Listen With Others

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3978 – Symbolism by Wasp

Posted by Listen With Others on 9 May 2008

Friday 6pm As with my last blog, I’m back in Oxford visiting the grandparents, this time for Passover – which means the house is full to bursting with children. It’s rather fun, actually, and I do cause something of a stir with the preposterous set-up I need to print up the Listener. For some reason my Mac is not keen to talk to my mum’s computer, nor is her computer keen to pick up the Listener page, so I have to have both computers up and the printer hooked up – and all on the landing floor because the twins have gone to bed in the study.

So, it’s Wasp. That’s two of the Listen With Others team represented this year already – clearly I must try to get into compiling if I’m to keep up. I very much enjoyed Wasp’s last puzzle (the Cluedo one), and the preamble makes this one look fun. Thematic clues, altered answers, thematic highlighting and a missing element.

The first clue that leaps out is In Paris, the badge is yellow with its fairly obvious indication of LE or LA. Can a badge be MON? Yes. So that’s LEMON. Now, does the ‘is’ count as an extra word, or is this one of the altered answers. Incidentally I now see that there are two unclued answers – are the altered answers perhaps the ones that cross these?

2 down stands out as a pretty clear ‘extra letter in wordplay’ one – Wash deformed navel has to be LAVE + N. An L, then, at the start of Artist paints scantily clad models around Sweden. An anagram of PAINTSCLAD and S, with scantily as an extra word? Yes, that would appear to be LANDSCAPIST.

4 down I think is STEER (with STEE(L) being ‘staying power’) and 5 down (Ed cleans up these days) looks like it should be an anagram of EDCLEANS – CALENDS with an extra E. The next couple of down clues aren’t immediately obvious cold solves (7 down may be PAINT, but I can’t see why), but 9 down splits pretty clearly into wordplay and definition: in Put bracken around most of betel inlay I think we’re fairly clearly talking about a word meaning ‘inlay’. Isn’t that INTAGLIO. Not sure how that would add up. Let’s spark up Bradford’s for the first time. Aha. TARSIA. TARA is definitely bracken. Let’s try for the betel bit – that’ll be SIR(I).

We’ve got –EL– in 12 across. Held out in city lodgings. Anagram of HELD plus I. DELHI. Lodgings as an extra word so that can go in the grid. That puts an H in 6 down. Nick’s after a hundred dollars win. A – C – [T]HIEVE. Which is a nice word to get as it gives us three starting letters. Not that I can immediately get any of those clues. I assume 11 across starts with CAR, 14 across is highly unlikely to be an extra word clue as there are only 3 words in the clue. However, I do think Drains jug on board is SEWERS (EWER in SS) – but we can’t put it in as it’s an altered entry.

INTROIT, HYDRO and DORY are all fairly straightforward clues to fall next. 34 across – Care of the most recent alliance in European coinage – might begin CO… but I can’t quite see it yet. Going back up one, though, This crystalline mineral species could be formed by developing prerosion looks like it should be a compound anagram. If species=SP, then it’s an anagram of REROION. With two words. IRON ORE would be it, then. Chambers confirms. An extra word of ‘crystalline’.

The extra letters in down clues looks like LETTER or LETTERS – which would mean that PAINT might involve PA[T]IN – yes, that works. And Bradford’s helps me with the old language (which must begin with at least two out of the three letters of ETA) – it’s TAINO.

Saturday, 11.30 am That was as far as I got on Friday night. My brother and I take an absurd quantity of children (ours and others) out for a surprisingly cold walk. I bring the crossword with me, but it’s an act of absurd optimism. When they’re not trying to throw themselves into the duck pond, I do manage to see that I missed the obvious yesterday and that 11 across is definitely CARTA with an extra ‘barely’. We’ve got S . . BL as the extra word letters. Not a clue.

Back at home, I realize that Wasp, as is his wont, has made sure that there’s medical material in this crossword with 34 across: Care of the most recent alliance is actually a neat definition for NEONATOLOGY, and some nice wordplay too (NATO in NEOLOGY). So as well as starting with S-BL, the extra word letters end in A-CE. Which feels like there should be an N in there. Theory about new Louisiana religion. LA for Louisiana. ISM around it. ISLAM.

18 down (A flower and fruit wrapped in tissue) ends in –IMA. By one of those fortunate coincidences, I recently set a clue (in my first compiling attempt) for the word TELLIMA, so it’s the first thing I think of with ‘flower’ and those letters. LIM(E) in TELA seems to work to justify that. Do we have RELOCATED as part of the message from the down clues?

5 pm Haven’t had a lot of time to concentrate on this puzzle, but I don’t feel it’s unlocking as easily as I feel it should do, given that the clues, though often good, aren’t fantastically difficult.

I wonder if Ss move in the affected across clues? STUDD(e)LE in 8 down certainly suggests that the S in SEWERS is in the wrong place. Thinking about Ss gives me ISSUE for 21 across. And SISKIN is a bird in 21 down (S(o) – I – SKIN) (with another moving S in ISSUE?). MANTIS too (16 across) has an S. There could be something in this.

Midnight Okay, so it’s not Ss that move, because 29 across is SEOUL (homophone for ‘sole’) and Ordered engineers to hear house is THEATRE. I’m not getting any closer to the overall theme (mainly because I’m getting these affected words which don’t help with the hidden messages) but before I turn in for the night, I get ASPERSE, UVULA (another medical clue) and AMYLUM. ONE LETTER RELOCATED has to be the message.

Sunday, 8.30 am Having slept on it, surely the thing is that not only is there a letter relocated in the relevant across clues, the ‘missing element’ to be highlighted is probably a letter, missing from the across clues sign. I think it’s a fair assumption that the two unclued entries form part of it. So with two vertical bars, we’re talking N? H? M?

And there it is. To form the M, I can see MAIDEN in a v-shape between the two. And the unclued entries must be MONSIEUR and THOUSAND, both Ms.

OK. A few last clues to fill in (which my notes are pretty sketchy on) and we’re done. Turns out the M is missing from SEMBLANCE (presumably another ‘sign’ or symbol).

Well, I enjoyed it, but not as much as I’d hoped I’m afraid, and not as much as the last Wasp puzzle. It’s very well formed, and has a real classic feel, all of which I applaud, but I think it suffers from having come after a run of really outstanding puzzles. I feel guilty not being whole-heartedly positive about a fellow LWOer, but there you go. Sorry, Oli.

Friday 9 May, 11 pm Looking at the solution, I must admit to having missed the point of the title (Symbol Is M) which makes it a more satisfying puzzle than I had fully appreciated – it justifies the choice of M, which I had been confused by until then. Kudos, Mr Grant (I take it you are a Mr as you’re a surgeon – if it’s Dr, I apologise…)

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