Listen With Others

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4020: Raj by Llig

Posted by Listen With Others on 9 March 2009

What a relief for relatively inexperienced solvers like the Junior Coffee Break 8 X 8 team, that there is, now and then, a Listener crossword that is not fearsomely complex. Having said that, we didn’t find Raj easy by any means.

Rather like dealing with an AZED, we built the grid up steadily with the odd false start. 8d, for example, gave us RASE with T as the extra letter (I think that is a far better violent act than TEAR!) and we soon had a complete grid. We tend to find a word that fits the definition and agrees with the letters we already have. This, of course, means that we have not always fully understood the wordplay.

Naturally this gives us our first stumbling block. With a quotation that reads PAIOTARCSSDOER, we have to do a mighty mental leap to produce a coherent quotation – we have about ten letters missing. We have to work backwards from the obvious solution TRUANCY, find that we have CY missing after we undo the anagram, and guess that the ‘pack’ must be a CRY – thus the extra R. As usual, we wonder how the habitual Listener solvers manage to think in the other direction.

We try to go in by the back door, and we do find CASTOR as a diagonal but we simply can’t understand the wordplay:
in 1ac, (for example) TALA is the music’s rhythm and John, bowled over, can be LAT, but that way we get one letter less, not an extra one;
in 1d, is that ‘over river’ meant to give us an extra R?
in 24d, there must be an extra V but we can’t see it.

It is a stroke of luck – and a long stare at the letters we have – that produces the PAIR OF STAR CROSS’D LOVERS and, of course, JULIET leaps out at us, as the only J. It is a short step to ROMEO and an understanding of our earlier find of CASTOR (crossing JULIET).

Naturally, the title RAJ now means something and there is that delightful moment of recognition (and the realisation that we didn’t need to rack our brains for forms of imperial government or obscure Indian quotations).

However, we do have a bit of a problem with COMET, which has to be the ‘star’ that crosses ROMEO, as a comet is not, technically, a star is it? Chambers says it is a heavenly body – we’ll have to make do with that.

Well, ‘Thank you, Llig’. We know the geniuses, who solve three daily cryptics in the train between Wigan and Warrington, will claim that this was too easy for them, but it was just right for those of us at the other end of the scale.

Shirley Curran

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