Listener 4193: Taste and Fancy by Radix
Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 June 2012
This week, time for one of the Listener stalwarts. Hold on, that’s not really the word I’m looking for … no, can’t think of it yet, but someone who certainly knows his stuff, and someone who knows what’s fair. A read through of the preamble, however, made me think he’d lost the plot! More misprints floating around than was good for anyone of a less than robust disposition.
Still, I knew that the word of the week was ‘fair’. Oh, and devious is probably a good word for Radix as well, and the clues certainly bore this out. I don’t think there’s any scientific way to approach this sort of puzzle. It probably relies on a words just popping into your head from time to time, and then being able to fit bits of wordplay into a definition, or vice versa. I know that it is true every week that no two people will solve the clues in exactly the same order, but here I suspected that there would be no pattern as to which clues were the first two or three to be solved.
The first clue for me was 24ac Nice woozy Mogadon which gave GOODMAN. That was all the acrosses I got to start with! 1dn came next Fancy us with prat of royal horse leading to STUART. It was guessing that ‘horse’ would become ‘house’ that enabled the clue to be solved. Unfortunately, there were precious few obvious misprints in the downs. 5dn Claret’s no hybrid of wine, for example, was obviously an anagram of clarets no with a misprint, and a misprinted wine was the definition, but there were probably a couple of dozen possibilities. The only thing to do with a clue like that is to leave it till later.
8dn Mothy hat and cardi I trashed was a lovely clue, fairly easy with Mrs B’s help, but what a lovely surface reading. This was countered by 14dn Concerned with “jell” problem, Delia’s befuddled by bit of alcohol where I assumed that Delia would be a misprint for delta and bit of alcohol would be A. It turned out to be AMYL (an alcohol radical) + DOLIA*.
And so, over two sessions stretching just over four hours, I completed the grid. The correct letters in the across clues spelt out William Shakespeare (not William Makepeace Thackeray who I juggled with at one point). The down clues then spelt out some Shakespearean words: turbond, galowses, pajock, sneak-cup, handsaw.
It had also become obvious at some point during this process that the misprints in the across entries all occurred in unchecked cells! Our job was now to determine which of one or more alternatives needed to be used to spell out what statement the person could have made. Of course those last three words were the clue, but I didn’t realise it until about an hour later.
I made a list of the alternative letters that were obvious, and got a few more, like SCHWA that were less so. My handwritten list is reporduced on the left, and you can probably see why, after half an hour of staring and fiddling, I got nowhere. One of the rules in my Listener handbook is to make a neat reproduction of something if my handwriting doesn’t reveal the secret. I keyed the alternatives that I had identified (plus a few more from other sources!) into Word, and came up with the following:
Twenty minutes later, and, with the last word popping into my head first, I had I am a weakish speller. A bit strained, or even tortuous, but I suppose Shakespeare could have said it. I wrote the phrase below the diagram, but before I’d finished, all became clear: William Shakespeare was an anagram … or rather the other way round. Superb!
An excellent puzzle from one of the masters … ah, yes, that’s the word I was looking for. Fair in every respect, and tough in just as many. A word of thanks to him for over five hours of entertainment.