Listen With Others

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3962 – Disappearance by Phi

Posted by Listen With Others on 18 Jan 2008

Spread Your Wings…. or My Melancholy Blues

Sunday – Late Start. Last Listener of 2007! I wish that I could be sitting here, one puzzle away from being all-correct, but unfortunately Italian boots, French plurals and a couple of stupid transcription errors mean that I have had a worse year than last year. It's not surprising in some ways, as it has been a very busy year, and several Listeners, notably towards the end of the year, were ones that I really rushed through and didn't have time to check before sending off. So, first resolution for 2008? Well, that will be to spend a minimum of one hour checking my solution before submission. Unless it involves sending in a blank grid, or something similar.

So, it's Phi this week. I did know that in advance, I must confess, as have been promised a setter's blog for this puzzle. So let's see what we can do with the solver's blog. I've been laid low with a bad throat and chest over most of Christmas, and am only just starting to feel human again, so hopefully this isn't too tricky. So,what is it? A cheerful New Year message? A second festive puzzle?

Nope, it's a melancholy anniversary. Oh. Each clue is two clues side by side. I'm used to seeing that gimmick occasionally in Azed puzzles, but don't remember it in the Listener. So, each side of the grid looks the same, and can't tell what goes where until get the log answer at 1A. So let's press on!

Pause for mouthful of Christmas cake. And off we go.

1A. It's nest's abandoned? Stick around – one should get evidence from this (12, two words). Is that an anagram of ITSNESTS surrounded by a synonym for stick? I would assume so. Not much chance of getting that without some checkig letters… although it does look as if most of the letters of WITNESS are in that one. Which would fit in with 'evidence' in the clue. So, *ITNESS*, with a spare ST to fit in somewhere. WITNESS… Well, must then surely be WITNESS ST… WITNESS STAND, surely? A stick is a wand. Or a wand is a stick, sorry. Would one get evidence from the witness stand? I wouldn't have thought so. Surely it is the witness that gives evidence, not the stand itself! And maybe it would be better if one would GIVE evidence from this. So, WITNESS STAND. Off to a roaring start, as that is a key entry. So on we go.

OK, let's look at some of the other clues. Try to keep to clue order. Hmmm. well, 10A has to be an anagram at the start:

10A Sweet stuff in elaborate trance…. must be NECTAR, simple anagram. Can't tell which side it goes on. 

Can't get much else from the across clues yet. Let's try the downs.

2D A rise in men garbling verses… must be an anagram. SENARII are verses (ah, the ever-expanding vocabulary of a crossword solver comes to my aid!). So MEN is an extra word. This must go on the right, so NECTAR must go on the left. Hurrah!

And that's it for a first pass. Not very good, but hope from having 1A. Hmm. Let's have a break and go and see what's on TV.

Not sure if that was a repeat or we had recorded it, but just rewatched the Extras Christmas Special. Fantastic stuff, especially the bit with George Michael on Hampstead Heath. Genius!  It is now quite late, but have solved a few more. Just glanced at 5D and solved those on the second pass. 

…board partially laden demanding teriyaki (5)
just had to be a container with the strange 'teriyaki' at the end coupled with the 'partially', and this is ENTER with an extra word of DEMANDING. And this was ENTERed (ahem) on the left. So the right-hand 5D had to start with N. Poverty must be NEED, and from there thought of NEEDLE. Quick check in Chambers gave NEELD as an obsolete version of NEEDLE. So, not too bad there. 

The top half is filling up nicely, though. HAULED and RAFALE at 8A turned out to be reasonably straight forward, and then got WISHINGS, IHALER, STERIGMA without much trouble. Bottom half is still a bit of an issue, though. I really like how Phi has hidden the message from extra words, though. If it is straightforward clue order then it is much too easy. As you can't tell what is on the left or the right sometimes when have solved both parts of the clue, it seems pointless trying to interpret the message until the grid is much fuller. So will press on.

Monday, 9.30am – New Year's Eve. Where has my (almost) fortnight gone to this Christmas? I was relying on this fortnight to make myself relax and feel better. I am almost praying to go back to work! Am sure that feeling will have changed by Wednesday, however. A fantastic first few days back, having to go to Liverpool on Wednesday 2nd, Kent on Thursday 3rd, and then up to Newcastle on Friday. Plus points? Bit of an achievement to get out on a chargeable day on January 2nd. Oh, and there will be little traffic this week, as sensible people (and schools) aren't back till next week. But, on the minus side, it's a tough few days back in the saddle, and I will be *very* tired come the weekend. Sigh. And thus back where I started in terms of stress 😦 Oh dear.

Still, looking forward to the appearance of Magpie 61 tonight (visions of a Magpie editor sitting, finger poised on mouse, as the chimes of Big Ben fade away, waiting to e-mail out Magpie 61 at one second past midnight). Unfortunately I know it isn't true, as Chris Lear used me to test his 'timed launch' service on the Magpie site. Oh well. Hopefully an early appearance though for the puzzle, as tonight is the traditional Lancaster family New Year's Eve Trivial Pursuit evening. I'll have to start watching out, because after many unbeaten years, Tom might start to put me under threat soon. Hmm. Am I 'competitive dad' from the Fast Show?

Anyway, have been up since 6.30 this morning (“Daddy! Wake up!” at that time. Five year-olds have no concept of sleeping in). And have made good progress. About half an hour ago I realised that I had TODAY, ALSIKE, RATAS and APOCOPE on the left-hand side going down, leaving me with ?AKAP? at the left-hand side 18A. Which, after a brief trawl through Chambers for AAKAP?, BAKAP?, etc, looks as if it has to be KAKAPO, an extinct – well, endangered – New Zealand bird. Hurrah! Well, not hurrah for the Kakapo, but you know what I mean. Hurrah for myself for not using TEA at that point, which would have saved me five minutes. And therein lies an argument.

Let's take 1A. Interpreting the clue as I did, I could have easily just opened up TEA and typed in something like:

*(;ITSNEST)* & * * & ????????????

to give me two-word entries, 12 letters long, containing an anagram of ITSNEST. And I would have got WITNESS STAND very quickly. And yes, I know that I could have just amended the little boxes to search for 12 letter entries rather than typing in ????????????.

Then, let's take 18A, where I knew that the answer was ?AKAP?. So, I could equally as easily have opened TEA and typed in:


and got KAKAPO. But instead, I thumbed through Chambers, looking under each letter for words with that string from the second character onwards. Of which there were only ever going to be a couple, tops.

So, a question to the anti-TEA brigade. Is using TEA always unacceptable? I would argue that, whereas using it for 1A would not be particularly fair – and not very fair on Phi, who would have worked hard to come up with that clue – using it for 18A under those circumstances would have been. After all, TEA in that case was doing precisely what I did manually in Chambers.

I don't know… I have used TEA in the past, I sometimes do (when particularly stuck), but am trying to use it as little as possible. Hopefully this is what other solvers do.

Anyway, still only Molly and myself up, and using similar logic, 18A must be KOKAKO. Has anyone other than me read Peter Straub's fantastic book, Koko? Recommended. This is KOKAKO though, not KOKO. Mustn't digress any longer. Grid almost complete.

Aarrgghh! The family stirs. Here comes Emma. Time to put the crossword down. Only four or five clues left to solve. I was about to look at the extra words and see what message they might give. Confused by the unclued TODAY at 14D. I think the other unclued entry must be at 9D, but need to sort it out.

10.15am – Right, I've made about a hundred bacon sandwiches for people, and the study is my own again. I have been (for the last time this year, hopefully), officially an idiot. 9D must be TOMORROW, so we have TODAY and TOMORROW as unclued entries.

And, the message from extra words looks as if it must be HERE TODAY GONE TOMORROW. Which fits in with the disappearance theme. Let's see…..

10.30am – No, not HERE TODAY GONE TOMORROW. Rather HUIA TODAY GONE TOMORROW. And Chambers tells me that a HUIA is a New Zealand bird, related to the crows and starlings, now probably extinct. Hmm. So Chambers is 'almost certainly over-optimistic' …is the bird actually extinct? All this fits in rather nicely with Phi's emigration to New Zealand. Let's look at Wikipedia….

Which tells me that the last sighting of the HUIA was on 28th December 1907. And this puzzle was dated 29th December 2007. So close! Still, I suppose that 'HUIA YESTERDAY GONE TOMORROW' wouldn't have worked. And 'HUIA YESTERDAY (BUT 100 YEARS AGO), GONE TOMORROW)' would have been even worse!

So let's polish off the last couple of clues… 9D – ?RA?EROS must be BRASEROS, which I think has something to do withh burning people.. check in Chambers, and that works. What else? That's it! So, grid complete. Emma's now in the shower, so going shopping must be imminent. What do I have to do? Something must be highlighted and something erased. Hmmm. Highlight HERE and remove TOMORROW? Surely not. Well, there's been a KAKAPO and a KOKAKO in the grid (disappointing lack of DODOs – unless you count the solver, ha ha), so is there a HUIA in the grid?

10.40am – Yes, there are two. One diagonally NW/SE from the H of SHORTS, and one diagonally NE/SW from the H of ARRAHS. So, surely one has to highlight the HUIA on the TODAY side, and remove the one on the TOMORROW side. Not very symmetrical, but nice enough all the same.

So, that's the year done (subject to checking). I hope not too many people miss seeing the HUIAs – some solvers might not bother looking beyond TODAY/TOMORROW, I would have thought. Thanks to Phi for a nice puzzle to end the year  – and a good reminder of the problems facing the environment as everybody gets ready to release millions of nice fireworks into the air, all of them burning oxygen and pumping out carbon dioxide. Etc, Etc.

Has it been a good Listener year? Well, not for me personally, but have been some good puzzles. I won't be voting for the Ascot Gold Cup, but who I would vote for? Probably my fellow Chris, Charybdis, and his fantastic On Air. Probably Sabre for A Paradox, A Paradox – just somehing a bit different, and well executed. Probably Mr Morse, Bandmaster, for Roadies. What else? Oh, I'd have to look back. Only 36, but a mind like a sieve.

Another year without Elgin, no Mr Magoo, no Pieman, no Merlin… some of the best setters missing out there. Oh well, hopefully they are all to look forward to for next year.

Thanks to all my fellow Listen With Others bloggers for their efforts this year… and I hope that the blog readers have enjoyed it. Here's to a good, a successful, and an all-correct 2008.

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