Two Little Ducks by Ben Trovato
Posted by shirleycurran on 6 July 2012
Ben Trovato indeed – a sort of dialect Italian version of ‘well found’. I wonder who he really is and whether this really is his first Listener. With the usual trepidation, we began our solve and words came very quickly. The down clues seemed the obvious way in and DAYGIRL, STAND, ASMEAR, HEARETH, HOOTERS and TENTH went in. We had it cornered! However, it was impossible to resist a nibble at the across clues and a couple of chemical ones immediately appeared to the scientific numpty.
‘Condensed substance rips Steve to pieces – no dodgy spiv! (5)’ “That’s a subtractive anagram, ESTER”, he announced. ‘White clay – hardened boulder clay from which first ton must go (6) “Well, that’s TILLITE losing a T”. A rather more feminine clue, ‘Resistance: by its own nature it may colour one’s shock (5)’ (R + IN SE) confirmed our suspicion that these across clues were all being entered in reverse.
(A parenthesis in the midst of our speedy solve. As usual, I looked for the Listener compiler generous imbibing of the hard stuff and there wasn’t a lot of it here. Ben Trovato seemed almost sober, merely sticking to ‘minced dog’ and ‘doughnuts’ with the only ale having gone down in ‘…one capsized warship carrying lost ale from Norwich’.)
PHLEBOTOMIST, KLIPDAS and AILUROPHOBIA appeared (this week’s conversation stoppers) and we marvelled at this grid construction. Ben Trovato had a 6-letter average word length in a very generous grid with the added complexity of compiling with words running in reverse direction – quite a mental compiling feat which was rendered even more complex by the complication we hadn’t spotted yet – those clues! (Though a few of them were reading rather oddly – ‘…no dodgy spiV’ ‘…colour one’s shocK’.
We had, by this time, spotted that GIMEL, DALETH and LAMED would fit into our unclued lights (thematically entered in reverse, of course – clever!) and it was a short mental step to ZAYIN, CHETH, SADHE, SAMEKH and ALEPH. NUN and MEM (conveniently palindromic) were there in NUNSHIP and TAGMEME so we had one brief tussle with our final two clues, (I never like the short words – they are often the hardest to solve aren’t they?) ‘Dance this day makes a gay time (3)’ (HEY = dance and ‘hey-day’ = a frolic). That gave us DOGGY for ‘Dashing track next to unfinished athletics venue (DOD + GY(m)).
A quick check showed us that we had ten of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Two members of the set were needed below the grid, so we had somehow to find ten more by ‘Thematic reading of the clues’ which would provide ‘leads’ to yet more members.
‘Leads’! What did Samuel say when I started blogging for Listen With Others? “I always read the first and last letters of clues before I start solving.” I had forgotten to do that, but would it have said much to me at the start of my solve? We were reading these letters backwards in the grid weren’t we? If you read the clues backwards you get the leads HEH, VAV, TETH, YOD, KAPH, PEH, KOPH (Hah, lucky for Ben Trovato that Chambers has adopting the KOPH and not the QOPH spelling – how would he have fiddled IraQ into his clue?) RESH, SIN and TAV.
Two were missing: AYIN and BETH. Only one question remained. Should we enter those, thematically in reverse below the grid? Well, obviously not since we were being asked for two further members of the ‘set’ and the ‘set’ in Chambers is written left to right (and even vertically for half of this puzzle!)
And the title, Two Little Ducks’? Mystified! I am told it is an anagram of ‘Lust tickled two’. Well well!
A speedy solve but most enjoyable as Ben Trovato’s puzzle was a polished compilation, complete in itself. Many thanks.