TH was in Brisbane, RC is coughing up a lung in Beijing and I wasn’t working, so for the first time in a long time, I did the DA on the day of its release.
The fun started after my trip to the St Kilda Public Library when a hungry tummy directed me to the newly-established Dweezil, a nearby cafe that I’m supposing is a Cafe Zappa in South Melbourne offshoot. And it turned out to be quite an appropriate choice because the lady running the show happened to be a DA fan too! The Aretha on the stereo and the signed set list on the wall from Dweezil’s show, Zappa plays Zappa, were also most welcome.
Things started off slowly and perplexingly. The first cab off the rank was pretty easy:
31 across: Record subsequent rookie in the lane (1-6)
Here, record = lp, subsequent = later and record subsequent = l-plater = rookie in the lane.
What made things perplexing, though, was my inability to explain why 18 down and 30 across were what I thought they were. A text message from TH in Brisbane confirmed the same impression: they must be right, but as to why, well…
I only got a few more completed before heading home and finding myself dipping back into the cryptic periodically. I had to agree with Tom that, indeed, this one was a biatch, but I plugged away and got myself acquainted with a new expression I had never heard:
11 across: Assist in wrangling crafty chicken (6-3)
Only the help of cross clues convinced me that assist = aid so that assist in wrangling crafty = fraidy cat = chicken. And around about the time of solving that one, the top-right corner tumbled like a set of dominoes with the solution to:
6 down: Was a slug burnt minus head? (5)
Burnt = blazed and burnt minus head = lazed = was a slug. With that and the top-right corner sorted, I was beginning to feel pretty damn good about myself when I noted that only two clues remained:
24 down: Nerve required in the trenches? (5)
I had no idea what this one was, and the only way I solved it was by systematically going through the available possibilities given the cross clues. I had f_o_t, so I started with flo_t words before giving foo_t a go. With nothing forthcoming, I settled on the more fruitful fro_t combination, and a cry of “bingo!” was heard throughout the town as I stumbled upon front.
The other ball-breaker was:
13 across: Ulysses item grows (6)
I figured Ulysses referred to Ulysses S. Grant, so that Ulysses = grant = allows, which was already drawing a long bow for the drawing of an even mightier long bow to get allows = item grows. I wasn’t at all confident in the answer, but given the cross clues were good for it and I couldn’t think of anything else, I put it in. Thinking that maybe, just maybe, for a third week in a row DA would be defeated, I flicked over to the answers online and was horrified to find the answer to be blooms; Ulysses referred to the book, item referred to a couple and Blooms the couple in that book.
TH was thwarted in his attempt at DA glory by exactly the same two clues that caused me the most strife, although he did not bother with the rather undignified method of solving 24 down that I employed, nor did he imagine some tenuous justification for an answer to 13 across.
With that, though, a difficult DA was done, even if not entirely successfully, nor gracefully.