Oh, my giddy aunt! What a lot there is going on in the preamble. Misprints in every clue — half in the definition part and half in the wordplay — clues needing to be amended before solving, and 16 clashes — yes, 16! And all this from a new setter who has, as far as I can see, only one Inquisitor to his name back in January. At least we were told that definition misprints were to be entered in one direction in the grid (inwards or outwards) with wordplay misprints entered the other way.
What’s more, the puzzle appeared while I was on holiday in Portugal, and it wasn’t until a week after publication that I could collect it from a friend. I hoped that the puzzle itself wasn’t as complicated as the preamble. So, here I was on the Monday before the Thursday deadline with a blank circular grid in front of me — yikes!
My first task was to determine the direction for the two misprint types. That would mean finding one of each type next to each other, so a quick scan of the clues was in order. 5 Sandra, spy, securing European society platforms in Cape Town seemed to be shouting out STOEPS, although how ‘Sandra, spy’ could lead to STOP was a mystery and so was probably one of the clues needing adjustment.
6 was STREST (I think), and 9 Spawn — Neil (radiant) admits they made it being fearful of prior generations seemed to be EFFRAYED, even though it had too many letters. Perhaps it was EFFRAY, with Neil being redundant in the clue; still not quite right though. While I was pondering this difficulty, it struck me that there were an awful lot of first names in the clues. So far, three were affected, and I could see that there were three more names just in 10 — Lois, Nico and Norma.
It looked like they might be superfluous, although dropping Sandra from 5 still didn’t help. I got a boost when I got 11 SUBMIT and 12 IAMBUS next to each other and with common letters BUS. It therefore seemed that clues with misprints in the definition were entered outwards, the others inwards. Some good news at last. [In hindsight, I was fortunate that these clues were two of only eight which were unaffected by clashes.]
I decided to have a quick foray into the ring clues. The preamble said that A–E needed to be entered jumbled, together with an extra letter given by the wordplay. Clues F and G, while still providing an extra letter in the wordplay, were entered normally. F passed me by, but G Tenant to come to pass around fish (8) looked as though it could be RESIDENT, but the wordplay didn’t back it up.
I scanned the remaining clues but didn’t get many, and some that I did get didn’t seem quite right. 21, for example, had Giggled support from Antony gets reward and looked like TEEHEED (too long) or maybe TEHEED (TEE too short)!
Coming round to the top of the grid again, 37 IBICES, 40 TOUGHS, 39 TOUPEE, 1 TOP-HAT and 2 INKPOT were slotted into place. G now resolved itself as OCCUPIER (OCCUR around PI[k]E). Moreover, along the top of the grid, I now had ··IDESTIDE·· in the outer ring together with a few other Ts, Is, etc. What’s more, they all fitted together to form TIDES eight times around the outer ring. Excellent! Having these letters certainly helped with the rest of the solving process because the clues were really tough with some devilish misprints. 39 was probably my favourite: Uranium concealer before uranium leak defined TOUPEE with ‘cranium concealer’!
After about three hours, the grid was just over half full with the western quadrant almost completely empty. Did I mention that I was running up against the deadline? It finally dawned on me that there were too many clues where the answer just didn’t seem to fit the clue 100% — and they were all clues with names in them! On a whim, I tried anagrams of SANDRA and was rewarded with NASARD. I thought that was a beak, but a check with Chambers showed it to be ‘an organ mutation stop’. So at last I had my STOP in clue 5.
The names didn’t get dropped from clues but had to be anagrammed. EFFRAYED at 9 was EFFRAY with RAY being defined by ‘line (radiant)’ and 10, with Lois, Nico and Norma, became In Yell they
hate have soil for fuelling fight about coin for Roman was YARFAS — FRAY< + AS. Even ‘Tabitha of Madison’ made more sense as ‘Habitat of daimons’ — EREBUS, and the TE of TEHEED sounded like TEE spoken over the Tannoy!
Some time later — this was a much longer than average solve — and the grid was complete, the misprint corrections giving “Look at me. I’ve never changed. It’s like those sticks of rock:“. It needed Google to reveal that it was from Brighton Rock by Graham Greene — again (after The Third Man five weeks ago) which starred Richard Attenborough who died six weeks ago! Graham Greene was born on 2 October 1904.
These words from Ida were in reply to Rose’s comment: “People change”. This explains why the names in the clues had to be anagrammed, except Ida in 30 — she “never changed”. She goes on to say “bite it all the way down, you’ll still read Brighton. That’s human nature.” It didn’t take long to resolve the clashes in the grid, all in ring 3, to give BRIGHTON twice. Finally, we had to “highlight 40 cells as cryptically suggested by the moniker of the character under discussion”. This was Pinkie (Brown), the character played by Attenborough, so it looked likely we were going to shade the outer ring (40 cells) pink — or brown!
Of course, a bit more thought, and it wasn’t TIDES that appeared in the outer grid eight times, but ID EST (ie), so we had to shade them pink. I copied my rough copy onto my entry grid and highlighted the outer ring. Sadly, unlike my animation, I didn’t write the two Brightons in red/pink but in black, along with everything else.
[As I write this blog, I wonder if writing Brighton in red was a requirement that I overlooked. A bit more googling, and I found some rock which had the words BLACKPOOL ROCK in black, so I'm guessing I'll be OK, albeit not very thematic. After all, we could have been told to erase four rings completely in order to more accurately reflect the majority of the rock which is white.]
And so a really tough puzzle hit the post box. As a Listener newbie, this was a tour de force by ‘Eck with some fantastic clues and tons of thematic material. I look forward in anticipation to more puzzles from first-time setters, perhaps by Gum, by Jove or by Trial and Error.