Listen With Others

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3976 – Hard Rectangle by Harpy

Posted by Listen With Others on 25 April 2008

Friday 4th April Any change from my normal routine, especially regarding alcohol, and I find that I can’t do crosswords. Anyway, my brother is down from Edinburgh so a rare Friday evening drink and no chance to start the Listener.
Saturday We set off by train for Horsham to visit our mother and sister. Regular travellers will know that they can stock up on crosswords if they get to the carriages before the cleaners and at Victoria I readily find the Independent Magazine (IQ 67: Dissent by Hypnos) and The Times Books section, with Harpy’s puzzle. It is ironic that over the years I have spent close to £1,000 in today’s money on buying the Saturday Times yet would have settled for the Listener Crossword alone – something that so many discard as litter.
Tuesday, 3.45pm My brother is back up north and I am back to my normal routine so time to get down to business.

In Harpy we have yet another new Listener setter, the second this year after Nutmeg if you don’t count The Magpie, presuming that this was not the new five-man team. There seems to be far more first-time setters today than at any time and I counted eleven (including Seth Mould) in 2007. One wit suggested that they only do it to get an annual invitation to the dinner but four of last year’s newcomers have already had splendid second puzzles published in 2008 proving that there is some commitment here. Perhaps this is a new generation of setters coming to the fore but only time will tell if any are destined to join the ranks of The Greats.

My heart sinks a bit on reading the preamble: here we go again, concealed letters to be removed from each clue giving a message. I am just rather tired of this overused device but Harpy may have hit on a novel method of concealment – a letter added to a jumble of the required word in part of the definition. 1ac has streams of dump which should probably be streams of mud (+p) with the obvious anagram ashlar’s smashed giving lahars. After that, progress is fairly rapid and the subsequent ten entries are:


·        4dn ami – hidden (yeomen = enemy + O)

·        13ac Edam – MADE (rev) (goblets = globes + T)

·        14ac immolation – I’M MAIN TOOL (anag) (curtail = ritual + C)

·        5dn smogs – S + G in MOS (K-meson = smoke + N)

·        7dn low-paid – WILD OAP (anag) (troop = poor + T)

·        8dn tatu – reverse hidden (alarmed = dermal + A)

·        9dn ethe – ETHE(R) (forfeit = effort + I)

·        3dn habit – BI in HAT (neurotic = routine + C)

·        16dn lapsus – PAL (rev) + SUS (pills = slip + L)

·        22ac agio – AG + I + O (bums = sum + B)


By 5pm I have much of the grid complete bar the SW corner and some partial messages:
I’ll leave it at that for today.
Wednesday, 1pm A fresh day and the remaining clues are polished off in about an hour – here are some comments:


·       BUS occurs in the wordplay for three clues to entries that intersect, clued as: bus (36ac), passenger transport (42ac) and coach (31dn).

·       I spent ages trying to justify quail at 38dn with the definition Shakespeare’s poetical (with I removed).  Well, it can’t be Shakespeare’s polecat I thought but it was!  For Shakespeare: polecat = prostitute/whore = quail.

·       I hope that everyone practiced their anagrams and didn’t resort too quickly to electronic aids.  Five hard ones for me were: 42ac, dashing = Ghandi + S; 10dn, venturi = virtue + N (is piety a virtue?); 12dn, clarinets = articles + N; 32dn, Donegal = age-old + N and 37dn, intrados = inroads + T.

·       44dn: lewd – DWEL(L) (part of cam) (rev) (baler = bare + L)


The complete messages are:
The poet  Shelley is found in the bottom row (with initials PB if you prefer).
Shading letters not found in HARD RECTANGLE reveals The Grand Canal snaking through the familiar map of Venice:
A quick trawl through the Shelley quotations in ODQ5 for any references to Venice finds:
Underneath Day’s azure eyes
Ocean’s nursling, Venice lies,
Lines written amongst the Euganean Hills (1818)
So, the part quotation (4, 5, 4) to be written appropriately above the grid is clearly:
Day’s azure eyes
Puzzle finished 2.30pm.
Post Mortem The devices used for concealing superfluous letters in clues are usually completely non-thematic but here they could be said to have made the rectangular grid hard or harder and so be part of the sub-theme of the title.
The convention that clues should make sense when read (surface) is often lost on me when solving since I do not read them as such and would struggle to recite a clue accurately an instant after solving it. On this instance I took a bit more notice in an attempt to spot the thematic words but found very few that stood out:

·        … streams of dump (mud) (1ac)
Sidecar (sacred) bird … (30ac)
These chortles (clothes) go with a gown … (36ac)
·        Ingenious little clarinets (articles) … (12dn)


There were a couple of other clues that were overlong and contrived (29ac, 5dn) but I would say that Harpy had managed pretty well under the constraints.
It is acceptable in this sort of puzzle that treated clues may not make sense but it should perhaps have been noted in the preamble.
Two examples:

·      11ac Three notes chore (re-echo) – fag

·      38dn Shakespeare’s polecat (poetical) question: “What’s jail if justice becomes universal?” – quail (also, I doubt that Shakespeare would have used the abbreviation what’s.)


Finally on this subject, here are two with good surface before and after thematic treatment:

·       14ac Curtail/ritual slaughter?  I’m main tool for reform – immolation

·       4dn No yeomen/enemy to be found in Asia Minor? – ami


I can see no evidence that Harpy even considered having a symmetrical grid (a weakness?) so might conclude that it was difficult accommodating the letter split for shading:
I was thinking of the geographical locations that have featured in Listeners over the years and can remember Ireland (St Patrick’s Day?), France (Tour de), United States and many parts of England, Wales and Scotland. Of course, we had the outline of Italy last June (Lay (It) Out by Zero) and now Venice – I wonder where we will go next?
So, an enjoyable and creditable debut from Harpy whom I hope we shall see again.

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