Listen With Others

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3980 : Closed Doors by The Tall’n

Posted by Listen With Others on 23 May 2008

A 13 x 13 grid and 58 clues means I have to resize everything to fit on one page but that done I enjoy reading a clear preamble which means little to me thematically. So initial letters extra words in the across clues will lead me to a location where the (50 letter) notices lie. That’s a lot of letters and they presumably put many constraints on the grid hence the large number of shorter clues and 15 clashes.

Setting to work on the across clues to try to get the quotation, I can’t get 3a. Crossing it are a pair of …/… clues – my least favourite.5d While swallowing the French drinks…is a straightforward LE in AS giving ALES. 6d …Will’s old woman introduces amateur card game is A in TROT giving TAROT. So what exactly is the point of the …/…? Each clue is independently solvable and the solutions have no link with one another. Bah! Now 3a is ??AT? but I still can’t see it. Same goes for 8a and 14a but 15a Removing odd bits (ie removing odd letters) of soil, archaeologist spies ancient jug leads to OLPE with archeologist as the extra word so I can write A in front of 15. I can’t solve 16a,17a,18a, or 19a but 20a Unusual stories getting Jock’s happiness back is SEIL reversed giving LIES and U from the extra Unusual. 21a and the only Hindu ritual I know is SUTTEE which is lucky ‘cos that’s the solution with a very cleverly worded clue – After first legal action’s lost I support Hindu ritual. TEE after SU(I)T with first superfluous. I like the construction of that clue a lot. 23a English author forgets French friends is clearly AMIS with forgets superfluous. So I have the consecutive letters UFF in the quotation but no idea what it is.
As I’ve got 20a above 23a I look at what crosses them. 9d “Superfine” – – expression of admiration about piece of music. OPUS suggests itself and I work backwards to the wordplay SUP O reversed. So there is a clash between the S of OPUS and the L of LIES. I can’t recall ever having seen superfine being used for SUP before in a crossword. And why the two dashes? I think it is a recent change in style with the Listener. I noticed the same thing in Gos’s Huge Ruin, Symbolism by Wasp and Mango’s City Tour. But I think it has disappeared in the two puzzles after this one. Can anyone enlighten me? 10d Networks give comeback to broadcast about film is RETIA, ET IN AIR reversed. 11d Goddess immediately appears in one Scottish…is ATHENE and the clue doesn’t have a surface sense without … linking to 12d which I can’t get yet. (Another clash between ATHENE and AMIS.) The letters from these three downs help me solve 8a …rural England’s fare with no cooking as FORANE (anag fare no) and England’s as the extra word. Also 17a Do emirs in harem fancy big awkward girl is MAUTHER; UT (do) in anag HAREM with emirs extra – again very clever deceptive word order. These two acrosses enable me to get 12d …drama with American girl swallowing drug for intellectual perception NOESIS (E in NO SIS); 13d Newspapers say replacing priest’s going… EGRESS (eg replacing P in PRESS) – very tricky; 8d ? unsatisfactory, put in basket for a priest FLAMEN (LAME replacing A in FAN. A clever word order again but spoilt for me by the horrible linking to the previous 7d Fruit invaded by frost extremely… TOMATO (MAT in TOO). These answers in turn get me 25a Lock expertly, and anxiety doesn’t begin TRESS (S from STRESS) with expertly extra. I now have a complete top right corner and  ?E?A?E??UFF?E as the start of the quotation. I hazard a guess L must go between the UFF and E which in turn leads me to guess SHUFFLE as a suitably themed/crossword sort of word. ODQ gives me nothing productive under shuffle but has the familiar (familiar to me from Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch!) ‘shuffled off this mortal coil’ and checking the main entry gives “when WE HAVE SHUFFLED OFF THIS MORTAL (COIL)” from the “To be, or not to be” Hamlet soliloquy. I was a professional Stage Manager after I left the Navy and I’ve seen at least 8 productions of Hamlet and worked at the RSC, so it will come as no surprise to you that I then guessed the whole theme. RST closing at Stratford; and notices for Shakespeare’s plays staged by the RSC on the doors of the RST, the last one to be staged there being Coriolanus (googled). Presumably the plays including Coriolanus are arranged in a coil. Once again a lucky break for me with the theme – very lucky considering I thought shuffle was the thematic bit whereas it was Shakespeare and coil.
As an aside, I won a theatre related Listener back in 1989. No 2999 UHLAKHPT by Keslit which involved playfair code squares and the names of four London theatres, the title decoding to Playhouses by Apex. (Thank you Listener Crossword site.) {Are the brackets necessary?}[Is the full stop in the right place or indeed necessary?]
Anyway, armed with the quotation I quickly identified the extra words in the across clues. Though this did not mean the rest of the puzzle was a pushover. Through 25d From pasta I take a small portion for Ian (TAIT hidden) and 26d Wife’s gone in to revive Frenchman (RENEw) I gained entry to the bottom right corner. I won’t detail every clue but I liked the following. 50a Ascot races – – John welcomed this chance to get rich which took me ages to realise (even knowing Ascot was extra) was LOTTO ie TT(races) in LOO (John).
29d Impressive person retired with worried screech ULULATE (LULU reversed on ATE). 30d Mature maiden erected incomplete guttering for hall MEGARON (AGE M upwards in a down clue, on RON(e)). What I like about these clues, and there were many more examples, was their economy and the clever change of word order to lead astray the solver.
Clues which held me up the longest until I had enough letters to guess were:
46d Without justice non-gypsey left prison GAOL (GA(J)O + L)
47a Match umpire’s upset after girl’s pronounced offside LUCIFER (umpire extra) (REF reversed after sounds like Lucy)
31d Someone important turned up, retaining Oval ground for one Russian physiologist PAVLOV (VIP upwards with an anag of Oval replacing I)
19a Special greeting needed for a heroic performance (heroic extra) S + HOW. I don’t why this took so long, perhaps it was the fact that three of its letters were clashes.
6d …Will’s old woman introduces amateur card game TAROT (A in TROT)
32d Fool with rubber erases Kelvin Crescent LUNULE (LUN(k) + ULE)
Having completed the grid I had fun shading MERCHANT OF VENICE, CORIOLANUS, HAMLET and TITUS ANDRONICUS in the form of a spiral rather than a coil – but that’s a minor quibble – placing RSC very cleverly into the three diagonal boxes. (I did remember to shade only Coriolanus in the submitted grid but my working copy shows the spiral.)
I really enjoyed this puzzle. I know some of the surface readings were not exactly brilliant and there were far too many …/… clues which seemed unnecessary to me but that said I liked this setter’s clueing style. I liked the theme and its execution and I liked the unambiguous preamble. I knew what to do and I knew when I had finished.
Thank you Tall’n.

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