4028: Mr E’s Height (or Tee for Fore)
Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 April 2009
It’s bad enough when you fear the worst, faced on a Saturday or Sunday with a Sabre or Kea puzzle that you just know is going to be the end of an all-correct run. But when Mr E pretty much seems to be telling you that you aren’t going to solve this one, it’s justification for a major panic attack, especially when you’ve (again!) been unable to start solving until the Thursday!
Well, at least it’s not a carte blanche, nor are jumbles involved, and the dreaded word Playfair is nowhere to be seen. However, it seems that there are a whole load of clashes betwen across and down answers, and numbers will be required in 36 or more cells at the end. And ‘one clue answer is defined in the context of the puzzle’ … eh!? The only hope is to solve the clues and all will probably make sense.
A quick scan through the clues confirmed my worst fears: precisely 8 solved! Luckily these included TORTILE, SUPERDUPER (it just came to me) and LOOPLINE (John seems to have made a few appearances elsewhere recently), all acrosses in the bottom right. STULL was then easy, given I had the middle three letters, and 32D was obviously BERET. I needed Google for this one, initially assuming Ernie’s friend was Eric, never having heard of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street (waaaaaay after my time).
And there I stuck, with only occasional short jerky movements forward. It didn’t help that ‘Aristophanes’s ending’ lodged in my head as E for ages, and ‘Break pole with it’ cries out PIOLET, unless you see the (5) first and an anagram doesn’t even occur to you until you reread the preamble and are reminded of the two cells where the parentheses for contributing clues don’t match the lengths of the answers.
The top half of the grid, not surprisingly, took forever. All those clashes in one area of the diagram. I should have got INCUBATING much sooner, but faced with ??CT?DPDT?, nothing came to mind (yes, I know, ‘brooding’; but that synapse had stopped firing). I assumed that at least some of the crossing letters would be correct, but in the end the top right corner pretty much needed cold-solving. It was only when I realised my Aristophanes mistake that I got TRIPY and then INCUBATING. The letter differences of the clashes indicated that row 3 might contain 123456789, and with a few other clashes positioned, it seemed they formed a 9×4 block.
I finally got all the numbers and looked for a significant 3×3 region, initially in the numbers themselves. Then YOU, which I’d noticed earlier but not attached any significance to, drew my attention again, and I saw PAR above it and my tormentor MR E underneath. It seems a game of golf has been played. A look at the scores shows that it will be all square at 64-64, since Mr E thinks my performance on the green is rubbish. However, my BALL finds the HOLE with my final PUTT, and I walk off with an 8 not a 9. An EIGHT!! And 63 for 9 holes! I wouldn’t have liked to be playing behind these two hackers (sorry, Mr E, but why such huge scores?).
Although I was pretty sure I’d finished by Saturday evening, I hung on to my entry until Tuesday as I hadn’t resolved everything to my satisfaction. I assume that 33A had the definition in the context of the puzzle: ‘Before final play, what you lie next to’: SEVEN being your score on the final hole before the final putt. ‘HOW do you lie’ is the normal expression. I wouldn’t have minded, but I totally failed to rationalise 27D, and wondered if this had the sneaky definition. I vaguely thought it might be two cryptic meanings, one referring to the stack of three numbers 36-64-64 in the right-hand column before the final adjustment, but was hardly convinced. And has anyone deciphered the title?
In the end, I sent in my entry with some nagging doubts.
All in all, this puzzle was a real toughie for me. It probably took 7 or 8 hours over a couple of long sessions plus a few brief visits … time enough for a couple of rounds of golf (or if you’re Mr E, one round).