Nod’s first Listener, which I think makes it the sixth puzzle this year by a debut setter. And I immediately warmed to Nod … a nice short preamble told us that extra letters would spell out some advice which must be followed.
A good start this week, getting 1ac [S]ARUM, 11ac HO[F]+HS, 12ac T(O)R(N) + [P]ACT and 13ac RORIC (choice with R [F]OR IC makes chore). Then a horribly long gap before RECIPROCALLY at 32ac. Five acrosses, followed fairly quickly by a paltry five downs! Nonetheless, they gave me a good start on the puzzle, and getting 10ac DESENSITISER (which on my first pass I hurriedly thought was desensitises but couldn’t see the wordplay), well that certainly helped.
There were some good clues, and the sneaky 15ac Ends of Italian French concept did briefly marry once (6) needed me to look up marry to find that it was an archaic word for ‘indeed’. Having completed the grid, there were three more clues that needed resolution: although 32ac, 12dn and 16dn were obviously ERELONG, TREVITHICK and DROLL respectively (and more on ‘respectively’ next week!), they needed a bit of thought before I was 100% happy with them:
|ERELONG||Anon companion left Duncan for good (7)
[F]ERE (companion) + L (left) + ON (Scottish for ‘for’) + G (good)
|TREVITHICK||Traction engine getting old replaced by current, stupid engineer (10)
TREVO[R] (the Traction Engine, á la Awdry) with I for O + THICK (stupid)
|DROLL||Very funny bones turn laterally (5)
DR (‘bones’ as in Dr McCoy from Star Trek) + [R]OLL (turn laterally)
So now for the advice: Shift first letters of the clues for more advice. Oh-oh, this looks like it could turn into Loda’s ‘In Clue Order, On and On’ with its endless messages! I listed the first half dozen letters of the clues and shifted them backwards and forwards half a dozen spaces.
Nothing looked promising for a second message. Perhaps the letters would alternate between going forwards and backwards or would go forward 1, 2, 3, etc in turn. I used a spreadsheet with some simple algorithms built in. It took about half an hour. And of course, without doing anything fancy I found that, if I had persevered, the second message would have quickly revealed itself with a letter shift of 13: Shift a row by thirteen then highlight in purple.
It seemed very likely that it would be either row 6 or 7 that would be the row in question since they had most unchecked letters. I worked through them in order and it was indeed row 6 that gave:
I also checked rows 7-12 in case another message was to be found saying IGNORE ROW SIX, but there was nothing. The Caesar Cipher is probably the simplest of all ciphers, whereby each letter is encoded by that which is a given number of letters forwards or backwards.
So, a nicely entertaining puzzle from Nod. Although it had the same theme as a recent Samuel puzzle in Magpie, that did not detract from its enjoyment. Who said that a theme can only be used once? Not me.