Listen With Others

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4018: In Clue Order, On and On by Loda

Posted by Listen With Others on 9 March 2009

Here’s the Sun Junior 8 X 8 team again. For a long time, with ‘In Clue Order, On and On’, we felt that we had over-reached ourselves by a long way, as the across clues yielded jibberish. Fortunately, we have been influenced by something said on Don’s programme about the down clues being generally easier, for a variety of reasons – so we didn’t attack it in clue order!

We were frequently flummoxed by the wordplay, where the clues were short and when almost every solution was built up from a number of components, with the misprint coming in anywhere – in the definition, subsidiary indication (do I have to say ‘wordplay’?) or even in the link words. For instance, the triple think required to go from, Jock’s pen ink spews during … “make a natty bouquet” (21d) to REE (Scots pen) + INK ‘spewing’ or losing ‘during’ or ‘IN’ to get NASTY (for natty). “How do those fellows do it?” we asked ourselves – knowing that some of you have clear records of solving Listeners for years on end!

After hours of labour, we had an instruction with a lot of holes in it and managed to guess that we were to ADVANCE THE ACROSS MISPRINTS BY SIX. Some gaps were still there until the very end and we are still wondering about 27 down. (The wordplay – RE + T(able)S gives us RETS, but we have problems with the owl – isn’t retting done in water, not oil?) However, we felt that we were getting somewhere.

Sheer pleasure, now, for a while and progress until we had another very holey instruction to READ THE CLUES’ END LETTERS. At this point, we understood why some of the clues had ended in rather odd ways – like 23ac – the modicum of rhetoric.

Mystification again as we encountered our third instruction to ADD DOWN CAP AND ANSWER END. Then it was suddenly clear why we had had oddities like Venus and Xtian at the start of clues. Some shaky addition confirmed what we had guessed already from the letters we had on the top and bottom lines – DONEERAGE SHOWS UNCHECKED LETTERS. We guessed the left over G would fit in the middle, leaving us with SEE ODD ANSWERS’ CENTRES TO DRAW – “Must be the line”, we said. By this stage we were reeling with astonishment at Loda’s genius. How on earth did he engineer all of this?

That word ODD held us up for a while. We had a number of very odd answers at this stage but even a genius like Loda couldn’t be expected to anticipate the weird thinking of amateur solvers and we still had to draw a line somehow. After real distress, light dawned and we realized that only 14 words were of an odd length and must, therefore, have a centre. Even more magical, those centres, when joined by a lovely curved line, gave us an infinity sign.

The cherry on the cake was reading those fourteen letters (in CLUE ORDER – hah, why didn’t we spot that sooner?), with the G slotted into its rightful place, and finding SIGN FOR INFINITY.

We’re flabbergasted at such ingenuity and so, so proud that we completed it.

Shirley Curran

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