Enigmatic Variations 1469
It’s a Funny Old Game by Gaston
In Alice in Wonderland, the QUEEN OF HEARTS plays croquet. Corrected across misprints give MALLET, BALL, HOOP, represented by FLAMINGO, HEDGEHOG, PLAYING CARDS; corrected down misprints give OFF WITH HIS HEAD
I’m not sure Lewis Carroll would have got away with his croquet episode nowadays. The Animal Rights brigade would be up in arms about the mistreatment of flamingos – the Queen of Hearts certainly seems to be squeezing this one’s delicate legs (and perhaps other parts of its anatomy) in a very painful way, and what will become of its head when it comes into contact with the very prickly hedgehog doesn’t bear thinking about.
An apology, though. The 14 correct letters in the Across Clues spell out MALLET, BALL and HOOP (just one hoop) while the 28 cells to be highlighted are FLAMINGO, HEDGEHOG and PLAYING CARDS (plural). In my defence, in some pictures the hoops are made up of three cards, two vertical and one horizontal.
Also, it would have been possible to highlight the ‘n’ in MERINO rather than the ‘n’ in SUNGOD and perhaps create a more obvious mallet, but Steve suggested we could get over that by insisting on symmetry. I hope neither of these detracted from your enjoyment of the puzzle.
Once I had the idea for the theme, the bottom five rows became quite a challenge and, in turn, this impacted on the rest of the grid. I was a little nervous about the number of 3 and 4 letter entries that became necessary and was pleased that I managed to come up with the 13 letter A HARD ROW TO HOE which, together with QUEEN OF HEARTS and BUSINESS CARDS, helped keep me comfortably the right side of the required 5.5 average length. I was rather chuffed with the clue, too, though I suspect the easy anagram was a useful starting point for many solvers.
I enjoy the challenge of deliberate misprints in clues, trying to make the surface reading appear authentic. The very last clue of all was the most obviously contrived (TOM for DOM, giving ALP), but I rather liked the ‘DROWSY (for DROPSY) DAMES’ and ‘BLACK SOCKS’ (for LOCKS). I hope these added to the fun of the puzzle.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.