Firstly, let me say that I have never met Charybdis, so I don’t know if he’s thin, fat or indifferent! Whichever, he is one of my favourite setters, and I enjoyed blogging his Enigmatic Variations puzzle on fifteensquared which appeared the same weekend as this Listener puzzle. Following comments against that EV puzzle, I did a little analysis of how often setters have their puzzles published in the three main series (Listener, Inquisitor and EV) very close to each other. I repeat my results here: There have been 5 occasions where a setter has had two puzzles on the same day, a further 7 where they have had 2 puzzles on the same weekend, and 25 more where they have had puzzles on consecutive weekends. I believe this is the first time a setter [ie Charybdis] has had a puzzle in all three publications over consecutive weekends (unless anyone knows differently). Loda leads the field for stats 2 and 3.
The following day I had to amend the 7 on the same weekend to 8 to reflect Raich’s puzzles in the Listener and EV. Anyway, I digress …
… and I do so again here! In my blog for Brimstone’s numerical Listener 4036 with its baseball theme, I confessed to not having checked my Listener solutions since the previous numerical, 4023 Pentominoes. I have often experienced the horror of finding that I’ve made a stupid mistake in a puzzle and my all-correct run has come to an end. This leads to having to start the long climb up the annual-stats hill all over again. The worst was when I found I’d made a mistake in the simplest of puzzles in February last year, so another ten months before I can even start the climb. (As it was, last year was a misery for me and I ended up outside the ten-correct and better.)
Having said all that, I have decided that I am going to start checking my outstanding Listener solutions, and, because I’m a masochist, I’m going to drag it out for longer than I need to, and just check one a day until I’ve caught up. So here is my result of Listener 4024: An Additional Symmetry by Waterloo. This is the one where you had to enter clue numbers correctly oriented in their squares and draw in the bars, ample opportunity for a stupid error. A few palpitations as I checked it, and according to my copy, all I can say is that I think I got it right. However, it is more than possible that I made a transcription error when I filled in the grid I submitted. I really do sympathise with John Green having to check this one; I hope he got some help.
So enough digression, back to this week’s blog on How to Put on a Little Weight, almost certainly to be more of a test than the EV puzzle, which I completed in about 45 minutes. Extra words in clues are usually good fun, and less of a struggle than extra or missing letters, and the middle letter(s) would reveal a quotation. Plus there are eight unclued entries. As has been my wont recently, I read through all the clues in order, doing the ones that didn’t take much time. This week only about a dozen fell into that category taking about 20 minutes, including a nice, albeit easy, clue starting ‘One of Elgar’s variations’ for REGAL. Another ten minutes and ten more clues. The bottom of the grid was taking shape. ‘Ruffian’s perturbing outrage …’ had TUAREG spring to mind before finishing the reading ‘… decidedly non-U’ to give TOERAG. Strange that five minutes later I did stumble across TUAREG, the Saharan nomad at 12dn.
The next stage of the puzzle proceeded fairly quickly, including TARTAR, with each RAT being reversed individually, and LOSSES (‘Unfortunately [advanced] sclerosis regularly taking two out of three fatalities’) where the ‘two out of three’ refers to the letters taken from ‘sclerosis’ (ScL, ErO, SiS) before being anagrammed.
Another half hour sees about two-thirds completed, and the unclued 49ac and 20dn appear to be BACARDI and WALNUT. Strange drink! The quotation seems to have ‘confers more happiness’ and ‘of a new star’, so no joy for me there. SKULL and ULLING are two of the last to be solved, and ALMONDS, TAFIA, CHERRY and PEACH, added to BACARDI and WALNUT, result in two lots of RUM, NUTS and FRUIT … sounds like a cake. The remaining two unclued entries give SAVARIN-BRILLAT, a French gourmet (I’d not heard of him), and the entry in Chambers under ‘savarin’ gives the yummy-sounding cake.
Finally, there is his quotation about the discovery of a new dish beating the discovery of a new star, which puts the French obsession with cuisine (sadly) in its place. OK, compared to the number of stars in the universe, there can only be a finite number of new dishes, but surely each star is a wonder of creation (non-religious, in my view) whereas a new dish, apart from being somewhat subjective, is hardly noteworthy, especially given the number of people living in poverty. (Sorry if I’ve started taking this blog too seriously!)
So food and astron… hold on, 39ac is ASTRONOMY and there’s that sneaky G in front of it to give GASTRONOMY. That G is the central one of five letters, that must be RIGEL, a star or ‘new discovery’ in the words of the quotation. It takes a few minutes more to find CHARGER, POORI, EWER and BOWL crossing RIgEL, and these dishes (‘new and happier’ discoveries) get highlighted.
As I write this blog, I am reminded that my final step was not finished, and I have a gut-wrenching half hour of trying to decide whether ‘each such discovery’ refers to the dishes or to the dishes and the star. I finally decide it must only relate to the dishes, and don’t highlight the G. In hindsight would highlighting the G of RIGEL in a different colour be marked wrong if the solution dictated that it was not to be highlighted. I shall be truly miffed if it’s wrong to leave it, and my gradual checking of previous entries will be a futile waste of time!!
So, an enjoyable puzzle from Charybdis, and a much tougher one than the EV, as one would expect. Plus a good identification of the g/astronomical possibility of the quotation, and nicely implemented, highlighting notwithstanding (unless I’ve got it wrong).