Well, I’ve been dancing since this came off the printer over twenty-four hours ago, and a merry dance it was. I studied Measure for Measure intensively many years ago in a final Uni year and don’t remember much about it except that it was a rather nasty play that led to Mariana in the Moated Grange by some other author who thought it was rather tough on the lady. This one was!
However, how glad I was, as things progressed, that we had carefully colour-coded what we were doing. That would be another useful bit of advice I would pass on to other solvers, ‘Keep a record of what you are doing as you solve one of these Listener things!’
Elbow and Froth indeed! Those ten letters, or at least, nine of them, came very quickly as the fourteen normal clues were transparent and fell neatly into place. What a pity that they were concentrated in the lower part of the grid with that yawning empty upper half! The one that we failed to see was DILATANT. Fairly obvious, I know ‘Girl and nearly dead insect stiffening under pressure’ Di + lat(e) + ant, the usual insect (when it isn’t a tsetse fly), but we had FLUX intersecting with it, where we should have had FLEA, a different insect. We hadn’t understood what was going on.
We still hadn’t understood as midnight approached. By then we had realized that the extra words, ‘sound-system’, for example, were pointing at other lights, like 32ac, where STEREO fitted. We had an almost full grid and mystification. What was the link between FLUX and FLEA, between TORRENT and REPENT, or between LAVOLT and LAMINA, or, for that matter, between ERGO and STEREO?
Clearly there was nowhere for us to slot in those words that were actually produced by the clues, so there had to be a reason for their existence. A common factor? Understanding that it was units that they had in common (a STERE and an ERG, a VOLT and a MINA, for example) was a great breakthrough but also a real shower of depressingly cold inspiration. Even the wonderful Mrs Bradford didn’t have all the units or measures for this crossword (is that 15 X 2 in modified clues, 5 X 2 in clues where a word had already been modified and a final 2 in the mini endgame? A total of 42 different names for units? I am not much good at the number thing – sorry Roddy – so perhaps someone will correct my reckoning!) 150,000 weights and measures existed in France alone, before the Revolution, so things were looking gloomy.
When was the last Listener when one could have a complete grid and hours of work still to go? Of course we had to work through every clue again and allocate the extra words carefully in order to find out which was our ‘untouched clue’ that had to be similarly adjusted.
We had OEBWLHRFOT as extra letters and the other numpty retired to bed saying ‘That looks like ELBOW. Isn’t there some ELBOW character in a Shakespeare play?’ I wish I had listened. Isn’t hindsight great? When I looked up the Wikipedia entry on ELBOW, all I got was a band called Elbow!
I have worked almost as long on this one as on those Knights’ moves and still don’t know what the actual clue answer for 19ac is (Rarely hated bag put in order (6) – it sounds just a bit like a description of Measure for Measure’s Mariana) but we know that SEND went into the light and matched up with ‘dispatch’. Not only that, but we have placed them all and had only ‘milky’ and ‘complications’ left over and three places where those two could go.
BELCH (Violently eject seat that’s left for Nationalist) has to yield to MILCH and that creates ‘complications’ in NODI. Our other two untouched clues to ATTUITE and DANTED remain pristine and we slot MEASURE FOR MEASURE below the grid. A merry dance indeed.
Let me not be unjust. It would be totally unfair to have anything but immense respect for Brimstone for the creation of this astonishingly weighty crossword. It is my own shortcomings that have made it such extremely hard work. Many thanks, Brimstone.