny-drop moment came with the identifying of the one ‘in charge of the game’, at which point we were able to spot the ‘thematic phrase’ spelled out by the down clues – that really helped.
1a TV show with pedal exercises (6)
The solution is a word from a foreign origin and the clue is more difficult because of the misprint, but it was clear to us that that had to be in ‘show’ or ‘pedal’. Solving this clue is an invaluable help towards the name that will appear in the left hand column.
12a Odd gentlemen contemptuously reject South American politician (7)
We were not aware that this term was ‘contemptuous’. We have frequently encountered it in Shakespeare’s plays. There is a delightfully topical name of an American politician used here (not Biden or Trump).
17a Cats stare once at first (5)
‘Once’ indicates an obsolete word. It is good to remember in this clue, that the misprint can be in the definition, the wordplay or even in the indication of the device used in the clue.
19a It may help boldness to be randy in vehicle! (6)
A little bit of humour in a clue is always welcome, isn’t it? Ignorant of the solution, here, I would probably have clued it with some reference to ancient Rome – to Caesar’s murder.
30a Several cases of drowsy dames somehow gaining energy (6)
Gaston continues to provide very plausible surface readings. (Editors vary in their reaction to surface readings with some, at the Magpie, for example, saying “You would never hear that as an understandable statement!” and others, at the Listener, for example, looking for a more subtle wordplay, even if it gives a mildly wonky surface reading. At the EV, you experience only plausible statements that you might hear in a rather odd discussion at a pub, say.) Here, the wordplay leads us to a context that has nothing to do with sleepy ladies.
32a A worm destroyed tree (5)
Clever worm! (see above) but it’s that ‘destroyed’ that is the prompt.
38a Ox nearly swallows Australian dumpling (5)
See above, again but you need to completely disregard visions of some Ox in Canberra being offered a dumpling (yes, this SR is wonky!) and use a very obscure word for an Ox (nearly – not completely – Mrs Bradford‘s list includes him) and have him swallow the whole of Australia to get yet another obscure word for the dumpling.
Maybe a helpful hint to solvers here. When we meet such an unusual word in a crossword, we ask ourselves what prompted the compiler to put it in. There are compilers who seem to include difficulty for its own sake but Gaston isn’t one of those and we suspect that this area of the crossword and the unusual word at 1ac are there because of the theme.
44a Key change made at start of difficult puzzle perhaps for TV addict (7)
We’re only commenting here because using this term for a ‘difficult puzzle’ was new to us. However, all the letters except one of the required word are checked by crossing words.
3d Bird‘s end of song that is sounding majestic (9)
The word count tells you this is a long name for a bird (an unusual one). There are three parts to the wordplay, the third of which is suggesting a homophone.
5d Boast about special sheaves of wheat (5)
I’m from a farming background but didn’t know this heraldic term for sheaves of wheat.
8d A false tale about soldier being small and combative (6)
The soldier is one of those ‘crossword old chestnuts’ but he is surrounded by a rare word for a false tale.
23d Girl stops local chap – a creator of antibodies (9)
We are back to the clues that have misprints in them. We needed to remember that to make sense of what, otherwise, seemed to be a clue that was ‘the wrong way round’.
24d Great champ‘s detailed colour (5)
Only one word here could contain the misprint. Normally we find the word as part of a two-word term but Chambers justifies its use singly.
28d In York, catch one item protecting the dead in Lyon (4)
Yorkshire (my origin) is the source of many dialect words. I didn’t know this one for ‘catch’ (but, of course, Chambers and Mrs Bradford do).
35d Baron, natty type but heartless, creates Iron Age tower (5)
A solution will spring to mind but becareful. Gaston has used an alternative spelling of the word – not the one we normally use.
37d Quietly admit its tail is greenish blur in Scotland(4)
Chambers actually tells us that the Scottish word we need here is for the creature in question but Gaston has slightly ‘stretched’ the definition.
Although it was a very familiar theme, we needed to check on Wiki that we had correctly identified one of the elements of the game and, of course, we drew lines through the elements, as instructed – a different way of highlighting 28 cells. We are sure you will have enjoyed this funny old game.
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