Friday evening – best night of the week. Work’s finished for a couple of days, and we get a new Listener to look at. On the plus side, I’m home pretty early (6 o’clock). On the minus side, I’m still trying to shake off a bad cold and cough I’ve had for over a week, and my brain is working at a fraction of its normal power (no jokes, please).
So what do we have? A new setter, which is good. Strange pseudonym, though – Ilver. I’m going to have to make a conscious effort not to type Elver throughout this blog (which, co-incidentally, I’ve been asked to write as one of the normal bloggers tested this for Ilver). Anyway, enough wriggling about, and let’s read the preamble.
Even before reading the preamble, whilst waiting for the printer to do its stuff, I can solve a few clues. 1ac is a simple anagram – I SHUT A* = HIATUS, and 11ac must be ALBUMS (A + L + BUMS). I can do 16ac straight off, as I recently clued YAPP myself for a puzzle, and 20ac is obviously TART< in SA. Hmm. I’m not sure how much of a challenge this is going to be, as the clues seem pretty straightforward so far. Right, print off complete, let’s read the preamble.
Well the obvious thing to do is to try to find the 8 DLM+1 down clues. I can see one straight away – “Kara’s large vessels” at 21dn must be ARKS + A. Hmm. I think the key thing here is the wording of the preamble. Normally DLM clues CONTAIN a definition of the answer and a jumble of the answer. Here the DLM clues CONSIST of a definition of the answer and a jumble of the answer + one letter. Whilst it’s good to see DLM clues, I fear that these will be too easy to spot. And yes, some of them have to be the shorter clues, so rather leap out of the page.
40 must be ASCI, 43 REA, 32 ENTERA, 30 TRAINER, 35 SORDA and 10 UNESCO. Not sure about the other one. So what does that give us as the extra letters? LAIINGT. So the hint is a jumble of LAIINGT?. Let’s have a scan at the other clues and see if we can find the 8th DLM clue. Ah yes, there it is – A TERRE at 4dn. So it’s a jumble of LAIINGTP. Ummm… PIG LATIN? That certainly fits. Let’s remind of ourselves of the definition of PIG LATIN in Chambers… okay, so move the initial consonant to the end, and add ‘AY’. So PIG = IGPAY. Fair enough. I’m pretty certain that PIG LATIN is what’s going on here, as having slotted in the 12 or 13 answers I already have, I can see that the penultimate letter of four of the perimeter entries is A, which fits in with a pattern of *A?. Surely it’s all downhill from here! I do hope that I’m wrong about the theme, though – otherwise I’ve cracked it in about ten minutes, which surely can’t have been what the setter had in mind.
Anyway, that’s a good time for a break. Time for a lemsip and to see if can open the cough mixture. No, that’s not because I’m too feeble to do so (although I suppose I can’t entirely rule that out). You’d have thought I’d have learned the lesson when it comes to buying Sainsburys own brand cough mixture by now. Every year I buy it (as it’s about a third of the price of other branded names), and every year I get about a third of the way down the bottle, and then find that it’s impossible to open the childproof cap anymore. I don’t know if this is a design fault or a Chris fault, but suspect the former, as Emma also can’t open this bottle. I’m sure there’s some Benylin somewhere. Quick break whilst I go to find it.
Hmm, that took longer than I planned. I made the mistake of going upstairs to change, sitting on the bed to do so, and somehow fell asleep. I can’t be well. So back on with the puzzle. Let’s concentrate on a corner or two, and try to work out the Pig Latin entries.
Right, twenty minutes later, and I’m obviously missing something, or Pig Latin isn’t actually the theme. For the two entries in the bottom row, I have ?I?TAY and ?ADLA?. Taking the latter of these, the entry could be either the pig latin form of LEAD or LOAD. But which? That seems like a massive ambiguity. And the left hand entry could be anything with the pattern T?A?, of which there are MANY possibilities. And we also have ?RDHA?, which could be H?RD…. Oh, hats off to Ilver for that one. That must be HERD, the LEAD/LOAD one must be LEAD, as both of those are words that can follow PIG – PIGHERD and PIGLEAD. Which makes the other one PIGTAIL. I like that idea a lot. Well done to Ilver! Should be plain sailing from now on….
As indeed it is. Another twenty minutes and the grid is complete. There’s a handy looking PORC down the centre of the grid, and if I dust off my Latin, I can see that one changes ESSAY to USSAY, giving a pig latin form of SUS, and that reveals PORCUS to highlight. Lovely! Good stuff from Ilver, and a nice interpretation of the theme.
I do have a few moans, however. The unching in the puzzle is very, very generous to say the least. I know that the perimeter entries effectively add unches, but even treating those as unches, there are still many fully checked entries – 9ac, 15ac, 17ac, 41ac, 44ac, 47ac, 24dn, 27dn, 10dn, 28dn, 12dn, 21dn. That makes the whole fill very easy indeed. I also wasn’t a fan of the DLM clues, as they were just too easy to spot and solve, thus giving the theme away far too easily. But yes, I recognise that the Listener series does need easier puzzles as well as harder ones, so I’ll chalk this up as a good one for newcomers to the series.
And one minor clueing query… in the down clue for KIPP, is the final P really ‘on’ KIP? Surely ‘under’ would have been more accurate here?
So, a good puzzle, that I enjoyed. With a few more unches, and a less obvious clueing gimmick, it would have been very good. Hats off to Ilver though, for a nice idea. I particularly liked the Latin part of the endgame (SUS, PORCUS), and the linked nature of the Pig Latin entries. Very good stuff indeed. I look forward to the next Ilver!