New Internationalist

Ether Street / The NI Crossword

Issue 323

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The story so far. Some anxious truth-seekers have made contact with a restless spirit called Nil who has promised to answer their questions about the meaning of life, the universe and Haile Selassie's socks.

So what do you want to know? Or shall I give you my usual spiel about the higher planes and the journey through the levels of consciousness? For some reason that always seems to go down well...

If we’ve had to pass a test to prove our intellectual ability why should you get away with your ‘usual spiel’?

Fair enough. So what’s it to be?

Start with the big one. What is the purpose of life?

Now you’ve got chutzpah, I’ll say that for you. You think you can just roll up, tickle my engine, ask a couple of questions and be immediately rewarded with what you call The Big One. Gautama Buddha had to wander around for years with barely a blanket on his back working his way slowly and painfully towards enlightenment. St Francis had to do the same and charm the birds off the trees to boot. Even Dan Quayle had to work hard to strip everything away and reach his current levels of simplicity. But you just pull out a bottle of South Australian chardonnay and think ‘shall we turn on the news or shall we clean the kitchen floor? Oh no, let’s just get Nil to tell us the meaning of it all.’

We thought you already offered us a trailer for this wisdom of the ages you were going to be peddling.

And so I did. But have a bit of patience. All will in the end be revealed. In the mean time, set your sights a little lower. You could ask me about Clark Gable, for example.

Why would we want to do that?

You might want to know how he’s getting on out here. Or Marilyn Monroe. Or Gina Lollobrigida.

She’s still alive.

And has designed a fountain pen in honour of UNICEF – you can’t beat me on Hollywood trivia. These are just examples.

These are just religious icons produced by the dream department of global capitalism to keep the Western masses’ minds off their misery.

Ah, we could have done with you in the Bolsheviks back in July 1917 when we still seemed a long way from power.

You took part in the Russian Revolution?

Of course. Lenin took the credit for a lot of my best ideas. I don’t begrudge it him, mind – he was, after all, before his time in so many ways. He’s been a blueprint for socialist leaders throughout the century – he turned his back on socialist economics and embraced capitalism with his New Economics Programme in 1921. You might say he had class.

Nil isn’t a scrambled version of Leon, by any chance?

No, unfortunately you won’t find me in any of the official textbooks: Trotsky may have been exiled and bumped off but I was the first person to be written out of history and airbrushed out of photos with a totalitarian sweep of the pen.

What about Stalin – did you know him?

Sure – boring guy with big eyebrows who never said anything, just did the shit work for us while we wittered on about changing the world. Next thing we knew, of course, the big eyebrows were staring down from every hoarding in town. There’s no personality cult worse than the cult of someone with no personality at all. Stalin just didn’t like my jokes – and that was the end of that life.

Next month: the ethereal tour takes you from ancient Hindu scripture to Bill Clinton’s murky insides in one fell swoop.

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The NI Crossword [image, unknown] No 43 by Axe

Crossword no.43

Cryptic
Across
 1    As gets interred by digger, she’s identified as from lands south-east of Asia (12)
 9    Ordering a train: it runs between US and Mexico (3,6)
10    Therapeutic ambience holds the answer for old African city (5)
11    Italian food German knight sent back at first (7)
12    Mid-west sort, this woman takes Noah off course (7)
13    International body, Asian-style, acting differently to a native American, perhaps (8-4)
17    Caftan thighs’ outlandish embroidery (6,6)
22    This country is worthless about Liege incessently ravaged (7)
24    Persia, once surrounded by quiet, bombs those minnows that try to bite! (7)
25    When about part of Provence, look out for old Turks... (5)
26    ...cutting through the Cevennes, from feast next to the lake (4,5)
27    A nirvana, not a frantic place in Madagascar (12)

Down
 1    Gold crest upon flecked argon and gold lighting in the sky (6)
 2    South Carolina river could be English, having character of the Mersey (6)
 3    Crashing roar over Pacific Island leads to another (9)
 4    President’s limousine? (7)
 5    Descendants of Muhammad press her if I allow them in! (7)
 6    A runner-up on British Airways gets this Caribbean island (5)
 7    So back come CIA circulating under Ulster and the Cypriot situation (7)
 8    Mark up hock for Americans before Europeans (7)
14    It’s in Central America where Auriga can be discerned properly (9)
15    African zone in the morning, initializing Burkina, Ifni and Niger... (7)
16    ...West Africa’s current: lug Haas all round (7)
18    A write-up for art gets result on eastern island (7)
19    Powers to command Ligurian city... (7)
20    ...also about international naming of Sakharov? (6)
21    New York fort and port where south-west and east garrisons begin to get encircled (6)
23    English ISBN invention confirms the author (5)

Quick
Across
 1    Antipodean to the northern hemisphere (12)
 9    River that forms much of the eastern part of the Mexico-US border (3,6)
10    Pre-Carthaginian African city: town in New York state where the first Woolworth’s store was opened in 1879 (5)
11    Rice-based Italian dish (7)
12    Citizen of a mid-west state in the US (7)
13    Not as a native (8-4)
17    Fancy embroidery on certain 1960s’ hippie clothing (6,6)
22    Western European country which became independent in 1839 (7)
24    Non-Portuguese spelling of voracious South American freshwater fishes (7)
25    Turks prominent in SE Europe between the 6th and 9th centuries AD (5)
26    Ravine cutting its way through the Cevennes in France’s Massif Central (4,5)
27    Capital of Madagascar (12)

Down
 1    Electrical light in the polar skies: dawn (6)
 2    Liverpudlian (6)
 3    Main island of the Cook Islands, capital Avarua (9)
 4    English city of the East Midlands: 16th President of the USA (1861-65) (7)
 5    Descendants of Muhammad through his daughter Fatima (7)
 6    Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela (5)
 7    Capital of Greek-held Cyprus (7)
 8    Tribespeople of the Nebraskan prairies (7)
14    Central American republic, independent in 1838 (9)
15    African of former Northern Rhodesia (7)
16    Cold ocean current off the Angolan-Namibian coast (7)
18    Indonesia’s largest, and the world’s sixth-largest, island (7)
19    Absolute sovereignties: Ligurian coastal town and river (7)
20    Russian male forename (6)
21    Former British fur trading post and fort, the easternmost port on the Great Lakes (6)
23    Norwegian dramatist, known for Peer Gynt and Hedda Gabler among other pieces (5)


Last month's solution

Solution to no.42

 

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