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4055: Waterloo’s Nonsense (or Where’s the Trap?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 30 October 2009

According to The A to Z of Crosswords, Waterloo’s puzzles are “unusually quirky”. His last two were 3829: OO! Spectacles, where wordplay in clues could refer to the ‘picture’ that letters could represent (eg OT was a costermonger’s barrow), and 3889: Neologification, where most entries were the imaginary derivations of other words (eg PORT-MOUCHOIR for a small case, based on PORT-MANTEAU). Quirky, indeed!

In this puzzle, the exact method of entry was spelt out in the preamble: repeated letters or groups of letters were to be entered only once. This bore a similarity to 3854: Not Again by Woracle back in 2005, where only the first occurrence of each letter in an answer was entered; in the latter case, however, there wasn’t even a preamble! Here, repetitions were to be entered in capitals and in one colour, the remainder in lower case and in another colour, ostensibly to distinguish between o and O, for example. I smelled a rat.

Proceeding with the puzzle, it was encouraging to get an early long answer, pREquisite, followed soon after by komODragon, the wordplay for both these clues being anagrams. However, I have to say that, although steady progress was made, it really was quite slow. A lot of this was due to Waterloo’s somewhat impish clueing style: indignant response to “You didn’t” led to I DID (reversed plus COI to give DIDICOI); I’m scared for EEK; here I am for COOEE. I guess my favourite clue was “Blend of a titter and a teehee I hear naughtily leaving sofa” for TETE-A-TETE (anagram of A TITTER A TEEHEE minus the letters of I HEAR).

Eventually the puzzle was finished, and it was time to ferret out the odorous rat. Why was it necessary to enter characters in either upper or lower case and use two different colours? After all, the use of different colours would automatically distinguish between o and O, s and S, etc. After the previous week’s CHURCH versus CAMPANILE debate, in which I had the latter, I was determined to be more alert and use a little more of my brain. Perhaps the editors had been deliberately lenient in allowing both, a bit like the “don’t do it again” manner of a schoolmaster, in preparation for this puzzle. Despite there being no “solvers are advised to use a pencil to start with” warning, I was determined to leave no stone unturned.

Firstly, I made two copies of the empty grid and used one for the capital letters and one for the lower case. Now I know that the grid would have been fairly tricky to construct without any hidden message, but it was worth a try. Despite staring it on and off during a very enjoyable weekend in Paris, it seemed like a dead end.

Next, as many in the church debate had, I tried the ODQ. Looking up “fiddle de-dee” (the full form of the title), I found a nursery rhyme with “Fiddle-de-dee, fiddle-de-dee, the fly shall marry the humble-bee”. Nothing seemed to help here either. Then I thought of Edward Lear and his nonsense poems. A scan of his entries in the ODQ and “Fish fiddle de-dee” appeared. In my capital letter diagram, there could have been DAB at 1ac and COD at 18ac, but all this was becoming a bit like grasping at straws. I even noticed “a cote bas” (is that a French expression?) in column 1 and that pREquisite could become perquisite with a simple transposal.

So, having taken you all on the long detours that my rambling brain tried, I have to report that I eventually gave up and sent in my entry, without any further adjustments, using blue and red as the two colours. Fingers crossed, eh?

A quick update on the checking of my Listener entries for this year: now up to 4050, with an all-correct run of 39 going back to December.

2 Responses to “4055: Waterloo’s Nonsense (or Where’s the Trap?)”

  1. shirley curran said

    Very enjoyable, Dave, but you are just too sophisticated – this one would seem to be one where it was in order to be naive, newcomer solvers (unless there really was a hidden rat in there somewhere but the solution doesn’t seem to say so).

  2. Yes, Shirley, I do seem to be going out of my way to jump through non-existent hoops this year. On the Listener site, the editors explain that the upper and lower case requirement was included to help overseas solvers, who may only get a monochrome Times, with the multi-coloured title and solution. I think this should have been explained in the preamble since it was this aspect of the puzzle that led me on my wild goose chase.

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