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Listener 3977: City Tour by Mango

Posted by Listen With Others on 5 May 2008

Friday evening, 7:15. Feeling tired and end-of-weekish, so having a lazy evening with the Listener and the golf. Scratch myself to shreds tying up the stragglier roses against the windy weekend ahead, manage to put my back out making a cup of tea, and settle down with another Mango. It hasn’t been so long since their last Listener – indeed, I think I blogged it – and they’ve had a fair number of Magpie outings recently too. But no complaints from me. There are some setters I can have too much of, but Mango isn’t one of them. This one’s a 12 x 13 grid with a long and scary preamble. One word has to be moved to the right before solving 32 clues, and I’m not even going to try to understand the rest of it. Let’s see how far I can get before the Masters starts.

Heading straight to the bottom, for no particular reason, with 37d: Where weighty metal pours in without resistance (4). Move ‘weighty’ after ‘in’, perhaps? Or can we move parts of words, like ‘weight’ or ‘eighty’? Not easy, and ‘Where metal pours in’ doesn’t look much like a definition. Come back to that: the next one up is Heine’s told stories in lyric form (4). Oh dear, I’ve never read Heine. He’s on the list of Authors To Be Read, of course, somewhere between Ovid and Somerset Maugham. Leave that for now, but there’s a nice easy anagram at 34d of TABI, a Japanese sock with a separate bit for the big toe.

So 42a begins I: Milton’s popular with foremost of literati – yes, entirely (4). That’s the old INLY, which Chambers doesn’t actually specify as being Miltonic, only poetic. Has Mango read Milton, or is Milton now a generic poet, as Ian is a Scot? Anyway, in it goes, and 38a begins A: Jaunty creature of overpowering charm, but not feminine (4). Can’t see a word to be moved here, so how many charming creatures do I know… basilisk? Medusa? Siren? Ah – fairy to AIRY. Good.

40a is an obvious anagram of ‘towable’ minus the W, and Queen Mary was a… a bloate? No no, a boatel, more usually spelt botel I think. Dreadful word. So 23d now ends –RAL. Climbing Kazakhstani peak by a river with two channels (8). Clearly means ‘with two channels’, and the river is probably the Ural, but I can’t offhand think of any Kazakhstani peaks. Shameful, I know. But if it is the Ural, then 35a would have second letter U: Totally powered by fission, navy requires uranium (7). So that’s [NU] + [totally] = ‘powered by fission’, but I’m coming up blank. I could trot through NU- in Chambers, but I feel like doing this properly, it being a Mango. That would make 22d end –NION, so TRUNNION. (Very good clue, that: Run bat in – not out with ‘Run’ moving.)

TRUNNION crosses with a subtractive anagram of SNATH at 30a and a hidden ARIEL at 26a, who’s not only Shakespeare’s airy spirit but also a Popian sylph, a toucan, a petrel, and a satellite of Uranus. And so this climbing Kazakhstani peak is now BINAURAL, which (after a bit of a struggle) means that BIN is the climbing NIB, and the Ural must be partly in Kazakhstan. I expect everyone else knew that. 16d is _ _ _E_T: Evil demon accepted release with it (6) Evil demons, as far as I know, are devs, afrits and rahus, none of which help me much here. Nothing else comes from the letters I’ve got in the grid, so let’s head off elsewhere.

6d is a simple SANS, crossing with the anagrammed Mexican TAMALE at 12a. 10d, second letter E, looks like a splendid clue (Level crossing in Stratford? (4)) but as I can’t get the answer I’ll suspend judgment for the moment. 9d, Riverside denizen’s stylish lead up river (8) looks gettable: ‘stylish’ is ‘fly’ if you’re American, plus ‘lead’ jumbled and R = FLYALDER. But Chambers won’t let me. Oh, but 15a is the oft-seen URDE, so it’s the more acceptable ALDER-FLY. Wandering about a bit now, looking to pick off the easy ones: 27a is ABELE, crossing SUBSET and THE CRADLE. 19a is _S_RT: Hence psychology test question, right? Much to my surprise, QSORT is in the book.

Now I’ve got some momentum, the bottom right corner comes easily: VEAL, SUNBED, ROBES, ABRUPT, DISTASTE. And we have our first group of four consecutive letters from the moved words: DPMT. Not a great help, but progress of a sort. SOBERER, OASES. And I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to twig that ‘powered by fission’ is NUCLEAR. Fool. Oh, and that Heine clue was LIED, and rather good too. Metal turns out to be poured in a GEAT, giving the last group of four letters as HRHW, which according to the preamble I’m supposed to find helpful. Something about King William, perhaps?

Not much to get now, but still no idea what the theme’s all about. I should have thought of AFREET for the evil demon, which makes 28a NEVADA. If HR/HW refers to the co-ordinate system around the grid, it gives the letters ES. Er, Edith Sitwell? Probably not, but the Masters has just started so I’ll come back to this later.

Over the next couple of hours there’s enough dead golf time – filled with Gary Lineker blathering about nothing at all – to let me finish off the grid. It’s slow work, but I do appreciate the way this gimmick makes it basically impossible to get the theme before you’ve finished the grid. 1a was pretty nasty: Goes to pot filled with meat balls essentially, and a bit of fish battered and deep fried (8). Not the most elegant clue, and difficult to deconstruct even when you know the answer’s FALAFELS. The middle of the grid is the last to be filled, with UKASES, SUCCUS and PIECED. The only answer I’m not happy with is 8d: Hurt dear little monkey? Doctor’s determined (8). It’s MARMOSET: MAR = hurt, SET = determined, but is MO really ‘dear little doctor’? Don’t understand that at all. Anyway, the grid’s filled and my eyes are straining. Leave this to the morning.

Sunday. Done the clues, now for the theme. Where to start? Well, we have eight groups of four letters, which are presumably connected to the co-ordinate system around the grid. The eighth group, HRHW, is supposed to be helpful. Going from HR to HW in the grid gives EVADAS, which isn’t immediately relevant. How can all these co-ordinates relate to only three words? And, thematically, what could require seven moves? Do we have a musical theme, perhaps? EV/AD/AS… not another Enigma Variations puzzle, surely?

Now I look more closely at the groups I can see a short sequence: MVGT leads to GTDR to DRKV. But there’s nothing more: none of the other groups fit with each other. How exactly should we read these co-ordinates? Is, say, MV the start position of the first letter, and GT the end position of the last? Are there seven moves for each of the three words, or seven moves in total involving three words altogether? Why is KEA in the middle of the grid? What city? What tour?

Be logical. The first group I have is BREV. BR is the L of ORAL, which could be moved to leave ORA, which is a word. OK, good start. EV is the Q of QSORT, which can also be removed to leave a word.

The first letters in each co-ordinate pair imply that only rows B, C, D, G and M are involved. Looking at the top left corner, we can remove letters in rows B-D to leave some real words in the Downs: LATHY could become LAY, FAUNAS to FAS, ERROR to ER or ERR. We could move LAR, TOUR, DHANO and be left with real words. Or LA TOUR… a-ha, Latour… is this a winey puzzle? Can I see ‘Grand vin’ or ‘Chateau’? Not just now, no. Oh, but the city could be HANOI rather than the non-existent DHANO, I suppose.

After ten minutes’ staring at the grid, I spot the error. 11a was Mark exam lost at start of lesson (4) (ORAL), in which I moved ‘exam’ to the end. Which works perfectly well, but so too does moving ‘mark’ after ‘exam’, making the first sequence BRMV, which fits with the third group MVGT. And on the same line of thought, 8d must have ‘Hurt’, not ‘monkey’, moved. (So the definition of MARMOSET is ‘dear little monkey’? It’s little, yes, but clearly I’m missing something. Hrmph.) This gives four separate sequences BR-MV-GT-DR-KV / CQ-HS-LU / DP-MT. Good… but I still can’t see what’s going on.

LARTA could go from row B, leaving MALE at 12d… but then 6d would be a non-word. LAR could go, or better LA, which could be the city of ‘City Tour’. And TOUR must come out from row C, ending up at LU making TOURED… yes, this is working… following the BR sequence has LA making NUCLEAL and SUBSEA… 17a must be left as SOME so DHANOI gets moved… which would make NOIL, GEIT and ROROS in the bottom left… OK, I think we’re there. LA TOUR DHANOI. Qu’est-ce que c’est?

Five minutes later, and LA TOUR DHANOI has moved very prettily from the top left to the bottom right, leaving real words in a jolly neat bit of grid construction, and 18 blank cells as required. And the helpful last group HRHW is, oh I don’t know, King William or Edith Sitwell or something. Well, I could send this in now – the highlighting’s optional and I’m sure it’s right – but I’ve no idea what it’s all about. ‘The creator of the theme remains unchanged throughout’ – I can see BASEY unchanged, but that’s all. I give in, I’m going to have to Google.

[One Google later] Righto. La Tour D’Hanoi, E. Lucas, rings on top of other rings, all quite brilliantly worked through in the grid. Yes. Spend a minute or two just looking admiringly at the completed puzzle. It’s a lovely grid, with a high standard of clueing and one or two outstanding ones, and a theme which couldn’t possibly (could it?) have been spotted before the setter wanted you to. Clever and enjoyable from start to finish. Puzzle of the year so far. Thanks, once again, to Mango.

One Response to “Listener 3977: City Tour by Mango”

  1. Hello my friend! I wish to say that this post is awesome, nice written and
    include almost all significant infos. I’d like to see more posts like this.

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