11 Mar, 2011 @ 09:01
4 mins read

Never a cross word

“The Muse of epic poetry?” The answer’s my pen-name.

“A Spanish drink of red wine, fruit, lemonade, etc?” My favourite beverage.

“Small, social insects in colonies?” My surname.

“Accomplished or supremely skilled?” Say no more.

I’m sure this week’s crossword was compiled by one of my friends or relatives.


Every Tuesday since living in South Africa, I buy the International Express newspaper and settle down at a favourite restaurant (with a glass of red wine and a pizza) to tackle the crosswords. I always start with the General Knowledge one … before the wine kicks in and muddles the memory. I can usually solve 70% of the clues without resorting to ‘Google’ to search for the answer to “A carnivorous marine gastropod mollusc of coastal waters and intertidal regions, with a strong snail-like shell.”

This week’s crossword clues and answers had so much meaning to me that I decided the compiler must be someone I know. For example:

1 DOWN: In Greek myths, the Muse of epic poetry (8).

There are nine Muses; I know the name of only one of them … Calliope. That’s the pen-name I use when writing articles for The Olive Press newspaper in southern Spain.

2 DOWN: A Spanish drink of red wine, sugar, spices, fruit and soda water or lemonade (7).

Wow! Sangria; it’s my favourite … and I have several different recipes for it, including one given to me by Sr. Ramirez (a jeweller in Ronda) that includes whisky.

12 ACROSS: The administrative capital of South Africa (8)

If I didn’t live here, I wouldn’t know the answer is Pretoria (or Tshwane, as it’s recently been re-named). Geography is not my strong suit. (If I ever go on “The Weakest Link”, and Anne Robinson asks, “In Geography …” I would be saying “bank” before I even heard the question).

35 ACROSS: — gland, an endocrine gland consisting in man of two lobes near the base of the neck (7).

A reminder to stock up on Eltroxin, a prescription that Kevin has to take every day because he has an inactive thyroid.

22 ACROSS: Small social insects typically living in highly organised colonies (4).

The answer is surely ants, which also happens to be the archaic meaning of our surname – Emmett.

29 DOWN: A hinged, door-like cover, often louvered, for closing off a window (7).

Every window in our new house in Spain now has a pull-down shutter. Having these made and installed was perhaps the least inexpensive addition at La Otra Casa – and one of the best investments. I’m looking forward to not waking up at 5:00 a.m. because daybreak is illuminating the bedroom. I have wonderful memories of holidays at Casa Alta when I would wake up in pitch darkness and grope my way to the bathroom … to find that it was after 9:00 a.m., and I had had about 10 hours’ sleep.

21 and 26 ACROSS: New Zealand coloratura soprano born in 1944 (4,2,6).

I remembered that Kiri Te Kanawa sang at the royal wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981. The day before that wedding, my mother, sisters and I walked the route Diana would be taking to St. Paul’s Cathedral. And I’ve already got my ‘plane ticket to go to the UK at the end of April, when my sisters and I will walk the route that William and Kate will take to Westminster Abbey.

11 DOWN: The London site of St. Paul’s Cathedral (7,4).

Well, what a coincidence. I was walking up Ludgate Hill in July 1981.

14 ACROSS: Loose-fitting nightclothes comprising a jacket or top and trousers (7).

I have just donated to the charity shop at least five sets of pyjamas. (Well, they weren’t actually pyjamas, more like ridiculous lacy lingerie that covered almost nothing and certainly didn’t keep me warm).

A favourite joke: “Husband to wife: Oh, no! Not another cast-iron nightgown. What happened to the sexy, slinky things you wore when we first got married?” Wife to husband: “I didn’t get cold then.”

23 ACROSS: The publication of defamatory matter in permanent form (5).

I could be facing a suit for libel if I write to the local newspapers with my feelings about the local telephone and TV licence companies. As non-permanent-residents of South Africa, we had to pay a 70-euro deposit to get a telephone line. We want the line cut off at the end of March, when we leave. It will then take a minimum of three to four months to get our deposit back. We won’t have a bank account here at that time … so I’m now trying to make 70 Euros’ worth of telephone calls in the next three weeks. (Anyone in South America want me to give them a ring?)

Regarding the TV licence (renewable annually for about 25 Euros), ours expired on February 28th. On March 4th I received an SMS: “Please pay R250.00 by 06/03/11 or penalties will be levied.” I called SABC to say that I was leaving the country and would not be renewing the licence. I was asked to send them a copy of my (one-way) ticket to prove that I am leaving the country, plus a copy of the inventory, to prove I was taking the TV with us and not selling it on to someone who would then watch it licence-free. (You cannot buy a TV in the shops here unless you first have a TV licence). The bureaucracy/red tape I’ve faced as I’ve tried to get services and direct-debit orders discontinued has been unbelievable.

24 DOWN: A strong and sturdy person; a robust supporter (8).

I am definitely being a stalwart in this moving process. The packers started today, and have made several requests for ‘fillers’ for underneath the seats of the dining chairs. I’ve been rummaging through cupboards to find towels, sheets, cushions, curtains … anything pliable that will stuff under the chair seats. I’m not sure what we’ll be using to dry off after our morning shower tomorrow: toilet paper? (Or did they already pack that, too?)

And, finally, 1 ACROSS: Accomplished or supremely skilled (10).

Although I couldn’t answer four of the crossword clues (I haven’t yet had chance, for example, to ‘Google’ “The conjectured author of the 14th-century poem Piers Plowman”), I believe I am a consummate general knowledge crossword player.

The cryptic crossword, however, is another matter entirely.

Carolyn Emmett

Am an inveterate traveller. Born in the UK and spent teen years in Stratford-upon-Avon. Emigrated to Canada in 1976. Married 33 years, with three children and two grandchildren. Have lived in Jakarta, Indonesia (1997-2001), Botswana (2001-2003) and Johannesburg, South Africa (2003-2010). I'm a perfectionist, very organised, typical Aries; as Purple Ronnie would say: I would be good at being Queen of the World because: I love bossing everyone around and telling them what to do; I am great at making clever plans; I am great fun to be with 'cos I love action and adventure, and I always think up crazy ideas.

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