Home once again, this time for a lengthier break. I was on the train again, but unlike in Jago’s Tour de France puzzle, No 4301, there was to be no speedy solve scribbled on a gap in Friday’s copy of The Times. Instead, I opened up this week’s Listener, saw the name Lavatch, and realised I’d probably need rather more than a quarter of an hour…
I’ve now seen four of Lavatch’s puzzles, including three Listeners. Of those I suppose you could say that I probably have been defeated by two — I may have submitted an entry for his Christmas snowflake puzzle, In Season (No 4221), but I needed rather a lot of help for that one. And his Carte Blanche (No 4252) was also far too tough for me. On the other hand they were both utterly brilliant conceptions, so that while I knew I was in for a tough challenge I was looking forward to it. So this was my chance to take the score to 2-2.
Not that Lavatch was going to give up his lead without a fight, it seemed! At least the overlong entries were clearly signposted, but the clashes weren’t and indeed for a long time I had a clash in the wrong place. At last opening the puzzle on Friday night, two hours later (on and off), I’d managed to nail down most of the top-right, but not much else. It took another couple of hours in the morning to get to a 90% full grid, but with that mistaken clash in 11ac (I had Redescribe, don’t ask me why…) I still couldn’t see what was going on. It was the bottom-left corner’s fault…
Then it all clicked. That weird-looking clue at 46ac looked like it needed a J and a K somewhere, but then JACEK isn’t a character in The Odyssey — and good thing too, since I would never have been able to fit anything at 27dn. But finally I found MUJIK (mu + I in JoKe), and the various letter pairs all made sense. “….ON TRAFF?CJAM” was emerging, and of course gave TRAFFIC JAM in somewhere (probably London). And the other letters give something-or-other SOLUTION.
So armed, I could repair the damage of some lazy work at the top of the grid to put REDECORATE at 11ac (Not parsed as Eco in Dr. + something, but as Red + Rate (drive by scolding) about Eco), and the rest followed rather quickly. Oh, and 27dn, that had confused me for ages, turned out to be DISHELMS from Dish + Elm + S… what a deceptive surface!
And at last, all that was left was to resolve all those clashes. But indeed that was rather quick: the “solution” to the “London traffic jam” problem was of course the Congestion Charge, introduced by that universally popular politician Mr. Ken Rivingshone.
And there’s the equaliser! I hope… some super clues, some that are perhaps just a little too tough, quite a few that only made sense once I had the answer by other means. But oh well, another fine puzzle by Lavatch and I’m looking forward to the next one.