One Across by Mr Magoo
Posted by shirleycurran on 25 October 2013
There was a disturbingly small grid and a strange preamble. Surely not a numerical Listener. We saw ‘Mr Magoo’ and trembled. A friend said to me a few hours ago “I am hoping for one of the classic setters this evening!” Well he got one but that meant we might be in for a few days of struggle.
One Across! Now Mr Magoo appears sometimes in Araucarias’s creation, currently edited by Doc. Had he sent this to the wrong publication?
The preamble made it clear that we were in the right place. ‘Certain letters of the alphabet are entered every time they appear in answers; the others are never entered.’ An original device that promised to be challenging and fun. And it was! Though there wasn’t much Listener setter tippling in just 24 clues, just a bit of bondage. maybe ‘Beaten, oiled and bound, without sign of injury (10)’ was a generous anagram that gave us UNBLOODIED.
We’ve seen some stunning Mr Magoo creations in the Magpie and frequently ask ourselves how he does it. This grid was no exception as it dawned on us fairly quickly that only seven letters were appearing in our solutions that we had to enter. We were perhaps lucky in solving that give-away clue ‘Two thousand and thirteen maybe shows this ultimately (7)’ (ODDNESS spelled out by final letters) – clearly all seven letters had to be entered, so we were given five of the letters at once – and working out that DOMINATORS had to be entered as DOMINOS. Light began to dawn.
Solving proceeded steadily with some delight. My favourite clue of the week is certainly ‘Not feeling, almost got over something felt (6) (N[u]M[b] + [ha]D rev. = NUMDAH, a felt rug.
Soon we had an almost full grid, just one cell empty, and, since we had realized that we were dealing with dominoes and had to partition the 7 X 8 grid into a complete set of 28 two-cell dominoes, there had to be 7 examples of each letter in the grid. Yes, I repeat, how does he do it! That meant that that final letter could be produced by counting. It gave us an S in our bottom right-hand corner. I still don’t know the solution to ‘Offensive wife does housework without question and spreads fine chips (8)’ but she was an SDSS and that gave us MODE[r]NIS[t] for 21ac. We were not confident about that either.
I still have the dominoes from a numerical Listener of some years ago. We spent ages on that and Mr Green marked us down because I sent a double blank rather than putting 00 in the two relevant squares! However, Wikipedia provided a new set (after Google had offered us a couple of pages of pizza) and I converted them to letters and began what I found to be a thoroughly enjoyable and straight-forward endgame.
All that was left to do was to draw in those bars. Did I have to put bars round the outside of the grid? I remember an event where solvers who had failed to insert essential bars in the outer edges of the grid were marked wrong, so clearly there can be no rule against it – and how else are we to delineate dominoes.?
All most enjoyable and impressive. Thank you Mr Magoo.