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Answers here. (.xls format)
Official King Cricket crossword compiler, Bert, writes…
I was in a bar recently when I was accosted by three burly toughs. “Oi,” they said. “Aren’t you a contributor to that King Cricket website?” I confirmed that I was. They sat threateningly around me. One of them adjusted his cravat.
“Listen chummy,” the especially nasty one said. “You’re going to do exactly what you’re told, and nobody will get hurt. We’ve been visiting that website from before the 2013 King Cricket Ashes and Priestly Vestments Summer Crossword, and have appreciated the occasional cruciverbalist respite from the usual dreary nonsense. But there’s been no crossword for several years now, and we are starting to get… restless. And when we get restless, well…”
He left it hanging menacingly. One of his friends told him to put it away.
“Well,” he continued. “Let’s just say this. We might get angry, and you wouldn’t like us when we’re angry. We want a crossword, and we want one that for no apparent reason has specific reference, a theme if you will, to a retired cricketer from a few years back.” And with that, he finished his Pinot Grigio and left, taking his oafish chums with him.
Now I’m not a man to give in to threats and violence. What follows therefore is a pure coincidence. It happens to be a crossword, one that has a specific reference to a retired cricketer from a few years back. But, and I cannot stress this enough, there IS an apparent reason for this, which is that I saw him on TV a couple of days ago. Ha, in your face ruffians!
Of course, I appreciate that not everybody does cryptic crosswords, and that therefore some of the conventions and terminology might be confusing to the point of indecipherability. That’s your problem. Just learn how to do them, for god’s sake. Then you too can peer condescendingly over the top of your newspaper at the hoi-polloi, confident in your self-appointed smugness, oblivious to everyone else’s disdain.
I will give you one bit of help, though. This crossword has a theme, which is the answer to 21 across. The references to 21 in the other clues relate to this answer. Therefore, getting this one first is probably a good idea. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a complicated clue. Just build it up in pieces. Take little parts of the clue, sometimes individual words, and see if they can form part of an answer. Look for words like “around”, “after” and “backwards” as instructions for where and how to put the answer-pieces. When you have guessed at a possible answer, see if you can fit the rest of the clue to it (this is how most cryptic clues are solved, with a guess first). And remember, words in English often have several meanings, and the setter (me) goes to great lengths to hide the one that is relevant (e.g. flower often means river).
And one other piece of “assistance” – 1, 7a, 4, 34, 33, 35, 7d, 21, 9, 2, 29, 27.