Listen With Others

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3999 – Tobacco by Mr Lemon

Posted by Listen With Others on 10 October 2008

Bento box?

Saturday early morning Wow, I haven’t done a blog for ages. But today’s the day. Breakfast is done, kitchen is tidy and the kids are off tearing books into tiny shreds somewhere. Time to fold open a crisp new Books section and see what The Listener brings us this week.

It is of course Listener 3999 and we’re all really waiting for is next week and the promised jumbo Listener 4000 – I think we can be fairly confident that it’ll be a stormer. (Fortunately it’s also a weekend where we don’t have too much planned. ) Anyway, I get the honour of blogging the historic last of the Three Thousand series. And who gets the honour of setting it? Aha – Mr Lemon. He’s had a puzzle reasonably recently, because I think I blogged it.

The preamble is reasonably straightforward – extra letter in wordplay and some adjusted clues. A ‘metallic’ change? Something to go with metals in the periodic table? We’ll soon see. Let’s attack (provided I can distract myself from the fact that I’m still really struggling with One Day in the Magpie – it’s absurd that I can get so grumpy about having a puzzle’s theme elude me).

A few clues break relatively easily. … any Sioux wandering around Alabama uneasily is surely ANXIOUS[A]LY; Unusual laic type of copy is probably TYPICAL + E (although I should just check that definition) and Face recognised in Icelandic album is DI[C]AL. I’m also fairly sure that 26 down is an anagram of POLOIA (Arrangement for Polonia after striking new coin) – when I can get hold of Bradford’s (which is upstairs where the wife is having a lie-in) I will look through the list of coins.

Also 18 across looks like it’s possibly thematic – Look into hospital room feels like it should be SALON (LO in SAN), but it’s a four cell answer. AL is Aluminium – maybe that drops out?

Right I’ve now got hold of Chambers and can confirm that I was totally wrong about TYPICAL. Incidentally, I’m using my very battered Chambers 2003, despite the fact that my shiny clean new 2008 edition arrived a couple of days ago. A brand new dictionary is such a joy that I’m deferring the pleasure of using it, until 2009 and the 2008 edition becomes the standard reference. Is that psychotic? Probably.

And I have Bradford’s too, which confirms that the Nigerian monkey in 19 across is probably SAGUIN. And that the coin I was looking for is PAOLO. Also I think the ‘moonstruck girl’ of 16 across is SELINA (anagram of ALIENS) – Does that link to selenium somehow? There do appear to be some metallic connections here.

The copy (which wasn’t TYPICAL) is ECTYPAL (with an extra I).

Tina’s age is disposed to fatten is one I can solve thanks to a puzzle a while ago (Mr E, I think) – it’s to SAGINATE. And that makes it another thematic clue, and Ag is sitting there in the middle. We may be onto something. Wait, better still the NA of Selina and Saginate cross – so Sodium in that cell? That would mean SALON doesn’t work. Not quite there yet.

Bradford’s proves useful again with Former fuss about forbidden plant of the clover genus – looking up clover suggests TREFOIL and I can see TREF (one of the possible spellings of the word meaning the opposite of KOSHER) in there. And it also helps me with [C]OIL for ‘fuss’.

Saturday late morning Inevitably, I suppose, my notes have gone all rubbish. I do know that by this point I’d solved STAIN, SCANS (another thematic one – Sc for Scandium?) and the rather odd entry O’TOOLE – why him, I wonder? Some special reason to have those letters there? I must keep an eye on that corner of the grid. Also I think 16 down must be SNAKEROOT – which must be another thematic answer (and we’ve got Sn, Na and K in there…). And CLOTHO for Against introducing repulsive old goddess. I also know that this was the point that I had to leave for my godson’s birthday party. I grab my camera bag (with brand new self-bought toy of a Canon D450) and slip the paper into it, just in case I get a brief moment and a brainwave while at the party.

Saturday late evening What an absurd notion. There we go. Still, everyone’s in bed now (well, not me, obviously) and let’s see if we can’t finish this off.

Crooked time-wasting Latins are fond of being sluggish is definitely SNAIL-LIKE – although it’s another thematic so may not be entered like that – and I’m beginning to have some doubts about SAGUIN. I’ve also worked out the anagram of 35 across (which I had spotted but couldn’t solve) ALISONCOLLEGE=SELENOLOGICAL, itself quite a fun word. Is it a coincidence that we have both SELINA and SELENOLOGICAL in the grid? I suspect not.

20 down, if I free myself from the idea that SAGUIN is right (and so it doesn’t have to begin with A) reveals itself fairly obviously as GATLING (anag of LINT in GAG[S]). And that 19 across is looking more and more like the word AGOUTI, which I seem to remember is a kind of animal, but not a monkey. Indeed, it’s a rodent. Hmm. All very odd. Haven’t managed to piece together much out of the extra letters either. Would be good to work out what it starts with.

Twice hinder Scotty running round a notorious shoreline?. It’s two words, so ‘something COAST’ would seem to be required. SKELETON COAST – that’s reasonably notorious and has the right number of letters. Can’t see how to get there from the clue, though. Hmm once more.

This is all proving rather more intractable than I had initially hoped.

Ed’s found a home for and I sold something used in castings is a rather clunky clue (if you’ll pardon the presumption from a clunky clue-writer). PLAST is the Spencerian version of PLACED – and then some Chambers bashing gets me PLASTISOL – revealing the slightly disappointing word play of I sold=ISOL[D]. Is there some link between SN and T in this puzzle. SN becomes T – SNAKE ROOT could become TAKE ROOT and SNAILLIKE TAILLIKE. But I don’t know why.

Sunday morning As often happens, a night’s sleep has brought… well, not quite inspiration, but some percolating thoughts. First of all, I think the coast is BARBARY COAST – BAR + BAR coming from Twice hinder. Which gives us a T for the first letter of the clarifying message. And thinking through some of the answers last night and this morning, it’s definitely SN replaced by T, because if I take out those two letters wherever they appear in a thematic answer, and put in a T somewhere, I can get real words (including AGOUTI if I treat it as a thematic answer, i.e. SAGOUIN, rather than SAG[O]UIN). That’s normally a good indication of something going on in a Listener. All I can think is that it has something to do with TIN, as in ‘tobacco tin’ (?) and Sn= tin.

At this point I must confess my notes just stop, for which I apologise. That said, I know I wasn’t far from solving it – not least, because I had actually solved it, just without quite knowing how. Which unfortunately leads to a rather unsatisfactory solving experience – not Mr Lemon’s fault at all, but I was left having deduced the gimmick but not the message, and it became a simple grid fill from then. In fact, writing this a couple of weeks on and I struggle to remember the exact message, because I was rather confused by it at the time. I know it began ‘Tobacco is snout’ – which explains half the gimmick: ‘SN’ OUT. And then there was something about a tin, as suspected, which of course could be interpreted as ‘T’ IN.

So there you go, something of limp end to the blog, but it does reflect a slightly limp end to my solving experience – as I say again, not really to do with Mr Lemon’s puzzle so much as how I happened to get there.

Bye then. See you too.

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