Ploy! A sigh of relief as the Numpties are still toddler-minding in California as a new granddaughter comes into the world, and busy with toy trains, books, cars and so on. Ploy can be counted on to produce professional quality clues. Even the preamble is promising as there is no extra clue gimmick and no mention of jumbles, just a couple of formulae; ‘In across clues take the letter whose position corresponds to the answer’s first letter (A = 1st etc); these spell hints to four related words of the same length, forming an ordered group’.
‘In down clues’ we are told ‘note the position of the first word, if any, that has the same initial letter as the answer. The positions, when applied to the four words, form an introduction to a famous individual.’
We are always looking for new ways to convey messages, as a welcome break from those inevitable ‘misprints in the definition part of the clue’ and ‘extra letters in the wordplay’ and it looks as though Ploy has found one.
Still, we aren’t out of the woods yet. I didn’t really have any anxiety about renewal of Ploy’s membership of the Listener Tipsy Club as he does organise the trimestrial gatherings of London Listener Aficionados on the last Saturday of January, April, July and October each year, but I still scanned his clues for confirmation and didn’t need to read far. ‘Plead with hotel: bottled gin for a start! (6)’ (giving BEG + INN +GIN* = BEGINNING) – not a bad start followed by ‘Nip of Scotch, say, stateside associate upset (4)’ (giving PARD< I wonder how many solvers will fall into the trap of opting for DRAM rather than DRAP!).
After mixing his drinks, I am not surprised but rather shocked that Ploy produces a couple of indecent ladies: ‘One who is loved, stylish when undressed (4)’ (just a simple (c)LASS(y)), and ‘Topless blondes laundered woollen coats (6)’ – (b)LONDES anagrammed to LODENS. Now that was an intriguing anagram indicator.
No complaints at all about this masterly set of clues; the grid filled steadily in a couple of hours and, with no trouble, four words emerged: THUS SWINDLE CONCERNING PLOY. The down clues yielded 2431, 2342, 4231 and 1342. The Numpties are no longer the floundering beginner solvers we were when I began to Listen With Others blog half a century ago but oh my! the red herrings subsist. THUS = ERGO and if you reorganise that 2431,you get ROGE… so I desperately scoured the Internet for convincing sixteen-letter ROGERS.
It was not to be: of course we were looking at SO DO RE and ME (Ploy – that was the hint we needed wasn’t it!). I am not so good at reading music but married to a fairly accomplished Scots piper and he didn’t need to fiddle long with those notes before declaring, “It’s the Westminster chimes – of course it’s low SO!” So there we were. Our’individual’ was Big Ben and he obligingly appeared when I highlighted his letters.
I didn’t even need to go to Wikipedia to confirm that that was the name of the Great Bell in what is now called the Elizabeth Tower. All that was left was a moment’s reflection about the title; ‘Our Announcer’? I confess to being the number one critic of homonyms (naturally, being Yorkshire Dales born and having to tolerate the prissy southern renderings that bear no relation at all to the way we pronounce our language in God’s Own). However, it was impossible to fault this one; ‘Hour Announcer’ – even if the poor, cracked old thing is going to have an extended vacation in the near future.
What a pleasing puzzle! Accomplished clues, no silly gimmick, a coherent endgame with no frustrated grid-staring at the end – what more can a Listener solver desire? Many thanks to Ploy.