This would be my first blog for a puzzle by Radix, and I approached it with a certain amount of trepidation. Why? Well, his last Listener (3993, Argentum) had me stumped, with its tortuous Playfair, and his last EV (745, A1 Etc), had me equally stumped! Not a good batting average (if that’s a suitable comparison).
In this puzzle, each numbered clue, in addition to having a rogue letter that needed adding or removing, was really two clues side by side, only one of which was to be used. Seemed like a sort of Left and Right puzzle, except there was only one diagram. Luckily I decided to create two separate diagrams rather than try and squidge the various entries into the one grid. I think I’d have got suitably addled if I’d done that. So I had two diagrams, two pencils, two erasers, but only one Chambers and Bradford’s … note to self to buy another copy of each for a future such requirement. (ONLY JOKING!)
I solved both parts of 1ac and the first parts of 5ac and 10ac. I arbitrarily put ENGUARD in the left hand diagram (from now on called grid A, the other B), but time would tell whether I would get a conflict because it was in the wrong one. At this stage, I wasn’t even sure that the clues to be discarded would form a second complete grid, but it did seem likely, especially given the title. But where to put 10ac AHAB? It seemed logical at this point not to do a complete pass of all the clues, but to concentrate on the top left corners and work out from there. The second part of 2dn was ALEE (with the H of SHEEP the rogue letter), which meant AHAB was in the left diagram. I always mark the division in clues of this type as it makes the checking easier later on. In this case, I also marked whether the clue had an extra letter (+) or was missing one (−).
I must say that things moved along fairly quickly for a bit. I took a chance that 11ac PAROLEE would be in grid A since it crossed 7dn ALSO and meshed with 5ac. Getting B-1dn PORTHOS (Rio for trio) spurred on grid B, and 16ac HANDSELS all made it look a bit more promising. A-5dn was EPEIRA although I couldn’t make sense of ‘that clown’. It was only when I got APOGEE that I realised that it was referring to the clown (APE) used in the first part of the clue. In fact there were a number of clues that needed a lot of thought to understand, especially before the message in the clues was revealed. And some of those rogue letters were indeed devious little pests: long due for long dune; It turned up for I turned up; after 5 am for after 5 aim; and bias among for bis among. All in all, some of the later clues were quite a slog (in the nicest possible way), even the four-letter ones. And one of the disadvantages of not having a first pass through all the clues at the outset was that I came across clues after about three hours that I hadn’t seen up to that point. Oh well, I was gradually getting there.
I suppose I was three-quarters of the way through the grids when I decided to look around the grid for anything hidden. Given the Double Cross title, the diagonals seemed a good place to start, and there was THESEANSW… in the main NW-SE diagonal of grid A. So that gave me THESE ANSWERS followed by SHOULD BE USED running SW-NE. Et voila, in grid B we had PLEASE IGNORE and THESE ANSWERS similarly placed. This did help with the last few entries, and the cautionary message was fully revealed as YOU MAY NEED TO CONSIDER THE OTHER CLUES INSTEAD. The only thought I had at this point was: How do you know what clues I had considered? This led to the horrible doubt that it all might be a bluff, after all the title was Double Cross! In the end I decided that that would be too sneaky, even for Radix.
An excellent puzzle from Radix, and hopefully a successful one for me, although I think Radix has beaten me more times than I him.