Listen With Others

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4048: Rules by Poat (or is that Paul Daniels?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 11 September 2009

Well now, Poat! He had one of the puzzles last year that I failed to complete: Reappearance with its theme of “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold” by WB Yeats and its link to Chinua Achebe. A devious little puzzle if I remember correctly. Two of his others were quite tricky as well, so I approached Rules of Construction with some trepidation. The preamble sounded fairly straightforward, but having read it a couple of times, I had a niggling feeling that it might cause problems.

Obviously my fears were unfounded … 1ac Robin’s band MERRY MEN losing the M plus a G and LANG for lord gave MERRY ENGLAND. So this was going to be a doddle. 14ac was an anagram of HICK EAR, KACHERI which only vaguely rang a bell, and some initial letters to give ESCHAR. CISCO came next, and then LEMONED, a great clue referencing Le Monde. I was pleased to get EIK, Dieter’s egg (Dieter being a German name, and EI being German for egg) plus K. About five more clues, and my initial pass through was completed.

Oh bugger, I’d forgotten about the jumbles and reversals, which meant that none of the answers could be entered with confidence. And of course there were extra words to be extracted. And that just about started the long hard slog (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) that I had been dreading … definitely a thinking-cap puzzle. But on the way, there were some great clues. In addition to LEMONED and EIK, there was ‘Dropped pipe organ down a couple of notes’ with ‘organ’ being the extra word and pipe down leading to SH plus a couple of notes, E and D. Actually, I’m not a great fan of the letters A to G being defined just by ‘notes’, and in this case I was stumped by the clue for far too long. ‘Keeping quiet about it is —’ gave MUTISM and the struggle for fat fighters had nothing to do with Marjorie Dawes in Little Britain, but Sumo wrestling.

Eventually I finished the grid except for the ambiguities, being very thankful that I had started the puzzle fairly early in the ten day window before the deadline. And my early worries grew into a major panic attack as I stared at the grid on and off, then off and on, and absolutely nothing came to me. Googling provided very little help, but sent me down the path of the legal system and something to do with grammatical syntax … totally useless!

My main worry when I get in this situation is that I can’t get my initial idea out of my head. Luckily I didn’t really have an initial idea. That word ‘dictate’ nagged at me … did it indicate that sounds were somehow involved; and I was convinced that ten words ‘must be’ entered backwards was trying to tell me something. All these words there for a reason, but I just couldn’t see it. And the extra words in ten clues didn’t seem to be helping. I had TRUANT and HERNIA as pretty definite, but the definitions, Young people, Fish-eating bird and Movement upward, could be just about anything.

Luckily I am not sleeping too well at the moment, and on the Saturday a week after publication, at about 6:30am, I picked up the grid and within five minutes saw, of all things BACK in the third column and third row. From then on, the checking of all the other rows and columns revealed the magic (and magical) 8×8 grid in the centre, enabling LEMONED, EROSE and ASTRI to be finally entered.

The smaller magic square was then obvious, YOUTHS/OSPREY/UPTURN/TRUANT/HERNIA, leading to SYNTAX as the missing element. So grammatical syntax wasn’t a useless Google after all, and the words which had been deliberately used in the preamble tied up with the theme nicely.

Thanks for a great puzzle, Poat. I’m glad I got there in the end.

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