Posted by shirleycurran on 5 October 2012
Railways again! Isn’t it time we had a bit of cookery or needlework? The numpties didn’t read the preamble carefully enough this time and we solved haphazardly, luckily beginning with a few of the stations and that rather obscure chemical clue to URETHANE ‘Ester that can be polymerised for lead-free hydrocarbon (8)’ (ETHANE with ‘fOr’ giving the [f]Ur corrected misprint).
The perimeter slotted in nicely once we had realised that the clues were in alphabetical order of their solutions and that AROUND THE CLOCK could fit on the bottom row, leaving the top row vacant for BRAND AWARENESS. How nicely those two solutions suited the theme once we had found it some twenty-four hours later. BRANCHIA and SHERLOCK completed our perimeter and the solve was underway.
The wordplay of the SHERLOCK clue was the very last touch of our solve this week. ‘Defile Queen Elizabeth’s first LP following quiet end to week for detective (8)’ (Crikey what a queer surface-reading – not quite up to some of the other subtly satisfactory and deceptive ones in Ferret’s repertoire!) Here we had COL + R (Queen) + E (Elizabeth’s first) LP giving the L misprint and producing UP (reversal indicator) after SH (quiet) and K (end to weeK). It was good for us that we had the definition ‘detective’ and an eight-letter gap S??????K. (Well, it was obviously not Maigret or Morse or even Miss Marple was it?)
There were rather a lot of effectively unchecked letters (in view of the clashes) for my liking, even with the impressive quality of these clues. Okay, I agree that ‘Dog climbing gate (4)’ giving STAG with GATS rev, producing an S correct letter from the E misprint was not quite the quality of the rest but it was a fine gift. I looked for the usual Listener setter evidence of a boozy tipple but found only salmon roe, a drug and WINED ‘Looked in dew provided with essence maybe (5)’ (Cooked IN DEW*)
Oh what dummies we can be. With a full grid and 20 clashes evident, we gazed for a few minutes at the gobbledy-gook that appeared as our misprint and correct letter messages. (We are better at solving than at recognising the wordplay so still had a few gaps at the bottom of our clue list – and that didn’t help.)
I calculated the time delays in minutes and noticed the rather familiar and intriguing shape that had emerged when I highlighted those cells BUT it took the other numpty to read the preamble carefully for a second time and to point out that IN CONVENTIONAL CLUE ORDER the correct and misprinted letters were going to tell us something.
The solve had already been challenging. Now came some hard work, writing out the two sets of letters in clue order to produce a message then extrapolating from what we had to produce SUM WITH CLUE TIMES DRAW CLOCKS UNITE HANDS HOUR HAND POINTS DIRECTLY AT RELEVANT HOUR
What on earth does that mean? I guessed that a delay is normally going to be added to the arrival time of a train, and therefore added the delays to the clue times, producing a sequence of interesting train times but not much sense. Surely we were not going to add together both of the trains that clashed in the connections, producing the delays.
Well, that was what it said wasn’t it? Of course, this is the Ferret that is always chasing the poor Magpie around isn’t it (numerical puzzles in the Magpie – time for a plug www.piemag.com) it was bound to require some arithmetic. I laboriously did my sums again, this time adding the down and across lines of each connection to the delay, and the result was more convincing as most of my findings seemed to produce plausible times (trains on the hour, the quarter or the half hour with a few aberrations).
DRAW CLOCKS it said. So I did, and I carefully put little hands on them with the hour hands pointing directly at the relevant hour (yes, that obviously made sense in view of the final requirement to UNITE HANDS. We would have had a very odd logo if the hour hand of the OLEO/FISC connection, for example, had been at 00.45).
That vague memory of something familiar was still lurking somewhere in my mind when the other numpty (who had found this rather too tedious for his liking) wandered in and said “Oh, I see, it’s the British Rail Logo isn’t it!” D’oh! (Yes it’s in Chambers with that strange apostrophe. And talking of apostrophes, we were amused, last week, to see that the Corrieshalloch Gorge and Bridge over the falls of Measach, up near Ullapool, are maintained by generous member’s subscriptions, obviously a generous multi-millionaire - and that one is in raised print on a bronze plaque).
I united my clock hands and couldn’t resist colouring the logo. It needed a little bit of adjustment but I suppose it would have been difficult to get the geometry as accurate as the arithmetic so we are permitted to applaud Ferret and adjust our lines (at least, I hope so!) Thank you, Ferret, what a challenge!